We all know that communication is important. Maybe you have taken some communication courses and you know how it works and what it is comprised of, but are you communicating effectively in the workplace? Are your communication skills at work benefiting or hindering your performance? Do you have positive or negative relationships with your co-workers, bosses, clients, account managers, etc?
Seriously, think about it for a moment. Many working relationship issues stem from poor communication skills. Learning to more effectively communicate will make work better for everyone.
Let’s discuss the basics of effective communication and determine how to apply those skills in today’s technologically advanced workplace.
The topic of improving communication skills at work is pretty broad, so I want to focus on the following topics.
Communicating effectively is about more than just sending and receiving information and messages. It is about the sentiment behind the information being sent and the understanding of it by the receiver. In order to communicate effectively in today’s technologically advanced workplace, you need to understand effective listening (or decoding) of messages, discern the importance of nonverbal communication, learn how to be empathetic when communicating, and learn how technology is changing the way in which we communicate. A lack of effective communication skills at work can make it difficult, to near impossible, for work to get completed properly.
What is effective listening?
Effective listening is an important communication skill to have in the workplace. Ensuring that you are properly decoding a message in the way it was intended will save everyone time. Technology can make this even more difficult to do, which we will touch on later. I can’t tell you how many times I have run into issues with this when working as an account manager for one of our website development projects. A client could say something like, “I think the font could be more visually appealing, and the colors should stand out more.” If I were to decode that message and try to relay the information to a designer or developer, I might say something like, “Make the font 16px/bold and make the colors more vibrant”…. when in reality the client may have had a whole other font style in mind and want the colors to be darker. So guess what? After the updates have been completed and the client sees them, we both realize that our minds were not in the same place. The point here is: make sure that you have a complete understanding before moving on; otherwise, you are going to run into extra work. Don’t be afraid to double-check with someone, ask questions, or set up a call or in-person meeting to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
The importance of nonverbal communication.
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We all know that nonverbal communication is a way of sending messages or cues to others without the use of words. This can include facial expressions, gestures, body language or posture, tone of voice, and so on. Nonverbal cues can change someone’s understanding of a message entirely, so you should be aware of the signals that you are sending. It is also very easy to misinterpret nonverbal cues because everyone’s mind perceives things differently based on their personal past experiences. This leaves a lot of room for error by the sender and the receiver of messages. So again, I want to stress the importance of making sure you are on the same page for a work task before getting started.
Working relationships and empathetic communication.
Having empathetic communication skills is extremely important. Learn how to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” or “see things through someone else’s eyes”, as they say… or, “I see you”, as they say on Pandora (Avatar reference). Having empathy at work can help you avoid involvement in unnecessary conflicts while building strong relationships that can help businesses excel. When a situation arises, put your own personal viewpoint aside and try to see it from the other person’s perspective. Make sure you are effectively listening to what they have to say and pay attention to their nonverbal cues. Even though you may still completely disagree with their point of view, you should acknowledge that you understand where they are coming from.
Most of us want to get our way or be right about everything… it’s human nature. But remember that everyone has a different point of view, and there is a lot to be gained from looking at things from multiple viewpoints. Don’t be selfish when it comes to working through situations at work. Look at all the viewpoints to determine what will benefit a company or organization the most.
Communication skills and technology.
The pros & cons.
On one hand, technology can be very beneficial for communication, but you need to know how to use it while also maintaining basic effective communication skills. On the other hand, technology can be a hindrance if it completely replaces human interaction. It is important that good human communication skills not fall by the wayside of technology.
I am sure you have all given some thought to how changes in technology affect communication, so I will keep this brief by listing out a few pros and cons from my personal point of view.
Ability to work on projects remotely
Ability to send email messages, and look back at past messages
Communication through social media
Web conferences, Google+ Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Skype
Can communicate with more people in less time
Harder to decode messages and be an effective listener
Loss of nonverbal cues (but at least we have emoticons!)
Cannot determine the tone of voice
More difficult to have empathetic communication
Loss of personal interaction
What do you think? Is technology helping or hindering communication skills within the workplace?