Communication is without the doubt one of the most important business skills, no matter what industry you are in.
Most of us process huge numbers of messages every day. However, effective communication is also about understanding the emotion behind the information. Effective communication can improve relationships by deepening your connections to others and it enables you to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust.
Here are some tips to improve your communication skills at work:
Most of us are terrible listeners. Instead of truly listening to what the person is saying, we interrupt, think of our response, or think we already know what the speaker is going to say next. To become a better listener, practice fully focusing on the other person. If you are checking text messages or doodling, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation.
Avoid interrupting and seeming judgmental. In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand a person. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to the most unlikely and profound connection with someone.
Lastly, show your interest in what’s being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting.
Pay attention to non-verbal communication.
Body language can tell you just as much as what a person says, if not more. The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you’re feeling than words alone ever can.
You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you’re talking to.
Find out preferred way of communicating.
Everyone has a different communication preference. I love email, but others would rather pick up the phone and talk, text, or even use social media or instant messaging to relay something. Respect the person you’re trying to contact and use the method they seem to prefer. If you’ve called someone several times and always get their voicemail, but the person is always quick to respond to email, switch to email instead.
Consider your tone.
The problem with email and social media is that it can be difficult to determine the tone. It is easy to come across as angry or pushy, so avoid using many exclamation marks in your emails and if you’re angry or upset, take a few minutes to cool down before responding. If possible, meet in person, so nothing is misconstrued.
Check your grammar.
Always proofread anything you type. If you’re not great at catching errors, use Spell Check or ask someone to proofread your emails/letters.
Rephrase what you hear.
Restating what your co-worker or boss says to you by repeating the important points shows you are listening and understand what you were told. It gives both parties a chance to clarify if there is any confusion.
And finally, never stop improving. Effective communication is a skill you must practice. Observe how others respond to your communication to clue you in on areas for improvement.