8 ways to communicate better at work

Good communication helps to build strong relationships with colleagues and customers. Angela Munroe attends a School of Life course and shares what inspired her

The School of Life is a global initiative headquartered in London that offers to ‘exercise, stimulate and expand your mind’. I’ve been interested in their work for some time, and recently joined a group discussion on ‘How to communicate better at work’.

The session was run by journalist, performer and coach John-Paul Flintoff. I was looking for ideas that we can apply to a world where we increasingly rely on technology to help us communicate. Here’s what inspired me:

1. Be true to yourself

Bringing more of yourself to your work will make you both more confident and more convincing. It’s difficult to engage with people, or listen to them properly, if you’re not being you. And it’s hard to sustain a persona that doesn’t come naturally.

Small business owners are often the face of the business, so take confidence from the fact that, when customers choose your business, they are also choosing you for who you are and what you do. If you have great ideas, but you know you’re not a front man/woman, play to your strengths and hire someone to help you with that side of the business.

2. Adapt to your audience

Remember that it’s what people hear that matters, not what you say, so think about everything from their point of view.

The medium you choose, and how you use it, is often as important as what you say. Technology is opening up lots of new ways to communicate, and it’s important you select the ones that reach and suit your audience best rather than the ones that feel more at home to you.

3. Prepare

Being prepared improves your chances of communicating well. Your device is a gateway to the wealth of collective knowledge available on the internet. You can research business sectors, organisations and individuals at the touch of a button. Business-orientated social media such as LinkedIn gives you access to expert advice. When you need time to think, your device can help to keep distractions at bay. Personal assistant apps such as Cortana can field calls and take messages while you focus on the job in hand.

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4. Ask questions and listen to the answers

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, however obvious they may seem. And when someone replies – listen. You owe them that respect, and you owe your brain the chance to filter and understand what they are really saying.

5. Be in the moment

We’ve created technology to enable us to be more spontaneous, to give us more options and to remove barriers so that we can achieve our goals easier, faster and with better results. It’s up to us to use it the right way. As the Canadian media expert Marshall McLuhan said: “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

We all know how it feels to be having a voice or video call with someone who is clearly getting on with something else at the same time. If a conversation is worth having, it’s worth having properly. Use your device to interact, not as a tool to distract.

6. Invite feedback

The only way to know if you’re being heard is to ask. And not just at the end of the process, but at key points along the way. Ask a customer what they want. If they have been part of shaping the service you are going to deliver, they are more likely to be happy with the end result.

7. The power of No

All too often you hear people in the workplace blaming the outcome of events on factors beyond their control. Don’t be a victim of circumstance in your business. Take responsibility for your actions and learn to say “No”. People will respect you for it.

Remember that others find it difficult to say No, too. Just because they seem to be agreeing with you, it might not mean they really do. If this is true, help them out. Phrase the question in a way that leads to answers other than a simple Yes or No.

8. Ticks and wishes

When you find yourself writing off someone else’s suggestions, stop and be curious about what it is you’re actually resisting – is it their idea that’s wrong or just the way they’re presenting it? What did you like about it (ticks)? What would you like to see more of, or less of, or what part of the idea hasn’t been explored (wishes)? Could you improve the idea before you shoot it down? Try and see everything as an offer rather than a potential confrontation, and make sure that you are always offering something in return.

For more information on The School of Life and their courses visit: http://www.theschooloflife.com/london/

I’d love to hear your suggestions for how to communicate better at work and share them with other small businesses. Please tweet me at @AngelaDMunroe

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