With most people speaking in sentences by the time they turn two, you’d think we’d all be better at communication. Of course, if you step into just about any modern office, you’ll quickly see that’s not the case!
All the practice in the world can’t help you get your ideas across if you’re going about things the wrong way. Effective communication skills require practice and patience. However, they’re also well worth the effort in the end! Keep reading for the top five skills you’ll need to master to improve your workplace communication.
1. Listen Actively
Communication is a two-way street. Focusing on your listening skills can help you understand the needs and concerns of your listeners, which can in turn help you communicate more accurately.
It’s easy to listen passively, meaning to listen to someone without responding to them. However, active listening is much more effective: it requires you to stay present in the moment, and it ensures that your conversation partner feels heard.
To engage in active listening, you’ll offer a little feedback to show you’re listening—smiling, leaning in, or mirroring their posture, for example. You’ll also ask for clarification or prompt them with further questions as needed.
2. Consider Your Nonverbal Cues
Body language is another important factor when it comes to communication. After all, somewhere between 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal! (As you might expect, this is a good reason to communicate face to face whenever possible.) There are a few key ways to keep your nonverbal communication in mind:
- Think carefully about the tone of voice you’re using.
- Maintain casual eye contact
- Use open rather than defensive posture
- Gesture with your hands to add meaning
Of course, using and identifying nonverbal cues can be tough sometimes, so it’s important to be patient with yourself and to practice when you can! If you prefer, you can even record yourself speaking to track your communication skills over time.
3. Prepare in Advance
It may feel like “cheating,” but there’s no shame in doing a little homework before a difficult or important conversation. Process your thoughts and opinions before sharing, and identify the talking points you need to cover. If needed, you can even take a few minutes to draft the speech. Don’t hesitate to rope in a colleague to have a mock conversation the same way you’d do a mock interview!
In face-to-face communication, it’s easy to tell when someone has heard what you have to say: they’ll give you a nod or a smile. With text, email, and online messaging services, it’s not always so clear. Maybe that’s why one survey found that 80% of the U.S. workforce reported feeling stress due to ineffective communication.
In other words, it’s important to “close the loop” by staying in contact with anyone who needs to know about your situation. From a simple “thank you” to a note that you saw an update, this can help reduce anxiety across the board.
5. Get to the Point
The office isn’t the place to tell long, rambling stories: that’s how miscommunication happens. Instead, identify the central idea of your message and make sure you get to it as soon as possible. This can be easier with text-based communication, as you can bold or underline your main point as needed. In verbal communication, just make sure what you’re asking or stating is obvious to your listeners.
If you want to avoid workplace stress and miscommunication—both on your own behalf and for anyone listening—it’s important to work on your communication skills. These tips may not be easy to master overnight, but a little effort can help you improve bit by bit.
Looking for more insights on the skills you need to succeed in the workplace? Our other posts are packed with helpful info, so be sure to check them out!