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Last Updated on February 20, 2019

18 Ways to Have Effective Communication in the Workplace

18 Ways to Have Effective Communication in the Workplace

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

An old joke, but painfully true.

Though we humans more or less invented verbal communications, we are still not very good at it. Miscommunication is so common that novelist Doug Adams once opined that if we actually understood everything everyone said, it would cause the end of the universe.

Jokes aside, clarity of communications is a primary job of business leaders, and one of the tough things first they must master. For without clear communications, employees cannot collaborate, and nothing useful happens.

In this article, we’ll look into 18 ways to improve communication in the workplace so you can avoid miscommunication and work more efficiently.

What Is Communication About?

Radio engineers know that for good communications to occur, the transmitter should be strong, the receiver should have a good antenna, and there should be very little radio frequency (RF) interference.

It’s about sending, receiving and noise.

Likewise, with people, the person communicating (spoken, written, doesn’t matter) should be clear, the receiver should be attentive, and distractions should be kept at a minimum.

The problem is that all too rarely do these three things happen at once, and hence many office communications fail. Yet everyone has the tools they need to improve all of them. Interestingly, when leaders are good at these three factors, employees tend to improve their communication as well.

How to Have Effective Communication in the Workplace

Here are some easy-to-practice tips for improving communications in your workplace.

1. Be a Good Listener

You are a receiver and need that good antenna. In fact, you have two of them – your ears – which should be used twice as much as your transmitter – your mouth.

Good listening begins with being fully present and engaged. Anything less tells the other person you don’t really care.

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These tips can help you to be a good listener:

13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

2. Don’t Pass on Gossip

Gossip, aside from potentially being destructive, is noise. It is “information” unnecessary to conducting work, a big distraction, and a time waster.

If you’re not sure how to deal with gossips at work, take a look at this article:

7 Things to Do in a Gossipy Work Environment

3. Speak in a Soft Voice

Social media is teaching us that when everyone is shouting, the calm, quiet voice is heard the loudest.

Even when tempted to raise your voice, don’t, and you will be heard very clearly.

4. Praise Often for Anything Others Do That Is Worthwhile

People who feel unappreciated make lousy listeners. They might find it not worth their time, or that the speaker is not being forthright.

But when a person is valued, and told so in no uncertain terms, then they listen with eagerness. Authentic praise builds better antennae on the listener.

Here’re 7 Reasons Why You Should Pay a Compliment to Someone Every Day

5. Be Honest and Ethical

There is a reason people dislike engaging politicians, lawyers and used car salesmen. These people try to please others by using flowery languages which are not true.

Be honest and ethical and you’ll gain trust from others and people will think that you’re reliable.

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6. Never Use Condescending or Vulgar Language

It doesn’t matter how thick-skinned a person is, talking down to them or in a way that sounds abusive is noise that prevents them from fully engaging you.

Filter your mind and your mouth, and you will notice those around you more eager to hear what you have to say.

7. Have a Good Work Ethic

Nobody pines for the opinions of slackers.

Be responsible, work hard and go on the extra miles to help colleagues who need an extra hand.

Here’re some tips for you to have a good work ethic:

How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

8. Treat Others Fairly

If you don’t think you are going to get a fair deal, you likely discount what a schemer tells you.

If people in your company perceive you as treating others without an even hand, someone will tune you out and pull down their antennae.

But when they know you will treat them with the same honor you treat others, then they want to hear what you have to say.

9. Be a Happy Person and Be Kind to Everyone

How often do you want to listen to a grouchy or antagonistic person? Likely, never. Neither does the person you are talking to.

Be happy, supportive and helpful even when you don’t feel like it.

10. Be Calm Under Stress

This is one of the most difficult tactics to master, but it pays well.

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We all have been amazed by EMTs, police officers, surgeons and the like who can keep their cool in life-and-death situations. And if involved, we immediately followed their commands.

When you keep your head about you, others will too.

If you find it hard to handle stress, check out this advice:

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

11. Be Friendly and Courteous

Try this experiment:

The next time you are on the phone with a tired-sounding customer support representative, be as happy, friendly and polite as possible. You can hear their voice change as they happily engage you.

Now, imagine how well that works when you are face-to-face with your officemate. Honey beats vinegar every time.

12. Be Engaging

To engage means to occupy the attention or efforts of a person or persons. This requires being a bit outside of yourself, to holistically connect in both the give and take of a communication. When you do so, you occupy their attention.

If you are not ready to be fully engaging, then wait before starting an important communication.

13. Don’t Be Wasteful with Time

We all are born with a finite amount of time. So, it is little wonder that people dislike having theirs wasted (which is why so many office meetings are disagreeable).

Know what you need to say or learn, get to the point, and then disengage so the other person doesn’t feel the conversation is not worth their time.

14. Speak Slowly and Don’t Use Complicated Words

Talking fast either makes you sound like a huckster or causes your meaning to be lost. Using unnecessarily complex language or jargon is in the same sphere as speaking condescendingly.

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Don’t rush and don’t talk above the lexicon of the listener.

15. Be More Concerned About Others Than Yourself

The attitude “It’s all about me” is a lousy way to engage others, in no small part because it isn’t all about you.

The skill you need here is empathy: 5 Tips for Empathetic Listening

It is about them, coworkers, teams, departments and the company at large. Put yourself, your needs and your interests on the back burner.

16. Be Truly Humble and Forgiving

The Golden Rule cannot be applied without humility and understanding. Likewise, with true, deep and fulfilling communications.

There is no shame in being human, but it requires giving as much as you would like to get if the roles were reversed. Always be human and humane when communicating with your boss, your teammates and your employees.

17. Keep Your Workplace Neat and Tidy

My partner, Warren Muller, was not tidy. But he was a genius, and thus worth listening to despite maintaining an office of perpetual clutter. Unless you are a genius, you will discover that people listen to you better when they perceive you to be well organized.

18. Be Aware of Your Personal Hygiene

This should go without saying in the 21st century. Hygiene is an ante, a minimal aid to social interaction. In the absence of it, the other person – regardless of whether they are the speaker or listener – has many reasons to not be fully engaged.

The Bottom Line

To have effective communication in the workplace, it goes beyond the words you speak.

With the right attitude and mindset, you will demonstrate the communication skills you need to work with your boss, your teammates and employees efficiently.

Practice the above 18 ways in your workplace and start to improve your communication skills at work!

More Resources About Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

The Secret of Success: 10 Tough Things to Do First 18 Ways to Have Effective Communication in the Workplace What Are Measurable Goals and Why You Need Them For Success 4 Effective Ways to Motivate Employees During the Busy Holiday Season How Do You Measure Success? 10 New Ways You Need to Know

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore, the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather though.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally, we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Take a look at this guide to improve your body language: 11 Incredible Ways You Should Try Now To Improve Your Body Language

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly, in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here, we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now, go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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