Don't make the mistake of confusing your ability to talk with effective communication skills at work. Employees of all kinds can open their mouths and say just about anything, but that doesn't mean they've effectively communicated their intent or even participated in a two-way conversation. Whether you’re a manager or an employee, to improve your chances of success at work, consider these keys to building effective communication skills in the workplace.
Know Your Audience
Understand the audience to which you’re speaking and tailor your message accordingly. At work, you'll find people from different countries, nationalities, education levels and cultures. To get your ideas and intentions across to such a diverse group, it helps to know the medium that works best when communicating with your employees or coworkers. Email messages are a primary means of communication at work; keep your emails simple, succinct and to the point. The same applies to verbal communication. Don't talk over the heads of your audience, because that's pointless. Use words that everyone can understand.
Communication skills are soft skills that everyone needs to succeed in life and at work. If you want to be effective, take the time to learn the rules and etiquette of effective verbal communication. Make it a point to think about what you want to say before you say it; once it's out there, you can't take it back. Avoid slang, colloquialisms and phrases that coworkers from differing backgrounds might not understand. Use proper English and grammar when you speak; speak clearly and succinctly.
Listening is Critical
The art of effective communication involves mastering both parts of the communication equation. The second part is learning how to listen. Many people are so busy thinking about what they’re going to say next that they fail to listen closely to what the other person is saying. You don't have to rush to get your point across; effective communicators are excellent listeners. Make eye contact when the other person is speaking to let her know she has your full interest and attention.
Channels of Communication
Workplace communication provides a variety of channels with which to interact and communicate with people. Besides email, there are phones, reports, memorandums and face-to-face meetings. The problem with email and phone communication is that people cannot see your face or your body when you speak. This is especially critical when you use words that could have dual meanings, and the tone of your voice or your written communications may send a different message than what you intend. Be aware of how you sound over the phone and in your emails. Remember your manners, be polite and don't get snippy. Snarkiness in email or phone communication is counterproductive and unattractive.
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.