5 Tips for Improving Workplace Communication Techniques
Great teamwork in any industry is built on trust and communication. Without effective communication techniques, vital information might get missed or misinterpreted. This can bring work to a halt, interrupt operations and lead to lost time and money.
Here are a few effective communication techniques that you can use to overcome common workplace challenges:
1) Create a Standard Set of Terms for Your Company as a Whole to Minimize Jargon
The term “jargon” has some negative connotations in the modern workplace. Comic strips, like Dilbert, often use it in jokes highlighting how one incompetent character uses jargon to make themselves sound smarter.
However, jargon does have a place in business communications… IF it’s used appropriately.
As Alan Alda, TV star and advisory board member of the Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, says in an interview featured on Big Think:
“Jargon gets a bad reputation for good reasons. But there’s something good about jargon, and I think it should be explored because jargon hangs on in our speech because it has a usefulness. When people in the same profession have a word that stands for five pages of written knowledge, why say five pages of stuff when you can say one word?”
The danger in jargon for any business environment arises when one department has such specialized terms for things that others would struggle to understand. In this case, the shorthand terminology that allows two people working in the same field to easily communicate might as well be a foreign language.
So, a critical communication technique for modern workplaces is for people in different departments to recognize the different jargon terms they may use, and translate that jargon into plain speech for their coworkers in different departments.
For terms that are hard to spell out concisely, consider assembling a dictionary of terms that each of the departments/specialists use and distribute it to the others. Feel free to have some fun with it, such as a “How to Speak Engineer” book done in the For Dummies style.
Another, related communication technique to cultivate is:
2) Ask Questions When You’re Unsure of a Term or Work Requirement
Every member of the team should feel comfortable asking questions whenever they need assistance or don’t understand something that they’ve just been told.
Even if most employees are working to consciously avoid using jargon, there are times where they may slip-up and leave their coworkers glossy-eyed and wondering what “OSI application layer 7” or “half-apple” means.
It’s important for everyone at the workplace to develop the skill of asking questions whenever they’re confused. All too often, people will want to move a meeting along or avoid disruptions, so they’ll keep quiet and not ask critical questions, which leads to misunderstandings.
Taking time to sit down with people and get them comfortable asking questions via role-play or other training techniques can do a lot to prevent future issues.
3) Work On Writing and Distributing Memos
There are many workers, and even managers, who are great at 1-to-1 communication in person, but have no idea how to transfer their insights to paper or email. Robbed of the ability to see the recipient’s body language and gauge reactions, the writer’s communications become less precise and expressive.
However, there are a lot of occasions where workers and managers won’t be able to have a face-to-face to talk over a specific task or work requirement.
It’s a good idea for everyone in the organization to work on their writing skills—especially if they may ever need to distribute an organization-wide memo.
Some key points to work on include:
- Using specific information/examples in written communications to reinforce the memo’s content when applicable
- Maintaining strong grammar/spelling skills, and double-checking each piece of writing before distributing it
- Making sure that the right word is used when the word in question is a homophone, such as:
- They’re (contraction), there (position), and their (possessive)
- Your (possessive) and you’re (contraction)
- Its (possessive) and it’s (contraction)
- Sticking to the important information. Readers in a business environment tend to prefer clarity and simplicity for their internal office communication
4) Listen to Others
Aside from being able to effectively tell others important information, employees need to be able to listen to others and retain information. This skill is closely linked to the asking questions technique, as knowing when and how to ask questions is critical for a complete understanding of what others are talking about.
One tip that may come in handy for some is to repeat back parts of statements to the person you’re listening to. This can help reaffirm that you are listening to the speaker, and may give you opportunities to speak up and ask questions.
5) Build Your Negotiation Skills
Whether it’s a communication between two co-workers or between a customer and an employee, it’s vital for employees to use their negotiating skills to find the best, mutually beneficial compromise possible.
For example, say two departments need to use the same expert for two different projects. Good negotiation, listening, and reasoning skills can let the department heads find a way to effectively prioritize the expert’s time based on the company’s needs.
Or, say that a client/customer has a complaint about a service or product. Negotiating skills (including being able to listen to, understand, and sympathize with others) are crucial for defusing potentially hostile situations and finding amicable solutions that help both the company and the client.
Good negotiation tactics employ a mix of listening skills, empathy, and clear communication. So, you could say that negotiation is the culmination of several other communication skills.
These are just a few examples of effective communication techniques and skills that can help you overcome workplace challenges. Do you have a favorite communication tool or skill that helps you make your workplace more effective and efficient? Share it with us!