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5 Steps to Transform the Way You Communicate With Your Colleagues

Communicating with others in the workplace is unfortunately not always a pleasant experience. The language you use can sometimes be misconstrued by your coworkers or not reflect your original intent.

So how can we become better communicators, specifically when it comes to dealing with difficult coworkers? During a recent online training, career coach Andy Gingrich relayed some of his best tips and practices about communicating effectively as a part of our NextGen Leadership series. He spoke passionately about finding your “special sauce,” or the communication formula that works best for you, and committing to making a change in your daily routine. Hopefully, these five steps can help you achieve more effective communication in your work life as well!

  1. Make specific requests

One of Gingrich’s biggest tips was to master the formula of making requests. It’s important to say exactly what you want, when you want it, from whom you want it, and how you want it done. All of these elements provide significant information about your intentions and leave an open entrance for a response from your coworkers.

  1. Be conscious of your mood

Gingrich noted that the right conversation in the wrong mood is the wrong conversation. Although your request might be well intended, in the wrong mood it can come across as a demand and further complicate the communication. If you’re having a difficult time with a situation, make sure to pause and think logically about your next steps. There’s nothing wrong with putting off a tough conversation until the next day if it will allow you to be better prepared for the confrontation.

  1. Provide sufficient context

Most problems arise when the other party is not given enough context about the request. When speaking with your coworkers about a particular project or situation it’s imperative that you ask follow-up questions to clarify any miscommunications. Even if you think you fully understood what they were trying to communicate to you, repeat their words back to them to see if that was actually what they meant. If they’re missing certain context from their request, you’ll be able to determine which parts need more clarification once they’ve considered what they said.

  1. Make a choice

Anytime you receive a request from a colleague, keep in mind that you have a choice of how you can respond. You have the right to choose to accept the request, decline it, commit to it in a certain timeline, or counter the request. When you choose to commit to a request you are not necessarily agreeing to it. A commitment merely signifies that you understand their intention, but you have not yet come to a decision. It does, however, inform your coworker that you are committing to have an answer to them by a specific time. Your understanding of the timeline should be relayed to your coworker to eliminate any confusion. On the other hand, a counteroffer implies that you do not accept the request as is, but if the terms of the request improve you would be willing to accept a new offer.

  1. Always respond to a request

Once you decide on a choice, make sure to follow through. While answering the audience’s questions, Gingrich stressed that it’s essential to “make the commitment to consistently form and encourage requests that create connection and align expectations.” In order to create an environment that encourages successful communication, you also have to acknowledge the part that you play in the conversation as well. Complete the communication by responding to the request in an appropriate and timely manner. If done well, hopefully, others will follow suit!

Got any communication tips that weren’t mentioned? Make sure to drop them in the comment section below!

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Rosanne Douglas

Simple, but effective tips! One thing I would add is to regularly solicit feedback on communication mechanisms. Find out if the methods and style you are using are benefiting your co-workers, supervisors, and/or subordinates. There is always room for improvement.