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If You Want to Be Successful at Work, Polish Your Communication Skills First

If You Want to Be Successful at Work, Polish Your Communication Skills First

Most of us spend the majority of our day communicating with people at work, but we rarely stop and think about whether or not we’re actually good at communication.

With any other skill, you’d be constantly looking for ways to grow and develop.

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So why not communication?

It’s been shown that businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover [1]. Good communication skills also make work more enjoyable, reduce the risk of projects going wrong, and reduce workplace conflicts.

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It takes hard work and dedication to learn to communicate well. Start with the essential workplace communication skills below. We’ll talk about

  • How to manage conflict
  • How to listen better
  • How to deal with cultural differences
  • How to receive criticism
  • How to give helpful feedback

How to manage conflict

Managing conflict at work is all about staying calm, listening carefully to everyone’s point of view, and being as understanding as possible [2]. Next time you’re hit with a difficult conflict at work, try the following steps:

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  • Stay calm. If possible, take a short break from the conflict and do something relaxing/fun, like meditating, reading or taking a short walk. You’ll be better able to deal with the issue when you’re not angry or annoyed.
  • Listen. Give everyone involved in the conflict a chance to state their case. Use active listening techniques, like repeating part of what somebody says back to them, to show that you’re fully engaged.
  • Be understanding. Show that you can empathise with your coworkers. Instead of saying, “Why wasn’t the report finished on time?”, say something like, “I understand that you’ve had a lot on your plate and might be struggling.”
  • Never make it personal. Instead of saying, “You’re always late to meetings!”, say, “It’s really important that we start the meeting on time.”
  • Find a solution together. By getting everyone involved in working out a solution, nobody will feel they’ve been treated unfairly. Once the issue is worked out, do something positive together, like having a coffee or watching a funny video. It’s always best to end on a positive note.

How to listen better

Active listening in the workplace is really important. Try the following techniques to ensure you don’t appear bored or disinterested when talking to others [3].

  • Make eye contact and smile. Staring off into space is a big no-no.
  • Check your posture. Face towards the person you’re speaking to, maybe leaning forward slightly or turning your head to one side.
  • Ask questions. This shows that you’re actively engaged and thinking deeply about what’s being said to you.
  • Repeat or summarize information. This reassures the listener that you’re paying attention and understanding fully.

How to deal with cultural differences

Having a diverse range of employees can be really good for a company, but can also cause issues. You might find that members of the team have different ideas about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Head off any potential problems by keeping communication open, emphasising the positives of having a team made up of so many unique individuals, and catering to the cultural needs of every employee.

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How to receive criticism

Receiving criticism can be really tough, especially when you’ve worked hard on a project. Make the process easier by following these steps.

  • Remember that it’s nothing personal. Even the most successful people make mistakes, and this is how we grow and improve.
  • Focus on constructive criticism. If you receive a comment that doesn’t help you to improve, ignore it. Focus on criticism that actually helps you.
  • Make a plan. Break down what you need to do to improve into small, simple steps. That might mean rewriting the report one section at a time, taking a course to improve your skills, or asking for more support at work.

How to give helpful feedback

Giving feedback sometimes feels as hard as receiving it – nobody wants to hurt a coworkers feelings. When giving feedback be clear and concise – get to the point, rather than skirting around the issue. Make comments with the intention of helping your coworker, rather than insulting them. Instead of saying, “Your formatting is all wrong,” say, “This would look even better with the correct formatting.” Avoiding words like ‘you’ makes your coworker feel less attacked.

Good communication skills are essential regardless of where you work. Start learning now and you’ll be in for a much easier and more enjoyable career.

Reference

More by this author

Eloise Best

Eloise is an everyday health expert and runs My Vegan Supermarket, a vegan blog and database of supermarket products.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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