Now that you have a better understanding of how beneficial effective communication can be, let’s explore what it actually means to communicate effectively. Consider these essential communication skills to build a better workplace culture:
People often make the mistake of thinking that effective communication refers to how well they can deliver a message; however, listening is just as important. Not only does active listening allows you to receive messages in a clear way to ensure that they are not misunderstood, but it also allows you to determine whether the message you were trying to deliver was clearly understood by the recipient. To actively listen to someone, you should listen twice as much as you speak. Focus on what the other person is saying, avoid interrupting them, and reflect back to them the message you received to make sure you’ve understood it.
Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. They give the person you’re speaking to in person much more insight into what you’re saying. Your tone of voice, the way you move your hands as you speak, whether you sit up straight or lean over your desk -- these are all types of non-verbal communication that reinforce the message you’re trying to deliver.
Non-verbal communication is also essential to active listening. After all, your facial expressions provide the person that’s speaking with you with an idea as to whether or not you’re understanding their message. Things like your posture and the way you move your arms and legs are both forms of non-verbal communication that inform active listening.
Lastly, non-verbal communication can help you understand how the person speaking with you is feeling, which can allow you to adjust your verbal communication accordingly. For example, if they’re constantly straightening their clothes or accessories, they’re likely nervous. If their hands are clenched, they may be anxious or angry. If their arms are crossed, they’re defensive.
Probing questions are important for several reasons. When speaking with someone, they give you an idea whether they understand your message. When listening to someone, it shows them that you’re interested in what they have to say as well as giving them an indication of whether you understand their message and whether you’re both in agreement on what you’re talking about.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person so that you can understand their thoughts and feelings about certain issues. For example, say an employee asks for a day off work because their child is graduating high school. You may not want to give it to them because of a project deadline that’s coming up soon, but through empathy you understand how important it is for them. Instead of just denying them the day off (resulting in an unhappy employee), you could work together to find a solution, such as giving them that day off and in return they come in during the weekend.
Don’t mistake being assertive for being aggressive or demanding. Assertiveness is all about honestly expressing your needs, feelings, and thoughts in an open manner. It’s about standing up for yourself while still respecting the other person. By being assertive, you’ll give your message more punch. Just keep in mind that good communication isn’t about winning an argument. If you have something negative to say, being assertive can help as long as you try to express your negative thoughts (such as if an employee has made a bad mistake) in a more positive and respectful manner.
Show respect for the person you’re talking to and for their ideas. If you don’t, they’ll be less likely to take your message to heart or will be disgruntled following the conversation. Besides using a respectful tone when you speak, there are signs of respect that you can employ during a conversation, such as making eye contact, letting them speak, using their name, and actively listening. Such signs of respect help the person feel more appreciated. Signs of disrespect you’ll want to avoid include not asking or listening to the other person ( resulting in a one-sided conversation) and becoming distracted by things that take away your eye contact (such as your phone, computer, or watch).
Whether you’re delivering a message or receiving one, you should go into the conversation with an open mind. Having an open mind means being willing to accept feedback as well as listening to the other person’s point of view. Even if you disagree with what the person’s message is or what their opinion about your message is, having an open mind means that you’re willing to enter into a dialogue. By being open minded, you’re much more likely to have honest and productive conversations.
Giving positive and negative feedback gives employees a better idea of how they’re doing. However, it’s very important that if you have negative feedback to provide, deliver it in the form of positive criticism. You want to encourage your employees to improve their work without them feeling like they are being reprimanded. On the other hand, it’s also important that you know how to accept feedback. Customers may give you positive or negative feedback. Whichever it is, use it to measure your performance and find ways to improve what you’re doing.
Responsiveness refers to how you respond to the message that someone else delivers to you or to their reply to your message. Being responsive shows that you are listening to them and that their concerns, feedback, or general reply matters to you. Unresponsive people will often just change the subject, resulting in a conversation that’s off-message. When someone within a conversation isn’t responsive, it generally results in feelings that the conversation was pointless. Both parties can end up being annoyed with one another as well.
Volume and Clarity
If you speak too low or you mumble your words, it will be difficult for the person you’re talking with to understand what you’re saying. This can muddle the message, resulting in miscommunication. They may also be more likely to forget what you said or dismiss it as being unimportant because poor volume and clarity can make you seem less confident about the message you’re trying to relay.
Confidence is something you need to show when delivering a message -- especially an important message. The more confidence you showcase, the more serious your message will be taken. If you’re not confident in your tone, expressions, or how you deliver your message, it may be disregarded or not taken seriously.
As a leader within your organization, you should display all of these communication skills to help set an example for the rest of your company. These are communication skills that everyone should have, and use, from the top on down.