Communicating effectively at work can be really stressful. Whether it’s meeting in the breakout room or collaborating on a product launch, this blog post will make it easier for you to communicate at work. Here are ten tips that will take your communication skills to the next level:

  1. Listen: You have two ears. Use them effectively and you’ll have a better understanding of who you’re talking to and what they need. Listening is essential to becoming the best communicator you can be. Don’t interrupt when other people are talking and allow them to fully express what they need to say. It’ll help you better understand what is going on in the world of the individual you’re talking to.
  2. Time: Chatting with a manager at a cocktail party as opposed to chatting with a manager in passing during the workday. Cocktail parties are designed for you to have a 5-10 minute conversation. On the other hand, try to keep conversations in passing to less than 60 seconds.
  3. Emotional intelligence: An important key to being an effective communicator is being aware of and being in control of your emotions. A simple way to be more in control of your emotions is by taking a moment before responding to an angry voicemail or a tense situation in the boardroom. Taking a moment to step back physically and emotionally will show the other party that you are aware of how they’re feeling and demonstrate your self-control.  Practice empathy and you will be better in all facets of communication from salary negotiations to chatting at the next holiday party.
  4. Awareness: Pay attention to the setting you’re in and who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to a coworker in your cubicle, you’ll need to speak softly. Are you at a party with loud music? Speaking softly won’t cut it. It’s also key to know who you’re talking to. How you speak to your CEO is different from how you speak to your manager.
  5. Body language: Everything from your stance to whether or not your arms are folded matter in a conversation. When in doubt, mirroring the person you’re talking to is usually your best bet. If they sit back into their seat then sit back into your seat. Remember that much of our body language gives away how we are actually feeling towards the person we are talking to.
  6. Know your medium: How to communicate via Slack will be different from when you talk to someone face to face. Some mediums are better than others to get a point across or share information. For a sales call, you might prefer to meet in-person or use a platform that allows you to video chat. When it comes to following up on the progress of a project due in three weeks, a quick email will most likely be more appropriate than requesting a lunch meeting.
  7. Ask open-ended questions: Questions that can be answered with a yes or no are not open-ended questions. By using open-ended questions, you will be able to keep conversations going and show others you care about what they have to offer. Here are a few examples of open-ended questions:
    • What did you do to close the deal with our new client?
    • Where did you get your cool sweater?
    • How can we simplify our sales process?
  8. Accountability: When deadlines aren’t met and teammates are left hanging, it’s due to the lack of accountability. Accountability is necessary for any organization to accomplish its goals. Follow up with teammates and managers on projects without being asked. Keep your co-workers in the loop whether it’s chatting in person at their desk or sending a quick email update on a current project you’re working on. Learning how to be accountable will help you in every aspect of life.
  9. Avoid one-way communication: Have you ever been in a conversation where the person you were conversing with just kept talking? Focus on a healthy balance between giving and taking when talking to others. You’ll gain more respect and will have a better understanding of everyone you work with. One thing that may be preventing you from being the person who just keeps talking is by pausing for a few seconds after making a statement or asking a question. These pauses will give the person you’re talking to a chance to share their thoughts and ideas on the topic you’re discussing.
  10. Be honest with yourself: Take a regular inventory on your communication skills. Pay attention to and mentally break down past conversations each week the same way a basketball coach would analyze film of past games. When you look back on past conversations, think about the times when the conversation seemed to die or transition to another topic. How did you handle that situation? You will continue to improve your communication skills as you are honest with yourself and focus on what you need to work on. At the same time, pay attention to the aspects of communication you are great at. Doing so will help you realize that you are truly capable of making progress.

If these ten tips seem overwhelming then just pick two tips to work on each week. For example, only focus on asking open-ended questions and being honest with yourself this week at work. Pick another two tips to work on next week.