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The Art of Communication

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We live in an information-driven society, where communication determines how fast we learn.
Cooperation and collaboration underpin how we work together, and done brilliantly, can determine
our competitive advantage. At the human level, our social resources play a massive part in our
happiness and well-being in the workplace.

Typically, communication is seen as a ‘soft’ skill—because it’s not easily quantifiable. Compared to
profits, losses, and even risk, it is intangible. We can brush it all off as too soft and fuzzy, or we can
embrace communication as one of the keys to an emotionally intelligent workplace. But because the
way we get along is so fundamental to organizational success and human flourishing, many more
organisations are focusing on the latter.

Communication is a whole lot more than just talking—although, that is a fundamental part of
relationship-building and knowledge-transfer. Good communication skills is critical in the workplace
as they help us convey information to others in a succinct and effective way. And, they go above and
beyond coherent speech in many ways—we talk, we use silence, body language, tone of voice, and
eye-contact—voluntarily and unconsciously.

Good communication skills in the workplace requires us to not just extract and interpret information
from our colleagues and staff but to convey information with clarity and at times, empathy. Several
key communication skills in the workplace are as follows:

1. The ability to elicit colleague and staff problems and concerns

That is, the ability to understand, explore and clarify what others are talking about, and to solicit
more details if and when the situation requires it. You should be able to summarise what a colleague
of staff member has related to you.

The ability to extract information in an accurate and timely manner:
We need to extract information so we can channel our efforts accordingly, in particular when we
have pressures of deadlines, role boundaries, budgets, and tasks that require immediate attention.
Whilst active listening encourages pleasant social interactions, which in turn boost our well-being,
there are times in the workplace when our communication needs to be more direct and decisive.

2. The ability to deliver information effectively

When it comes to tasks and expectations, it goes without saying that clarity helps us avoid lots of
unwanted information. In workplaces, team situations call for clarity—a shared goal is the ideal, but
very often we come to a situation with our beliefs and opinions, whilst forgetting those of our team
members. We assume that others understand what we are saying and are on the same ‘page’ when
situations actually require further explanation. Clarity plays a role on a larger scale when it comes to
our roles more broadly, in fact, it’s a psychological resource. Ambiguity contributes to stress – clarity
is empowering.

3. Our messages need to make sense if we want to convey information in a meaningful way

This applies both to our language and the extent to which we empathise. Effective information
delivery helps us define goals, transfer knowledge, and successfully accomplish shared tasks.
Communication however, in its most basic form at least, is dyadic—a two-way, mutually beneficial
flow of information.

4. Be supportive of colleagues and staff

In large organizations especially, we may only bring a part of ourselves to the workplace. If we want
to communicate authentically and build relationships with colleagues and staff—important social
resources—sharing some of ‘who we are’ is one way we can build a positive team. Additionally we
need to show our colleagues and staff that we understand how they are feeling and we can relate at
an interpersonal level. We don’t need to look too far to find sources of workplace stress that might
be impacting our colleagues. By empathizing, we not only build better relationships, but we show
that we are available as key ‘job resources’ – social support for those around us to reduce the
negative impacts of our job demands.

5. Give feedback in a constructive and sensitive manner

Defensiveness is a root cause of miscommunication and even conflict in the workplace. We’re not
always ready to receive and learn from criticism, especially when it’s delivered insensitively.
Feedback however is one way we learn and develop, but only is it is delivered in a productive
manner within a supportive work environment. Partly, it comes down to giving feedback that is
constructive and in the receiver’s best interests, and these are fortunately skills that we can all
develop. Practicing giving feedback using the “I and We” statements, which describe others’
behavior objectively while allowing the speaker to express the impact on their feelings, is one way
we can to provide constructive feedback in a sensitive manner.So whilst information delivery is crucial, so is creating space for discussions.
Giving others a chance to contribute allows us to factor in more perspectives and diverse opinions.
We can encourage more engagement, commitment, and complement one another’s different skills
for better results.

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