We’ve all had our moments of poor communication. That instance where you mistakenly send your coworker the wrong time for a team meeting because you hear 1 pm when the manager said 2 pm. Or the time when a new project takes the wrong direction after a game of telephone between the client, manager and employee.
When it comes to important things all great businesses of more than two employees need, communication is at the top. Thankfully, employers know it too: 93% consider good communication skills to be more important than a college graduate’s major. There are very few professions in which being a proficient communicator isn’t necessary, and just like any other skill, it is something we have to practice and develop. If you want to up your communication game, take a look at these tips.
When we hear “communication,” we immediately think of speech and written language however, the first step in being a better communicator is to actually listen to those around you. Don’t be confused; listening is more than letting someone else talk. A good listener is someone who absorbs the concepts being shared. Often we allow others the chance to speak their mind, so we can carry on with our ideas.
Bonus: You might even pick up some good habits of those around you. For instance, when I watch my team speak, I noticed one member was very good about using her co-workers’ names when discussing projects that involve the team. It called the attention of the individual she was back to the meeting and encouraged participation.
Have a plan
Whether you are presenting a speech, talking to a co-worker or sending an email, it’s important you know the details of the story or project you are relaying. If you’re confused on where to start, consider answering the questions who, what, when, where and why. They won’t always apply, but they will get you on track to finding the focus of the communication, while possibly opening your eyes up to pieces that aren’t totally fleshed out. If you see such holes, speak with someone on your team who might have an idea to fill the gap. Covering your bases like this seems like a lot of work, and it is, but it also cuts back on any confusion that may have occurred between you and your listener.
If you are receiving information from a co-worker or meeting, be sure you leave with the same information. If you can’t see the project in full, including the steps that will be taken leading up to your role and what will happen after you have finished your piece, then chances are you will miss a step in your part. For instance, we have a solid editing process, but when we were down an editor one week, we had to enlist someone else. The person was unaware that part of being an editor meant checking the SEO of the content as well as looking for grammar. Additional steps were added to our process that week and it cost us time, but we learned how important it is to define roles within the organization.
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One small yet effective addition to make to your communication tool kit is the nod. Nonverbal cues are very important to the comfort others have when talking to you. The statistic is controversial, but it has been said that anywhere from 50% to 75% of communication is nonverbal. Whether all that is true or not, you can probably remember a time when you were addressing another person and caught their eyes drifting to the things around you. Or when someone’s eye contact never left your own and they had a smile to match. One individual made you feel as though your ideas were appreciated while the other left you wondering if you were the most boring person on the planet. Even in a meeting of multiple people, these little gestures will be noticed.
Clearer emails or get up and talk
We’re in a digital world which means a great deal of our office communication takes place via a keyboard, screen and emojis. The average worker receives 304 business emails per week. It’s inescapable and can be very necessary as the workforce discovers the benefits of remote working. However, without nonverbal cues and tone of voice, even spelled out email communication can be confusing and misinterpreted. When it comes to loathing phone calls and meetings, I’m as guilty of hating both as the next busy business person. To clear up my emails and texts, I’ve taken to relying on format like bullet points and paragraph breaks to keep my mind in order and ease the reading experience for my recipients. However, if after a few emails, we both seem to be missing each other’s point or need, I either get out of my seat or I pick up my phone.
There is no way to completely avoid miscommunication or misinterpretation, but there are steps we can all take and skills we can develop to help prevent either. Today’s employers are looking for the employees who have honed those skills as 75% are placing an emphasis on oral communication skills as a hiring prerequisite. You have worked hard to gather the education and training for increased career happiness, so don’t let poor people interactions get in your way of success.