Google has existed for fewer than 20 years, and it’s already changed the world in more ways than you can count. While Google’s size makes it a lightning rod for debate, there are clearly many things that the company gets right. How does such a large company manage to stay on the cutting edge?
It’s not just about hiring dedicated, intelligent employees, creating a vibrant company culture, or having tremendous resources. Innovation requires communication, and communication requires strong leadership. Let’s take a look at some practical ways you can inspire strong workplace communication to the benefit of your business.
The Conversation Before The Conversation
When you’re at work, you have many demands on your time, just like your colleagues. You don’t want to ignore your colleagues, but you also don’t want to waste your time when it’s often in short supply. So if you want to start a conversation, make the stakes clear up front. In an article for Forbes, contributor Amy Rees Anderson relays three questions you should answer at the start of any conversation:
- Is the topic of conversation going to be painful?
- How long will the conversation take?
- When the conversation is over, what will you want from me?
By clearly answering these questions, you can be sure that you will have the full attention of your colleague.
Watch Your Language
Words are powerful, but delicate. Choose the wrong phrasing, and you can send a negative message without even realizing that you’re doing it. By keeping your language positive, you encourage open conversation and collaboration in the office.
- You’ve heard of the “compliment sandwich” concept, or something like it. If you need to offer constructive criticism, begin and end by saying something positive. That makes the criticism in the middle easier to take.
- You can also blunt the sharper edges of constructive criticism through your choice of words. Telling someone they’ve done a “terrible job” will offend them. “You have some interesting ideas here, but the client is looking for something different” is ultimately a much more productive way of saying the same thing.
- Watching your language also means trying not to offend people. That means not swearing or using other language that’s obviously offensive, but there’s more to it. You also need to respect the diverse cultural backgrounds of your employees.
Body Language Counts
Words are just one part of a conversation. In fact, sometimes words are only a footnote to conversational cues like body language and facial expressions. If you want to communicate effectively, remain aware of the cues you’re giving off.
- Show that you are paying attention by looking at the person you’re talking to, and making eye contact. That may seem overly simple, but not when you think about all of the distractions you can find in almost any office.
- It’s not always easy to remain conscious of your body language during a conversation, but you can train yourself to do it over time. Even a simple smile or nod of the head can be powerful and assuring, in the right context.
Don’t Forget to Listen!
Nobody wants to be in a one-sided conversation. Perhaps more than body language, word choice, or anything else, demonstrating that you’re listening is the sure way to encourage productive communication. There are no shortcuts to listening. You’ve just got to be present in the conversation.
- Asking questions is a great way to show that you’re listening, even if you already know the answers. By asking a specific question, you show your colleague that you are interested in what they have to say and want to know more.
- Don’t fall into the classic trap of simply making it look like you’re listening. You can use body language to indicate that you’re listening, but make sure to back it up by actually paying attention.
There are some key differences, but overall communicating effectively at work is not much different from communicating effectively anywhere else. People want to know that you’re paying attention, and interested in what they have to say. They want to be treated with respect, and encouraged to think with an open mind. Follow these simple tenets of effective conversation, and the great ideas that result will speak for themselves.
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