WRITTEN BY ALICIA KOCH, FOUNDER OF THE LEGAL BELLETRIST
It was Robert Frost that said – 

“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

Personally, I don’t know a better quote that describes what it means to have effective communication. Or to be an effective communicator. 

To be an effective communicator is not simply a matter of speaking whatever comes to mind. A person that can communicate effectively speaks to you instead of at you. They drive positive communication between themselves and others resulting in valuable communication within teams. They are self-aware and are also aware of others around them. It takes skill. Something that can be learnt just as easily (or not) as riding a bike. 

But it can (and should) be a skill that we all improve on. Daily. 

Because communication that is effective, that has impact and that results in positive outcomes, takes choosing what you say and how you say it carefully.

Effective Communication in the Workplace

Effective communication is the glue that keeps teams together, working cohesively and creating a positive, healthy working environment, resulting in an overall positive impact on a company’s wellbeing. 

As BetterUp sets out – 

“Communication in the workplace is important because it boosts employee morale, engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. Communication is also key for better team collaboration and cooperation. Ultimately, effective workplace communication helps drive better results for individuals, teams, and organizations.”

Similarly, poor communication can affect a businesses bottom line. How you may ask. Well abusive language within a team or language that is not enabling will inevitably break down trust. As a result, employees can feel demotivated and demoralized becoming disconnected from the businesses’ culture, believing that they are uninformed and excluded from decision making. Feelings of demotivation and demoralization result in disinterest in achieving workplace goals or a complete disinterest in the workplace. Entirely. 

That’s a lot of “dis’s” which a business should avoid! 

And it all starts with improving communication

Effective Workplace Communication - Learning how to talk the talk

The truth of the matter is not everyone is the same. That may be an obvious statement, but it is worth stating. 

People don’t automatically think the same or speak in the same way. How can they? We are all raised differently, we go to different schools, come from different backgrounds and (as is natural) will be motivated in different ways by different things. The result? Team members will inevitably differ (quite widely in some instances) in the way they communicate. 

If any of you have worked in a team before, you will have noticed that each person within a team will approach a task in a unique way. Why? Because each person has their own needs when it comes to the support they need.

Again, we are all unique and will have individual approaches to things, our own likes,  dislikes, needs and desires, and preferred ways we need to be spoken to,  motivated and supported. 

And it’s because of all these differences that real, honest, positive and enabling communication becomes key. 

Because if a team is going to build rapport and promote an effective working relationship, each team member must develop the skill and flexibility to address collective needs and concerns through effective communication.

How to develop key communication skills

As Tony Robbins sets out – 

“Effective communication resolves conflicts, transfers information, increases understanding and ultimately strengthens your relationships. That said, it almost always involves some form of deep listening, empathy for the person or people you are communicating with, body language and being aware of your emotions and the emotions of others involved in the conversation that conveys the message you are ultimately trying to send.”

And we couldn’t agree more with Tony Robbins – listening, having empathy, recognizing body language are all crucial when getting your message across. In a way that best serves the team. Not an individual.

Therefore, after looking at several resources, we have set out 7 effective communication skills that we can all do, because they are all skills that can be easily developed – 

Step One – Actively listen

It was Greek Philosopher, Epictetus who said – 

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

So, let’s start there.

People need to make a conscious effort to listen to one another. But more than just listening, we need to hear one another. We need to actively listen. This involves thinking about what is being said, acknowledging what is being said and understanding what is being said. [1] 

Active listening takes participation, involving all of one’s senses. One needs to give another person their full attention. They need to show that they are listening, and this involves a few non-verbal messages – using body language, like nodding and smiling, even murmuring “Mmm hmm” to indicate that someone has been heard. By consciously involving oneself in the conversation the person doing the talking feels more at ease and will be more willing to communicate openly and honestly. [2] 

Step Two – effective body language

As we set out in Step One above, using body language is key when trying to establish rapport with someone. It’s not just about smiling and nodding (which are important), it goes a little further than that. Mirroring someone’s movements becomes key – matching someone else’s body movements, energy levels and breathing patterns is a sure-fire way to build rapport. It is also an effective tool in improving communication skills. Why? By mirroring someone you are attempting to connect with them, trying to build trust. The goal with effectively communicating is to get team members to identify with one another and relate to one another – engaging instead of disengaging. Answering “me too” or agreeing with what is being said – buying in to an idea or a suggestion instead of shutting it down. [3]

Step Three – show empathy and exercise patience

Actively listening and mirroring body language are only the initial steps. Because it takes real understanding and empathy towards another person – putting yourself in their shoes – that really gets someone to open up. If you can demonstrate to a team member that you understand how they feel, you may gain a better understanding of what their pain points are and how they are struggling. And by doing that, you can understand how to help them. But it may take patience. And while “patience is a virtue” it is something that we all have to practice. On both sides – the listener and the speaker – it takes patience to calmly but precisely communicate how you/they are feeling, even when you/they are frustrated or annoyed (especially when). Showing empathy and exercising patience can go a long way to avoid disagreements or arguments. [1]

Step Four – Sound reasoning

With people engaged and feeling listened to, responding to what is being said with logic and reason is the next reasonable step. What is the goal here? What is the core message? Once you know that for yourself, communicating it to others needs to be delivered in a way that justifies a decision – whether it’s in favour of something the team has put forward or is in a different direction to what has been suggested. And to do this, you need to give enough detail to satisfy questions and any negative reaction and instead garner support and understanding. Creating a sustainable choice comes down to reason and logic. Fact. Data. Numbers. Whatever it is that will substantiate reasoning. And this is what communicating in an engaging way comes down to – providing logical reasons upfront so that a decision is easily justified, having the complete buy-in from all team members concerned. However, there is a word of caution here – don’t launch into listing facts and figures. Instead try to integrate the valuable information naturally into a discussion while still actively engaging. Try the “power of storytelling” when giving justification for a decision, remembering it needs to be in an easy to understand and positively engaging way. [3]

Step Five – positivity, open-mindedness, and honesty

Yes, this may be in stark contrast to the “sound reasoning” we discussed above. But, in delivering the sound reason and logic, you need to remain positive, open-minded, and honest to ensure that any trust and any rapport you have managed to build within your team remains intact. For both the listener and the speaker, remaining positive, assists in retaining the mindset that something can be done, or a goal can be achieved instead of immediately assuming it can’t (being a “Negative Nancy”). It’s about a positive outlook that is clear for all to see. Likewise, keeping an open mind where you are open to possibilities will result in a far better result than if you naysay every idea put forward. Lastly, trust is crucial when people are working in a team. Everyone involved needs to know that they can rely on one another to “have their back”, to do what they say they will do and to be honest about their intentions. Sure, this may amount to “blue skies” thinking. But in an ideal world, one where there is effective communication – positivity, open-mindedness, and honesty are key in ensuring any message delivered, is done in a way that encourages a positive outlook and engagement in what could otherwise be a difficult situation. [1] 

Step Six  – Action

It’s at this point that you need to ask for action. Communicating effectively involves asking for a resolution to something. It involves asking for action. If you have followed the steps above, you’ll have made whoever you are speaking to feel comfortable, engaged with and listened to. You’ll have provided sound reasoning for a decision and will have (undoubtedly) provided a solution to the issue/problem. But that is not enough. You cannot assume that someone in your team is going to take action after a discussion. You need to ask for follow-through by asking team members to commit to doing something. It could be as simple as sending an email or calling someone. Whatever it is, there needs to be an action point at the end of the conversation. [3]

Step Seven  – show you care

It’s important to remember that the recipient’s of your communication are human beings. Real people who have their own stresses, hopes, fears, distractions, personal problems, and challenges. It’s therefore important to remember – before sending out an email or jumping on a MS Teams call – to remember you are just one human being dealing with another human being. And because of that, exercising care is important – now more than ever. With some team members working remotely and others working in the office, checking in with one another every now and again, asking how they are doing, following up if you know of a personal problem, shows care. And it really doesn’t have to take an inordinate amount of time. But check in. It will be so worth it. [4]

Different personalities

Effective Workplace Communication - Learning how to talk the talk

It’s worthwhile to repeat that different personality types will need different things. 

Take myself for instance. Throughout my career I’ve always needed a softer approach when it comes to communication or receiving instructions, criticism and when delivering on required tasks. 

It’s not that I am weak or particularly sensitive, it’s just my personality type. The problem is, it was often difficult communicating this to leaders and team members. Maybe because they simply didn’t understand that there are so many different personality types all requiring a different approach. 

It would’ve been so much easier on me had the leaders I worked for invested in a way to understand different personality types within their teams. And this is where the Enneagram can become invaluable to a diverse team all having diverse needs. 

As you may recall in the last article – Investing in You – The World of the Enneagram – I set out just  how beneficial taking the Enneagram was in better understanding myself and the reasons why I do the things that I do. It has highlighted my core motivations and the impact they have on my personality, how I think, how I feel and how I take action.

The Enneagram has been invaluable in my journey of self-discovery, self-development, relationship building, how I can better resolve conflict according to my own personality type and how I can work better in a team.

And I think for anyone looking to better understand team dynamics, the following found on the Braving Boundaries website is highly enlightening – 

“The power of the Enneagram lies in its subtle complexity, in its flexibility, and in its open-endedness, allowing it to take into account the myriad characteristics of human personality, how these traits blend in each person, and how they change depending on circumstances.

The Enneagram is all about the WHY. It delves into our motivations and explains why we do the things we do. It offers profound insights into what makes us tick, such as the unconscious fears buried deep in our psyches that affect our everyday decisions.”

The feedback session – as I said previously – was where I was able to gain a real understanding of my personality or archetype style. It’s how I got better acquainted with myself. It’s how I have been able to implement the changes suggested to me in the report. 

And for any team in any business, this would be worth its weight in gold. The perfect way to ensure a harmonious working environment, as well as effective, positive communication. 

To find out more about the Enneagram Team Session and how you can both better understand team members within your organisation whilst also discovering ways you can improve your own communication skills, take a look at the Braving Boundaries website and get in touch with Frieda Levycky today. There are fantastic programmes for both individuals and teams.

Truly invest in yourself, your team and ensure a positive, harmonious working environment!

Book a Team Enneagram Sessions with Frieda Levycky

References

[1] Beqiri, G. (2021, February 15). Communication Skills in the Workplace. https://virtualspeech.com/blog/communication-skills-in-the-workplace

[2] Skills You Need. (n.d.). Active Listening. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html 

[3] Tony Robbins. (n.d.) How can I communicate more effectively? https://www.tonyrobbins.com/ask-tony/effective-communication/#:~:text=How%20to%20get%20people%20to,solutions%20and%20ask%20for%20action 

[4] Cookes-Campbell, A. (2022, July 14). Why Communication is Key in the Workplace and Ways to Improve. https://www.betterup.com/blog/why-communication-is-key-to-workplace-and-how-to-improve-skills 

About the writer, Alicia Koch, Founder of The Legal Belletrist.

Alicia, an admitted attorney with over 10 years PQE, and now a legal writer and researcher, has established The Legal Belletrist to assist companies (in different sectors) to write well-researched articles that speak to each company’s core business, enabling growth and commercialism.

Click here to visit The Legal Belletrist website.

Email: alicia@thebelletrist.com 

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