Tips for improving your communication skills at work

April 8, 2011

Communication in the workplace is crucial to maintaining relationships and navigating our daily responsibilities. When attempts at communication fall short, we often see an unnecessary amount of tension rising. This results in an atmosphere that affects everyone’s productivity and quality of work.

One of the biggest things that affect communication is our perception of others and their perception of us. Believing that someone doesn’t “get” you or that you don’t “get” them leads to poor relationships. This is why it is crucial to actively strive to improve your communication skills. To assist you in doing this, we have provided below a list of six ways to improve these skills. These tips will not only strengthen your communication skills, but also improve other aspects of your work life in the process.

Get to know people. When people are hesitant or uncomfortable speaking to someone, communication breaks down or fails to take off altogether. Being comfortable around your coworkers is key to developing a healthy environment for communication, and the only way to get comfortable around others is to get to know them. So take the time to ask your coworkers about their lives and listen attentively when they respond. This will keep them from being relative strangers and you will begin to see them as unique individuals.


Encourage others to talk. Listening attentively, and effectively, is just as much an active skill as speaking. The talented listener knows how to give 100% of their attention to a speaker and how to mentally flag key words and phrases to recall later. Furthermore, listening is the fastest way to get to know someone. Most people enjoy discussing their lives — you just need to ask the right questions to get them to start sharing things with you.


Create a shared sense of purpose. A lack of team unity can lead to a breakdown in team structure. Instead of being on the same page, you may find one person micromanaging or dominating the flow of the project while others sit idly by and let the project come together without giving more direct input. The trick to developing a shared sense of purpose is to find a way to utilize everyone’s best skills on the project — to tailor each aspect of the project to a specific team member’s strength.


Get involved, stay involved. When you find yourself working on a team project or sharing work, make sure you remain actively involved as opposed to going off on your own and completing your share of the work in a vacuum. Regular communication during a major project will also help foster a more communicative atmosphere in general, and will show others how you are a team player invested in the project’s successful completion.


Follow up sooner, not later. If you are even slightly uncertain about something communicated to you, follow up on the matter immediately. The reason for quick follow-up is simple: Working under assumptions is working under a serious communication disconnect. It is better to make sure — sometimes to the point of pestering — that you are on the same page as someone else than it is to assume you know what needs to be done and find out in the end that you were mistaken.


Don’t take things personally. Part of operating within the business world is learning to detach yourself from taking professional criticisms, disagreements, different perspectives and different ideas personally. If you’re the kind of person to let bumps in the road cause you to lose control of your emotions, you will quickly find yourself struggling to communicate effectively with others. Worse, others will be less inclined to communicate with you.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @CarnegieJersey.

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