A quick search on how to improve communication skills with coworkers will land you with very neurotypical suggestions: maintain eye contact, always speak verbally and in person, or be mindful of your body language. For obvious reasons, these suggestions won’t work for everyone. No matter who you are, navigating communication in the workplace can be tough simply because we are all completely different even if we have the same goals. Today we want to examine more non-traditional, inclusive ways of improving communication skills. All it takes is individual evaluation and practice.
There are four types of communication in the workplace:
- Non-verbal (aka body language)
All forms of communication are valid! The goal is to ensure you’re consistent with your comfort around which types you use. And when you’re not consistent (because we’re all human with different communication skills) you can at least pinpoint what went awry and navigate how to improve for next time.
First: Know your goal
If your goal is to get to know your own tried-and-true method of communication, then your focus is on improving your style and communicating it to others. If you already know yourself but want to get to know others, then you might start with a few coworkers you interact with every single day. All of this work should be done to improve communication, but you need to start with yourself and work your way out. Communication is a two-way street and better connections take time!
Be true to yourself
Examine each type of communication style. Which ones do you gravitate toward? Which ones are a struggle for you? Look into what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable. Ask yourself which style your workplace seems to prefer—are you in a mostly Slack-based workplace or a meetings-only workplace? Finally, ask yourself where your style fits in this environment and in which areas you would like to get stronger.
Ask for feedback
Feedback will tell you what others notice about you. For example, maybe your coworker tells you that you speak in too many metaphors in situations where you need to be direct. This feedback doesn’t mean you need to stop thinking metaphorically entirely. But in situations where you need to provide directions or feedback, leave out the metaphors. Save them for your most creative work instead, like concepting campaigns or brainstorming designs.
As we’ve pointed out, everyone is inherently unique with their communication style. Patience goes a long way when you’re trying to communicate. For one, it helps prevent any escalation between two people, and, in rare circumstances where conversations are getting heated, showing or mirroring patience can help de-escalate any unwanted communication. Refocus the conversation on your shared goal, find commonality, find differences, and patiently work them out together.
Along with patience comes empathy. It’s always great to ask coworkers what their preferred method of communication is and then communicate in the same way (if you’re able). For example, you might be most comfortable with face-to-face verbal communication but your coworker very much prefers to think first and write their thoughts in emails. If you get to know this about them, then you’ll be able to communicate more effectively.
TLDR; Always remember that communication goes both ways. We’re each responsible for knowing ourselves and how we best communicate, but it is very rewarding to get to know on a deeper level how your coworkers communicate. Leading each conversation with patience and empathy can help you both arrive at better outcomes, evolving your workplace communication from surface-level to intuitive.
Looking for more advice? Our blog can help.