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Effective Communication in the Workplace:The Good and the Bad

Updated on September 9, 2014

Communication is a critical skill in the work environment. It can literally make or break the dynamics of the office. Each worker is unique with his/her own views and backgrounds. Accomplishing one goal among a slew of personalities cannot be easy, to say the least.

There are those people in the workplace that always seem to be able to connect easily with everyone, the "social butterflies". On the flip side, there are those who don't communicate as well, often increasing the work load and bringing the morale of the office down.

Anita DeBoer, professional development facilitator in the areas of communication skills and conflict management and author of Working Together,has created a list of common traits good and poor communicators possess.

Listen actively.

Patti Wood, professional speaker often referred to as the "body language lady", explains how certain body movements can be used to convey interest and attention in a conversation. She emphasizes these actions using the acronym: G-E-N-T-L-E-R. Active listening can be displayed through frequent eye contact, nodding for understanding, a slight forward lean, elimination of any phones or computers, and open as opposed to crossed arms. The good communicator sets his assumptions and values aside. He doesn't necessarily have to agree with the speaker, but by allowing the person to communicate their thoughts and wants openly develops a rapport.

Engage their audience.

The key to engaging your audience is clarity. Dave Willmer, executive director of Office Team and writer for The Effective Admin, states that just like writing, communication is often more appreciated for its clear, concise manner. He emphasizes the importance of being clear on ideas, directions, and expectations. In other words, if you want to keep someone's attention, just get to the point!

A good communicator, also, avoids using slang or expressions that not everyone understands, especially with people of different cultures or backgrounds. They will use the literal meanings of words.

One other note, engaging your audience means simultaneously paying attention to the other person's response, facial expression and body language. This allows the speaker to modify their topic, increase or decrease their speed, end the conversation, or clarify a statement.

Encourage feedback.

Good communicators seek input from the other party. This not only shows interest in the conversation, but makes all members of the conversation feel important with their ideas. They will ask questions to clarify. For example, some words, phrases, or actions may have different meanings for different people. Paraphrasing a statement is another way to clarify a misunderstood comment.

Talk at you.

When an individual "talks at you" they refrain from looking at you. Their conversation is more like that of a speech or lecture. Although the other party may respond to the conversation, the poor communicator almost appears to ignore the response by continuing where they left off in their ramblings or completely changing the subject. They prefer to not take turns in a conversation.


Poor communicators will pay little attention to their speed or annunciation when speaking. They can revert to unfamiliar terms like jargon. Information shared in their conversation may contain little to no merit, and they may have little or no knowledge of the subject matter.

Overly critical/defensive.

Christine Wucherer, life coach who regularly comments on her website,Center for Work and Life, introduces her list on "Communication No-Nos." She hypothesizes that poor communicators may appear overly critical or defensive because they are preoccupied with a personal matter. In any case, she notes, poor communicators will use "you" at the beginning of sentences. This sounds accusatory and can put the other party on the defense. They can also have a nagging tone if persisting on a subject matter or action of another.


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