4 Essentials to Effective Communication in the Workplace

by Travis Arey on February 16, 2023 in Career Advice


Essentials of Effective Communication

Workplace communication – it can either make or break your career. From the first day you walk into your administrative role at a local non-profit to the retirement party for longtime executives and everything in between, your conversational habits and patterns set the pace and success of your future.

Why, per se, is this the make-or-break component for your profession? Because establishing yourself as a clear communicator in your office instills you with greater authority and trust from your leaders which can support your personal and organizational growth. But how do you learn to excel in this area? In my experience, these are the four essentials for effective communication on the job.

Listen Actively

Most workplace conversations generally follow the same format. One person talks about something they feel is important and the other person responds with what they feel is important. While both people perceive a dialogue is taking place, the truth is, neither individual is genuinely listening to the other or making significant progress toward collaboration.

As a McKinsey report showed, teams that feel well-connected will actually see a productivity increase of 20-25%.

Active listening requires being completely present when someone is speaking; it means giving your full attention to what the speaker is saying and engaging in the conversation by asking questions or responding with insight.

If your coworker is struggling to find sufficient volunteers for an upcoming event, ask what they’ve tried so far or even what’s worked in the past. If the after-school program your nonprofit runs needs new activities to keep students engaged, offer some ideas of programs you’ve seen succeed before.

Effective communicators even take time to listen actively and engage with topics outside of the job. For example, if your colleague shares how their child was just in a play this last weekend, ask how the show went or which character their child played.

In any case, asking relevant and intentional questions as well as making comments related to the conversation will make both parties feel valued and position you as a great communicator.

Practice Emotional Intelligence

A voice raised in anger, hostile body language, or a sarcastic remark can quickly derail any conversation and make the other person feel attacked or disrespected.

Non-profits rely on emotional intelligence more than other sectors because there is a major cause behind the job. Individuals are already emotionally tied to their work and navigating those emotions will be required in order to remain successful.

Emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” Practicing emotional intelligence means understanding how our emotions influence the conversation and learning any that don’t enhance our interactions.

When you are in a conversation, pay close attention to your own facial expressions and gestures. Keep your voice neutral and avoid any passive-aggressive remarks or snarky comments. Imagine you are in a conversation with a colleague, and they share that a report will be late. Instead of showing anger or frustration, practice emotional intelligence and ask if something happened that caused them to be late. And see how you can collaborate to speed up the delivery process.

The more in tune you are at reading emotional cues, the more quickly you’ll take appropriate actions to let others know you understand where they are coming from and achieve the best outcomes.

Read Body Language

While most people believe communication is all about what is being said, it turns out that 70-93% of all communication is non-verbal.

Reading another person’s body language will tell you a lot about their feelings and intentions. Cues such as crossed arms or legs, furrowed brows, eye contact, or a lack thereof are all visual clues to help you analyze what’s been communicated without a word.

These signals can give you an idea of how the other person is feeling at that moment and if they are genuinely engaged in the conversation. People often avoid confrontation or any form of conflict in the workplace, which can prompt some dishonesty or restraint.

If a colleague confronts you about an issue but you aren’t sure how they are feeling, notice how their hands are moving or how their posture changes. If they are moving abruptly and seem very animated (and they usually aren’t), they could be upset or angry but not wanting to verbalize their feelings.

An article conducted by Harvard Business Review reminds us that acknowledging actual feelings of sadness, frustration, and anxiety (without offering a silver lining) or using phrases like “Rest assured” and “We will get through this” will encourage resilience and demonstrate your commitment to supporting your fellow coworker.

When speaking to someone, try to maintain eye contact and open body language. This will make the other person feel seen and heard and help you communicate effectively with your colleagues. Paying attention to these cues can help avoid misunderstandings and foster effective communication in the workplace.

Acknowledge Before You Respond

Imagine sharing an important detail with your colleague about a project you are working on together and in response the colleague says, “So where would you like to eat for lunch today?”

Undoubtedly, you would feel unheard, not taken seriously, and possibly even disrespected. In a sense, the conversation ended before it had a chance to begin!  Acknowledging the other person’s statements before you respond shows you have heard and understood what is being said.

Employees dealing with detailed and time-sensitive deadlines for example, will actively need to practice this communication skill because of the nature of their work. A simple miscommunication over a schedule or an unacknowledged statement about the next steps of a project can cause serious consequences. A simple two-word acknowledgment is usually enough but for more complex situations, it can help to summarize what has just been said. Repeat what the other person said in a short summary to ensure you are both on the same page. Establishing this kind of rapport with colleagues will help you make quick connections and position you as an employee to trust.)

Learning Effective Communication Habits

Effective communication skills in a workplace are as vital as the skills you learn to perform your job. But if you learn to navigate the workplace landscape with these four essential communication tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a trustworthy coworker and leader in every season of your career.

Ready to put your communication skills to work in a new job? Check out Contact 1’s open positions and take the next step in your career.


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