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Effective Communication in the Workplace

Updated on July 27, 2011

Effectively Communicating in the Workplace

Communication is very powerful. What I see in the office setting is a lot of communication, but not much effective communication. Emotionless email, text, and IM has replaced most phone conversations. Too often they are taken as accusatory, demeaning, or rude; against the writer’s intentions. Trouble stirs and rumors spread with a simple click of the “forward” button. Before you know it, you are in the center of this office drama that unbeknownst to you, you started. Emails are kept as collateral; as “proof” of relayed information or conversation. Although I still cringe when Sally in the office directly beside mine sends me an e-mail instead of walking over, I understand that this is just the way we do business. Yet, even with the technology, we need to be aware of how we communicate and how effective are we in our daily conversations.

Effective Listening

Really listen! When reading a book, most people will jump to the conclusion before the end. We immediately wonder the endless possibilities for the character(s) and try to guess their fate. The same applies to any conversation. We may think we are listening, but in reality, we are trying to predict the outcome so we can begin thinking of our response to it. Really listen to what they are saying. When he/she is done take just a second or two to develop your response.

Listen till the end. Don’t hold on to a response to the first question when there are multiple questions. Chances are, you will repeat this in your head over and over and completely miss the end of the conversation. You may have a great answer for your boss, but you may have also missed the part where he answered it himself.

Avoid distractions.You cannot listen effectively if you are typing, texting, checking emails, or otherwise distracted. If you need it to be brief, let the other person aware of your time constraint and give them what you can.

Think, pause, take a breath, and then speak. Because you really listened, it may take your brain a second (or two) to let it all sink in. Before you speak hastily, think about the consequences of your answer. Keep it relative to the topic.

Effective Talking

State the intent of the conversation clearly. Ensure the listener is aware of the topic that’s being discussed. This sounds silly, but the last thing you want is the listener to spend the entire time trying to piece together the conversation in your head. The listener needs to know if the conversation is a debate, request, or just a story.

Speak only what you know. If you want to relay information, be sure you have researched it thoroughly. If you are requesting further information from someone, don’t waste their time finding facts you already have. Be clear on their specific task.

Don’t waste their time. Know your audience and what they already know. Not only will you not waste their time droning on about what seems obvious to them, but you can target in on what you really need.

Effective Communication Through Email

Set the tone. Since you e-mail does not allow the recipient to hear your inflection, you should attempt to use language that will set the tone. If you are the many that “keep it short, simple, stupid” that’s o.k., but realize that sometimes too brief can come across as rude or hasty. Avoid jokes or sarcasm; not everyone will have the same sense of humor as you. Always remember the “fluff”. Salutations and letter closings are great ways to set the tone. A simple “Good morning” or “Have a nice day” makes such a difference.

Be professional. Do not use all capital letters, all lower case, or a combination thereof. Be sure that this email is stating what you want it to state, or asking what you need to know. Always spell check and re-read the email before hitting the send button. If it ended on the desk of your boss or coworker, would you be devastated?

Be specific. If you need information soon, state that. It is a waste of time to resend e-mails or write a new one begging for information. If you state the deadline and still don’t get results, it’s time to pick up the phone. Repeat emails are a waste of time for you and the reader.

Effective communication does not come easy, but can be practiced. These simple tips can increase your skills as a communicator. If you can achieve effective communication in your workplace, you have the upper hand.

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