Understand These 5 Types Of Communication At Workplace
Communication is at the core of any business. Be it a one-person owned grocery store or a large multinational software development firm. Failure to communicate your thoughts & ideas is a recipe for disaster. Now, there is nothing novel in this fact. Everyone knows & agrees to it. But few individuals at the workplace pay attention to these obvious basics. This article asks you to take a step back. It makes you consider what type of communication skills you have at your disposal. When to use each one & a few quick tips.
Each of us communicates at work, whether we know it or not. Why not do it the right way then?
What is the importance of effective communication in the workplace
At work, context is an important element that affects different facets of communication. For example, one wouldn’t share salary revision information via text messages. Or a peer won’t write down an email to informally enquire about your family. The relationship between stakeholders and their communication styles also have a say, and so does body language. And the list goes on.
In that sense, communication, verbal or otherwise, is a complicated process.
Regardless of the different types of it, communication is about conveying a message. It would be more than reasonable to educate & train your team on this front.
Let us start with the fundamentals – type of communication methods.
What are the 5 forms of communication?
#1 Verbal communication
Some of the company events that come to mind for verbal communication methods:
- Water cooler conversation with your friend/s at work
- One-on-one meeting with your manager
- Product demo to a customer
Effective verbal communication (or oral communication) is often an exercise in clarity. The quicker (and clearer) you convey your message, the better. And that is one of the most difficult things. When it comes to speaking – many get emotional, speak unprepared, lack thought structure. Some just shy away.
Follow these ‘ground rules’ for effective verbal communication:
- Avoid the use of extraneous filler words (‘yeah’, ‘so’, ‘um’, ‘you know’, ‘basically’)
- Stress and emphasize action words (‘need’, ‘now’, ‘do’)
- Speak clearly and with confidence: people always respond well to confident speech
- Watch your word choice: appropriateness is always important
- Take care of your tone of voice and try to match it with the verbal message you are conveying
Improving verbal communication
Company or its managers can boost verbal communication skills in the workplace with the following:
- Inspire local communication and interaction methods. So-called ‘cubicle farms’ are miserable for employee productivity, morale, and well-being. Try to facilitate local interaction as much as possible. Yes, water cooler talk is not a bad thing. Encourage employees to understand the need to communicate with each other! Consider rearranging desks in different types and patterns, to stimulate a more open environment. Likewise, remind the team to take short breaks whenever needed. It pays off.
- Help them figure out who to speak with. Having established teams, team leaders, and established procedures is vital. Pinpointing accountabilities, increase the chances of targeted communication between the team members. This will help in streamlining the means of communication channels.
- Encourage feedback. Keep that office door open! Encourage employees, regardless of position, to offer their opinion on relevant decisions. It’s not easy, but fostering a culture of openness and feedback is incredibly useful – it also builds communication skills of employees.
#2 Non-verbal communication
- Body language when giving feedback
- Reaction when an idea you are opposed to is being adopted
- Behavior in times of tight deadlines & tense projects
Contrary to common belief, the vast majority of communication is non verbal. The spoken word gets most of the glory, but non-verbal cues like facial expressions are even more important, and mastering them invariably leads to good communication skills.
People partake in nonverbal communication in the following ways:
- Body language: posture, body position, facial expressions, and stance
- Physical behavior: hand movements, distance
- Eye contact
Spoken words are dime a dozen, but easy to manipulate. Honesty and sincerity are best expressed non verbally. Think of non verbal communication as the necessary companion to verbal communication. The more your facial and non verbal indicators sync up with your verbal message, the better understood you’ll be.
Improving non-verbal communication
Consider the following, especially during in-person meetings:
- Physical appearance, office decor, and physical space. Understand the image you present to your employees. A closed door and overly formal communication style intimidate some employees. Take the time to craft a personal image that fosters a sense of openness and approachability.
- Smile and a handshake. First impressions may not be permanent, but they are close enough. A friendly, welcoming attitude and facial expressions that exudes calmness go a long way towards improving non verbal communication.
- Eye contact, tone, and body language. The more sincerity is shown in communication in the workplace, the better. Your employees respond well to the trustworthiness and sincerity conveyed in eye contact.
#3 Written communication
Written communications are not just words; they are everywhere in any business.
- Internal memos
Written communication methods are not without their unique nuances and rules. For example, you’ll want to ensure that you use:
- Correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure.
- Fewer words whenever possible.
- Convey your point clearly (and quickly!).
Of course, written communication comes with its dangers. Interpreting sarcasm or subtle jokes in written forms, memos or emails is not easy. Additionally, written communication may be the most difficult way to convey meaning. Unlike verbal/non verbal communication, you don’t have the luxury of body language, eye contact, and tone to relay your message.
Improving written communication
Written communication can be steadily improved with a little practice and deliberation. Consider the following:
- Clear and concise. An extra-wordy memo or lengthy internal letter typically results in a collective groan. Keep your written forms of communications short, concise, and to the point.
- (Please) check your spelling. Mistakes in spelling or grammar show a lack of care, attention, or ability. This is a good rule to follow, even in informal communication.
- For non critical written messages, decide on a tone. Imagine a note in the break room asking people to clean up after themselves. An overly formal communication note may come off as needling when a funny picture or joke would suffice.
#4 Visual communication
Visual communication is all about presenting complex information in a stimulating way. Common examples include:
- Presentations & brochures
- Organization charts
- Training videos
- Charts, graphs, and comparison slides
As a general rule, visual communication acts as a supplement to verbal, non verbal, and written forms of communication. The right visual at the right time can work wonders when it comes to conveying your message. If you’re in a meeting about sales figures (as an example), a visual aid may be ideal.
Communicating with visuals comes with its unique advantages. Visuals are stimulating and provide a supplementary way for people to absorb information. After all, a graph with pretty colors beats plain text every time.
This effect goes beyond mere interest. Research shows that ‘mixed modality’ learning (presenting information through different mediums) is effective. People comprehend information better when shown information in different types.
Improving visual communication
Improving visual communication is mostly a matter of when and where. Knowing the right time and place for visual communication is half the battle. Consider the following:
- Visual aids. No meeting is complete without PowerPoint presentations, but take the time to spice it up. Reading off a list of bullet points containing business statistics is not particularly enlightening. That same information, portrayed on a graph, will have far more impact. Body language and tone of voice also play an important role, so being relaxed and communicating clearly can help in getting started on a positive note.
- Front and center. Is there one defining statistic or piece of information that your employees need to keep in mind? Consider a central display (digital or otherwise) that keeps track of important information. If applicable, set a ‘daily goal’ that voices details of your employee incentive program.
- Clarity of content. Avoid any sort of potentially sensitive or offensive visual content when designing visual aids. Always err on the side of caution (it saves HR a lot of paperwork if the worst happens).
#5 Listening communication
Listening is a critical component of workplace communication. ‘Active listening’ — involves engaging with the speaker and working to understand them. True listening is a proactive experience, not a passive one.
Like other forms of communication, listening has a few rules. Consider the following:
- Don’t interrupt. Wait for the right time to speak.
- Focus is everything. The person speaking is just as important as you.
- Think of clarifying questions. They help keep your mind engaged with the speaker.
- Rephrase everything in your language. No individuals or group of people think or speak in the same way. Take a moment to rephrase the speaker’s main points in your language. Your employees will notice.
- Eye contact! Maintaining the right amount is necessary as overly staring can become intimidating. Also, it provides an opportunity to assess the body language which can help in furthering the conversation.
Improving listening communication
Improving listening in the workplace takes both a cultural and behavioral shift. Consider the following:
- Eliminate distractions. Nothing is worse than speaking to a person who is only partially invested in having a productive conversation. When an employee comes to you, eliminate distractions as much as possible. Give them your undivided attention and your employees will notice.
- Show concern and offer assistance. Ask clarifying questions when appropriate (‘How much…’, ‘What do you mean by…’) and show concern for the issue discussed. It’s important to validate your employee’s opinions whenever possible. Use affirmative language that shows you care – it can be the difference in the case of phone conversations. Send a follow-up email or message about the items discussed and be genuinely interested in hearing from team members.
The role of emotional well-being in workplace communication
As much as you may want the adage of “leave it at the door” to ring true, the reality is far different. Emotions — both positive and negative — play a major role in workplace communication. For better or worse, people are emotional creatures. It’s best to work with, not against, human nature.
Consider some of the following:
- Mistakes occur not through intentional acts, but rather through error. Recognize misunderstandings when they arise and work to correct them – from inappropriate communications (in person or on phone) to unacceptable behaviours.
- Don’t take it personally: It’s all too easy to take criticism the wrong way, but focusing only on relevant parts and having an honest conversation with the critic can show avenues of growth.
- Trust your employees and coworkers. Have faith in their personal and professional credentials.
- Empathy is everything. Self-awareness helps, and so does imagining oneself in the employees’ shoes. What changes?
Improving emotional well-being
To improve emotional well-being in the workplace, consider the following:
- Role models. You, your team leaders, and anyone in a position of authority should embody the values you want to inspire, and treat everyone at the same hierarchical level equally.
- Embrace emotions. Encourage employees to speak their minds about what they feel. Ask feedback-oriented questions (‘What do you feel about…’). Urge employees to speak their minds so that they don’t phone in their appearances.
- Stress management. Employees can begin to break down under prolonged periods of stress. Do your best to promote healthy work habits. The more you’re aware of your employees’ emotional and stress levels, the more productive they’ll be.
What is effective communication?
Bottom line: Communicate efficiently. Quality over quantity.
The more efficiently you communicate with your team, the better the results. Most communication gets ignored because it hardly addresses its target audience. Whether it’s formal communication or a casual chat, workplace communication plays a vital role. Make connecting with your employees a priority and reap the rewards!