The Art of Confident Communication: How to Get Your Point Across Effectively in the Modern Workplace

Sponsored by Stack Overflow

Miki Hunt. Photo courtesy of Stack Overflow.

Miki Hunt. Photo courtesy of Stack Overflow.

Profile Picture
May 24, 2024 at 10:0PM UTC

“Over the past 15 years of my professional development, I learned the hard way that being able to communicate confidently, effectively, and clearly is important, especially in an increasingly remote world,” Miki Hunt, a Customer Enablement Manager at Stack Overflow, tells Fairygodboss. “Things in a virtual world move very quickly, so being able to clearly communicate your goals, needs, thoughts, and feedback ensures that interruptions to your progress are minimized.” 

Hunt also emphasizes how important it is to not overlook the ability to listen closely to others and ask for clarification or more information when you need it. “Strong two-way communication ensures mutual respect (which you deserve!),” she says.

In this article, we caught up with Hunt to learn more about what direct and effective communication looks like in action — as well as her tips for other women in the workplace who want to communicate more confidently. 

An introduction to direct and effective communication.

What is effective and confident communication? According to Hunt, at its core, effective communication is intentional communication. “It’s important to make sure that you’re taking the time to craft your message and thinking through points that may be confusing or more difficult to convey,” she explains. “Listen to what’s being said to you, repeat it back in your own words, and then clearly state where you agree or disagree.”

When planning what you have to say, Hunt tells us to focus on making your message clear, confident, and unapologetic. “Ditch the filler words and apologies and lean into brevity,” she suggests. “Saying more than is necessary can dilute your message.” 

Additionally, when sharing your message, be sure to listen. “When someone is communicating with me, I love to see that they’ve been thoughtful in crafting their message, that they leave natural pauses and space for me to process and respond, and that they’re not just waiting for their next turn to speak — they’re truly listening,” says Hunt. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that becoming a confident communicator is not something that will happen overnight. It’s important to give yourself grace. “Developing an effective communication style is a task that never ends,” Hunt tells us. “I’m still learning new ways to communicate and express myself. I always try to lean in with empathy and be as introspective as possible. There’s absolutely a difference between confidence and arrogance!” Luckily, at Stack Overflow, she has found support in this journey — which is especially important as someone who has ADHD and can often feel misunderstood.

Tips and tricks for communicating confidently and directly.

“A quick Google search surfaces studies by Forbes, universities, journalists, and media outlets, all saying the same thing: women communicate in more emotional and empathetic ways than men,” shares Hunt. “We’re often preoccupied by trying to make everyone in the room comfortable, and, unfortunately, that can make some folks take you less seriously.”

As a result, many women find it challenging to take on a more direct communication style. So, how can we address this challenge? While striking a communication balance will look different for everyone, Hunt believes that “small, incremental changes can have a huge impact on how you’re perceived.”

For instance, Hunt shares three changes that you can make today to become a more confident communicator:

  1. Review your emails,” Hunt suggests as a starting point. “How many times have you apologized? Did you include phrases like ‘If that makes sense,’ ‘If you wouldn’t mind,’ or ‘I might be mistaken here’? Removing the fluff from how we speak will automatically make our statements more direct, and you will be perceived as more confident.”

  2. Next, “try to remove the same phrases from verbal communication,” says Hunt. “Get comfortable being confident in ‘safe’ spaces.”

  3. Finally, “don’t allow yourself to be made small,” emphasizes Hunt. “Take up space and use your voice.”

What if someone questions your new communication style? In her own experience, Hunt notes that her communication style has been frequently questioned by others. “I’ve been called insubordinate, petulant, and short — and I genuinely believe a lot of this is because a woman communicating directly can be surprising,” states Hunt. “Women are often expected to communicate in softer ways, as if the space for direct communication wasn’t made for us.”

So, how can you handle situations like this? Hunt shares three techniques:

  1. Be open to feedback,” she says. “Listen closely for constructive criticism and adjust your approach accordingly.

  2. Stand your ground,” Hunt continues. “If adjusting the way you state an opinion is appropriate, do so; however, you don’t have to change your opinion itself unless you’re compelled to by alternate info provided to you.

  3. And be sure to “take time to reflect before you respond,” Hunt tells us. “Working remotely means that a lot of our conversations occur over Slack, MS Teams, email, or some other virtual format. This can lead to misinterpretations of tone, intent, etc., but this can also offer you time and space to reflect so you can avoid any sort of emotional or reactionary response. Consider your options for replying and ask to hop on a call to clear things up! Folks are open to and appreciative of radical candor.”

Looking for a workplace that will support your ability to communicate confidently?

Fairygodboss is proud to partner with Stack Overflow. Learn more about Stack Overflow's culture!

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always