Communication is one of the most important business skills to master, no matter what your industry or profession. Truly effective communication goes a long way toward establishing mutually respectful relationships that not only make us happier in the workplace, but also more collaborative, productive and innovative.
Follow these steps to become an effective communicator.
- Respect Others: Remember the golden rule, “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” Value your colleagues’ opinions and treat everyone with dignity, courtesy and kindness. Commit to building strong, respectful relationships with those around you, and take responsibility for (and be open and willing to change if needed) your communication style and behavior. We all want respect, and the only way to earn it is to give it.
- Seek First to Understand – Then Respond: Many of us have jumped to conclusions about the motivations of others, making assumptions and attributing the worst of intentions. Take time to first fully understand the other person’s point of view by asking open-ended questions and truly listening to the answers (without preparing a response in your head while the other person is talking). Ask clarifying questions if you are unsure about something, repeat what you hear to minimize misunderstandings and empathetically reflect the other’s feelings. It’s also important to think before responding – don’t speak if you are angry or upset. If you are about to engage in a potentially difficult conversation, manage your emotions by visualizing and practicing your responses in advance.
- Avoid Defensiveness: It’s common to react defensively when someone criticizes or disagrees with us. However, effective communicators learn to monitor their reactions and avoid defensiveness – a practice that takes time and dedication to master. Ask questions to learn more about the situation before responding. This not only helps to ensure that both parties understand each other’s points of view, but also buys you time to effectively manage your response. Focus your attention on the opportunities in every situation, and do your best not to take things personally. More often than not, the other party is on your side and wants to see you succeed.
- Be Aware of Your Speaking Style and Body Language: The majority of meaning in conversations comes not from our words, but from our facial expressions and body language. Make sure your speaking style and body language do not contradict what you are saying. Build trust with those around you by being authentic and consistent, both with your verbal and non-verbal communication. Be clear and concise, maintaining eye contact. Be positive, enthusiastic and friendly. Show others that you are focused on them and interested in what they have to say.
- Get Social: Most of our interactions with colleagues occur in the workplace. Taking advantage of opportunities to interact on a more personal level can help to build stronger relationships and ensure effective collaboration and teamwork. Get to know your peers in a non-work setting as well to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what they are all about.
- Be Open to Diverse Viewpoints: One of the benefits of interacting with others, especially those with differing views or backgrounds, is the opportunity to broaden our perspective. Take time to listen, consider and respond appropriately to opinions that are different from yours.
- Be Honest and Direct:We risk damaging relationships when we avoid direct communication and talk about others behind their backs. Make a commitment to interact directly and honestly with peers, even when those interactions may be difficult and stressful. Communicate with the source directly, focusing on the issues rather than the personalities involved.