Tag Archive for Communication skills

Internal Communication – Workplace Magic or Myth?

Key Communication Tip – Practice Extreme Listening!

Communicating at Work for Better Results

Communicating at the Office Party

Workplace Communication – Assertive Communication Techniques to Get Your Message Across and Be Heard

Assertive communication techniques that allow you to express yourself clearly while still earning respect take a bit of practice but are well worth the effort. Assertive means without becoming loud, angry or irritated. And, respect is not synonymous with agreement it means with proper concern and courtesy.

Here are 5 assertive communication techniques your can practice to be heard without being misunderstood:

1. Self-disclosure is revealing information about yourself that allows others to respond to you by creating a shared vulnerability. This is particularly difficult for managers and leaders to practice as sharing personal deficiencies no matter how common or insignificant are discouraged.

“I don’t know much about…” is a powerful statement that suggests your willingness to learn is greater than your need to be right.

Using the common feel, felt, found approach can also be effective self-disclosure technique:

“I understand how you feel, I felt that way myself when the company changed hands, but then I found that by listening to their point-of view I realized we had many common values.”

2. Acknowledging without agreeing is another communication skill assertive people practice. This is especially helpful when dealing with a dissenter during a meeting or presentation.

“What an interesting thought…” acknowledges the speaker without encouraging further conversation.

“That might be true and here are my thoughts…” is another option.

3. Calm repetition of the same words is a communication skill that is useful when giving information that might not be well-received.

“My intention is to provide you with the details of the new program…” clearly stated in a firm but calm voice repeatedly until you are acknowledged and given the platform is one possible phrasing.

4.Negative assertion is a bit trickier to use and requires a neutral tone of voice. Occasionally someone may attempt to make you wrong especially regarding principles. You might try this:

“Let me understand, you are saying I’m wrong?” Again, a calm non-accusatory voice is important.

5. When a criticism has been directed at you without explanation, assertively ask for more information while repeating the negative comment.

“What is it about my sales presentation that makes you say it is difficult to follow?

These are just a few communication skills everyone can practice in the workplace to create a more respectful environment while decreasing misunderstandings.

What has worked for you? Leave your thoughts.

And, if you want more tips just like the ones above  pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. People just love how easy it is to apply.

Communication at Work: 3 Ways to Improve Communication and Avoid Misunderstanding

Probably everyone has experienced a misunderstanding, misinterpretation or a miscommunication at work. It seems that communication breakdowns are so common they are accepted as business as usual. Each time I ask someone if they have ever been misunderstood at work the answer is always yes– demonstrated with a shy smile, a nodding head and maybe rolling eyes. I suspect some guilt in those answers.

When I ask what the cost of such a misunderstanding might be the immediate response seems to trigger a train-of-thought ending in ‘aha’ moment. Suddenly, the real costs associated with even a simple miscommunication begin to appear like a magicians unending scarf trick. Loss of a customer today due to a misunderstanding could mean lost revenue in the future.  Loss of production time now might result in a missed opportunity later. Miscommunication with a co-worker might result in bad feelings, poor morale, less productivity or costly mistakes. In some professions the result of a misunderstanding can result in death.

Here’s how you can decrease misunderstandings and communicate more effectively:

1. Take responsibility for your communication. Whether or not you have initiated a conversation does not let you off the hook for confirming what was said and intended. Create a mind-set that releases you from being right so you have the opportunity to learn.

I recently encountered a sales clerk who refused to shift her thinking about a situation even when her supervisor explained why a garment I was returning had a different number than the receipt. As far as the clerk was concerned, I did not have a receipt and she proceeded to handle the transaction as such. This resulted in more issues, more time lost and a second round of a managers intervention. Not to mention my growing aggravation.

To the manager’s credit she did an excellent job of explaining what probably happened and after overriding a computer default she expected the return to be handled smoothly. Unfortunately, she failed to confirm the clerk’s interpretation of her message assuming she understood.

Responsibility means verifying that your message was interpreted as you intended.

2. Match your listener’s communication style. If you are a fast talker but your listener is slower paced they may miss what you are saying as they struggle to process your message. If your style is less direct and you prefer to use a lot of words when communicating you may find that someone with a direct style may lose interest, become distracted and misunderstand your message.

Observe your listener and adjust your style accordingly. If you are the receiver, listen from the speaker’s point-of-view and confirm what you’ve heard. Context is as important as content. Your frame of reference can easily distort a positive intention if it doesn’t match the speaker’s point of reference.

3. Handle a misunderstanding immediately. If something has gone wrong in the communication process open up the lines of communication as soon as possible. Often the result of a misinterpretation doesn’t come to the forefront until a further action has taken place. Rather than place blame, seek to rectify the situation and move forward.

The cost of misunderstandings is too big to ignore. Be a part of the solution by taking responsibility, shifting your style and handling misunderstandings quickly.

If you’re serious about improving your communication skills but don’t want to go back to school just pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Do it now!

Don’t forget to pick up your FREE 6-part audio on the Power of Effective Communication.
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Workplace Communication—How to Use Assertive Communication and Stand Up for Your Rights

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Assertive behavior in the workplace is the dynamic balance between aggressive and passive conduct. Maintaining this balance is crucial for managing relationships and standing up for your rights. Understanding and using assertive behavior is a critical business communication skill.

To get a sense of the dynamic range between passive and aggressive behavior think of child’s seesaw with assertiveness sitting on the fulcrum point.  Consider assertive communication as the delicate movement needed to maintain balance before the plank hits the passive or aggressive ground might. 

Behavior too far toward the aggressive end and your behavior might be viewed as abusive. Yet, displaying behavior  too far to the passive side and your conduct might suggest you are hiding something.

Standing up for your rights assertively is mature behavior and it creates a balanced work environment.

Assertive communication says you have healthy sense of yourself, you regard others as equals, and it indicates a desire for personal growth.

Assertive behavior does not violate the right of others from being heard, nor does it violate your own right from self-expression. Aggressive behavior is bully behavior and every workplace seems to have at least one destructive player that feels the need to win over everything else.

When encountering an aggressive personality it is best to remember that this person is operating from fear. This is a good time to don your Teflon coat to keep any personal attack from sticking. If you are constantly being interrupted while you are making a point, it is acceptable to take back the stage to finish your statement. Saying something such as “let me finish my point, John,” in a calm, steady, well-modulated voice is an acceptable technique. Repeat as needed. This pegs you as having the voice of reason and leadership.

If you are the aggressor it would be wise to examine the results of your behavior as well as your motives. Do others avoid you? Are co-workers reluctant to support your point-of view? You might be gaining the upper hand in some situations but at what cost. What are you afraid of losing if you allow others their right to an opposing opinion?

Passive behavior as a communication style can be just as damaging—to you as well as to others. It indicates low self-esteem (as does aggressive behavior) it expects others to guess your thoughts and motives and it slows down productivity. At first glance, a passive employee may seem ideal—does their work and doesn’t say much. What is missing from that equation is the possibility of better ideas and solutions to problems. Passive communication creates guess work on the part of others, and it invites aggressive responses.

If you are prone to passive behavior consider asserting yourself in low-risk situations. Give your opinion on a light hearted but controversial topic during a lunchtime break. Adding your opinion about whose going to win American Idol, Dancing with the Stars or the World Series rarely causes more than playful banter while adding color to the conversation. From there practice taking more risks by asserting yourself at meetings, even if it is to agree with others. Your voice is important. You have the same rights as others and letting others violate them is unfair to all parties.

Should you encounter a passive communicator help them out by encouraging their thoughts and refusing to take “I don’t care what we do” or “it doesn’t matter to me” as answers.

Assertive communication allows for fair exchange, collaboration and teamwork. Assertive behavior from everyone creates a productive and pleasant workplace.

What do you think?

Want more tips you can put to use immediately? Then pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Oh, and don’t forget your FREE 6 part audio on The Power of Effective Communication–just put your name and email in the boxes on your upper right to get instant access.

Communicating at Work – Negotiating and Persuasive Conversations

dreamstimefree_3471831Negotiate anything, anytime.

Negotiations and persuasive communication are the skills most requested by business professionals. Communicating in the workplace requires tact, awareness, timing and the right words.

Here are three more key elements for successful negotiating and persuasive conversations:

1.  Keep control of your emotions.

Negotiations trigger your emotions when you fail to realize that you are an adult speaking to another adult. Too frequently people fall into the “child-to-adult” role where pleading replaces negotiating. If you find that your emotions are surfacing excuse yourself from the situation rather than blundering ahead while blubbering. Get a hold of yourself–you’re an adult.

2.  Know what you want–specifically.

Don’t leave the details of your request up to someone else. I once negotiated the terms of my firing. (Yes, everything is negotiable!) I was young and caught off guard (most people are) and found myself losing control. (see #1 above) I stated that I wanted further discussion but that I needed to leave the building for a short time. This gave me time to make decisions about what would serve me best in the next few weeks. I came back and asked for  1.) an office 2.) in another building where I could make calls 3.) a receptionist that would receive and forward my calls without comment and 4.) at least 3 weeks to conduct my job search. I don’t know where I got the nerve to ask for this but I felt the firing was unjustified. I got everything. And I got a job with a 43% increase within a week. Know what you want.

3.  Know who you are talking to.

Will you be speaking to a dominant personality with a tendency toward angry outbursts? Or will you be lucky enough to be engaging a logical person or someone with high empathy? Tailor your communication to the behavior type you’ll be persuading or negotiating with.

Negotiating is a learned skill necessary for business success. Invest some time to learn the language and you’ll begin to feel at ease in any persuasive conversation.

Job Function–Avoid Costly Misundersandings with Clear Communication

1181346_person_maskMisunderstanding a job role causes more issues than simply lost production. Customer complaints, lost business, public safety or legal issues are all at stake.

Clear communication takes more than a paragraph in a handbook or a few sentences uttered by human resources or a manager. Ideally, the job function conversation should occur not only during the interview and orientation process but throughout the first ninety days.

Here are a few ways to clearly communicate the role of a job to decrease misunderstandings:

  1. Verbally describe the role including tasks and expectations. The challenge here is to be both specific and broad. Use stories and examples to help create a picture that words alone fail to illustrate. Communicate the desired outcome graphically.
  2. Written job descriptions are critical to compliance.  Don’t rely on an initialed checklist indicating the new hire has read and understood the information. Written communication alone does not address questions adequately and leaves the new hire without an appropriate venue for voicing questions or concerns. Take the time to review and expand the job description using real examples.
  3. Use a detailed description of a typical day or scenarios the new hire might encounter. Again, using a story format helps put the new hire into the picture.
  4. Describe situations outside the job description the new hire would be expected to handle. Give end-result expectations and examples.
  5. After giving a verbal and written description ask for feedback in the form of a summary–not a list or recitation–but a description of how they see the function and their role in making it happen. Ask how they would handle a situation and encourage details about the end results. Listen for any disconnects between their “idea” of the job and the actual expectations of the job. What is not being said is more important than what is being said.
  6. Ask for where they see their biggest challenge in their job. Ask for a strategy for achieving results. Do not let “hopefully, I can…” be an acceptable answer. Hope is not a strategy. Too frequently new hires are skilled at giving the appropriate answers but have no intentions or aptitude for actually doing the function.

Clearly communicating policy, processes and job function is a part of your job if you hire or manage people. Spend more time on this critical message upfront and enjoy fewer misunderstandings in the future.

If you want more tips you can use on the job be sure to get your FREE 6 part audio series by putting your name and email in the boxes to your upper right. Now, pick up a copy of Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work-What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up, for dozens of tips and techniques that can change your life.

How to Use Communication Skills to Market Your Business

431214_paper_peopleIf you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, who is looking for effective ways to market your business, you probably don’t think of your communication skills as a promotional tool.

All communication is a form of marketing or selling, no matter who you are speaking with. By sharpening your inter-personal skills you can increase the perceived value of your products and services.

Here are a few tips you can use to hone your soft skills for solid results:

1.  Smile more frequently. Wait—you probably think this is silly but the truth is that smiling changes everything. If you’re working long hours, trying to overcome challenges and dealing with frustrations you probably aren’t smiling much.

If you answer the phone or worse greet a customer in person while you’re managing the business of business, it’s unlikely that you’ll greet them with a smile. If you do remember to smile, I’m betting it won’t be genuine. This is unacceptable. You have a business because of those customers. Treat them with respect. Smile.

Smiling sends a powerful message about you and your business.  A stress-free, heartfelt smile invites clients or prospective customers to relax and trust you.  That’s a potent marketing tool. Don’t forget to smile when answering the phone. The tone and pitch of your voice will be more inviting—and people can tell if you’re smiling or not.

The best salespeople keep a small mirror by their phones to remind them to smile when they make or answer a call. Another tip is to post a note that says “smile-you’re making money” by your phone.

Studies show that men smile less frequently than women.  Perhaps they feel that smiling is sign of weakness, or they want to let you know who is in charge or they feel that an emotionless face helps to set boundaries.  The truth is that grinning while saying “no” to someone helps to preserve a business relationship. Whatever the reason, let it go and smile more. It costs nothing and the returns are priceless.

2. Clean up your conversation. This isn’t a reminder to lose the four-letter words from your conversations (that should go without saying.) It is a reminder to eliminate  rambling thoughts, garbled grammar, mumbling and jargon, from  your communication. You don’t hear yourself as others do so record a few phone calls and casual conversations to see how you really sound to others. After listening to the play back, ask yourself if you would do business with you?

This doesn’t mean you need to speak with grammatical perfection or even in complete sentences–that’s not how people talk.  It’s a nudge to take a moment to think about your purpose and intentions for what you are about to say in an effort to make it easier for others to follow you.

If your printed marketing materials send one message but your verbal communication sends another that’s a congruency problem. Get them aligned to increase your credibility!

3. Ask more questions. Listen more than talk. Your customers will tell you everything you need to know about what to market and what products they need. You’re in business to solve their problems so make sure you know what their problems are. Don’t assume you know. Ask questions. Do surveys. Invite suggestions. Don’t market a product you’re in love with but doesn’t serve the needs of your customer. Pay attention and ask clarifying questions. Your business depends on it.

These three essential communication skills don’t cost time or money but they can increase your value to your market.  Smile.