One of the most critical skills for employees seeking to grow professionally is communication. A large part of that is listening. We have all seen where poor communication can lead, so here are three tips for better workplace communication.
One of the most important components of communication is listening. After all, it’s impossible to give an intelligent response if you didn’t understand what the person was saying in the first place. Pay attention to the person’s body language as well as their words, and resist the urge to interrupt or plan what you are going to say next while they are speaking. Once your co-worker has finished his or her statement, you will be able to formulate an appropriate response and will have a better understanding of the idea he or she is attempting to communicate.
Ask, Don’t Assume
All too often, people stereotype each other and assume the worst intentions rather than asking how they can meet in the middle. Each party thinks it’s the other person’s problem when the responsibility is really mutual. If you need help or have a question just ask, don’t assume anything.
Always Follow Up
Never assume that an electronic message has been received. Digital information can be lost in transmission or accidentally deleted by the person receiving it. Make a habit of regularly following up on important communications. Whether you’ve just had a meeting or an interview, remember to always follow up to keep communication flowing with your coworkers.
Acknowledge the Speaker. When you’re listening to someone, send them verbal and nonverbal cues to let them know you hear what they’re saying. You can acknowledge them with eye contact and head nods, and respond with an enthusiastic tone. Avoid crossing your arms – this makes it appear that you’re not interested in what they’re talking about or sends the signal that you’re on the offensive.
Fight Distractions. Work is a busy place, and usually, there’s something or someone fighting for your time and attention. But, avoid doing other tasks when someone is talking to you. Ignore people walking by, your e-mail inbox, and the phone so you don’t come across as ignoring the speaker when you’re distracted. Concentrate on the person talking and what they’re saying so you can fully understand what they’re talking about.
Don’t Interrupt. Most people have a habit of interrupting others when they’re talking because everyone wants to be heard and give their input; however, interrupting comes off as disrespectful toward the speaker. No matter how enthusiastic you are to respond, allow the speaker to finish their thought before you speak. Allow them to explain before you chime in to add to their ideas. Then, formulate your thought and respond to them. This will keep you from jumping to the wrong conclusion or coming across as rude.
Listening is a skill we begin learning at a young age, but it’s only mastered with lots of deliberate practice. So, use these listening techniques every day with every one you talk to, including people at work. Over time, you might just see your workplace relationships improve as your conversations take on a more respectful tone and others feel the respect they crave.