There are many ways that people communicate throughout the world, including facial expressions, verbal cues, and body language. Since there are many ways to convey a message, it’s important to make sure one is clear in their intent when communicating. This is especially true in the workplace when you’re engaged with a team to finish an important task or project.
Here are three common workplace communication barriers (from PCC Professional Development and Training) and how to address or avoid them:
1. Reacting Instead of Responding
Whether it’s in the workplace or at home, sometimes we receive news that makes us react negatively, and that can cause a domino effect with other people involved. They may attempt to defend themselves while also losing their trust or respect for you. However, when your emotions take over, it often makes matters worse.
When receiving news that gets you all worked up, take a few deep breaths, go for a walk, and take some time to think about the situation. Attempt to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and empathize with what they said or did. Take into consideration the medium that they used to communicate, which a lot of times might be text messages or emails, and can easily be misinterpreted. If you take a moment to calm down before responding, it can help diffuse a situation before it even starts.
2. Treating Everyone the Same Way
While it’s true that everyone needs to be treated fairly, not all people need to be treated the same. Everyone has their own identity and is unique in their own way, therefore working with a mix of personalities and communication styles requires special attention.
The key to figuring out people’s individual communication preferences is to listen. Like in any relationship, it takes time to figure out what makes people tick. If you are putting in some effort to get to know someone, then you can pick up on small cues that can help you communicate with them on a deeper level. Being observant of how people react and respond, especially in a professional environment, can help guide your communication.
3. Assuming Your Message is Understood
Sometimes a message can get lost in translation if you are not clear in your communication, so it’s never safe to assume that everyone understands what you’re talking about. Without even realizing it, people could misinterpret what you’re saying based on your tone or expressions, and it could leave them feeling stressed or confused, possibly bringing tension to the workplace.
Learn about yourself and your personal communication style, trying to understand how it relates to others. Maybe practice a work speech in front of a friend or confidant, and give them the opportunity to ask questions or clarify certain points before bringing the speech or presentation to your team. Avoid using vague language like terms such as “always” or “never” and pay attention to your own nonverbal cues. Invite questions and engagement to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Fortunately, the CLIMB Center offers a series of courses that help people communicate more effectively through active listening, understanding emotional intelligence, working with difficult people, and how to deal with common communication challenges. Hopefully, by pointing out these different types of interactions, it can help you overcome communication challenges to become a better coworker and manager.
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