10 Keys to Effective Office Communication

Building and maintaining strong relationships on the job can be a challenge.  One of the greatest challenges is knowing how to communicate effectively.  These 10 keys to effective office communication will help you build stronger work relationships and a position your business for greater success.

1. Avoid written communication when your emotions are involved. Just because it’s “business” doesn’t mean you won’t have strong feelings when communicating with a co-worker. If you’re happy, it’s tempting to punctuate with triple exclamation points, smiley faces, etc. (I’m not saying you can never do that, but it’s not very professional – use them sparingly if you must.) Conversely, if you have negative emotions, it’s more likely you’ll be terse, abrupt or write things you’re sorry about later. It can be better to talk to the person face-to-face so your body language and expressions can help communicate what you mean to say.

2. Use written communication (e.g., e-mail) for conveying factual information or for asking questions. Sometimes we need to make sure we’re clear on details, and writing it out can help you organize your thoughts and give the other party a document to refer to when answering your questions.

3. When you receive a communication that triggers an emotional response give yourself plenty of time before you respond to the person. Whether you decide to respond in writing or in person, maintaining your professionalism is always critical on the job. Never shoot off an email or grab the phone when you are “seeing red”.  Think objectively about how to respond in a way that will not inflame the situation.

4. Writing down your immediate thoughts and feelings can help you diffuse your emotions and help you to respond in a more rational, caring and constructive fashion. This is a personal exercise to prepare for communication, not something to send out.

5. Fight the temptation to immediately involve others in situations that make you hurt, angry or upset. When you do have a need to talk with someone, go to your supervisor first. If he or she is unavailable, call a friend or family member outside of work for a listening ear. It’s normal to need to let off some steam, but once you share your anger with others, you can’t be sure the situation will stay under control. This is especially important if the upsetting information is confidential.

6. Communicate important details in writing and avoid hallway communication. Have you ever seen a coworker and suddenly remembered you needed to talk to them about something? It’s easy to stop them in the hall and impulsively start a conversation, but there’s no way to ensure that you or the other person will remember the important details. If you talk in the hall, be sure to follow up in writing.

7. When involved in meetings, state your purpose at the beginning and stay on track. Always follow up with minutes or at least a brief summary of what was discussed and/or agreed upon. Meetings can be invaluable time to connect when multiple people are needed for input and coordination of effort, but nothing wastes time more than a meeting that doesn’t have a specific goal. Always consider whether a meeting is necessary and be willing to cancel one that isn’t needed.

8. Avoid blurting.  Blurting is sharing thoughts and ideas impulsively or during a time that was not previously scheduled. Have you ever been trying to meet a deadline when a co-worker stops by and chats while they’re on break or between tasks? First of all, don’t be “that guy” – but also, work on developing skills to tactfully control blurting. Set a lunch date for another day, arrange a time to call your co-worker to discuss whatever they were thinking about, or simply let them know you’re in crunch time and have to postpone the conversation until you’re done.

9. Always clarify for others what you have heard them say. This has become a standard in good communication. When you have communicated verbally about an issue or decision at work, be sure to summarize briefly what your understanding is of the conversation. Clarify any action items and be sure you and your boss or co-worker are on the same page.

10. When you sense someone is bothered or upset with you don’t ignore it – check it out. Invite the other person to share their feelings. “It seems like something is bothering you.  Is there more we need to talk about?”  Or try, “Do you have any other questions or concerns we need to discuss before we adjourn?” Maintaining an open, non-judgmental attitude is key to effective communication and teamwork on the job.

If you consistently practice these communication strategies, you will soon see a significant difference in the quality of your work relationships.

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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