Communicate better at work to improve mutual understanding

Communicate better at work to improve mutual understanding

It is sometimes better to hold your tongue at work. Here are some tips for smooth and effective communication.

Communication: more complex than meets the eye

When you write an email, how can you be sure:

  • It will arrive in the person’s inbox and not be diverted to their junk email folder?
  • The recipient will take the time to read it if they are swamped with messages on the daily?
  • They will understand the content of your message?

This is why in-person communication has proven to be more effective in a work context.

In order to have smooth and effective communication, you should:

  • Choose your words carefully
  • Make sure your recipient is willing to listen as timing is everything
  • Set the right tone
  • Embrace a positive attitude
  • Stick to the facts

Choose your words carefully

Be specific: “Obviously” or “The thing is…” or “The deal is…” won’t cut it in effective communication. A person in a hurry will not take the time to listen if they have to make a huge effort to simply understand what you are saying.

Avoid using swearwords, making sexist jokes and/or comments about colleagues’ appearances. Behaving that way will surely shock the pants off people and show off your poor social skills. It will also serve to diminish your credibility and lower your chances of being promoted.

Stay away from expressing absolutes like “Always” and “Never”… they could do more harm than good.

Timing is everything

Make sure that the person you are addressing is prepared to listen before diving into a discussion.

  • Baby is cutting a tooth and you’ve not had a good night’s sleep in a while. Ask yourself if the issue needs to be resolved asap or if it can wait a bit longer. Are you in crunch time? Ask a colleague for help.
  • Your boss calls a team meeting to resolve an urgent situation. This is not the time to air your personal concerns, even if it involves an important file.
  • Take them aside after the meeting for a one-on-one discussion. Tell them you would like to meet and arrange a time together. Or make an appointment with their assistant.

Do you have a busy schedule? Let that call go to voicemail if you don’t have time to talk right now: the person can leave a message. It is better to call them back later than try to be “present” when your mind is occupied elsewhere.

Set the right tone

Calm down before speaking if you are angry. You will fall short of your communication goals if you raise your voice or use an aggressive tone.

Address your colleagues like… colleagues. Avoid being patronizing or condescending to others.

Acknowledge and congratulate the successes of your peers or employees. Focus on real success stories though. Not everything is E-X-T-R-A-O-R-D-I-N-A-R-Y so don’t overdo it or it will become tiresome over time.

Embrace a positive attitude

If you lack information to reply with certainty, ask for clarification BEFORE giving an answer.

If your boss assigns you a task that seems impossible to fulfill, it’s because they believe in you. So never say it cannot be done.

  • Dare to step out of your comfort zone and go for it.
  • Offer to review available options and get back to them with specific information.
  • Ask for a resource person to guide you, as needed.

Don’t put yourself down, don’t minimize your own words. You’re not helping anyone by doing that. “It may be insignificant, but…” could lead to you appearing… insignificant.

Be confident. “Maybe” or “I think” or “I’ll try” have no place in a professional discussion where your expert opinion is being sought. “Of course!” or “I know that” or “I am on it” are more appropriate and reassuring to hear.

Stick to the facts

Get right to the point when describing a situation. Decision-makers are only interested in facts.

Avoid sharing your impressions or opinions and try not to read too much into or assume too much about your colleague’s intentions.

And don’t forget the proverb about turning your tongue seven times before speaking, another way of saying think before you speak. Wise words to keep in mind...