Communication between individuals in an organization can make or break the success of projects, relationships between managers and employees, and synergy between departments. While many employees realize that effective communication skills are critical, the actual art of communicating well can prove to be more difficult in practice.
Several types of communication occur between employees in a work environment, including between those who work in the same department or function, between those who work in different departments, and between those who work for the organization and those who are outside of the firm.
Regardless of who is communicating, there are common tips and practices to keep in mind.
1. Active Listening
One of the core aspects of effective communication is active listening. This technique involves not only concentrating on what the other person is saying but also asking clarifying questions. By asking questions, the listener can ensure that he or she fully understands what the other person is saying.
Asking questions reduces misunderstandings and helps the speaker adjust the message if it is unclear. Active listening also involves being able to read body language and what the speaker is not saying.
2. Nonverbal Cues
Nonverbal body language and gestures can often say more than words. According to a study on communication, nonverbal cues determine 55 percent of how others perceive a speaker.
Being mindful of eye contact, facial expressions, and physical gestures can help ensure a message is interpreted correctly. For example, crossing one’s arms is often interpreted as closed body language. This can send the message that someone is not open or receptive. Displaying defensive body language while trying to communicate a positive, uplifting message can backfire and lead to negative interpretations.
3. Be Mindful of the Audience
It is critical to know who the audience or receiver is. Someone from the marketing department, for example, is probably going to find technical jargon confusing.
An employee from the IT department who engages in conversation with other employees will want to explain technical, complex concepts using down-to-earth analogies. Likewise, marketing employees that communicate across departments will want to avoid the overuse of strategic terms related to social media or consumer behavior.
4. Engage and Ask for Feedback
While it is important for the audience or receiver to ask clarifying questions, it is as equally important for the speaker or sender to solicit feedback. Ask the audience for their thoughts on what was said, ask them questions about the topic to determine comprehension, and ask others about aspects of the message that were unclear or missing. Soliciting feedback can also involve asking others about one’s overall communication style and areas that can be improved.
5. Incorporate Technology
Using technology, such as Peak Push to Talk, instant messaging, and videoconferencing, can help connect employees who are not located near each other. While these tools can help facilitate communication and make it easier, those who use them should be mindful of the limitations.
It is easier to misinterpret messages without being able to gauge each other’s nonverbal cues. Over Reliance on emails and other forms of written electronic messages can also lead to issues with misinterpretations.
Effective communication in the workplace can be challenging to accomplish. However, studies reflect that most employees want better communication, especially from leadership. Being mindful of who is communicating with whom and differences in perceptions, while practicing active listening and engaging feedback mechanisms can help improve interpersonal skills.
Good communication is about being able to hear and respond to what is being said, but also to what is not being vocalized in words.