Whether you’re building a relationship within your personal life, at your workplace, or anywhere in between, it’s important to consider the role that effective communication plays in determining the strength of the connection.
Clear and open communication provides the solid foundation for a healthy relationship. It helps quell a culture of toxicity before any unhealthy habits begin. It makes people more engaged in their work and helps them feel connected.
Unfortunately, 57% of employees say that they’re given unclear instructions, 69% of managers aren’t comfortable communicating with employees, and around 28% of employees cite poor communication in the workplace as the reason for being unable to meet deadlines.
The question is, how do we begin to communicate more effectively?
That’s what I will be tackling head-on in today’s article. I’ll provide some tips for practicing more open communication in order to improve relationships, establish trust, and remove cultural toxicity in the workplace.
Tip #1: Be An Open and Attentive Listener
That’s right: Effective communication starts with effective listening. And while it may seem counterintuitive at the surface, being able to really, truly understand what someone is saying provides the basis for more genuine conversations.
Always be sure to practice good body language when listening to someone, and don’t pass judgements on what they’re saying until after they’ve finished and invited your thoughts. Even then, your comments would be better to come from heartfelt discernment rather than harsh judgment. Maintain your willingness to listen throughout the conversation and avoid any temptation to bring the focus off of the speaker and onto yourself, and you’ll find your discussions to be more effective overall.
Tip #2: Practice Your Nonverbal Communication
So much of the way we interact is dependent not on the message we’re trying to convey with our words, but rather the way we say it and the way we use our bodies and surroundings to get the message across. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of the whole message we’re conveying.
How are you holding your body when you talk to someone? As you’re able, be sure to face them and make regular eye contact. Too much eye contact can make someone feel uncomfortable, but too little may make them think you’re not listening or you’re being untruthful in Western culture, so try to adjust accordingly, if possible. Don’t be afraid to make gesticulations with your hands if that’s something you often do. In some cases, it can help get your point across better.
Things like time can also be a form of effective communication. If someone comes to you with a concern that’s weighing particularly heavy on their heart and you’re able to clear your schedule so that you can spend half an hour problem-solving with them, that’s more meaningful than if you tell them you’re busy and that they have to leave after five minutes (sometimes a 30-minute brainstorming session isn’t possible, but it does make a person feel important).
Tip #3: Avoid Passive Communication
When you’re trying to talk to someone and get a point across, it’s usually best to be direct. Beating around the bush or being sarcastic can create uncertainty and tension in a relationship.
As you’re speaking with someone, try not to mince words, but instead say exactly what you mean in the most respectful way. If you’re annoyed with them, you may feel like yelling or making passive aggressive comments, but this won’t resolve the situation. Always practice kindness and respect, but make sure the exact meaning of your words are straight-forward.
Tip #4: Think Before Speaking
Some people are very efficient communicators, able to verbalize what they’re thinking at almost the exact moment that they think it. This is an extremely admirable trait. Others are very careful about everything they say and are very slow to respond. This is also very valuable.
However, no matter your communication style, it’s often important to take a moment of reflection during tense conversations, or when someone presents you with new, unexpected information.
While your reflex may be to speak immediately (whether that be in anger, sorrow, confusion, etc.), make an active effort to take a quick pause, reflect, and then provide a thoughtful response. It’s something that takes practice for everyone, but that the people around you will greatly appreciate.
Tip #5: Know and Understand that Everyone is Different
Each person has their own unique way of communicating. They could be soft-spoken or more aggressive. They could use as few words as possible to express themselves or enjoy being fully descriptive with lots of words and examples.
Part of entering into a relationship with someone is learning to understand how they communicate and trying to find the best way to listen and respond. This will come over time as you get to know the person. It may also be helpful to directly ask them how they prefer to communicate (ie: do they enjoy long conversations when problem-solving, or will they just come looking for a few ideas?). Get to know and appreciate the person you’re working with, rather than wishing to change them, and you’ll be able to create a deeper relationship with even more effective communication.
Open, clear, honest, and effective communication is essential within the workplace. It’s important to actively practice effective communication each day in order to improve and help create a culture in which people feel safe to communicate.
Does your workplace suffer from cultural toxicity due to poor communication? I’d be happy to provide guidance and help improve the way people communicate within your organization to create a healthier environment for everyone. Get in touch to schedule a meeting.