When you stop to think about it, all the communication we have going on in just one day can make your head spin. We go from talking, texting, emailing, IMing, social media-ing, and so on. And we’re not just communicating with just one person. My messages go out to my husband, my friends, my parents, my clients, my colleagues, my team, my boss, my barista, my dogs (this is a no judgement zone people).
Communicating with others is essentially like breathing. We do it instinctively, but we don’t often think about how our style or approach affects others or changes a dynamic– especially in the workplace.
When we stop to think about how we communicate, we can find the difference between an awesome work environment and a not-so-awesome one. So what’s stopping you from taking the lead? Make your communications awesome and set an example by implementing a few basic tips.
Choose your talk-time wisely
I love to talk and get excited when it is my turn or I have something to add. I think most of us do. However, there is a delicate balance between participating in a conversation and monopolizing it. Being the loudest or most vocal in the room doesn’t mean you are the smartest. To be honest, most people tune out these monopolizers at a certain point.
It is important to be timely and respectful with your comments and additions. Make your contributions clear, concise and at an acceptable time– never interrupting others. Everyone involved in the conversation is there for a reason, so they all need to feel like their contribution is valued. Sometimes your role is the talker, sometimes it’s the active listener. Both roles are vital to a conducive conversation.
Check your technology at the door
Okay, so maybe checking it at the door feels scary, but limiting it could be a start, right? I am going to take my own advice here – team, I promise that I will leave my phone at my desk from now on. It is something so simple, but also so tough.
Technology helps us with note taking and helps us stay connected. But it can turn into a crutch that we’re addicted to. The benefit of limiting your technology use shows your commitment to your colleagues, peers, friends, boss, etc. and that you are able to give your undivided attention. Your engagement shows respect, builds value around the conversation and encourages participation.
Write things down
Trust me, I know how amazing and productive all of my meetings and phone calls are *pats self on the back*. But no matter how constructive the conversation was, you still need to follow up. Make sure that you provide a good recap for future reference and understand any action items that came out of the call. The best route here is to take good notes and follow up in writing. I love a bulleted list that can be sent via email or shared. Taking concise and action-oriented notes translates easily into any project management system and fosters transparency.
You know the expression “you know what happens when you assume things? It makes an as…”
I digress. Standing down is all about about calming your reaction and not assuming what someone’s intent was behind their email, comment, message, etc. It most likely doesn’t have to do with you or your work. Perhaps they are having a challenging day, woke up on the wrong side of the bed or are struggling to articulate their point. Instead of jumping to a conclusion, take a deep breath and steer the conversation to a productive place or shelf it for later.
Everyone functions a little bit better once they know what they are in for, right? Unless you are a human who likes like live on the edge, I guess! Clarity in the upfront is key. Setting expectations is as simple as communicating what the goal of a meeting is, coming prepared with an agenda, clarifying roles in the onset of a project or even in a meeting. When people don’t understand their role everyone starts stepping on each other’s toes, gets frustrated or tunes out. All of these things can lead to decreased productivity.
So the bottom line? Keep working at it and talking! Things won’t happen overnight, but if everyone commits to productive communications, things will continue to improve over time. Don’t hesitate to have a check-in with your colleagues to see how things are going. This could even result in a brainstorm as a group to keep the conversation going as to how you can all continue to improve, respect and support each other.