Five Tips to Improve Your Communication at Work

No matter where you work, communication plays a critical role in getting the job done. In today’s world, we have several ways to communicate – in-person, email, instant messenger, video, phone – the list could go on and on. We also communicate with others who have different communication styles and interpret our message differently.

If communication is so important to our day-to-day, how can we improve the way we have conversations with various communication styles while using different types of communication platforms? Here is a list of tips on how to improve your communication at work.

Prepare what you want to communicate

When there isn’t a clear direction for the conversation to go, it can be difficult to make sure our main message is heard. Here are some points on how to prepare for future conversations.

  • Know what you want to achieve from the conversation. Ask yourself – what’s the point of this message? If you know what your endgame is, it is easier to communicate to others.
  • Identify what key points you want the other to walk away with. Think of this like a list. Often, this list will include who, what, where, when, why and how. Determine these points and align them with your endgame.

Understand your audience

We all interpret messages differently and have a preference on how we like receiving information. Here are some points to think about when trying to understand your audience.

  • Identify how the other person receives information. Do they like a lot of detail and knowing the whole story behind the topic? Do they prefer a more direct approach – short, sweet and to the point? If you haven’t heard of the communication quadrant, check it out! This quadrant helps identify how individuals receive information based on some of their observable traits.
  • Determine what information is most relevant to your audience. Based on how the other person receives information, you’ll be able to identify what information from the list of who, what, where, when, why and how is most important to share.

Communicate clearly and effectively

Now that we know what we want to say and we understand the best way to share it with our audience, we need to communicate it clearly. Here are some points to make sure your message is clear.

  • Say what you need to say and be done. Sometimes, we find ourselves rambling for the sake of being heard or for the sake of showing just how much we know. This is ineffective and the key points you want your audience to walk away with will get lost. Keep your message on point and limit any unnecessary rambling.
  • Communicate one message at a time. If you have multiple messages to communicate to the same person, how do you make sure all those messages are received? In a face-to-face meeting with someone, let them know upfront that you have three topics you want to cover and cover each one separately. In an email, separate topics with bold headings or send separate emails. Each message has its own endgame; make sure to communicate each message one at a time.

Pick up on non-verbal cues

While we’re not always aware of it, we communicate with others using body language and actions. Here are some points on how to pick up on some common non-verbal cues you might experience at work.

  • Be aware of body language. Have you ever been in a meeting with someone and they’re leaning back in their chair, arms crossed, and they’re looking quizzically at you? Perhaps you’re in a room of people and see some sitting up straight, making eye contact with the speaker, while others have their head propped up on one arm and slouching over the table. We can infer a lot from people’s body language and make assumptions of how to best communicate based on how engaged their body language appears.
  • Look for the watch check. What does it mean when someone is checking their watch while having a conversation with you? Often, this means they have another meeting to get to and don’t want to be late. It could also mean they’re busy and don’t have time for a long story. Whatever it means, if someone is checking their watch, they’re time conscious for a reason and you need to make your point quickly. Watch for the signals and be courteous of other people’s time.

Listen actively

Half of communicating with someone is about listening and being engaged. Here are some points to show you’re actively listening and engaged.

  • Nod occasionally. Giving the occasional head nod lets the speaker know you’re still with them, listening and absorbing the information they’re sharing. However, be careful with excessive nodding. If you’re constantly nodding, like a bobble-head, this will appear disingenuous and give the opposite effect.
  • Acknowledge points of agreement and disagreement. You’re not always going to agree with the information shared, but when you do, point it out to the speaker by saying, “Bob makes a good point about project X needing more support.” When you don’t agree, you can say something along the lines of, “I see where you’re coming from Bob, but I don’t exactly agree. Can we talk about this a little more?” Acknowledging points the speaker makes shows you are engaged and actively partaking in the conversation.