Professional Development Work Relationships

10 Steps to Improve Your Workplace Communication Skills

Written by Peter Jones

Communication is key. Whether written or spoken, reading, or listening, these skills are crucial in any workplace and can make you a better, more effective, and more efficient employee. Here are 10 ways to improve your communication skills.

1. Don’t beat around the bush

Be clear. First and foremost, make sure your point is conveyed and that your message is easily understood. Use specific language, avoid spewing out too many acronyms. When in doubt, imagine you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t know your company.

2. Listen actively

The better you listen, the better you are at communication. Before you respond, make sure you’ve heard and digested what someone is saying. Don’t just wait for their mouth to stop moving to make your point.

3. Repeat back

This is the second stage of active listening. Let the speaker know first, that you’ve understood them, and second, that you care about what they’ve said. Do this by repeating what they’ve said and including their words in your response. Paraphrase back to them to prove that you’ve heard them loud and clear.

4. Use your body

When in doubt, or if you have something particularly complicated to discuss, try doing it in person. Face to face, you have the extra benefit of body language and non-verbal cues like gestures and facial expressions, all of which make it easier to avoid confusion.

5. Show r-e-s-p-e-c-t

Don’t multi-task while communicating. Don’t be on your phone, or doodling, in the meeting. Make sure what you’ve said is professional and respectful. Make eye contact and use people’s names. Basically, be a human.

6. Match the message to the medium

If you’re better via email, don’t try to have that important progress update in your boss’s office before you’ve had your coffee. If it’s a sticky situation that requires a nuanced approach, don’t just send a flat-toned email when you could finesse the situation with a well-managed in-person conversation. Figure out what it is you have to get across, then choose the medium that suits that message best.

7. Know your audience

Don’t talk to your client as you would your boss. Or your HR rep as you would your best work pal. Match your tone and timing to the person you’re communicating with.

8. Text smart

More and more workplace information gets communicated via text and email. This is another instance where it’s best to know your audience and choose the most appropriate medium. Bottom line: never text anything too complicated. That will help you avoid misunderstandings and misinformation. But don’t send a big long email to arrange a short meeting either.

9. Make meetings matter more

So many meetings leave us feeling we could have better spent that time. Demand better! Set an agenda, keep to the scheduled time, don’t invite unnecessary people. Make sure every meeting is productive enough to justify every attendee taking the time and resources from their workload.

10. Keep it positive

No matter how stressed you are, or how fraught the conversation, try to stay positive. Put your team first. And never make it personal—keep your focus on the professional. Earn a reputation and respect.

About the author

Peter Jones