Effective workplace communication is vital to creating and maintaining a positive work environment. There have been major advances during the last several years that have improved the ease at which people communicate in the workplace, however, with this ease comes a tendency to disregard the importance of effective face-to-face communication. Below are tips for effective workplace communication that will help increase productivity and improve relationships with co-workers.
1. Communicate face-to-face whenever possible
Companies have been relying on email as a primary method of communication for the past several years. Electronic communication can have a detrimental effect on any type of relationship, especially relationships with co-workers. How many times have you sent an email to a co-worker or superior that was misconstrued? Even if you had good intentions, electronic communication is often misinterpreted. Since the majority of meaning during a conversation comes from nonverbal gestures and facial expressions, it is easier to decipher the meaning behind what a person says when communicating face-to-face. When gestures and smiles are taken out of the equation, recipients can get the wrong idea – especially if the person isn’t the most articulate writer. To improve workplace communication, pick up the phone every once in a while, or pay a visit your co-worker when you have something important to say.
2. Provide clear information
Workplace communication involves passing information from one person to the other. If you do not communicate clearly and accurately, it can cause confusion instead of clarity. Plan your communication to ensure that you are passing along the correct information and the right amount so those you are communicating with understand what you are saying. Avoid emails written in haste and always plan what you want to say before speaking to avoid miscommunication.
3. Combine verbal and nonverbal communication
If you want to become a more effective communicator, you need to understand the importance of nonverbal communication. Be mindful that your verbal and nonverbal messages are in agreement. If you are trying to convey approval of something your co-worker has said, for example, ensure that your nonverbal gestures complement your words. Positive nonverbal feedback, such as head-nodding when the other person is talking accompanied by open body posture help the conversation flow more smoothly.
4. Don’t just hear – listen
Listening is an important communication skill that many people do not possess. Most conflict is a result of poor listening. In order to share information with another person, you have to hear what is being communicated. If you’re thinking about your next meeting or planning tonight’s dinner during the conversation, you’re not paying attention. To learn how to listen well, paraphrase what was said to show that you are listening and to verify accuracy. This will reduce the likelihood of conflict and will help you become a more effective communicator. Another way to learn how to listen better is to pretend there is going to be a quiz at the end of the discussion. Try to keep a mental checklist of all of the important points the person makes.
5. Ask questions
Asking questions not only shows you were listening, but also confirms that you understood the other person. You can also use questions to gather additional information and help you understand the conversation. Make sure your questions relate specifically to what is being said. Don’t change the subject by asking a questions about a totally different topic.
6. Handle conflicts with diplomacy
If you feel someone misunderstood something you communicated, talk to him or her about it as soon as possible. Doing so can prevent unnecessary resentment and loss of productivity. To prevent a small misunderstanding from turning into a major crises, handle it right away. When handling a conflict, respond with an open-mind and refrain from personal attacks. Ask questions and listen carefully to the responses so you can understand where the other person is coming from. Doing so will help you reach a resolution that is acceptable to everyone.
7. Refrain from gossip
If your co-workers have a habit of gossiping about others in the office, simply listen and smile, and get back to work. Gossiping gives people a negative impression of you and can cause problems down the line. Gossip also gets in the way of effective workplace communication because it has a negative impact on relationships with co-workers. You will earn the respect of your co-workers if you refrain from engaging in gossip and you will be viewed with more credibility.
8. Avoid being personal with your co-workers
Be aware of disclosing too much personal information to the people you work with. Aim to be friendly, yet professional. If you become too personal with co-workers, you’ll risk the likelihood of being perceived as less credible when communicating about something important. Controlling your emotions is also very important. Your co-workers don’t need to witness your hysteria over an argument with your significant other; behaving this way will give them a negative impression and cause them to avoid talking to you.
9. Avoid discussing controversial topics
Try to keep the topic of conversation in the workplace neutral. Refrain from discussing politics or other controversial topics in the office to prevent offending anyone. While it’s a great idea to talk to the people you work with and get to know them, it’s best to avoid controversial subjects.
10. Offer positive feedback
If your co-worker performs a task well, tell him or her. Providing positive feedback is a great way to improve workplace communication. It also helps people view you more favorably and encourages open communication. Having a positive attitude in general at work will open the door for effective communication prompting people to respond more favorably to you.