The ability to communicate with clarity and effectiveness is a skill that organizational leaders at all levels must possess. Most business hierarchies depend on effective communication as messages are sent up and down the corporate ladder. Therefore, it is imperative that everyone is the organization both hears and communicates effectively. Here are 4 important tips for better communication in the workplace:
Bring non-verbal and verbal communication together
Remember, communication is both non-verbal and verbal. Sometimes, a person says one thing but acts in a way that does not back up their verbal message. For example, have you ever watched a person be interviewed on TV with the sound down? Without the addition of voices, your impression of the person’s message may be completely different than what they are actually saying. You may watch that person and instantly be able to tell that they are exaggerating or outright lying. When your body language is out of sync with the words, the message gets mixed up. So focus not only on what you are saying but on your body-language and facial expressions when you say it. If your non-verbal and verbal messages are not in agreement, then your message will be muddled.
Listening is an extremely important aspect of communication, and (unfortunately) it does not come naturally to most people. However, the best communicators are also the best listeners. In the workplace, listening is used at least three times as much as speaking, and four to five times as much as reading or writing. It is crucial for effective communication.
To become an effective listener you have to work at it. In order to truly communicate, you have to hear what the other person is saying. Otherwise, you are not communicating; you are giving a speech. So focus on becoming an active listener. This means that you are making a conscious effort to truly hear what the other person is saying – not trying to formulate your next comment or rebuttal. Hold off thinking about your rebuttal or next statement until you have heard and internalized what the other person is saying.
Two good ways to do this are to ask questions and paraphrase.
Asking questions is a good way to verify what you hear so you respond appropriately. Asking questions allow you to truly understand what is being said and allows the other person to clarify their point (perhaps even highlighting the fact that they had not been clear in the first place). It also allows you to hear a response in a different way or just hear it again in order to be sure of what you heard. However, there are some rules for asking questions:
- Make sure your questions relate specifically to what is being said. Don’t change the subject by “going off on a tangent” or asking irrelevant questions.
- Use questions to gather quick additional points that help you understand the conversation.
Paraphrasing another person’s remarks is a good way to ensure that you are clear about what has been said and let the other person know that you care about what he or she is communicating. Paraphrasing should be done by either the speaker or the listener. Think about it this way….when someone signals that they do not understand what has been said, it indicates that they want to communicate. If they did not, they would have simply nodded their head and moved on. So when someone does not understand the message you are trying to convey, it is you responsibility to help them understand. Poor communicators do not do this; they do not paraphrase; they simply repeat their message (or question) verbatim, perhaps speaking louder or slower. We see this lots on comedy shows when a comedian is supposedly speaking to a non-native English speaker. It is funny, but it does not work. The message is being misunderstood, not misheard. Good communicators change their approach; they paraphrase their words and they get the message across.
This “tips” list is not complete. If you would like more information on how to help improve listening skills or any other workplace issues, visit our website for our Workplace Research articles. This section highlights the different trends and changing environments within companies across America. New content is added monthly, so bookmark this section and visit often. Or contact your local Snelling office, and one of our talented staff members can assist you with your needs.
By David Allen, Snelling.com
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