Transforming Talk At Work | June 2015


Dear Janel,

June is Workplace Communication Month and in honor of the occasion, I am sharing my “cheat sheet” for the communication skills you need to not only survive at work, but thrive. Keep the list close, hang it up at your desk, bookmark it. But, don’t stop there! What good are tools if we are not prepared to use them? This month, I challenge you to complete the following exercise:

✔ Choose three skills from the list below that you would like to improve upon
✔ Create a SMART goal for each skill (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound)
✔ Track your progress by reflecting – in writing – at least once per week
✔ At the end of the month, acknowledge your successes and be honest about areas that could use further improvement
✔ Continue the habit of self-reflection and stay open to growth each and every day!


Top 10 Skills for Effective Workplace Communication

1) Listen. The lost art of listening tops the charts for communication success. A quick reminder: waiting for your turn to talk (even if you are quiet and look like you are paying attention) is not listening. Listen intently. Listen to what is being said and remain alert to what is not. Take in the speakers’ tone of voice, their mood, and what messages lay between their words. Offer your undivided attention. True listening is a gift.
2) Make eye contact. It sounds so simple, but in the age of shiny devices that buzz, beep and flash at us, it is easy to forget to look others in the eye. Show respect and show that you are fully present by looking others in the eye more regularly.
3) Mirroring. Mirror neurons in your brain trigger you to copy the facial expressions of others. It’s a way of showing that you are empathically connected to the other person. Research shows mirroring builds trust and connection. This skill happens more naturally for some of us, less for others. You can make a conscious effort to replicate the non-verbal communication of someone else in conversation. But, avoid exaggerated expressions – the key to mirroring is in the subtlety.
4) Be diplomatic. Sometimes there is no way around it – you have to deliver bad news or share something that will get a less than stellar reaction. Keep your cool and use words that do not blame or shame.
5) Ask great questions. When you ask thoughtful, analytical questions, it shows others that you are competent, you care and you are committed to moving forward. Just make sure your questions are really questions, not statements (especially judgmental ones) that end with a question mark. Not sure? Brush up here.
6) Be straight with other people. Whether it is in having a difficult discussion, delivering bad news, or simply communicating about something you are uncertain about, have the courage to say what needs to be said. When we hold back in those situations, the other person can sense it and it starts to chip away at trust.
7) Use your emotional intelligence. Pause. Observe. Think. Then respond. When you do this, you are more likely to craft an emotionally intelligent reply. One of the most important steps here is observation – stay aware of the conversational climate. For example, does your boss seem distracted? Does your colleagues agitated expression not match his nod of agreement? Trust your intuition and respond with confidence.
8) Have a sense of humor. Things go wrong, they just do. And, for the majority of us, there are no lives actually hanging in the balance of our daily work. Remember this fact and let go a little. A smile can lift a heavy moment. Laughter can release tension in a sticky situation. Sometimes the best thing you can do is lighten up – those around you will be glad you did.
9) Assume positive intent. The impact of others’ behavior does not always match their intent. Assume that your counterpart meant for something positive to occur. This will allow you to dig deeper, sift through confusion and shine a light on miscommunication. From this open vantage point, your actions will be much more informed and, in the long run, appreciated.
10) Be congruent. When your words, your non-verbal communication and your emotions are all saying the same thing, your message will be congruent. You believe what you say and you say what you believe. Others will believe it too.


Digest This: Communication Success

Communication Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs (Inc.)
Sometimes, the easiest way to get better at something is to simply learn what blunders to avoid. That’s the theory behind this article, which details 9 of the most common communication pitfalls in today’s workplace. Gossiping, closed-mindedness and reacting before responding are just a few of the bad habits we should all set aside…today!

Good Communication Skills Will Help You Find Long-Term Success(Entrepreneur)
A convincing reminder of what makes communication skills so very important in the professional marketplace. Expand your reach, lead by example and motivate those around you by playing to your communication strengths and prioritizing improvement in areas where you have room to grow.

Why Communication is Today’s Most Important Skill (Forbes)
“It’s not enough to just come up with big ideas, you also need to work hard to communicate them clearly.” In order to truly influence our surroundings, we must explain what we know, teach what we have learned and encourage innovation whenever the opportunity arises. Expertise is not a private matter, and this article has got the history to prove it.

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My Treat: Top 10 Cheat Sheet

Remember when I said keep the top 10 list close and hang it up at your desk?
Here’s the shareable, tweetable, pinable version.

Use this infographic to stay on track with your SMART communication goals!


Until next time,

Janel Anderson, PhD
Workplace Communication Expert and CEO of Working Conversations

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