By: Courtney Farris
Communication skills are critical to the success of anyone in the workplace, whether you are in a support role with internal customers, face external customers in a sales role or you are in a leadership role focusing on your organization’s strategy. Being a good communicator is a skill that can, and should, be constantly sharpened. Here are a few ways to improve your communication skills in the workplace.
- Use the Appropriate Communication Channel:
It’s important to consider your audience, tone and message when selecting the appropriate communication channel. Often times, instant messaging may be an appropriate communication channel for chitchatting and joking with colleagues, but would be inappropriate to use when addressing a performance issue with one of your direct reports. Alternatively, if a long conversation is needed, email might not be the most effective communication channel. Long, over-detailed emails can create confusion and increase time spent on an issue. Use email for quick and easy communication and save detailed conversations for face-to-face interactions or phone calls.
- Adapt to Others:
Do you have a colleague who asks a million questions before answering your simple email? Perhaps you have a colleague who responds to your well-thought-out email with a one-word response? It’s easy to be annoyed by others when they don’t communicate the way that we do. A successful communicator will use this information about others and adapt to their communication style. If you are sending an email to your colleague who appreciates details, take an extra five minutes to conduct a google search and include extra information with your email.
- Be a Good Listener:
In order to be a successful communicator, it is critical to have good listening skills as well. Maintaining good eye contact, continuing focus on the speaker and strong body posture are all signs that you are participating in a conversation. Communication is only effective when the listener and the speaker leave with the same understanding and one way to accomplish this is by asking questions and actively participating in the conversation. Poor listening can result in lost communication, upset or lost customers, a loss of a sale, an unsuccessful job interview, frustration, conflict, damaged relationships and many more.
- Get Out of Your Comfort Zone:
Stepping out of your comfort zone will stretch your ability to communicate effectively across many platforms. If public speaking isn’t your thing, but it’s a requirement of a job you’d like be promoted to, join public speaking forums such as Toastmasters. If you are asked to present information at a staff meeting, treat it like a public speaking event. If you fear networking events but struggle to increase your professional network, sign up for one or two networking events a month and make yourself go. The more practice you get at communicating when you are in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation, the easier it will become.
- Be Considerate with Your Timing:
Know your audience and be aware of any emotions that may be involved. If you are preparing to deliver unsettling news to a group of people in your organization, consider their reaction to your update and tailor appropriately. If a recent company change has left several of your employees upset and potentially hostile, perhaps reschedule your business update for the following week. When communicating with people who are in a positive mood, your message is more likely to be understood and respected.
- Be Confident and Know Your Stuff:
While the idea of “fake it til’ you make it” will get you through most situations unscathed, it’s best to be confident and prepared when communicating. Nobody appreciates watching someone stumble over their words when responding to a question they aren’t prepared to answer. Avoid ‘uh’ and ‘um’. This will gain you respect and support from your audience.