Effective conversations go beyond knowing what to say. They also include many verbal and nonverbal factors that make a big difference in how we communicate and present our messages to minimize confusion. In the workplace, poor communication skills can lead to a bundle of crossed wires and misunderstandings that could leave employees feeling disconnected and excluded.
Take a look at some ways you can begin improving your conversations with your employees to help them feel validated and included.
Work on your listening skills
It may sound simple, but listening is one of the most important aspects of a successful conversation. We hear about the importance of active listening since we’re in our early elementary years, so it’s no surprise that it’s a skill we want to hone and carry throughout our lives. When communicating with others in your workplace, listen with intention, and be sure to ask for clarification to avoid misunderstanding. Avoid interruptions and let the other person finish making their point before giving your input.
Pro Tip: Remember to listen, confirm, and acknowledge. Try asking a couple of validation questions to ensure you understand what the other person is saying.
Be mindful of your body language
When you’re at work, your body language shows others how engaged or focused you are on what’s happening around you. There are many factors to keep in mind, including your posture, facial expressions, and eye contact, and these are just as important in virtual meetings as they are in person! Be sure to maintain eye contact with whoever is speaking so they know you’re paying attention and avoid multitasking while they’re speaking so you can give them your full focus. You also want to show you’re accessible, so have open body language, like directly facing the person speaking and not crossing your arms.
Pro tip: Try recording yourself having a conversation to evaluate your mannerisms and facial expressions.
Adapt your communication style
There’s often a gap between what you understand someone is saying and what they were actually trying to say, especially over text, message, or email. This is important to keep in mind when communicating with any of your coworkers, especially if you are communicating with someone who is neurodivergent. Take the time to make your messages as straightforward as possible so everyone can understand and eliminate any uncertainties, for example, saying a deadline is “ASAP.” Instead, clarify what that means for you and make sure the other person understands your train of thought. If you’re receiving the message, it’s always better to clarify than to assume. Ask questions to make sure you understand and make sure both parties understand their expectations.
Find the right time to deliver your message
It’s not just what you want to say but how you want to say it. Finding the right time to deliver your message is just as important as finding the right words. We all know feedback is an important part of work relationships, and giving feedback in the right setting can make a huge difference. You might have heard the phrase “praise in public, correct in private.” Think about what you want to tell your team member and what the ideal outcome of that conversation would be. The key to success is finding the right time when the recipient will feel more open to understanding your message.
Aim to use inclusive language
Diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of many corporate culture conversations. While it may seem like an overwhelming topic, there are a few simple ways to adjust how you speak to be more inclusive toward your coworkers. For example, be mindful of someone’s preferred name and pronouns. Pronouns can be found in different places, for example, LinkedIn’s bio section has a field for people to list their pronouns, and others choose to include it in their email signatures. Still, if you’re unsure, you can always ask the person directly so you can use the name and pronoun they’re comfortable with. Another easy change is to eliminate “he or she” when writing and speaking and use “they” instead. Diversity and inclusion efforts are not just about gender; they also include culturally charged language relating to mental health, race, and disabilities. It’s important to avoid lightly joking about sensitive topics, including mental health, eating disorders, suicide, and other similar subjects, since you never know what your coworkers and peers have been through in their personal lives.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to boost your Diversity and Inclusion efforts in your own organization, click here to register for our upcoming webinar designed to help you navigate this complex topic.