If there was only one soft skill that you could choose to develop in your professional life, what would it be? Almost every relevant study and survey will tell you that nothing could be a better choice than effective communication.
Take a look at this employability study; this LinkedIn analysis; this business survey; this university research. An overwhelming body of evidence shows that every job-seeker, employee and leader should place the utmost importance on becoming a good communicator.
Let’s get you there with these tips for more effective communication in the workplace:
Be aware of your tone
When you open your mouth, your tone of voice is the first thing that sets the tone for the conversation that follows. Sounding too loud and assertive can come across as aggressive, while speaking softly and stumbling over your words can make you seem timid or nervous. In the workplace, try to adopt a calm and co-operative tone of voice.
Be an active listener
To be an effective communicator, you need to be able to listen just as much as (if not more than) you talk. The act of active listening means that you’re paying full attention to what your co-worker is saying and giving appropriate responses. When listening to someone, ensure that you make eye contact and clarify that you’ve heard and understood them. Don’t interrupt or let yourself become distracted by your phone; this is guaranteed to annoy the person you’re communicating with.
Be clear and to the point
When it’s your turn to speak, long-winded sentences filled with jargon aren’t going to make you sound professional. More often than not, they will only serve to confuse the issue at hand and lose the attention of those listening to you. Keep your language simple and to the point, check that other people understand what you’re saying, and try not to deviate too much from the core topic.
Use visuals for more impact
The best communicators know that visuals have a powerful effect in driving home points and conveying ideas. Visual elements like charts, tables, infographics and screenshots can all result in more effective and time-saving communication. This is also a great way to communicate online with co-workers at a company where you may be expected to work remotely from time-to-time. Always look for ways in which your ideas and views can be visually represented.
Connect on a personal level
Being able to relate to your co-worker is key to successful communication. Even in the professional space, you should try to find things in common, such as personal interests and opinions. This goes a long way towards building a relationship that allows you to communicate effectively. Being empathetic is an important factor in being able to connect, build beneficial trust and speak to each other openly.
Practise the different types of communication
Sometimes, something can be said better in written form than in verbal form, or vice versa. Focus on becoming proficient in all types of workplace communication, from email to video calling, messaging and face-to-face interaction. Body language is another non-verbal form of communication that you need to pay attention to, both when speaking to someone and when listening. Make sure that you display positive body language, and pay attention to what other people’s body language is saying about what they are thinking and feeling.
Good communication can be the make-or-break difference between success and failure in the workplace. Become the best communicator at work with this communication short course from Oxbridge Academy.
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Note: This article was originally published on 23 January 2015, and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.