In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Regular, open communication between coworkers is critical for workplace success. It strengthens interpersonal relationships, which leads to enhanced job satisfaction, efficiency and engagement. Effective communication builds trust and mutual respect.

So how can you make it happen?

Actively Listen
Hearing is not the same thing as listening. Too often, we get caught up in getting our own point across and hear the words a person is conveying but don’t really understand or listen to what they’re trying to say. Like all good communication skills, this one takes practice.

  • Know when it’s your turn to speak. In the meantime, while it’s their turn, give your coworker your full and undivided attention. Don’t interrupt or be mentally preparing your response even before they finish their statement.
  • Restate what you hear. Don’t be a parrot, but rephrase a person’s message and state it back to them. This shows you were listening and understood what was said. you’ve been successful.
  • Pay attention to body language – yours and theirs. It can tell just as much about what someone says out loud, if not more. Observe how people act while they talk. For instance, if your colleague is reassuring you they’ll meet a critical deadline but nervously wringing their hands at the same time, remember that actions really can speak louder than words.

Communicate with People as Individuals
Communication doesn’t have to be cold or matter of fact. Rather, it should be as friendly and caring as possible and it should be part of your daily routine.

  • Interact on a personal level. Ask about a coworker’s new car or their child’s dance recital. This goes a long way toward building trust. And, when the time comes, it makes it easier to discuss important or touchy issues.
  • Consider their communication preference. Email works for some people, while others prefer to text or talk on the phone. Respect your colleagues by using the communication method that they prefer.
  • Keep criticism constructive. If you comment on a coworker’s performance or contribution to a project, be sure that what you say is not emotionally charged. Think before you speak, so that your colleague grasps what you’re saying. And above all, keep it positive, even if it’s a suggestion on how to improve.

Learn – and Practice
Becoming a good communicator is like becoming a good piano player or golfer. You have to learn the basic skills – and then practice. In order to improve:

  • It’s all about continuous improvement. Take note of how others respond to your communication efforts. Look for ways to improve. Think of it as communications CI!
  • Focus on clarity and conciseness. Before you speak, take time to organize your thoughts. If you’re put on the spot, it’s perfectly okay to respond with “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.” Once you’ve thought through your response, you can communicate it more effectively. And keep it as brief as possible. Your coworkers don’t want to sift through a lot of jargon to get to the point.

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