8 Tips to Improve Your Workplace Communication Skills
Clear workplace communication is already a difficult task for people within the same country, culture, or age group. Change any of one these elements, and there is an extra layer of complexity hindering successful communication. Before traveling to another country, it’s important to study and work towards understanding expectations of workplace communication within a new culture.
Part of my role is supporting our nurses and hospitals to ensure nurses are successful fitting into his/her work environment. I talk to nurses and nurse leaders about various events that happen between nurses and patients or nurses with fellow co-workers. And as to be expected in any role where human interaction is involved, those interactions do not always go as planned. Often negative interactions are the simple result of poor communication.
I have the opportunity as a manager to listen, digest, and understand situations and reflect on how they could be handled better. A consistent theme in many of these scenarios is that the person’s intention was typically in the right place, however, those intentions were not always perceived as it was meant to be perceived.
This list provides some basic expectations and tips that can improve your communication skills and prevent misunderstanding or wrong perceptions.
1. Listen – Communication is a two-way process. All parties involved in communication want to be heard. The key to understanding in communication is active listening. That means you must actively listen and comprehend; it can’t be passive hearing. If you have a thought or point that you want to bring up, don’t interrupt. Instead, write it down so that you don’t forget and can come back to it when it’s your turn to speak.
2. Paraphrase – Once active listening is complete, and it is your turn to talk, paraphrase the other person’s concern or point they were making to ensure that you understood appropriately. This prevents miscommunication and shows the other person(s) that you are listening and seeking to understand.
3. Body Language Matters – Your body language should be open and approachable. This means making eye contact while both listening and speaking. Do not cross your arms, look at your feet, or scowl. It’s important to portray positivity to keep others receptive and active in listening. Smiling also goes a long way in achieving positivity.
4. Give Enough Space – Americans are very protective of our personal space or our ‘bubble’ as we like to call it. This space is at least an arm’s length area around a person’s body in all 360 degrees. Encroaching upon this space during conversation can come across as aggressive and make someone feel uncomfortable.
5. Be Brief and Specific – Just like we mentioned in our email communication guidelines, it’s important in verbal conversation to quickly get to the point while providing enough detail for the listener to get the message. This will keep the listener’s attention and decrease the chance for misunderstanding.
6. Think Before You Speak – If you’re not sure how to respond or exactly what you want to say, be sure to take a moment to think and understand what you want to say prior to saying it. This is especially important if you are upset or frustrated. It’s better to say nothing or ask clarifying questions than to say something you shouldn’t.
7. It Is Ok to Disagree – In America there is a popular phrase ‘don’t ask if you don’t want to know the answer.’ Meaning that when you ask a question, you are likely going to get a truthful answer – even if the answer is painful or uncomfortable. Honesty/Truthfulness is very important to Americans. Even if your boss or someone you look up to has a differing opinion or plan, if you are asked your opinion, you should provide a respectful but truthful opinion. If you disagree with someone try using ‘I’ statements to be assertive but not aggressive in conversation. This will keep people more open to conversation rather than putting someone on the defense.
8. Treat Everyone Equally – Always speak to others with respect. Not just your boss, but also your co-workers and patients. This is often referred to as the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
While these may seem simple to read, putting them into practice is much harder. But anyone who makes the effort to implement these tips is guaranteed to be more successful in their workplace communication and relationships.
VP, Clinical Services