5 Things To Practice to Strengthen Your Workplace Communication Skills
Navigating the post-pandemic workplace might not be on your radar right now as you’re enjoying reading this from the comforts of your home, or an office with 50% capacity. While the work from home setup has been taking a toll on so many people, let’s bear in mind that not everyone has that choice. Frontline staff and service workers have carried on and adapted to the pandemic workplace, keeping you safe and healthy throughout this time.
Indubitably, the biggest challenge to all of us is workplace communication. As we add facemasks to our accessories and Zoom backgrounds to our video calls, the 2-way communication is broken because there is at least one thing that is always hidden. How can we strengthen our workplace communication skills when the workplace itself has changed?
What distinguishes good communication from bad communication is a lot subtler than you might think. According to research by Albert Mehrabian, much of what we communicate doesn’t come from our mouths—only 7% of meaning is derived from actual words, 38% from the tone of voice, while the rest (55%) is captured from body language.
But hang on, this research was done way back in 1967 in the context of communicating feelings and emotions. Email or instant messaging did not exist yet! This over-simplified statistic may not be reliable in the current communication landscape, but it does tell us the one thing that is most important in effective communication: meaning.
Below are some tips on the kinds of workplace communication skills you may engage in: verbal, non-verbal, and written. Although this article is ultimately written from a business perspective, communicating with meaning is important regardless of the profession you are in.
1. Active listening
Sounds a bit counterintuitive but the most important workplace communication skill and strategy doesn’t actually involve talking. In fact, active listening takes it a step further by listening to what people are not saying. Many times what your colleagues do not say is as important as what they do say. The challenge in becoming an active listener is learning the ability to concentrate. Here are quick ways on how to train yourself in focusing on the conversation:
- Look at the speaker directly.
- Avoid interrupting or commenting unless asked.
- Show that you’re listening by nodding or smiling occasionally.
- Provide feedback constructively and ask questions if to clarify.
- Repeat their words mentally as they say them if you are easily distracted.
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
- Respond appropriately and respectfully.
2. Voice modulation
It’s most often used in public speaking but has also benefits in dealing with customers or partner clients especially if you’re in sales. Voice modulation is when you control or adjust your voice, choosing when to speak louder or softer, faster or slower, emotional or comedic. When communicating your message, it’s important to consider how the listener will receive it.
- Add emphasis to specific words to help listeners know which words you want them to focus on.
- Pause between words for more impact to break a long sentence or when communicating a thought process.
- Pace yourself–going fast at some points and slowing down at others–to keep listeners engaged.
- Improve your clarity by practising vocal variation–go loud when you want people to listen, go soft when you want people to really listen.
3. E-newsletter subscriptions
There’s no better way to practice one of the workplace communication skills of email communication than by receiving messages in your inbox! Subscribe to popular news sites or email marketing professionals to know how to sound professional, friendly, or both at the same time. Writing clearer and better emails will save you time in meetings, as well as the headache of repeating things to a boss or a colleague. Here are some websites you can read to find out what good emails look like:
- Medium – Self-publishing website where writers, authors, and industry leaders promote their work through magazines.
- ProFellow – An online resource for professional and academic fellowships that provides tips and opportunities.
- Crunch School – Our very own learning space with lessons conducted by industry leaders and experts who have built their career from the ground up!
4. Social networking
All kinds of networking are inherently social, but there are those intended for “office politics” and those that are more authentic in nature. Both are crucial in communicating effectively and require serious attention if you want to succeed in the workplace.
- Take advantage of your company’s brand to legitimize what you’re saying. Do this by bringing business cards or making sure you use a company email address when doing professional correspondence.
- Research about who you’re meeting or talking to as a gesture of respect for their time and efforts.
- Be confident! Know your goals for connecting and show that you are on top of your talking points.
- Share resources and be generous with connecting other people (with consent!).
5. Written communication
The purpose of writing is to convey or request information. Whether it’s a report, proposal, or social media post, the same rules apply for one of the workplace communication skills of written communication – it must be complete, concise, and accurate. There are tones in writing that might be specific to the personal or professional brand you’re writing for. But essentially, the reader should be able to easily understand.
If you’re not a skilled writer, start with writing outlines or bullet forms to organize your thought process. Reading samples online can also impact the way you write, even if you start by copy-pasting everything in the beginning. What matters is you cite your source and that you always show your output to an editor who isn’t yourself.
Out of all the online resources and tips on how you can improve your workplace communication, you should apply those that specifically help you to think about what you mean when you want to say something. The key to success is in practising what you learn. It won’t happen overnight. But if you acknowledge that you’re a work in progress, it’s not difficult to achieve your goals!