Are you struggling with how to communicate effectively with employees, peers or your employer? Today, I list some of the pitfalls of poor communication and strategies to improve this very important workplace skill.
1. Listen more - I'm not the best listener. I know this about myself. I work on this skill, daily. Just ask my husband. In recent years, I've been able to listen more in the workplace by doing the following: a) give undivided attention with eye contact and an engaging body language b) stop to think before I actually speak (such an underutilized skill). When I take the time to think before I speak, I end up worrying less about a rebuttal, adding unnecessary details, or sharing an unessential nugget of "expertise." Often leaders' communication style leads to overkill or co-workers and peers talk all about themselves adding unessential details without actually listening to one another. Too much is said and not enough active-listening actually happens. A good leader manages a fairly balanced communication strategy that includes a lot of listening.
2. Ask Questions - This is a wonderful skill to truly understand views and hash-out areas of concern. Too often dialogue occurs in a state of assumptive mis-communication or defensiveness during tough discussions. I recently had a director tell me they couldn't lead their team until their "bosses" got better. I immediately asked, "let me see if I'm clear, you won't be the best leader for your team until something OUT OF YOUR CONTROL changes with your leaders?" This director immediately back-peddled and hearing such a question likely heightened how illogical that strategy seemed. Moral of the story: don't rush to speak, listen actively, and then begin asking questions to become as clear as possible of all points.
3. Be Brutally Honest (hard but essential) - I get a lot of push back when I'm completely honest. I also get judged. I become a representative for others who complain but wouldn't dare share their honest feelings. I get let down, and sometimes, I get results. Did you notice all the different outcomes of honesty? Sure, it's hard to be brutally honest, but if done respectfully and to improve upon a situation the outcome is worth the uncomfortable feeling that comes with sharing some of the tough opinions that must be expressed. Being direct, clear and honest is a sign of professional maturity, so go for it, and don't bite your tongue. But remember, use respectful tones and body language when expressing challenging truths.
4. Deal Direct - Sometimes what must be communicated gets hidden in vague statements, or worse, email! Speak directly and in-person when dealing with tough topics. This style of communication avoids falling into the pitfall of misunderstanding someone's point because you're simply reading emotionless lines in a memo, bulletin or email. Speaking in-person one-on-one also helps you develop all of the above skills: listening actively, asking questions, and being brutally honest.
5. Stay Positive and Make Things Look Easy - One sure way to alienate a team and strain communication is by being a "Negative Nelly." Ever had a co-worker, employee or employer who only speaks in excuses with bitterness, or worse, share complaint after complaint without offering solutions or constructive feedback? These folks sometimes have no clue this is even how they communicate making their job look anything but easy. Don't fall into this trap, too. This only lessens the opportunity for effective, honest and open communication in the work environment that fulfills all who are apart of it.
There you have it: 5 tips to think about for better communication in the workplace.
Share more tips or your comments below.