Communication is one of our basic needs, and while we all recognise the social benefit of talking to one another, we should also recognise the importance and relevance of communication in the workplace. To be successful, we don’t just need to know how to communicate, we need to know how to communicate effectively. Often a job will require a high level of skill in matters of communication because tasks need to be co-ordinated and relationships need to be built. Therefore, it is important to look at how we can improve our communication.
First, we should clear up what exactly we mean by communication. It is often misinterpreted as being a one-way process where it is only about how we send messages. In fact, it is a two-way process which is concerned with both how we send and how we receive messages.
Perhaps the most important factor to take into account when you are communicating with someone is your ability to listen. This goes deeper than just hearing the other person; it involves fully understanding what they are saying and also expressing to them that you do understand. This can be done through the techniques of clarification and reflection.
Clarification is essentially ‘clearing things up’ with the speaker when the topic has been challenging, such as a list of instructions or complex information. This can be done by asking questions like ‘when you said.. did you mean that…’, it is important that your questions are non-judgemental and they will clarify any of your doubts.
Reflecting involves summarising what the speaker has said into your own words to show you are interpreting the information as they wish. When listening, do not to let your mind wander or think ahead about to what to say, just try to focus on the content of what the other person is sharing with you.
Another key to being an effective communicator is being able to empathise. Having empathy is defined as being able to see things from the point of view of others, understanding their emotions and why they are feeling like they do. When communicating with someone, do not be judgemental or try to push your own ideas onto them. Instead, view the situation from the other’s perspective, think about how you would react and feel in the same situation. For example, it may be easier to understand why your supervisor is asking you to do a particular task if you try to see it from their point of view – perhaps they are too busy.
Next, when communicating with someone it is often appropriate to use humour. Making someone smile in a conversation can put them at ease and release their stress, people will feel drawn to you if you can make them happy. Do not be afraid to say something funny as it can break the ice and allow you to build on relationships through inside jokes etc. Being comfortable with someone in this way means communication becomes easier as you can anticipate how one another will react.
Finally, it is important when communicating to have a positive attitude and always be smiling, and to be consistent with this. People will be more likely to respond positively with you and enjoy communicating with you, which can only help!