Communication in the workplace is very important; we all know this. According to Job Outlook 2005 (Bethlehem, PA: National Association of Colleges and Employers) it is the number one skill that employers want in their employees. Communication skills contribute to interpersonal skills and teamwork skills, which means relating well with others, whether it be clients or other workmates. Some communication skills come easily to us, like being assertive, speaking up at meetings, or writing effective emails. Yet other skills are not so easy for everyone. We all have our strengths and areas to improve. So how can you start improving your communication skills in the areas you need to?
First of all, it is important to know the difference between passive, aggressive, and assertive communication. Passive communicators are afraid to speak up, avoid direct eye contact, and agree with others even when they don’t really agree. Aggressive communicators interrupt and intimidate others, speak loudly, and try to control groups. Assertive communicators speak openly in a conversational tone, have good eye contact, and value themselves and others. We obviously want to be assertive communicators in the workplace, but how? Here are three ways to do so, whether you are just getting started in your industry or new job or you are an experienced professional.
Speak up. Part of being assertive means speaking up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to state your opinion. For example, if someone interrupts you while you are working on a project, let them know it’s not a good time. Offer another time to talk. For example, you could say, “I am right in the middle of a project. I will be done at 5 p.m. Could we chat at 5:15 p.m.?” If someone offers unsolicited advice, let them know you appreciate that they want to help, but don’t automatically agree to put it into practice. Something like, “Thanks for the tip. I’ll consider it.” This validates the other person’s opinion without compromising your own. If you are facing a difficult conversation, prepare beforehand. Action Tip: Ask a trusted family member or friend for help with how to word what you need to say.
Manage up. Do what you can to make your manager’s job easier. Get to know their conversational style and how they like to be communicated with. If it’s appropriate, ask them what you can do to better communicate with them through the day. For example, ask them how often they would like you to update them while you are working on an important project. Once you have agreed on a plan, do what you can to exceed their expectations. Avoid office politics; just do your job. Action Tip: Have a conversation with your boss within the next two weeks about expectations regarding communication.
Develop your brand. “Personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.” –Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon.com. This includes who you are, what you do, and what you’re known for in the office. Who you are includes who you serve, but think broader than just your boss. What you do includes the benefits you provide and what you’re known for includes how you deliver those benefits as well. For example, “I deliver effective marketing strategies on time and under budget by quickly yet comprehensively understanding a company’s culture and marketing needs and building consensus around the resulting message.” Your branding statement is similar to an elevator pitch, but longer. Take a few minutes to jot down some thoughts about your personal brand. Action Tip: Once you have started thinking about your personal brand, decide how you can manage your brand. This could be a greater presence in your industry through better networking, participating more at conferences, or more effective communication at your organization.
Guest Blogger Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach and founder of HallieCrawford.com. Her team of coaches help people find their dream job and make it a reality. She is regularly featured as an expert in the media including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and US News & World Report. Visit her website at www.HallieCrawford.com for more information about her team's career coaching services. Set up a Complimentary Career Strategy Session with Hallie Crawford to get advice on your career goals. *Mention you saw us on Talent Zoo and receive a free bonus if you purchase a product or sign up for coaching.*
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