As you think about your professional resolutions for 2021, consider enhancing your communication skills. Communication is a core professional skill. Relaying information to stakeholders and securing their trust and buy-in is fundamental to success at work.
Reflect on your communication skills. How is the way you communicate received by others? Does your messaging get the job done or do you often have to revisit and clarify what you say and write? Does your method of communicating tend to inspire a sense of calm among your colleagues or stir up drama on your team?
Think of the ways you can tweak your process to communicate more empathetically, strategically, successfully in the new year. Need some help to get you started? Check out our five tips for becoming a better communicator.
Calm your mind.
Work can be frustrating. It can be stressful. But the relationships that you build there are vital to your success and happiness on the job. You nurture those relationships with your communications. It can be a mistake to engage in those important communications when your mindset is hot, agitated, angry. It’s certainly understandable to feel frustrated at work sometimes, but it’s a good rule of thumb to refrain from communicating, especially in writing, when angry. Think things through, calm down, and cool off, so that you can think clearly before you shape professional messages.
The emotional indulgence of sending a terse, rude, or passive-aggressive messages is usually not worth it. Communicate cleanly, and do your emotional work outside the office. There’s less clean up and less risk that way.
If you need to have a conversation with a co-worker about a professional issue that you’re having, do that in person or through a conversation on the phone. Plan the conversation and think through what you hope to gain from it. Work with your HR partners if you need to; manage the relationship accordingly, but refrain from allowing aimless negativity to infiltrate your communications.
Part of being a strategic communicator means thinking of others and considering their experience when interacting with them. This means carrying your audience with you, and using your understanding of what things must be like for them to help you in your message shaping. If your coworker, for example, is working remotely along with his children and his spouse, aim to make the messages you send him simple and easy to respond to, knowing that he is juggling a lot right now. In the same way, if you’re working with a new hire, aim to create messaging that is clear, easy to understand, positive, and welcoming. Communications land well when they are mindful of the recipient’s needs.
Be a listener.
Being a good listener means allowing someone else to speak, without preparing your return comments while that person is talking. Hear others. Allow them to truly reach you. Consider what they share. Think about it. Weight it. Be open to the possibility that they will give you a tip, an insight, and awareness that will make you a better employee, a more deeply informed human.
Aim to be a reflective lister, making good decisions about the quality of the information that comes your way. But resist the urge to treat a conversation like a tennis match, just hitting balls back when they come to you.
Be mindful of miscommunication pitfalls.
Understand the limitations of the tools we commonly use. Texts and emails, for example, while convenient, can be sources for miscommunication. Recognize these as such. “In the absence of facial expression, tone of voice, gesture or good old-fashioned ‘vibe,’ we have very little to help us discern what the other person is trying to tell us. Without these clarifying cues, we frequently ‘fill in the blanks’ with our customary worries and assumptions.” Explains psychologist-psychoanalyst Dr. Melissa Ritter in an article she penned for Psychology Today.
If you get an email or a text that you find to be terse or rude, take a moment and remind yourself that information can often be miscommunicated via text and email. It’s worth following up before blowing up. You don’t want to invite drama into your life because of a misinterpretation of a message, especially in your workplace. If you receive a message that just doesn’t sit right with you, pick up the phone or stop by and see your colleague. Recognizing the limitations of the tools we use is an important part of using them well.
Aim to make your messaging brief, clear, and easy to understand. We all love to cash in on big words and sound fancy, but peppering our messaging with complex language can make us harder to understand. “To appear smart, you must be crystal clear, persuasive, authoritative, credible & warm. Seeming smart is about having relationships that are easy to initiate, easy to maintain, and where both parties get what they need. It’s about making people understand you quickly and thoroughly and avoiding misunderstandings.” Explains Ita Olsen, speech coach, founder, and CEO of the Convey Method.
Your communications should feel and sound authentic and true to you. The goal isn’t to put people off with our profound command of our subject matter. We want to show people that we’ve used our expertise to filter information for them, so that they can understand it too.
Good communication is about connection, and that’s a great goal for 2021!