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The Key to Unlocking Good Communication in the Workplace

You've heard the saying numerous times “Communication is Key to Success.”  This mantra stands true even in the workplace.

According to the book “Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners” by Karen Friedman, communication in the workplace is more important now than ever.  In a competitive market, what you and how you say it can set you apart from other team members, and have an impact on whether or not you get promoted.

If you feel like your communication skills can be fine-tuned, the tips below can help you unlock the secret to good communication in the workplace.

1.    Be direct and specific: At work, it is important to be as specific as possible to avoid confusion and mishap. According to Friedman, workers are often too vague. They might say, 'Can you have that report to me? It's really important, and I'd really like to have it,'" when a more effective way to deliver that message would be "Can you get that report to me by 5 p.m. on Friday?” By relaying only necessary information, listeners are likely to understand the message being said and in turn, perform effectively.


2.    Keep it Professional: Professionalism should always remain a priority. First, when communicating via internet, it is important to use proper email etiquette—this means checking spelling and avoiding conversational dialogue. Avoid salutations like “hey” and opening dialogues of “how are things” and replace with “Good Morning Mr./Ms.(insert name here)” and “I hope you are doing well.” Second, employees should never bad-mouth customers or clients to other employees, no matter the circumstances, as it creates a bad reputation for the employee and the company, and could drive away potential clients.


3.    Maintain a Calm Demeanor: Many situations will arise in the workplace to which you may impulsively react in an angry, immature or unprofessional manner. Take a deep breath, walk away, and think about how to respond in a constructive composed manner.  Refrain from saying anything that makes you look defensive, like a hot-head, childish, or incapable of accepting criticism in a positive manner.

4.    Stay Positive: Nobody likes a Negative Ned. Being negative can destroy one’s desire to achieve. By removing negative thinking from your life, you are removing negativity from your life. One way to keep the pessimism at bay: mentally balance every negative with a positive. For example, if you lose money on a sale, don’t beat yourself up—instead remind yourself of the large revenue you brought in yesterday, and use that as a goal.


5.    Be conscious of non-verbal communication: Nonverbal communication includes facial expression, eye contact, and posture. According to communication experts, being able to understand and use nonverbal communication are powerful tools that can help one relate to others, express oneself, navigate challenging situations, and build better relationships. At work, there are many ways to express positive non-verbal communication. First, be mindful of others’ personal space—getting too close to someone can make them feel uncomfortable, creating a barrier between both individuals. Also, keep physical touch to a minimum; strong handshakes should be utilized, however. Second, avoid slouching as it represents boredom. Sitting straight shows one is alert and ready to take on anything. Last, smile! It shows others that you are approachable and easy to talk to.


6.    Don't be a naysayer: Even if you think your colleague or boss is wrong about something, do not accuse them of being wrong.  Counteracting with an open-ended question shows respect and can stimulate healthy debate. For example, rather than say “you’re wrong” or “that is stupid,” offer another solution and reasoning as to why this solution would be beneficial.


7.    Listen: Communication is a two-way street. Use direct eye contact and sit up straight when somebody is speaking to let them know you are listening. If necessary, take notes and ask follow up questions to show your interest.


8.   Think before you speak: Mother always said if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Always remember to take a minute before blurting out what comes to mind first. Tone is also important. Sometimes, it’s not what you say but how you say it that causes problems.  Sarcasm and attitude in the office will not be tolerated.

9.   Keep the gossip for the tabloids: There is a time and place for gossip—the workplace is not one of them. Sure it might be tempting to criticize your co-workers behind their backs, or discuss their personal lives, but the truth is, it just isn’t necessary. It creates drama at work that is not needed, can create tensions in the office, and prevents work from getting done.

Effective communication – especially verbal - leads to the exchange of ideas in a time efficient manner.  Writing can never replace “speaking” when developing interpersonal relationships.  Adopting these suggestions will help you solicit the input of others and provide constructive feedback to develop procedures which others will support, because they were a part of the process.

Sources: "Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners” by Karen Friedman,