7 ways to communicate effectively at work
Updated 14 August 2023
If you want to succeed in your industry, you need to have the right skills and knowledge that make you qualified for the role and know how to communicate your ideas and findings with others. You can use communication skills to lead and inspire others, manage teams, resolve conflicts and even make your team more productive. There are many methods for effective communication and using them in combination is often the most effective way to succeed in the workplace. In this article, we explore different communication methods and give you tips on how to communicate effectively in a professional setting.
How to communicate effectively
We have prepared a list of useful steps that you can follow if you want to know how to communicate effectively at work:
1. Learn how to listen
Remember that effective communication skills include best practices that can help you both express yourself and understand others. Be attentive when others speak and try not to interrupt them. This is a great way to exercise your patience. Remember that everyone has a different communication style and even if it would take you a brief moment to say something, others may find it easier to take more time to do it.
Instead of focusing on formulating a response in your head, take the time to understand the other person's arguments, ideas or problems that they want to share with you. If you're engaged in a group conversation, inspire others to listen and minimise interruptions.
Read more: How To Improve Your Active Listening Skills
2. Ask questions
Asking relevant questions makes the person you're talking to feel seen and appreciated. It's also a sign that you're interested in what they have to say and respect their opinion. Also, remember that often the person who asks questions is the one in control of the conversation. By leading the conversation, you can help get to the point of an issue faster. Consider using the 5 Ws technique to find out:
Who is it about?
When did it take place?
Where did it happen?
Why did this situation occur?
3. Get to know your co-workers
One of the most important things you can do to communicate effectively with your co-workers is to get to know them. Remember that the more you know about someone, the better you understand their actions, personality, thinking patterns and how they react to different forms of communication. Learning more about the people you work with also allows you to understand what is their communication style. For example, it's normal that some people prefer being confronted about something in person, whereas others find it easier to express themselves in writing.
4. Control your emotions
Not letting your emotions negatively affect you during a stressful situation makes it easier to effectively use your communication skills to help solve problems or get to the core of the issue your team is dealing with. Try not to raise your voice and speak slowly. This method works well during difficult conversations or conflicts because other people involved in it may try to unconsciously match up with your tone of voice and, as a result, calm down as well.
5. Take time to research and prepare
Knowing what to expect from an important meeting or conversation can calm your nerves and give you a chance to feel more relaxed when communicating your thoughts or ideas with other people. If you feel like a scheduled meeting with a co-worker or supervisor is more than just a friendly outing, try asking them directly about it. You can also prepare in advance for an important client meeting by asking the person who organises it to do you the courtesy of telling you in advance what the meeting is about, so you can better prepare.
6. Create a positive atmosphere
Typically, a positive work environment makes people more open-minded and relaxed. If you're setting up a meeting, make sure the space is purely functional. Arrange seats in a way that wouldn't favour anyone and, instead, balance the arrangement of the room to make everyone comfortable to speak their ideas. Consider sending everyone a brief before the meeting. Doing this can make them feel more prepared and ready for the group conversation.
7. Invest in visual communication
Using visual tools to present important projects or ideas can make the message easier to understand for some people. To achieve that, you can create simple digital presentations to support your speech. Presentations are also a great way to help people visualise and understand complex data. You can also consider presenting project guidelines in a form of a video lecture. Doing this can make people feel like you're presenting something to them one-on-one and, as a result, they may pay more attention to what you have to say.
Types of communication at work
Here are some basic types of communication that you can pay attention to when communicating with your co-workers or supervisors:
Strong verbal communication skills are essential for roles that involve working within a team or presenting ideas. Speaking clearly and confidently is a sign of professionalism that makes it more likely to command the respect of others in the workplace. Remember that people with excellent communication skills typically think before they speak. This allows them to prepare and formulate a speech that is concise and use language that is appropriate for the people they talk to.
Improving written communication skills is important for employees in almost every industry. People who work within remote teams may want to pay special attention to it because they typically talk to their co-workers using emails and other business communication platforms. Therefore, it's important that they know how to write, review and edit their messages to be both clear and concise.
If you communicate with your team primarily in writing, remember to use headings and titles to highlight important messages. When directly messaging a co-worker that you know well about something work-related, you don't need to stick to a formal language, but try to limit the use of emoticons or slang to make sure the essence of the message doesn't get lost.
Remember that how we talk about something is often as important as what we say. From the moment you enter the room, every gesture or facial expression that you make send a non-verbal message to the other person about how you feel about the situation. Consider engaging in these practices to integrate all channels of your non-verbal communication:
Maintain passive eye contact with the person you're speaking to. Use firm handshakes and sit straight to show confidence. Choose your outfit for the occasion. For example, choose formal business attire for important meetings with key clients, even if your office only requires that you wear business casual. This shows respect and can make you feel more prepared.
Use gestures in a conversation can enhance your speech and often makes other people more interested in what you're trying to communicate to them. This can include pointing, waving, nodding, shrugging or using your fingers to indicate numbers. When the meeting is coming to an end, be sure to look at the clock or your phone to show that.
The look on your face is typically the first thing that people notice about you when you enter a room. Be sure to smile when you greet someone. If you want to show that you're interested in what someone has to say, choose a neutral facial expression and slightly raise your brows to show engagement. If you're trying to help resolve a conflict, try not to show anger on your face. Instead, you can nod to show empathy and maintain eye contact to let both sides of the conflict know you're interested in hearing them out.
Paralanguage, or paralinguistics, is your tone of voice, volume and pitch. A different tone can make the same statement sound enthusiastic, hesitant, angry, sad or sarcastic. Paying attention to your paralanguage can help your employees perceive you as relaxed, confident and authoritative. Avoid mumbling and speak clearly to prevent confusion, save time and avoid repeating yourself.
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