Everyone communicates on a daily basis, in fact, some people communicate constantly!
Communication is, in its purest form, talking to another person, but as we live in a modern technological age, it now covers video conferencing, email, texting, and social media posts.
Put simply, communication is vital for a happy and healthy life, but in terms of business, it’s the difference between success and failure.
You might think that you’re a great communicator, simply because you talk a fair amount throughout the day, but there is a difference between someone who talks a lot and someone who really knows how to communicate and communicate well.
Do you pay attention to the words being said only, or do you look a little beyond that? This could include body language, speed of speech, the words being chosen, hesitations, eye contact, and tone of voice.
There is so much more to communication than simple words, and business relies upon the ability to understand this, listen correctly and carefully, and interpret what isn’t being said, as much as what is being said.
This guide is going to cover everything you need to know about effective communication in the workplace. A lot of it might even help you in your personal life, but in terms of your working life, the information we’re going to cover will allow you to convey information and instructions with ease.
Of course, it’s also about making yourself understood in the right way and avoiding misunderstandings. Not taking care with your words and how you say things can often result in people misunderstanding what you’re saying and what you mean. This can easily lead to conflict, which is something we need to avoid in the workplace as much as possible!
Whether you’re a manager, a supervisor, a leader, or an employee, learning how to communicate effectively is a life skill, but one which will certainly see your business towards success and growth.
What Exactly is Communication?
We’ve touched upon the fact that communication isn’t just words, but it’s also a way to convey information and instructions. Of course, communication is vital in everyday life, allowing us to form relationships and close bonds with those around us, but is that all communication is? Words and speech?
Communication covers a wide range of different sub-topics, from body language to tone of voice, speed of speech, language, eye contact, and written communication. Communication can cover words and speech, but it also covers emails, social media posts, letters, notes, memos, or any other type of instruction or information that you want to pass on to someone else.
Without effective communication, we don’t understand each other. In the workplace, nobody will be able to understand what they’re supposed to do from their high end office desks, customers will be confused, clients will have no idea what is going on, and productivity will grind to a halt.
You might think that productivity is the most important part of business success, but you could argue that effective communication is even more vital. Without communication, nothing works.
Check out this video for a good all-rounder introduction to the many facets of communication in the workplace environment.
As we have already mentioned, communication in the workplace is a vital part of not only the day to day operations, but passing on information to customers, clients, and helping everything run smoothly.
What Makes a Great Communicator?
Now we know what communication is, what traits make for a good communicator?
Everyone assumes they’re good at communicating, but it’s far more than just being able to form words and be understood. Surely you’ve met someone who speaks a lot but doesn’t actually get to the crux of what they mean? That is an example of poor communication.
Going around the houses in order to get to a point doesn’t engage people, it doesn’t hold their attention, and it doesn’t create ease of meaning. A good communicator is concise, clear, and uses the minimum amount of words necessary.
So, what are the main traits of a good communicator in the workplace?
- A good listener - We’re going to cover listening in a short while, but a good communicator isn’t just a good talker, but someone who takes the time to really listen at the same time
- Someone who says what they mean - A good communicator speaks concisely and with great clarity. This is someone who is clear in their intention, be it verbally or written
- They’re aware of their body language - Communication isn’t all about words, it’s about what your body is saying without words too. A good communicator understands what body language is and knows how to use it in order to further emphasise the meaning of their words, and also to speak without words too
- They think before they speak - Someone who regularly speaks without thinking is not a good communicator. The ability to think carefully before words leave their mouth is the sign of someone who understands clarity and who wants to avoid misunderstandings
- They’re coherent at all times - Aside from thinking before they speak, a good communicator uses the right words in order to make themselves understood, changing their language and their approach depending upon who they’re communicating with.
- They ensure understanding - A good communicator ensures that the person they’re communicating with understands their meaning, by asking them questions and getting them to repeat back what they have said.
A good communicator is able to converse with people of all ages and all business levels. This can be via speech or written means, but they’re able to make themselves understood in the right way. A good example of this is speaking to a child, a teenager, and an adult. You would use different language and you would approach the entire situation in a different way. In the working environment, a good communicator is able to do this in a more subtle way, leading to the right outcome every time.
Put simply, high-quality communication in the workplace can ensure that your business comes out on top every time, leading to productivity, profits, and growth. Of course, creating the right office environment, with trendy office furniture, will inspire your employees to focus on the most important aspects of business growth, with communication being one of them.
What Happens When Your Workplace Has Poor Communication?
Surely the question answers itself in many ways, but it's worth highlighting the detrimental effects of poor communication from those around their executive desks.
Aside from nobody really knowing what is going on, the risk of misunderstandings is extremely high. The ability to communicate instructions means doing so clearly. If you’re speaking to a new member of staff and you’re trying to show them how to complete a task, you need to do so in the right way, e.g. explain carefully, check they understand, ask them to repeat back their understanding of the task, and also to give them confidence at the same time. This might sound simple, but if someone who doesn’t know how to communicate properly carries out this simple training, everything could go very wrong indeed.
The new employee wouldn’t be sure of how to do the task properly, and wouldn’t have much faith in asking questions. As a result, they might just try and do it how they think it should be done, leading to mistakes and a snow-ball effect of carrying out the task incorrectly over the long-term. They may also show another member of staff how to do it, passing on their misunderstood instructions to another person.
Before you know it, you’re looking at a huge mistake which could cost the business in customers and profits.
Being careless with communication can also cause offence. In the office environment, conflicts are something you need to try and avoid if at all possible. This can severely affect morale and cause problems with productivity, all because one person said something in the wrong way, and another person took offence. A good communicator thinks before they speak, and bears in mind how the other person might take their words or body language.
Put simply, poor communication can cause extreme disengagement of employees, leading to low morale and a total lack of productivity.
You Can’t Have Collaboration And Team Work Without Good Communication
Everyone knows that collaboration and team-work are vitally important for business success, but all of this is impossible without good communication. How can team members speak to one another clearly if they don’t know how to communicate?
How can people collaborate and come up with new ideas, which may lead to other ideas, if they don’t know how to link together and get the best out of each other verbally?
Without high-quality communication, team-work and collaboration are literally impossible. Discussions around the modern boardroom tables will come to nothing, a collaborative session around the round office desk will lead to an impasse.
New ideas and creative solutions to problems cannot occur without the ability to get the best out of others, inspire, talk, and be clear. Without this, the business remains static and as a result, competition easily takes over. Before you know it, the business fails.
All because of a lack of communication.
Of course, sometimes businesses suffer issues in morale and this can be because of poor communication. Learning how to change all of that can easily flip the situation around and rectify the problem.
Now we know why communication is so important and we understand the problems which can occur as a result of not taking this subject seriously, let’s move on to the practical side of things.
Is it All About The Words You Say?
When you think about verbal communication, you might think it’s about the words you choose. After all, words are what convey meaning and give the person you’re talking to an idea of what you’re trying to say. The thing is if you avoid concentrating on speed of speech, tone of voice, and clarity, you’re not communicating your meaning very well at all.
A shy worker may find it hard to speak in front of more than one person, and as a result, they might stumble over their words, use ‘um’, ‘er’, and ‘ah’ a little too often. This causes the listeners to lose their flow, and perhaps misunderstand what is trying to be conveyed. It’s not that a shy person can’t be a great communicator, it’s simply that a fear of speaking in public, or perhaps low confidence, affects their ability to perform in the moment.
In that case, it’s not the words that ruin the quality of the communication, but the way it is delivered.
You should bear the following in mind when attempting to communicate:
- The speed you’re speaking - Someone who is speaking too quickly may be nervous or angry. Understanding this means that you can see a little of what is going on beneath the surface, but if you’re then speaking too fast, you might hamper the efforts of those around you to understand what you’re trying to say.
- The tone of your voice - Using the wrong tone of voice can easily cause misunderstandings or offend someone. You might not realise you’re coming over as sarcastic, as one example, which may cause the other person to become defensive and on their guard. The wrong tone of voice is one of the main reasons for misunderstandings in communication. It’s best to stick to an even tone, e.g. avoiding sarcasm. Of course, communicating a sense of joy via an excited tone of voice is a good thing, but communicating you're upset at something via tone could perhaps cause negativity and misunderstandings to occur.
- The words you choose - Whilst it’s not all about the actual words, using incorrect language can be a big problem. In the working environment, it’s best to avoid slang, and far better to stick to professional/casual language instead. It all depends on the situation in many ways, e.g. whether you’re sat around the boardroom leather chairs speaking to a potential client, or a one on one with an employee, but choosing language which is appropriate to the situation is vital. A good communicator is able to shift their focus and choose the right words accordingly, in order to be understood in the right way.
- The number of hesitations - Whilst everyone stumbles over their words occasionally, if you’re constantly saying ‘erm’, and ‘um’, you’re not conveying a sense of confidence in what you’re saying. This isn’t a good situation if you’re a leader or manager and you’re trying to give orders or discuss a problem with your team. A good communicator is confident in their words, and whilst they might say the odd ‘erm’, these are certainly not regular occurrences.
These facets of communication are particularly important when you’re giving instructions or feedback to your employees. Using the wrong tone of voice, the wrong language, and stumbling over your words whilst attempting to give constructive criticism to an employee is not going to give them a clear view of what you’re trying to say, and could cause them to misunderstand.
Check out this video for a little advice on how to communicate effective feedback to your employees.
It’s important to bear these points in mind when communicating and practice using an even tone of voice, cutting down on hesitations, and speaking at an even speed throughout.
The Importance of Body Language
Communication certainly isn’t all about the words that come out of your mouth or how you say them, but its also about what your body is saying without words.
Body language is just as important as verbal language, and if you want to convey the right message to whoever you’re trying to communicate with, you need to know how to allow your body to do the talking at the same time.
The following are examples of negative body language:
- Avoiding eye contact, or staring too much
- Fidgeting, e.g. playing with the collar of your jacket, messing with your hair, scratching your face, biting your nails, etc
- Crossing your arms or legs across your body when sitting/standing. This is an example of defensive body language and is often used when someone is either extremely nervous or more commonly when someone is lying
- Excessive sweating
- Frowning rather than smiling or attempting to look approachable
- A hunched or poor posture when sitting at office chairs or standing
Conversely, the following are examples of positive body language:
- Making adequate eye contact
- A neutral posture, without arms or legs crossed. This is known as open body language
- A relaxed and casual stance
- No fidgeting
- Nodding to show that you’re listening to whatever the other person is saying and that you’re engaged in the conversation
Check out this video which gives some useful information on how to read body language.
Learning how to read body language is a useful skill in everyday life, but understanding how your body language might change the meaning of your words is vital in the workplace. If you’re sat at your office workstation and you’re discussing an issue with a client or a customer, your body language could completely change their view of what you’re saying. This can lead to misunderstandings once more and may give them the wrong impression of not only you as a person but also the business as a whole.
The same can be said for collaborative sessions with colleagues. If your body language screams “I’m bored and I’m not listening to what you’re saying”, even if you are, conflicts could occur. If you were in the middle of a video conference with a client, the way you’re sitting could also affect the way they take your words. It’s certainly worth paying attention to!
As a piece of practical advice on this section, work on avoiding the negative body language traits we mentioned, and try to adopt the positive ones. By being more mindful of what your body is saying to others, you’ll help to alleviate the possibility of misunderstandings and boost your non-verbal communication skills.
Do You Really Know How to Listen?
You might think that communication is about words, how you speak and what your body is saying, but it’s also about how you listen.
A good communicator really understands how to listen. This doesn’t mean just hearing the words, but actually understanding them on a deeper level.
Most of us don’t actually listen properly, especially if we’re listening to someone who is talking too much and we end up zoning out a little. The thing is, by not really tuning in to what a person is saying and taking the time to not only hear their words, but also read a little further into it, we’re missing out on the real meaning, and how they actually feel about the subject they’re talking about.
For instance, if you’re a manager and you’re conducting an appraisal with a member of staff, you need to really tune in to the words your employee is saying, how they’re saying them, what their body language is saying, but you also need to listen very carefully to pull it all together. They might say they’re fine, and if you're not a great listener you would take that at face value, note it down and make an appointment for the same time next year. However, if you’re a good communicator you would delve a little deeper.
You would watch their reactions, you would examine their tone of voice, and notice if they look away and refuse to make eye contact if you ask a difficult question. All of this will tell you the truth of the situation and not just the face value answer.
As you can see, listening isn’t about hearing, it’s about interpreting based on the evidence you notice.
Written Communication, And How to Get it Right
Communication in the workplace isn’t just about words and verbal communication, but it’s also about written communication too. Of course, in our personal lives, we use social media and texting in order to communicate with friends and family, but in the work environment we may use emails, instant messaging, letters, and in some cases, memos, albeit electronically these days.
How you communicate in writing is just as important as how you do so verbally, and in some ways even more important if you want to make the right impression on a customer, client, or even your manager. Using slang language is a big no-no, missed grammar and incorrect spellings are also huge mistakes. These are things we can get away with when speaking to friends on social media, but shouldn’t make an appearance in the workplace environment.
Check out this very useful infographic on how to hit the right notes with your written communication efforts, be it on a mobile device or something else entirely.
Source - https://www.grammarly.com/blog/mobile-communication-study/?
Much of it is common sense, but making the odd mistake with your written communication could paint a very bad impression of you as an employee, but could also reflect back on the business you work for.
Everything is a reflection of the company, just as the reception area is a reflection of the office and the work it does, so if you’re sending out written communication via email to customers and it’s full of poor spelling and misplaced grammar, customers are going to assume that the goods and services are just as shoddy.
Understanding that written communication is just as important as verbal communication will help you to improve and become a better all-round communicator in both areas.
Top 5 Pointers Towards Great Communication
We’ve covered a lot of ground in terms of communication and how to ensure that you are understood correctly, in the best possible way, whilst trying to avoid misunderstandings and wrong impressions. This might all sounds like a lot to remember, but as your communication skills grow, you’ll find it all comes as second nature.
To simplify things down, here are five pointers to focus on as you try and improve on your current communication skills.
Tip 1 - Focus on Your Body Language
Be mindful of how your body may be speaking for you. It could be that you’ve developed bad habits you’re not aware of, such as fidgeting or yawning when someone is speaking to you. By focusing on your body language you're able to identify these possible bad habits and rectify them.
You should also take the time to try and boost your skills in terms of reading the body language of others. Whilst you’re listening to the words they’re saying, watch their body language at the same time. See if what you’re wearing matches up with what you’re seeing, whilst sat at your office desks.
Tip 2 - Slow Down And Assess How You’re Portraying Yourself And Your Words
Most of us rush through the day, trying to get as much done as possible, but it’s a good idea to slow down and try and assess whether the way you’re portraying yourself is how you actually mean to portray yourself. We’re all super-busy, so being a little distracted is understandable, but in order to improve your communication more effectively you need to slow things right down.
Be more aware of how you may be coming across to others and pay more attention to your tone of voice, the speed of your speech, and the specific words you choose. By doing this, you’re able to communicate far more effectively.
Tip 3 - Consider How to Approach Communicate Individually
Not everyone responds the same to one specific approach, and it could be that you need to mix it up a little and try and work out whether communicating with different people may require different approaches.
For examples, you wouldn’t communicate with a child the same as an adult, and whilst that’s a broad example, it does make the point. If you have an extroverted employee, you may need to communicate slightly different with them than you would with someone who was introverted or even shy.
Tip 4 - Try And Get to The Point With Fewer Words
If you’re someone who has a tendency to ramble whilst speaking, make a conscious effort to cut down on the number of words you’re using and be more concise. Remember, a good communicator doesn’t need to use a whole bunch of words to make one point, they get to the heart of the issue quickly and clearly. This is something you need to work on if you have a tendency to explain yourself too much.
This advice stands whether you’re speaking one on one with someone in the office booths, or whether you’re discussing a problem within a meeting.
Tip 5 - Learn to Listen Properly
The ability to really listen will serve you well in many aspects of your life, but certainly in your working environment. Not everyone says what they mean, especially if they’re feeling under pressure or stress. The ability to read between the lines a little will cut right into the heart of the truth, and allow you to help and support your employees, or fellow colleagues.
These five tips give you practical methods to work on in order to improve your communication skills. It’s also a good idea to look at the design of your office in order to boost communication efforts. Go down the route towards more collaborative areas, with high stools and modular office furniture which can be moved around. These efforts will allow you to speak with people you may not otherwise have engaged with, and give you more opportunities to practice your high-quality communication skills!
Check out this infographic which gives some fantastic insights into other ways you might be able to boost your communication skills.
Source - https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/improve-communication-at-work-infographic
Communication is one of the most important facets of the modern workplace, but learning how to improve your current communication skills will also help you in many other aspects of your life.
Knowing what to think about and how to improve is the starting point, but it’s also a good idea to ensure that your office environment is geared up to help boost collaboration and communication in the first place. Look towards the best office furniture for communication, e.g. modular options which can be moved around, and place these in the optimum spots for brainstorming and allowing employees to discuss work issues with ease.
Part and parcel of the best contemporary office design is ease of use, and when it comes to ensuring effective and efficient communication, collaboration and team-work is a great starting point.