My Top Ten Workplace Communication Tips
When it comes to improving your workplace communication skills, small changes will make a big difference.
Remember the David Letterman Show and his Top 10 Lists? I know I'm aging myself here - I got hooked on them in college and still love to use them as a way to illustrate the best of the best - the top of the heap... THE TOP 10!
So, I've compiled my TOP 10 workplace communication challenges with some ways to make improvements. That includes changing some habits and practicing some skills that will Immediately Improve your day-to-day workplace communication skills. Here we go...
Number 10: Be clear and direct
Share what you want to say simply and clearly. Start with the point you want to make and add detail gently as needed. Don't start with a long explanation or add all the detail first. Use language that is specific and not passive. And, most importantly, make your expectations clear. Don't assume anyone can read your mind!
Number 9: Don't interrupt
Make a conscious effort to listen without practicing your response or your defense.
Most of us are serial interrupters. It's the root of all evil when it comes to good listening.
Here's how you can change the interrupting habit: Stop talking! Let them finish, even if it's painful. Then, you can respond - ask questions, share your point of view, etc.
It should come as no surprise that the best workplace communicators are also the best listeners. If you are a serial interrupter, put changing this habit at the top of your list.
Number 8: Paraphrase
The goal of paraphrasing is to ensure you are clear about what has been said and to let the speaker know that you understand and care about what they are communicating. Both are equally important in effective communication. Use a variation on “What I hear you saying is . . .” or "Do you mean to say...?" to accomplish this.
Number 7: Use Good Eye Contact (and other non-verbal skills)
Pay attention to what your body is doing!
Look up! Look who you are talking to in the eye. Use other non-verbal communication cues including tone of voice, facial expressions, use of space (stay at eye level) and other positive body language.
Reading non-verbal cues is pretty difficult using text, or even talking on the phone. Whenever possible have a direct face-to-face conversation - in person or virtually.
Number 6: Don't Multi-task
It's been scientifically proven that we can't actually multi-task. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. Some of us are pretty good at task switching, but no one can truly do two things at once, especially when it comes to communicating with someone else.
When you text, type, take a phone call, or complete some other tasks while you’re communicating with someone, you are telling them “I don’t really care” and “I’m not really listening to you.” And, really, you aren’t.
Pay attention and focus only on the person you are communicating with.
Number 5: Practice the Pause
Always Pause before you speak. Give yourself a chance to think and to connect your head and heart before you respond.
It's okay to say - "I need to think about this a minute", or simply breathe deeply and give yourself a break before speaking. It can make all the difference in controlling how you come across and avoiding saying something you may later regret.
Number 4: Deal with Situations Sooner
Take care of difficult things when they happen. Don't put off dealing with issues or triggers that come up. They just get worse as time goes on. Instead, shovel while the piles are small:
- Think about what conversations you need to have with someone before a situation gets worse.
- Get in the habit of taking care of issues as they arise. Don’t wait for them to become a bigger issue. When something happens, deal with it! A good rule to follow is when bad behavior happens that needs to be addressed, do it within 24 hours of the incident.
This often requires you to get out of your comfort zone, be brave, and simply address issues as they arise.
Number 3: Be Kind and Respectful
Some ways to demonstrate being respectful includes being kind, smiling, using the other person’s name, looking them in the eye (see #2), and nodding to aid in demonstrating you understand what they are saying.
Email and text are areas where we can easily be mis-interpreted. If you are communicating in writing, reread (or ask someone else to read) before sending your message to ensure that it could not be misinterpreted or taken as sounding rude or disrespectful.
Number 2: Make the Most of Meetings
Way too many of us spend time in meetings that are unproductive and often unnecessary. Request that those calling a meeting provide an agenda, hold to the appointed start and end time, and have only the right people in attendance. Here are 7 tips that may be helpful.
Ensure that the work done in the meeting warrants the time and resources taken away from those working independently. If a meeting could be an email, do that instead!
And #1 on my Top 10 list is (drum roll....)
Number 1: Stay Positive and Appreciate Often
Practicing positive communication, including showing appreciation regularly is my top workplace communication tip.
If you need some ideas, here are some of my favorite ways to show appreciation at work.
Regardless of the conversation, try to keep it positive. Even when it seems difficult to do so.
Even the harshest feedback can and should be delivered in a positive, supportive, team-centric manner. Stay focused on behavior or performance and not character.
How many of these have you mastered? Which of my top 10 do you need to practice and do more of?
Take the time and do the work. Small steps lead to amazing transformations when it comes to communicating well at work.