5 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills at Work
The average working American spends one-third of their day in the office. This means that at least eight hours of your day, on average, is spent in close proximity of your supervisors and coworkers. With ample time dedicated to earning a paycheck in our capitalist nation, it’s no wonder we become comfortable with our office peers and communicate with them regularly.
While communication is a wonderful skill to share in the workplace, it’s in your best interest to distinguish boundaries between work and home to assure the two biggest facets of life don’t bleed into each other.
Speaking to your supervisor as you would a friend is dangerous territory to skirt across, and one that is ill-advised. But filtering certain unflattering vocabulary and controversial topics isn’t as difficult as it seems. Here are a handful of wise tips to maintain appropriate communication in the workplace:
Avoid being too casual. You’re bound to make friends at work and strong relationships on the job are always encouraged to ensure positive morale among coworkers, but being too casual can negatively impact your reputation in the office. Others may view you as unprofessional or negligible if you drop curse words or tell office jokes regularly. You want to be viewed as a working professional worthy of promotion and achievements. In order to exude this aura, be sure to tread the line of professionalism and comfort cautiously.
Establish boundaries. It’s tempting to share stories from your personal life with coworkers and supervisors, especially when everyone eats lunch at the cafeteria together. Though it is fun to distract yourselves from work stress, be warned: personal life and work life are two separate entities.
While it’s encouraged to get to know your coworkers and supervisors well to fit in and become entrusted with your company, be certain the stories you share are relevant and appropriate. No one wants to know how hammered you were at the bars over the weekend with your friends. Discuss lighter topics, such as that new apartment you recently moved into or a puppy you’re considering adopting. These examples are likelier to be well-received by your work peers and will only enhance that positive, professional reputation you’re aiming for.
Listen clearly, communicate clearly. This is probably one of the most important take-away tips. Always remember to listen clearly and communicate clearly.
All too often people have conversations with the intention of speaking, without really listening to what the other person is saying. When you’re conversing with your coworkers—and especially your supervisors—be certain you really listen to and understand what is said before you reply.
Misunderstanding is an honest mistake, but your boss may instruct you to do something during one of your impromptu conversations and you might interpret it differently than s/he expects. A great tip on avoiding error is to repeat what your supervisor says to demonstrate you are listening to them effectively, clarify confusion, and validate what is said. Always listen before responding.
Pay attention to body language. Just as the tone of a person’s voice can be more telling than what is actually said, body language can be more telling too. Sometimes body language tells more than words can, simply in a person’s facial expression, nervous fiddling, and/or eye contact. If someone in the workplace approaches you using body language inconsistent with their words, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for clarification or transparency in the workplace.
Coworkers may have a difficult time explaining they are unable to meet a deadline or are uncomfortable with an assignment. Encourage them to be honest, and remember that you yourself need to be just as honest with your tone, words, and body language, too.
Check your grammar, tone, and attitude. It’s easy to become caught up in the daily spin of stresses, deadlines, and demands attacking you from every direction. Be certain to establish a way to deal with these pressures in a healthy, helpful manner. Before responding to a demanding email, check your tone and attitude. Are you being reasonable? Do you sound angry or upset in writing? Is your grammar free of errors? All of these little things make up your professional reputation.
No one wants to be the angry office employee or poor speller. All it takes is a quick breeze to proofread anything you put in writing and edit grammar, spelling, tone, and assumed attitude in text. Double checking will become your life saver!
These tips, and so many more, are bound to enhance your work experience in a positive way. Sometimes people forget that work is about more than the paycheck. Work is your reputation, experience, skills, training, and overall livelihood. You want each work experience to only further develop and shape your professionalism, molding your craft into perfection.
Communication goes a long way and is something you have direct control over. Filter the things you want to say at work and how you say them. With this advice, professionalism will become you.