Communication at work: why what you say speaks volumes
Whether you’re at home, down the local shops or presenting a meeting, the words we use matter. Effective communication is the lynchpin of good business – it’s how we share our values, work as a team and build something incredible together. However, due to the dramatic shift to remote working across the past year, maintaining contact with our colleagues and employees has become more challenging than ever.
You’ll be surprised to learn that we only remember between 25 and 50% of what we hear! According to Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience, this means that bosses and colleagues actually only listen to half of a conversation.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with Executive Coach and People Consultant, Karen Bharaj, who hosted our recent webinar with Mind It on effective communication skills, to share her expertise on the importance of communication in the workplace. How can you become a better listener? What’s the best way to keep in touch with employees whilst working from home? Why is body language important to communication? Top tips and advice are on the way!
Why is communication in the workplace so important?
Learning how to nurture our communication skills can help to improve many factors in a business, including boosting morale and increasing work efficiency.
Karen explains that good communication also helps to inspire trust with others. Choosing our words carefully can play a large role in resolving conflicts and even preventing potential problems from arising. Building great rapport will help team members to rely on each other and pave the way to more meaningful working relationships.
The HR Technologist suggests that “effective communication is central to all business goals”.
How can you improve communication in the workplace?
It’s much easier to maintain good communication with your colleagues and contacts in an office setting. However, with many businesses now relying on Zoom, emails and phone calls, conversations have become predominantly work-related. You’re not alone if you’ve been missing office ‘chit-chat’ with your work companions!
While Zoom has been a welcomed addition during the COVID-19 pandemic, video calls can hide a multitude of social cues, such as body language. However, help is at hand!Whether you’re catching up with a client, leading an important presentation or jumping onto a quick meeting with colleagues, Karen has shared a number of top tips that you can follow, even whilst working from home:
- Choose the right channel – If the topic is tricky, consider a phone or video call instead. Written words can be difficult to interpret. Plus, it’s always lovely to hear someone’s voice at the end of the line!
- Ask questions – If you disagree with someone’s viewpoint, be sure to ask them for more information. This helps to open up a conversation, learn others’ perspectives and can result in a more productive conclusion than disagreeing immediately.
- Listen, listen, listen – It can be difficult to find a chance to speak on a video call, but try not to interrupt while someone else is expressing themselves. If you have an opinion, answer or idea, wait until everyone has finished talking before sharing your thoughts.
- Encourage feedback – Catch up with employees and ask for their thoughts on ‘what works well’ and what could work ‘even better’ in how you communicate together. This gives everyone the chance to suggest ideas on how to improve remote working and can foster a sense of team spirit.
Finally, what makes a good communicator?
A good communicator is someone who can ‘actively listen’. This means that you pay attention, engage without interrupting, defer judgement and listen to each and every word that’s being said. Positive Psychology research shows how ‘pleasant social interactions increase our personal wellbeing and provide greater life satisfaction.
Once a meeting has ended, Karen recommends employers summarise key points of the conversation to ensure that everyone’s input has been heard and understood. Displaying positive body language is also key – try to keep an open posture, good eye contact, raised head and relaxed body.
If you would like more information on how you can be a better companion in the workplace, check out CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda Epler’s, TED Talk. Melinda discusses her own experience of poor workplace communication and offers tips on how you can be a better ally to your colleagues.
The impact of intercultural communication at work
According to the International Journal of Professional Science, different cultures can ‘affect the behaviours and values of employees. How they respond to superiors, to colleagues and to subordinates, are all determined by the culture they have been bred in’.
Karen notes “it’s important to not make assumptions, instead ask questions to understand any concerns. Try to avoid slang as individuals from other cultures may not understand the context or the meaning of these phrases, which may result in confusion or offence.
“Keep intercultural communication simple, there’s no need to complicate or overthink a conversation. Try to avoid closed questions, and ask questions that require information as a response, rather than a yes / no answer.
“Most importantly, be supportive! Treat everyone with respect and provide encouragement to help build confidence and trust.”
Thank you to Karen for helping out with this blog post.