We spend a lot of time at work. So when conversations with our co-workers turn sour, it can create ripples throughout our work sphere and spill over into other areas of our lives. While we are often admonished to keep things professional, co-worker communication can be a source of unnecessary conflict. Here are five tips to improve your communication with co-workers.
1. Pay attention to communication style: Each individual has a unique communication style that is shaped by personality, the family’s communication style, gender, and other factors. First become aware of your own style then pay attention to your co-worker’s style.
2. Adapt yourself to your audience: Communication experts tell us how important it is to tailor our messages to the audience in order to be effective. This means setting aside what we want to say to fashion our messages to fit what the other person needs to hear. It can be tough to change our focus, but our communication will benefit (not to mention our co-worker).
3. Listen well: Too often we only hear the words, but we fail to listen to the meaning of what others say to us. We also fail to pay attention because we are busy formulating a response. Listening well means trying to understand what the other person is saying from their perspective, not our own, and hearing the meaning behind the words.
4. Be clear and clarify: In communication there is a saying, “I know you think you know what you think I said.” The point is, misunderstandings happen because what one person means is not what the other person interprets. So, it is important to be as clear as you can in your own speech and clarify what you think the other person means to check your interpretation. You might say, “So what I hear you saying is …(repeat what they said in your own words)… is that right?” This gives the other person the opportunity to clarify.
5. Remember you’re on the same team: When conflict or misunderstandings arise, it is easy to take an adversarial approach to communication, posing the other person as your opposition. This is not constructive. It is better to view communication as the means to work together to find solutions.