The Key to Effective Communication in the Workplace

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July 21, 2024 at 1:7PM UTC

What is effective communication?

Simply put, effective communication is when a message is clearly articulated and accurately received. Mixed, unclear, or mistaken communication is when your written or spoken words do not meet your intent, or are not interpreted correctly by the given audience. 
For example, think about a time when you were texting someone, emailing, chatting on the phone or in person, when halfway through the conversation you realized you're talking about completely different things. You were saying what you assumed were clear, meaningful words, yet you didn't get through to your conversation partner, or vice versa. It happens to all of us, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable — especially in the workplace. That's where it can make a huge difference in your working relationships.

Why is communication important in the workplace?

1. Clear communication demonstrates your leadership abilities. 

If you're a manager, you're likely to have 'communication skills' listed as one of your performance review items.  It's essential to a cohesive workplace, and communication skills are recognized as some of the most important soft skills in the workplace
As a leader, at the very least, you should expect to give presentations, deliver verbal feedback, send emails, give instructions, and advocate ideas in meetings. In each situation, your communication skills will either bolster or undermine your leadership.

2. Clarity gives motivation and direction.

I'm sure you can recall a time where your team was assigned a number of projects without a clear understanding of which was most important. Or, when you completed an assignment only to learn it wasn't what your boss wanted. Frustrating? Absolutely, and it probably made you less motivated to fix your supposed mistake, since it was a communication error, not your actual fault. Unfortunately, this situation is not at all uncommon.  
In each of those instances (and many more), clear communication would have prevented the situation in the first place. When you outline your intent and deliver the message to the necessary parties and ensure that it's understood, everyone can execute their duties and get things done to specification, the first time around.

3. Good communication increases profit.

When a company communicates well internally and externally, it succeeds. Most companies require not only excellent communication between employees, but also with outside vendors, clients, customers, and the public. The companies that send mixed messages, whether it's through confusing marketing, poor customer service, or slow response time, lose out in the long run from a lack of effective communication

How do you communicate effectively in the workplace?

1. Tailor your communication to your audience.

2. Ask for communication feedback from your peers, boss, and direct reports. 

3. Check through active requests: Ask your audience to repeat back to you what you said in their own words.

4. Be proactive about communicating.

5. Take the time to read/re-read your emails before sending to see if you can answer any potential follow-up questions in the initial email.

6. Evaluate your own effectiveness through message response rate and other metrics.

7. Be patient and thoughtful with personal feedback. 

8. Rehearse presentations.

9. Cultivate mindfulness so that you listen and respond as well as you speak.

What are the different types of communication in the workplace?

As mentioned before, depending on workplace, you might find:
  • Oral (Spoken) Communication

Your phone calls or in-person interactions with your coworkers, supervisor, clients, and customers.
  • Written Communication

Think emails, memos, notes, Slack messages, forums, letters, regulations, standard operating procedures, instruction manuals, white papers, and more.
  • Face-to-Face Communication

In-person interactions including meetings, one-on-ones, presentations, hearings, briefings, in-person networking, and more. 
  • Physical Nonverbal Communication (Body Language)

Most scientists agree that body language accounts for more than half of communication. 
  • Paralanguage

This is the missing piece between verbal and physical nonverbal communication; paralanguage encompasses tone of voice, intonation, emotion, stressed syllables, etc. Think about how two people can say the same exact phrase completely differently if they change any one of the described elements.
  • Visual Communication

Examples are signs, logos, infographics, and other imagery and video.

What are the 5 forms of communication?

1. Intrapersonal
2. Interpersonal
3. Group
4. Public
5. Mass Communication

More to Read On Effective Communication Skills

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