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Sometimes the most important thing at work is what you’re working with – the right phones, the right internet, and even the perfect orientation of desks. Sometimes it’s not as simple as that – sometimes your success is completely dependent on effective communication skills. See below for a few things you should focus on in the workplace to help maximize the efficiency of each conversation.

1. Listening

Listening during a conversation can be as important if not more important than the words you bring to your interactions. Oftentimes people come into conversation only thinking of their contribution, about what they plan to say. In formulating those words, the other half of the conversation – the part you should be listening to, gets lost.
Active listening involves paying attention to what the other person is saying, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing what the other person says to make sure you understood. You may find that your responses become more appropriate for having listening more carefully.

2. Nonverbal Communication

Body language, eye contact, hand gestures and tone all have an effect on how your message is received. A relaxed, open stance, and a friendly tone will make you appear more approachable and help people feel more comfortable speaking candidly with you.

3. Clarity & Concision

The world we live in offers many venues for distraction, keeping your message short and to the point may help in how it’s received. Say what you want clearly and directly, whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone, or via email. If you ramble, your listeners will either tune you out or will be unsure of what exactly was the goal of the conversation.

4. Friendliness

Through a friendly tone, a personal question, or simply a smile, your coworkers will feel more comfortable speaking to you openly, and honestly. This can be important in both face-to-face communication and written communication. Personalizing your messages in email, even, may help the recipients become more receptive to the rest of the text – a simple “Have a great weekend!” can go a long way.

5. Confidence

Exuding confidence can be as simple as maintaining eye contact or using a firm but friendly tone. Be cognizant of inflection – be careful your statements do not come out sounding like questions. Naturally, it’s important to be confident without seeming arrogant or aggressive.

6. Empathy

Handling a disagreement at work can sometimes be tricky – it’s important to understand and respect their point of view. Use phrases like ‘I understand where you’re coming from’ to help them understand that you’re listening and you respect their opinions. If your coworkers or employees understand that you empathize with their problems, they will more readily work with you on resolution of the disagreement.

7. Open-Mindedness

Good communication leans heavily on participants entering conversation with flexible, open minds. Listen and try to understand the other person’s point of view – actively listening – rather than focusing solely on getting your own message across. It’s easier to have honest, productive conversation when you are willing to enter into dialogue.

8. Respect

People will be more comfortable communicating with you if you convey your respect for them and their ideas. Using a person’s name, making eye contact, and actively listening to a person speaks makes them feel appreciated. If you’re on the phone with this person, avoid distractions – stay off Facebook, try and get to a quiet area, and stay focused on the conversation. Convey respect via email by editing your message for grammatical and spelling errors.

9. Feedback

Providing constructive feedback is an important communication skill. Giving feedback involves giving praise, as well as giving suggestions on how to optimize performance. Keep your focus on motivation, and efficiency. If you receive criticism, ask clarifying questions, and make efforts to implement the feedback.

10. Picking the Right Medium

An important communication skill is to simply know what form of communication is best. For example, for serious conversations, try to speak with the other person face to face. Keep the person you’re trying to communicate with in mind – if they’re typically very busy people, you may want to send them a message through email. If you’ve broached the topic face to face but there are a lot of details involved, it may be best to send a follow-up email with an outline of what was covered and what your expectations are.

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