Most of us spend the majority of our day communicating with people at work, but we rarely stop and think about whether or not we're actually good at communication.
With any other skill, you'd be constantly looking for ways to grow and develop.
So why not communication?
It's been shown that businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover 1. Good communication skills also make work more enjoyable, reduce the risk of projects going wrong, and reduce workplace conflicts.
It takes hard work and dedication to learn to communicate well. Start with the essential workplace communication skills below. We'll talk about
- How to manage conflict
- How to listen better
- How to deal with cultural differences
- How to receive criticism
- How to give helpful feedback
How to manage conflict
Managing conflict at work is all about staying calm, listening carefully to everyone's point of view, and being as understanding as possible 2. Next time you're hit with a difficult conflict at work, try the following steps:
- Stay calm. If possible, take a short break from the conflict and do something relaxing/fun, like meditating, reading or taking a short walk. You'll be better able to deal with the issue when you're not angry or annoyed.
- Listen. Give everyone involved in the conflict a chance to state their case. Use active listening techniques, like repeating part of what somebody says back to them, to show that you're fully engaged.
- Be understanding. Show that you can empathise with your coworkers. Instead of saying, "Why wasn't the report finished on time?", say something like, "I understand that you've had a lot on your plate and might be struggling."
- Never make it personal. Instead of saying, "You're always late to meetings!", say, "It's really important that we start the meeting on time."
- Find a solution together. By getting everyone involved in working out a solution, nobody will feel they've been treated unfairly. Once the issue is worked out, do something positive together, like having a coffee or watching a funny video. It's always best to end on a positive note.
How to listen better
Active listening in the workplace is really important. Try the following techniques to ensure you don't appear bored or disinterested when talking to others 3.
- smile and look at face. Staring off into space is a big no-no.
- Check your posture. Face towards the person you're speaking to, maybe leaning forward slightly or turning your head to one side.
- Ask questions. This shows that you're actively engaged and thinking deeply about what's being said to you.
- Repeat or summarize information. This reassures the listener that you're paying attention and understanding fully.
How to deal with cultural differences
Having a diverse range of employees can be really good for a company, but can also cause issues. You might find that members of the team have different ideas about what's acceptable and what's not. Head off any potential problems by keeping communication open, emphasising the positives of having a team made up of so many unique individuals, and catering to the cultural needs of every employee.
How to receive criticism
Receiving criticism can be really tough, especially when you've worked hard on a project. Make the process easier by following these steps.
- Remember that it's nothing personal. Even the most successful people make mistakes, and this is how we grow and improve.
- Focus on constructive criticism. If you receive a comment that doesn't help you to improve, ignore it. Focus on criticism that actually helps you.
- Make a plan. Break down what you need to do to improve into small, simple steps. That might mean rewriting the report one section at a time, taking a course to improve your skills, or asking for more support at work.
How to give helpful feedback
Giving feedback sometimes feels as hard as receiving it – nobody wants to hurt a coworkers feelings. When giving feedback be clear and concise – get to the point, rather than skirting around the issue. Make comments with the intention of helping your coworker, rather than insulting them. Instead of saying, "Your formatting is all wrong," say, "This would look even better with the correct formatting." Avoiding words like 'you' makes your coworker feel less attacked.
Good communication skills are essential regardless of where you work. Start learning now and you'll be in for a much easier and more enjoyable career.
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