While you must be skilled at your job to progress in your career, you need to know how to effectively verbalize your ideas to other people, too. That's why it's vital for you to learn ways to increase your communication skills at work. You've probably heard fellow coworkers state that they would rather work alongside someone they get along with instead of someone who is a super-talented jerk (because who has time for that?). So if you want to learn how to communicate better at work, especially if you're a supervisor, you want your employees or coworkers to feel like they can discuss anything with you, which means you should try to learn how to listen and give them your undivided attention.
"A great communication skill for leaders to have is to acknowledge and validate [their employees]. When you can show your employees you understand them, it helps them feel you relate to them and they’re more inclined to keep the lines of communication open. Many bosses are very busy, but a good leader takes the time to properly listen to what their employees have to say without dismissing them. There can be many distractions as a boss – email and phone being one of them. A great communicator is able to put everything else aside and give someone their undivided attention," says certified life coach Sharon Stokes in an interview with Bustle over email.
Whether you've just started your career or want to learn how to be better at your job, here are 13 ways you can increase your communication skills at work.
1. Learn To Listen
One of the best ways to communicate better at work is by simply learning how to listen when another person speaks. "If you want to increase your communication skills at work the first thing you must master is listening. This sounds counter-intuitive but you cannot be a successful communicator if you aren't truly tuned in to what the other person is saying. Avoid spacing out, thinking about what you are going to say next, or interrupting when someone else is talking. Active listening is a habit that takes practice. If you want to be a better listener start by jotting down a check mark in your notebook each time that you are tempted to jump in. You'll quickly retrain yourself to slow down and consider the other person's perspective first," says women's leadership coach Amanda Sowadski in an interview with Bustle over email.
2. Ask Powerful Questions
"As humans [our] brains are wired to add, edit and delete information based on the way we see the world. As a result, we often misinterpret what someone else is saying because we assume they are looking at the situation in the same way [as] we are. One of the easiest ways to stop assuming is to ask more questions. And when it comes to asking questions, 'how' is always more relevant than 'why.' Asking 'why' puts people on the [defense], asking 'how' allows you to better understand their mindset," says Sowadski. By being mindful about how you ask questions in the workplace, you can allow having an open discussion between you and another employee.
3. Ask For What You Need
Don't be afraid to ask for things when you're at work, stop saying sorry before every sentence, and try not to be passive aggressive with your actions or thoughts. "This is a tough one for women, especially because we've grown up believing it's better to give than to receive. We equate asking for what we need as taking from someone else. But in order to be an exceptional communicator you need to articulate what you need. If this feels uncomfortable remember that when you ask for what you need, you give someone else the opportunity to give. So the next time you are at an impasse in the conversation, just try asking for what you need," says Sowadski.
4. Slow Down When You Communicate
No one will understand you if you speak a million miles per hour. You may articulate your message better if you slow down. While you do have a million things to do, you want to be clear about your message the first time around, so you don't have to explain it again and waste more time fixing any mistakes. "Take the time to slow down and write it out. You'll spend more time on understanding your thoughts and getting your message across when you take your time. This can prevent miscommunication in the workplace," says Basecamp’s COO Mercedes De Luca in a phone interview with Bustle.
5. Really Know Your Audience
Even though it would be amazing for everyone to communicate the same way as you do, it's just not going to happen. That's why it's important to learn and adapt to different communication styles to effectively get your message across to your employees and boss. "Does the person you're talking to love long stories or are they all about numbers? Know how you should communicate to each person to be more effective when you communicate," says De Luca.
6. Be Thoughtful
As a leader, it can be easy to just demand things when you need them from your employees. But your employees will respect you more if you involve them in the conversation and ask for feedback when you discuss an important assignment or work situation. "Provide and get them involved in the conversation and don't demand what you want," says De Luca.
7. Consider Others' Work Habits
While you may be able to handle bad news doesn't mean someone else will do the same. If you're a supervisor, it's important to keep your employees up-to-date with what's going on in the company so they're not blindsided by negative situations and decide to jump ship. "Communicate bad news right when it happens. If you don't, it can be viewed as a bad motive. Start the dialogue and meet your employees half way. Even though you work a certain way doesn't mean everyone does," says De Luca.
8. Learn To Focus On The Conversation & Don't Get Distracted
Focusing on the conversation is especially important if you're a boss. Your employees will appreciate your undivided attention if they need to communicate an issue with you or discuss a future project. "Take the time to be mindful and focus on who's in front of you. People will feel more energized and appreciated because of all the extra attention," says De Luca
9. Be Mindful Of Your Message Delivery
You won't get very far if you yell or place blame on someone at work. There are other ways to communicate in a frustrating situation rather than pointing the finger at someone. "Of course it all depends on the delivery of [the] feedback, too. The person providing the feedback shouldn’t employ a tone of blame or shame because we can tend to shut down when feeling that way," says confidence expert and CEO of Talk to Jess Jess Weiner in an interview with Bustle over email.
10. Be Straight Forward With Your Message
Don't beat around the bush. Explain up front why you're constructing this email, and then elaborate in detail if you need to. Your coworkers get hundreds of emails a day and you may receive a faster answer if they don't feel stressed with your request. "In your emails and reports, put your main point at or near the top. That way, you provide context right away and the reader understands what you hope to accomplish. For instance, 'I'm writing to find time for us to meet and discuss the Acme account.' If that line appears at the end of the message, the person has to hunt around and think, 'What am I supposed to do here?' Remember: B-L-U-F [Bottom line up front]," says communication expert Danny Rubin in an interview with Bustle over email.
11. Write Your Email First Before You Include The Person's Email Address
Have you ever accidentally sent an email before it was ready to send? If the answer is yes, then here's a little trick you will love: include the subject's email address after you proofread your email. Boom. Mic drop. "For important emails, write your subject line and content first and then add the email recipient(s). We've all sent an email too soon or, even worse, fired off a message we wish had never gone out. Play it safe and make modifications to the email body before anyone's email joins the mix," says Rubin.
12. Be Mindful Of Your Nonverbal Communication
"When it comes to nonverbal communication, it’s really important to focus on eye contact. Nodding is also a great way to show the other person you’re listening if you’re in agreement or understand what they’re saying. Try and also be expressive in your facial expressions. People don’t like feeling like you don’t care so when you can show some excitement about a story they’re excited about it allows for a deeper connection to also occur," says Stokes. The next time you communicate with your coworkers, whether it's about work or not, give them your undivided attention, face your body towards them, and put your phone away. This can enhance your communication skills and better your work relationships in the long run.
15. Try Not To Let Your Emotions Get In The Way
If you've ever had a job, you've probably felt some anger or animosity towards a coworker or boss. While those times are frustrating, it's important to remember to put your feelings aside when you try to communicate in a professional manner. "Nobody likes to receive negative feedback. And especially if you are not in the right headspace when receiving it — it can mess with your focus and make you feel like your confidence is plummeting. Sometimes, however, negative feedback is the kick in the pants you need to wake up to your potential. Hearing it from a boss at work may motivate you to recognize where you can step up and lead. Hearing it from a co-worker, while frustrating, may be just what the two of you need to work through an important issue. Negative feedback isn’t a mark on your self-worth or value. It can be a reaction to a behavior, an experience, a moment in time. So try to look at it that way. When you see it clearly it can help you learn more about yourself," says Weiner.
It can be tough to communicate well at work when stress and emotions are involved. But say goodbye to your work anxiety and remember to have fun when you're at your job. Try not to let your emotions get in the way, be efficient with your messages, and ask powerful questions to enhance your work communications skills. It's not worth crying over poor communications skills — trust me.