Talk the talk – tips to up your communication game

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Here’s how to boost your chances of being understood.
Here’s how to boost your chances of being understood.
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Talking a lot doesn’t make you a great communicator, any more than being curt does. 

Effective communication means getting your message across in a way that’s easily understood, whether it’s in a conversion, a meeting, an e-mail or a video call. 

Here are some tips to improve communication at work.

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One-on-one time

If you’re the manager or boss, make time for regular one-on-one meetings with your staff – every few weeks or months – especially if they’re worried they might be a burden by dropping in when you’re busy.  

Explain yourself

Some tasks or requests might seem self-explanatory to you, but don’t assume they are for your staff or co-workers. 

Without sounding condescending, you can share the importance of a task in a positive and informative way. And make sure you ask if they have questions and that they understand what is required.

Meeting time

Have an agenda for meetings, and a time limit.

Tell participants ahead of time if they’re expected to contribute ideas to the meeting, and make sure everyone gets a chance to do so. 

Wrap up the meeting by outlining who needs to do what, and by when, and follow that up with an email so everyone knows what’s expected of them. 

But why?

People get frustrated when they’re assigned work without being told why it’s necessary or important, especially if it’s a mundane task. 

In order for work to be more meaningful, people need to feel that they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves.

But not all tasks are meaningful – some simply just need to be done. Be honest if this is the case, as it will help build trust.

Be constructive

When it comes to criticism, people instinctively get defensive, so be sure to base your criticism on observations and facts, not judgments.

Use specific examples – what happened, when and why it was a problem – rather than generalisations about people missing deadlines or failing at admin duties.

And allow people to respond to your comments – this is not for them to defend themselves, but for you to get their perspective. This way, you are not simply prescribing what needs to be done – you are rather trying to work on a solution together.

Listen and don’t assume

Communication is not only about relaying your message, it’s also about actively listening to what the other person is saying. 

Active listening is not easy – it means really paying attention to the person, not multitasking or mentally preparing your response to what you think they are saying.

Ask questions and get clarification so they know you are present and trying to understand their concerns correctly.  

People are people, just like you, with lives outside work that can affect them at work. So, if  someone is not focusing at work, don’t assume they’re lazy. Ask them how things are going. 

Maybe they’re caring for a sick parent, in the process of moving house, or they’re taking on too many projects at work and need to re-prioritise their day. Listen to what they have to say and learn.

Keep it simple

Don’t pepper your work meetings or conversations with unnecessary jargon. 

If a boss talks about “breeding efficiency” at the workplace, staff could easily think job cuts are coming, even if the boss is actually referring to stationary supplies. This kind of misunderstanding can lead to morale plummeting.

Managers should be clear when they speak, and create an atmosphere where workers are comfortable enough to ask questions for clarification. Fear does not make for a productive environment.

Sources: nzherald.co.za, forbes.com, linkedin.com, careeraddict.com, quantumworkplace.com, smallbusiness.chron.com

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