Effective Interpersonal Communication In The Workplace

Establishing good communication with others in the work place is essential in today's competitive market. Here are some simple reminders that can work for you.

Experts agree that good communication is one of the keys to being successful in today's competitive job market. People must be able to communicate with each other on a daily basis to keep the work flowing in an orderly fashion, and to deal with work issues as they arise. Misunderstandings can lead to delays, which ultimately affect the productivity of the company. In the past decade, employers have been forced to cut back on the number of personnel in order to save money, and problems in productivity can be even more detrimental in a slim-downed work force.

Communication in the 21st century is quickly evolving into one that involves less conversation, and more electronic sharing of information. While in the past, an employee might have a discussion with a co-worker face-to-face, today people tend to communicate via email or instant message. Either way, the old rules still apply regarding how to effectively communicate in the workplace.

One of the most important components for successful interpersonal communication is clarity. People need to be able to understand what you are saying. This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many people seem to think that excessive language makes them appear more intelligent and/or important. In conversation either in person or by phone, speak clearly, making your point quickly. Before you pick up the phone to make a call, have your points organized and be ready to answer questions if posed. If the person to whom you are speaking does not understand what you are saying, the conversation is wasted, and you will appear to be disorganized and unprepared. Ask if the person has questions or needs clarification on any of the points that you have raised.

In written communication, this point is even more important. Many good business people are very poor writers. Again, as in verbal communication, they think that the use of a lot of fancy or obtuse words and excessive language makes them somehow seem more intelligent. In reality, this has quite the opposite affect. People who write poorly project a negative impression, and that can be highly detrimental in today's workplace.

There should be a hard and fast rule taped to every worker's computer that reads simply, "Spell Check." Never send an email out without checking spelling and grammar. Never! If your email program does not offer a spell check feature, use a word program to write out important messages, spell check them there, and then copy/paste to the email. Spelling errors in written professional communication are unacceptable. The writer appears to be uneducated and sloppy.

Additionally, if a person has poor or rusty writing skills, he or she should take a professional writing seminar. If an email or letter is critical, perhaps something going to a valued customer, an uncertain writer should always have someone check the email prior to sending it. Better to be safe, than sorry!

Another component for successfully workplace communication is to be direct. Learn to make your point quickly. Again, this applies to both written and verbal communication. When talking to a co-worker, get to the point quickly, and be direct. Not doing so wastes time, and the person to whom you are speaking may begin to tune out before you even get to the point of the discussion.

In writing, this is even more important. Writing instructors routinely teach that the purpose of the communication be addressed as early in the first paragraph as possible. In email, this is even more important since many people use preview pane to gauge the nature of an email, and may be too busy to read those that they don't think are important or pertinent. If the subject is clearly stated in both the subject line and first paragraph, the email is more likely to be read, and more importantly, taken seriously.

In written correspondence, it is important to be as concise as possible. People in business today are too busy to wade through paragraphs to get to the important points in an email. In fact, after the opening paragraph, it is more effective to use bullet points rather than paragraphs for the body of the correspondence. Tests have been done to show that people tend to read in short bursts rather than in long paragraphs. If you must use paragraphs, keep them short and to the point. For online reading, five or six sentences should be the maximum.

Another consideration for electronic communication is font size and style. Research has shown that for reading on a screen, a non-serif font such as Arial or Verdana is recommended as opposed to the standard serif fonts such as Times New Roman. Font should be either 11 or 12 points, making the text large enough to read from a standard distance but not so big as to strain the eyes. And please, do not use all capital letters in correspondence. The occasional use of a word or two in capital letters is a good way to emphasis a point, but using all caps is jarring to the eye and is considered to be "shouting" by online enthusiasts. And, it bears repeating - SPELL CHECK!

Many times in business, people forget common courtesy and tact. In speaking with co-workers, be considerate of their time and points of view. Separate emotion from intellect, and do not be condescending. If you are a manager, set an example and never allow anger to overrule reason.

In written communication, this is even more important. While a conversation is a fleeting thing, written documentation is on the record, and can be referred to in the future. Your words, once written, become part of a permanent record. Choose your words carefully, and avoid using an accusatory tone. State your case clearly and concisely without emotion. Read and reread your email before you send it to avoid sending something that you will later regret.

Never respond to an email out of anger or in haste. Sometimes it is best to allow for a "cooling off" period before responding. Remember that words are taken literally, and often leave no room for interpretation. Avoid sarcasm or off-color language. Everything that you write leaves an impression, and the goal should be to always make that impression a positive one.

Many people spend more time with their co-workers than with family members. There is sometimes a thin line between what is acceptable and what goes over the line. No matter how friendly you are with others, remember that first, this is a work environment and there may be people who are offended by something you may say or even infer. Be careful of using offensive language or colloquialisms, and avoid topics that are overly political or religious in nature.

Conduct yourself in a professional manner in all aspects of your business dealings and treat others with the same respect that you expect yourself. That way, you will never have regrets, or worse, jeopardize your position within the company.

© High Speed Ventures 2011