Communication is possibly the most important skill to have in the workplace. It might be the most important skill overall for anyone who has to deal with people, professionally or in our non-working lives. It can help build relationships or bring them down; it can help increase trust or tear it apart; it can help heal wounds or make them deeper.
At work, communication is the cornerstone of a strong team, with everyone understanding their role and how it contributes to the success of the company.
And no matter how great someone thinks they are at communicating, odds are everyone can use some new tools to build their skills.
Here are some communication skills to add to your toolbox to help improve your relationships and abilities at work and beyond.
- As questions — then really listen to the answers. Communication is a two-way street. You cannot be the only active participant. Good communicators know that listening is sometimes more important than speaking; active listening goes beyond just hearing or reading the words someone else is providing but taking the time to understand the context and unspoken importance in which ideas are conveyed. Part of becoming a good communicator is asking questions: allow the person to provide more information, additional details and to share their personal reasons and rationale for what’s going on. Take time processing the details provided to you and be thoughtful in taking action.
- Watch and understand body language. A majority of our interpersonal communication happens without saying a word. A smile conveys one feeling; a frown, grimace or flat expression conveys an entirely different one. There’s also the extent of the smile: Simply curling lips up to mimic the positive expression is one thing; when a person smiles with their whole face it is a sincere, genuine response to a person or information. You can tell when someone’s nervous by whether they fidget or how they stand. A person’s eyes can let you in on whether they’re angry or just tired. Look for these little unspoken clues to better understand the tone of a conversation and a person’s feelings.
- Get to know someone’s preferred communication methods. Some people hate being called on the phone. Not only are unexpected calls unwelcomed, because they take someone out of what they’re doing at that moment; many people, especially younger employees, are more used to receiving texts than picking up the phone for its original purpose. Some people hate emails and find them impersonal and easy to ignore. You likely have your own likes and dislikes when it comes to receiving information. If you have a friend that never replies to texts but will pick up the phone when you call, you know that that’s the best way to reach them. The same goes for work: Some employees will respond promptly to an email but not a message sent via Teams or Slack; some employees don’t listen to their voicemail but will gladly have a chat in the hallway. Understanding the best way to reach someone, and the way they’re likely to respond, can help make it easier to reach them quickly and effectively.
- Not every communication needs to be professional. For some people, talking with others is difficult. Not everyone enjoys small talk or light conversation. But approaching people with a relaxed attitude, not using formal language and ignoring mispronounced words or small inaccuracies can make things more comfortable for everyone. Think of how you talk with your friends compared with how you speak in board meetings. Sometimes informal conversation can be a critically important building block toward big wins in the future, building relationships and getting to know people for who they are without looking for professional gains at every turn.
- Empathy wins. If someone comes to you with a problem, listen to them. Take a moment to think about what they’re saying and try to put yourself in their shoes. You don’t need to have personally experienced someone’s struggle in order to feel how frustrating it might be, or to feel bad and want to offer some compassionate words. Being empathetic, feeling what someone else feels or understanding that they’re upset about something, is so important when it comes to communication, both at work and in the outside world. Empathy makes us more human and makes us into a person others will see kindly and positively. If an employee comes to you with a stressful situation or concerns, listen with an open mind and try to truly hear what they’re saying to you, then be compassionate in your response and try to help them solve the issue. Brushing it off as unimportant will only help you have an open position that needs to be filled.
Good communication skills — listening when people speak, asking good questions to better understand a situation, responding to both the topic and a person’s body language, knowing how to best reach them and having an open mind and heart — are ones we can all practice and improve upon. We’re going to slip up, because we’re humans and we have bad days, but making an active and conscious effort to improve will help us all.
If you’re looking to be a better communicator, or you’re looking to add to your team, call Davis Staffing. We’ll listen closely to what you need and work to better understand your company’s priorities and goals, and can help you find candidates that will help support those goals. Call Davis Staffing today and let’s get to work!