Seven Steps to Communication Success 

By Tess Marshall

If you’ve ever been in a committee meeting, you know that communication skills vary from person to person. Some people talk and never listen. Others don’t speak up at all. Some get angry and defensive. Others calmly state their opinions. One thing is for certain: Most workers could benefit from some further instruction on communicating effectively. When everyone in your company achieves better communication skills, your employees will gain a happier work environment, better relationships with their co-workers, and greater productivity.

Good communication skills are critical to the success of any business. Effective communication breeds creativity, innovation, cooperation, and high performance among employees. Ineffective communication breeds resentment, stalled growth, and unhappy employees. To become effective communicators we need to learn the appropriate skills. We need to feel comfortable expressing our needs, wants, likes, and dislikes. We need to learn self-control to remain silent when we would really rather speak. And we need to learn to speak our minds while not alienating our co-workers.

      With good communication skills, employees and managers can advance their organization’s strategic plan and attain their goals in a positive and supportive work environment. Everyone will benefit—from the employees, to the customers, to the shareholders. To teach your employees the right way to communicate, start by putting these 7 tips to use. When you do, your company will become a place where honesty is valued, employees feel appreciated, and goals are achieved much more quickly than before.

1. Listen to learn: Listening shows you care about what someone thinks. When you are tempted to give advice, ask, “Would you like advice or shall I only listen?” Often the speaker only needs to speak his or her thoughts aloud and then draw his or her own conclusion. When you are listening, give the speaker your undivided attention; push all other thoughts out of your mind. Close your office door. Switch your cell phone to vibrate mode and concentrate on the present moment. And don’t forget to maintain good eye contact. All these little things add up to showing respect to your listener.

2. Think before you speak: Learn to delay your reaction to what you hear. If you feel an urge to react, stop; take a deep breath and count to 10. That pause will allow you to clarify your ideas and present them in an appropriate way. Always paraphrase what you think you heard and ask if that’s what the speaker meant. If the answer is yes, and you still need more information, ask the person to tell you more. Rarely do you walk away from a conversation asking yourself, “Why did I listen so much?” Any regret you feel is usually the result of talking too much and not listening enough, so realize that some silence in a conversation is desirable.

3. Don’t be judgmental: Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Listen to understand—you don't have to agree. Be open to others’ differences. People want to feel heard more than they want you to agree with them. Respect the fact that people have a right to different opinions than you. When you can accept others, your communication skills will improve. The conversation will flow and criticism will disappear. Let others know that you care about them, thank them for sharing with you, and inquire how you can best offer your support. Now you will have gained your speaker’s trust and you can move forward towards a solution.

4. Build trust with honesty: Building trust involves communicating openly and honestly. Honesty and credibility lay the foundation for engagement and high performance of your employees. Set a good example by always telling the truth. Give employees opportunities to share their ideas. Establish time for roundtable discussions. When you share information, involve others in dialogue, allow time for questions, and give clear answers. When you say you are going to do something, do it. When you forget to do something you promised, take responsibility and ask what you can do to make it up to them. Be a person of your word and be proud when your employees model your behavior.

5. Give honest feedback: Don’t pretend things are going well when they are not. People appreciate sincere feedback. Without it, employees fail to grow and develop. When you do give feedback, be honest—people will sense when you are not. If a person becomes upset at the feedback, try to minimize the discomfort. Realize that upset always involves fear. Address that fear and work on a solution.

6. Admit what you don’t know: No one has all the answers all the time. Know when to say, “I don't know. I will get back to you on this.” Then don’t forget to follow up by providing the answers. Give sincere apologies and admit mistakes. Reveal your human side and other employees will feel comfortable enough to do the same.

7. Voice your appreciation: Employees who are valued and accepted feel appreciated. Appreciated employees are loyal, happy, and productive. The person expressing the appreciation will feel good too. Let your co-workers know that they matter as a person and the work they are doing is important. Don’t just show appreciation to your favorite employees—difficult employees typically need the most appreciation, yet they get the least. Look for opportunities to show appreciation and use words of kindness, encouragement, and gratitude. Write personal thank you notes to your employees to acknowledge good work and success. Develop the desire to excel in your company by praising employees in public but offering constructive criticism in private.

Start Fostering Better Communication Today: Set a good example by becoming an effective communicator. Ask for feedback on your own communication skills and be willing to implement positive suggestions for improvement. Be approachable. Be honest. Give your employees reason to trust you and encourage them to trust each other. Then they will learn to cooperate and work together better as a team. When you place a priority on good communication skills, you will be rewarded with a healthy, motivated, and profitable organization, and happier employees.

Read other articles and learn more about Tess Marshall.

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