certain amount of work experience, but in reality they still struggle to influence others with their message. The result of ineffective communication is missed opportunity, lost time and wasted resources – all because they didn’t have high impact conversations.
You may notice a number of factors influencing clear, effective, and transparent communication at work: personal characteristics, physical distance, the message itself, context, jargon used and culture. Below are 7 ways to ensure effective communication at work so that you can create an efficient, productive and inclusive work environment.
1. Know Your Audience Well
Understanding your audience is essential to effective communication at work. This applies to verbal and written communications, presentations, daily emails, company wide announcements or providing status updates on projects.
Whether or not your message will be effectively communicated or well received stems from understanding what your audience cares about.
- Who are you targeting with your communication?
- What is the intent of your message?
- What do they need to know?
- What do you need them to do?
- What’s the best way to communicate the message to your audience?
- How will your audience perceive or interpret the message?
- How will your audience feel, think, and react when they receive your message?
In order to answer these questions, you’ll need to plan ahead, research, and observe the behaviors of your audience. For example, your approach to communication with your team or peers will likely be different from how you communicate to your leader because these groups have different interests.
2. Seek to Understand the Situation and Clarify
Take time to be thoughtful and intentional. Before communicating at work, it’s essential to pause, understand the situation, clarify, and have empathy. Here are some tips to help you communicate effectively at work:
Be curious. Ask open ended questions starting with ‘what’ and ‘how’ to gather information. People will tend to be more descriptive with their responses. You can then ask open ended probing questions to gain more context. The more you understand, the more likely you’ll be able to tailor a suitable message that resonates with your audience.
Learn like a kid. Normally, kids have no prior knowledge about what they are about to learn. There’s a sense of humility to their learning approach. Take the same approach when you’re putting yourself in your audiences’ shoes as you seek to understand their situation. Be open, ready, and willing to see your audiences’ perspective.
Check your assumptions. Your breadth of experience may cloud your perceptions and judgements. Challenge the preconceived notions about your audience. Determine who you need to speak with or what research you need to conduct to check if your assumptions are true. Ensure that you create space for understanding before jumping to action.
Be inclusive. People want to belong, feel included and valued in the workplace. Be thoughtful to ensure that everyone’s ideas are captured. For example, if you are in a meeting asking for input, ensure that there is adequate time for everyone to share their response. If you run out of time, state in the meeting that you will connect with them later.
3. Listen on Multiple Levels“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” — Stephen R. Covey
You’re likely familiar with these basic active listening tips. However, when we’re feeling overwhelmed meeting deadlines, prioritizing, or creating, it’s easy to be on autopilot and miss key messages that can help you effectively communicate at work. Below are reminders to keep practicing:
Paraphrase. Confirm your understanding of the message by repeating it or reframing it in your own words. If there are discrepancies among the parties, this is the time to clarify.
Probe. Ask questions if you feel there is information missing that you may need.