Every workplace is different – and it’s all about the people!

Businesses need a range of skills to not only fulfil their purpose but also to keep them developing, expanding and moving forward. This means that the workforce is usually pretty diverse with a range of ages, experience, qualifications, personalities, preferences, cultures and languages all working together. That’s why good communication is so important.

Here are some things to think about and be aware of…

Striking a balance

Communication can have a huge impact on efficiency. If there’s too much of it (think email overload) then things get missed. If there’s too little, people are left in the dark, not knowing what to do or what’s expected of them. Clearly, a balance is needed. So for example, don’t make a habit of simply copying people into emails who aren’t actively involved with the topic (this contributes to overload). Also, ensure that explanations of tasks are clear and people have the opportunity to ask questions in a supportive environment.

How to get along

Building a rapport is the foundation of good, productive communication and establishing connections with team mates or other people you work with regularly is relatively easy due to your shared goals. If your role means you need to meet lots of people externally, however, this can be more challenging, but you can soon establish a bond with these quick tips:

  • Stick to neutral topics for initial meetings and introductions (think weather, travel, food and so on. Leave controversial topics at the door.)
  • Be aware of body language (yours and theirs) and respect their personal space.
  • Use eye contact. This is a great way to engage the person you are talking to.
  • Show empathy and understanding and respect the person’s point of view (even if you disagree with it!).

Establishing this rapport will go a long way to making the outcome of your conversations more positive.

Be a good listener

Good communication isn’t all about talking, it’s also about listening. It’s a skill that most of us could be better at sometimes but, essentially, it’s all about paying close attention to what the other person is saying, asking them relevant questions and perhaps rephrasing what they’ve said to ensure you have understood correctly. People will also feel they have your attention and interest if you use eye contact and relaxed body language.

Soft skills are key

The one thing that every job has in common, regardless of sector, is the need for soft skills. We all need to work productively together, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, so brushing up on these skills will ensure you’ll fit in anywhere! Here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider:

  • Do pay attention to the person speaking.
  • Do respect others’ ideas and opinions.
  • Do give feedback. Even simply saying ‘thank you’ develops rapport and creates motivation.
  • Don’t judge.
  • Do keep an open mind.
  • Don’t use technical terms or jargon if the person you’re speaking to won’t understand them.
  • Don’t give advice when it’s not needed.
  • Don’t dismiss others’ worries.
  • Do ask for an explanation if you need one.
  • Do be mindful of your body language (e.g. a ‘closed’ posture with arms folded and facing away from the other person is unlikely to lead to a good conversation, as is looking at your phone as they’re speaking!).

Look and learn

We can all improve these skills daily by consciously taking hints from people in the workplace who are successful communicators – whether that’s spoken or written. Observing others is how we learn and seeing how they handle the various types of communication used in the workplace can help propel our own skills forward.

Further reading

5 ways to improve your communication skills – Lifehack