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Perhaps the most obvious way that you communicate is by speaking. However, you also communicate by the signals you send and receive each day through a multitude of nuances, gestures, and expressions. While these actions are voluntary, they are not always conscious. Indeed, we occasionally send and receive communication signals without even being aware that we are doing so. This can lead to disconnects or misleading messages.
However, this problem is also an opportunity because addressing these signals is the key to effective communication. In other words, if we can train ourselves to be aware of the signals we are constantly sending, then we can align our messages to what it is that we really want to say. And then our communication is no longer accidental and vague, but purposeful.
There are five types of communication to consider in the modern workplace: listening, visual communication, verbal communication, non-verbal communication, and written communication. Understanding these different communication styles and paying attention to which styles our teammates and our boss gravitate toward can improve our interpersonal skills, build trust, and help us get more done with less frustration.
When we think of communication, we often forget that all communication begins with listening! We listen to what is being said and what is not being said. Listening effectively involves active listening. This is a vital component of the communication model because if we cannot listen to the colleague or client sitting across from us, we cannot actively and effectively engage with them. Learn to listen as the basis of all good communication.
This conveys ideas and information in forms that can be seen. As you can imagine, this includes a broad spectrum of methods. Common methods include signs, drawings, graphic design, advertising, animations, and electronic resources. Have you ever considered why visual communication is so very effective? It’s because the human mind processes information in images. So it’s worth remembering that most people respond more quickly to visual images than to text.
This is probably what most people think of when they think about communication. Verbal communication occurs face to face, over the telephone, or in a social media context via Skype or Zoom, and so on. Remember, however, that it is not just about the words used. It is also about the complexity of those words and how we thread them together to create an all-encompassing message. Pay particular attention to the intonation – including the pitch, tone, and cadence – used while speaking.
First, silence is good if it’s a natural contemplative pause in communication. Comfortable silences can enhance a conversation or diffuse tension. Also, use confident language, speak slowly and clearly, and aim to avoid filler words such as ‘um’, ‘uh.’ Ask questions to clarify and show interest. And seek common ground, even in conflict. Try to identify a shared interest with your conversation partner. Be sure to be prepared by doing research and knowing your subject. Think of the worst question you can be asked and know the answer.
Also, when necessary, use a verbal bridge to change subject. For example, bring up another topic to subtly shift the focus. You might say, “The important thing to remember is…” Be self-aware during an important or stressful conversation, by relaxing and acting normally – though remaining professional. And remember that, while words are important, when speaking face-to-face they cannot be separated from non-verbal communication.
The physical message that we project through our body while we speak often says more than the actual words we use! Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, body gestures, posture, eye contact, hand movements, and touch.
For example, if you’re engaged in a conversation with a decision maker about your cost-saving idea, pay attention to both their words and their non-verbal communication. They might say that they agree with your idea. However, their non-verbal cues – such as avoiding eye contact, rapid blinking, or feet direction – may indicate the exact opposite! So, when it comes to body language, pay attention, observe, and trust your intuition.
Pay attention to this because poor writing skills often lead to confusion and embarrassment or even potential legal involvement. A golden rule in written communications in our digital age is to remember that your message will always be there and will be stored forever. So take care with your words!
In all written workplace communications, remember that poorly written messages and a sloppy or lazy style reflect badly on you and your organization. Ask yourself, “Is this message one that I am comfortable being connected with forever?”Back to Top
CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com
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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
Organizations are more likely to perform well when their employees work together effectively. To be successful in today’s workplace, it’s important to develop good interpersonal relationships with your colleagues, and to be able to collaborate with them successfully when the need arises. It’s also important to be able to communicate well with your colleagues, so you can get your message across and ensure it is understood.
In this module, you will learn about the personal skills you should cultivate in order to collaborate successfully, such as the ability to listen actively and to ‘lead beyond your authority’. You will also discover strategies you can use to improve team collaboration, such as holding regular meetings and sending fewer emails.
You will learn why good communication matters – and how you are communicating even when you are silent, before you utter a single word. You will also be introduced to strategies you can use to communicate effectively and improve your day-to-day interactions with others, including observing body language, asking short but impactful questions, and using pauses for effect.