Three Communication Skills That Can Turn Your Workplace Around

Communication skills are at the core of workplace culture.

I didn’t have a great record of success when I started a job in 1998 managing 900+ volunteers for a sheriff’s office. I lost more volunteers than I kept! Then, I learned that the number one reason why people leave their workplace, volunteer or paid, is due to a poor relationship with their boss. That was exactly why I lost my volunteers; I didn’t have the right communication skills to build a positive relationship with my hires.

After taking a DiSC® workshop, I realized that if I was serious about decreasing my turnover rate, I needed to become more sensitive to the different communication styles people expressed.

Did that mean that to be successful I need to be a touchy-feely manager? I hoped not. Did it mean to be a successful manager I must write smiley notes every day to my people? I prayed not. Did it mean I needed to keep an updated list of birthdays, anniversaries, children, and grandchildren’s birthdays, and then send cards and gifts for all of these? Heavens no! Although people deeply appreciate it if you do any of these, they aren’t necessary to retain employees.

In a nutshell, the workshop taught me that a successful communicator becomes increasingly more present in his or her work conversations. A good communicator listenes to each worker and responds to the person as the unique individual that they are. It further meant that I daily practiced active listening.

Three simple, easy-to-practice communication skills in the workplace turned everything around for me. They are still the most effective communication skills I use! Sarcastic spouse, gossiping coworker, angry customer, passive-aggressive vendor, or distant boss – these three communication skills work consistently.

# 1. Listen Deeply

Whether it’s verbal communication or written communication, are you sure you’ve heard the correct message? Clear your mind, concentrate, and be curious in order to really improve your listening skills.

Put everything out of your head and just listen to the speaker. Make eye contact with them. Going further, listen for what is behind the words coworkers speak and discover the deeper meaning, especially in complaints, lengthy explanations, or excuses. Remember that each person has a past that they filter the present through. Set your judgments aside.

Most communication is nonverbal, so turn up your sensitivity to read your staff member’s facial expression, body language, and tone of voice. Apply your natural curiosity to terse responses, or overly emotional ones. Sort through the exterior of what is said by looking for what is meant. Ask yourself: what emotion is showing up, what frustration is being voiced? Listening deeply allows you to target their irritation and then more effectively manage it.

Active listening includes nodding to show agreement or understanding, asking targeted questions, and responding to cues from the speaker. Be attentive. Observe closely to identify subtle requests to connect. Aim to turn towards 80% of their bids for attention.

Listening skills don’t end where the spoken word does, and written communication strips away the nonverbal factors we heavily rely upon. While attuning yourself to feelings is still important, it becomes even more crucial to clarify and ensure you’ve got the right message. Having strong communication skills means holding back from making assumptions and extending grace to those around you, showing sensitivity to how the written word can be open to many different interpretations.

# 2. Read Their Communication Style

Pay close attention to the way your worker communicates – are they more chatty, more thoughtful and reflective, do they worry more about others, are they fastidious, concerned about details, focus on the big picture, loud talkers, quiet storytellers, or dramatic? What is their standard written tone and response rate to emails?

By building a baseline for everyone’s communication style, it becomes easier and easier to identify when they have concerns or are off their game.

It is HUGE to learn an individual’s style and respond to their behaviors or differences in a way that says, “I get you and your differences from me, and it’s OK.” Instead, managers often miss the overt cues employees manifest as they beg to be understood. When each of us feels understood, we relax and can then listen to the other person. This seems like a no-brainer, yet it is one of the greatest frustrations Advisicon’s workplace culture surveys consistently reveal.

# 3. Mirroring

When a coworker is attempting to convey something and they become agitated or begin to shut down, mirroring is one of the greatest tools you can use to stop the downward spiral. It tells the other person you’re listening and reinforces how well you’re listening. This mirroring step is as simple as repeating back to the other person what they said. To communicate effectively, tell them what you heard them say using your own interpretation.

The beauty of mirroring is that when you get it correct, the person instantly nods. That’s always a good sign, and the agitation or shut down reverse. However, if you didn’t interpret correctly in the first try, the person can correct you, giving you a second chance, and sometimes even a third. People are more forgiving when you try!

Communication skills in the workplace don’t stop at the verbal level. Mirror body language to achieve a deeper level of oneness. While it may feel a little awkward at first, syncing yourself on a physical level subconsciously facilitates a deeper connection. The other person will instinctively feel understood and comfortable with your “vibe.”

Keep in mind, mirroring should never cross the line into mocking. Take care to not be too obvious and make it a priority to maintain a positive communication process.

Likewise, mirroring can also work in written communication. Notice the phrasing within and length of emails. Try to reflect this back to easily get on the same wavelength as your worker.

Final Thoughts

As a professional facilitator and intervention expert, I consistently get results by applying these three communication skills. When you use them over the long haul, you build strong and positive business relationships. Most importantly, your people will stick around.

Above all, if you’ve been held back in your career or feel that your management could improve, brushing up on your communication skills in the workplace is always an excellent first choice.