How To Improve Your Communication Skills at Work in 10 Steps
Updated 10 October 2022
Your ability to communicate is what connects you with others in the workplace, allows you to express yourself and gives you the opportunity to understand others. Refining how you speak, write and listen at work can produce positive outcomes. By learning strategies for how to improve your communication skills, you can enjoy benefits in many areas of your career. In this article, we explain the benefits of investing in your communication skills and share a list of steps for improving your ability to communicate at work.
Why is it important to improve your communication skills?
Continually becoming a better communicator and actively trying to gain skills to help you communicate are important for achieving your professional goals. Your supervisors and colleagues rely on you to communicate effectively so you can do your work efficiently and produce high-quality outcomes. Here are some of the reasons it's important to get better at communicating at work:
Collaborating with others: Having excellent communication skills allows you to work as part of a team. Growing your communication skills makes it easier for you to brainstorm and develop ideas together.
Presenting your ideas: Your communication skills allow you to express yourself eloquently and share your ideas when giving speeches, presenting projects or sharing your thoughts during meetings at work.
Eliminating miscommunications: By actively working to be a better communicator, you can remove any confusion and miscommunications between you and your colleagues. Investing in your skills teaches you how to ask clarifying questions and develop shared expectations.
Accessing more opportunities: Many employers value communication as a leadership skill and seek out candidates with excellent communication abilities. Improving your communication style can help you grow your career prospects and expand your responsibilities.
Impressing clients: When you speak tactfully and convey information effectively, you can impress clients and business partners. Communication skills can also help you be persuasive and negotiate in business situations.
Resolving conflict: Sometimes disagreements occur in the workplace, but knowing strategies for communicating with others can help you mediate conflicts to find an agreeable outcome.
How to improve communication skills at work
Enhance your ability to work as a team and interact with others at work by following these steps:
1. Observe non-verbal cues
Start expanding your ability to communicate by paying attention to the body language of people around you. Non-verbal cues can give you important information about what kind of communication strategies are appropriate for a certain situation. Paying attention to non-verbal cues also allows you to find the most appropriate time to share your opinions and when to listen to others. Noticing how others react during conversations is a good way to guide your communication choices.
For example, if you notice someone fidgeting, this may be a sign that they have something to say or somewhere else to be. You can be proactive by pausing your discussion to allow them to interject or excuse themselves.
2. Use active listening practices
To have a successful conversation with someone, you can listen, respond and speak. Active listening is a technique where you use verbal and non-verbal communication techniques to become a better listener. This involves listening carefully to what someone has to say, then briefly repeating back the information in your own words to confirm that you understood the main idea of what they said. Perfecting your active listening skills helps you improve overall communication with others.
3. Attend a class or workshop
There are many classes, workshops and seminars that emphasise communication. Taking classes can help you build confidence in your communication skills and give you chances to practise communicating outside of the workplace. By learning about communication in a structured environment, you can gain access to high-quality examples of professional communication and explore different communication methods that fit your personality.
Think about which communication skills you want to focus on and search for professional development opportunities near you. These development courses can focus on different aspects of communication, such as writing or public speaking. Depending on your personal goals, you can look for a one-day seminar or an ongoing course where you can continually grow your skills.
4. Read and annotate messages thoroughly
If you want to enhance your written communication abilities, try annotating your messages. Annotating is a strategy where you add comments and notes to a piece of text to explain it and make it easier to understand. You can annotate by highlighting or writing brief summaries of memos, emails, articles, reports and other documents. By annotating written documents and other messages at work, you can ensure that you understand the most important information you need to know. This makes it easier for you to respond to each key part of the message or refer to the document in the future.
5. Separate logic and feelings
In a professional setting, it's important to use logic to guide your communication strategies and express yourself rationally. Emotions can often influence the way people communicate, which may lead to unnecessary conflict in some situations. When you have intense feelings about a subject, take time to manage your emotions and consider the situation logically before initiating communication with others. This can help you improve the way you interact with others and allow you to express yourself more tactfully.
6. Ask for clarification
If you're ever unsure about a situation at work, consider asking your colleagues for more information to clarify. This can provide you with more context about projects and assignments or give you a complete idea about others' opinions. Excellent communicators often take the initiative to reach out to others to gather more information instead of making assumptions about their responsibilities. Asking for clarification gives other people the opportunity to either make corrections or confirm what you already know.
The best time to seek clarification is at the beginning of a project or discussion. For example, if a client provides you with a project brief, ask questions at the beginning instead of waiting until the deadline approaches.
7. Keep your comments relevant
When having discussions in the workplace, stay on topic and contribute relevant ideas to the conversation. Facilitate productivity among your team by remaining focused during meetings and encouraging others to do the same. Before mentioning your ideas, consider if they add value to the current project that your colleagues are working on or if it may be better to save the topic for later. This helps you manage your time, speeds up turnaround time on assignments and improves your efficiency when discussing group projects.
8. Outline your ideas
To increase the organisation of your discussions and contributions at work, prepare an agenda before meetings. This provides you with an outline to guide discussions, making it easy to redirect back to the main subject if side conversations occur. You can also prepare before important conversations by creating an informal outline or draft where you plan the key points you want to discuss. Even if you don't use your notes during the conversation, writing out your thoughts beforehand can help you feel more confident during the discussion.
9. Schedule regular check-ins
The frequency of your communication is just as important as the quality of your communication. Once you know how to be an effective communicator, plan to check in regularly with your clients, team members and supervisors. Having frequent conversations about the status of your work and your professional progress. With clients and customers, regular check-ins can reassure them and give them the opportunity to share feedback. You can also schedule recurring meetings with your supervisor to share updates about projects and communicate about any challenges.
10. Seek and apply feedback
Ask your manager for specific details about how they think you can be a better communicator. Seeking feedback from your supervisor is a good way to get custom advice based on your level of experience, personal characteristics, job responsibilities and future goals. Talk about your personal communication style and how you can work to express yourself more effectively with your clients and peers. Collaborate with your manager to track your progress and improvements in performance reviews that emphasise your verbal and written communication. You can also seek feedback from other sources, such as input from customers or suggestions from team members.
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