Do you feel unheard at your workplace? Do you think that your colleagues, team members don’t heed your advice as often as you would like? Do you wish for someone to give you a how-to guide that would magically change all of that? Well, in that case, do read on! We will share seven communication tips to gain respect at work— from your team members, co-workers to your boss. So, here goes!
1. Listen Actively
Listening actively is the first among communication tips. Imagine that a colleague is giving the most important presentation of his life and there are 10-15 people huddled in a conference room and you say to yourself, “Let me use this time productively and get through a few emails”. That is the moment you deprive yourself of a chance to listen actively. Now, imagine that instead of entering that room with a laptop, you entered with a notepad and a pen, took notes as your colleague went through his presentations, and by the time he got to the Q&A, you already had two pertinent questions to ask. It is as clear as day that you were ‘listening actively’ only in one of these scenarios. So, here’s a handy list of dos and don’ts to help you listen better:
- Eyes must be focused on the speaker and engaged while they speak; face must be relaxed with a smile every now and then.
- Nods are often overlooked but are hugely important in signalling to the speaker that you are engaging with the material.
- Looking expressionless and/or bored
2. Speak Less
Think of this as an extension of listening actively. We often fall into the trap of thinking that the more we speak in a meeting, the more we are likely to signal to everyone that we are engaged. Don’t we all know about that one person who is diligently taking notes while other people try to speak over one another in a show of strength? And when it is his/her chance to speak, then you can almost sense a silence enveloping over the entire room because one skill this person has mastered (actually two, because he/she is an active listener!) is knowing when/how much to speak. Here are some strategies to follow and some pitfalls to avoid:
- Bullet Points: Prepare bullet points before entering a meeting (you will be setting yourself up for failure if you think you can ‘wing it’). Remind yourself that intuition is no substitute for preparation.
- Considered Pauses: Take a pause and a few deep breaths to centre your confidence (this would give you the courage to speak confidently) and remind yourself that speaking up in a meeting isn’t about power play but about furthering the cause of your team/organisation.
- Showing off: You are someone who says something (in a bid to impress your peers and supervisor) that makes you sound smart but doesn’t add anything to a meeting. This might work to your advantage even for a few times, but soon people will catch up and lose interest even if you, then, have anything meaningful to offer.
- One-to-one vs one-to-many: You say something that adds value to only one participant. Consider carefully whether your inputs affect the room as a whole. If not, your comments should be better reserved for a one-on-one conversation.
3. Solicit Opinions
Speaking of one-on-one discussions, it is vital to bring people along in your journey. People open up when they are given the respect they deserve. Even if you know what it is that you want to do, take the time to explain your thought process to people. Once they feel included in the process, they will give their inputs without any fear of judgment because of how comfortable you have made them feel.
4. Value Opinions
This is the most important among communication tips. Increasingly, we find ourselves living in a world where dissension is a ‘dirty word’ but valuing opinions other than our own not only builds consensus but also enables us to grow as a professional and a human being. In fact, letting people know that we respect their opinion(s) even though we may not see eye-to-eye with them fosters respectful dialogue. So, the next time if you have an urge to dismiss someone’s opinion (just for that reason!) take a step back and really think where they are coming from, you will be surprised to see that you have more in common than you would have yourself believe.
5. Become an expert
The surest way to gain respect at work is to ‘know what you are talking about. Take online classes, attend seminars, educate yourself on every aspect of the work you do. As your knowledge base increases, so would your confidence. And that is when you will see people gravitating toward you. With great knowledge, though, comes great responsibility! As important as it is to know about your strengths, it’s at least equally important to know what falls outside of your domain. The only way to foster a collaborative culture is to empower people around you by encouraging them constantly.
6. Be Direct
Posing questions instead of making direct requests isn’t a sign of being respectful, it is a sign of diffidence. There are times when rather than ask a question directly, we dress it up under the guise of niceties and vagueness and those euphemisms might make you seem less confrontational, but in reality, they make you less assertive, hurting everyone in the process. The best way to kick this bad habit is to start articulating your requests in clear, unambiguous writing.
7. Pick your Battles
Remember that sometimes you have to lose a few battles to win a war! If you turn into someone who rather than quibble over trivial details takes the long view then not only will you see your focus shift on the ‘big picture, but also you gain the respect of your colleagues, team members, and supervisor(s) alike.
We are not saying that you using these tools will transform your communication tips overnight (don’t we all know that overnight success is an oxymoron!), but perseverance is the only key to becoming the communicator you always wanted to be. We will leave you with this quote.
When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before. Perfect these communication tips and you will gain respect at your workplace.
—Atomic Habits, James Clear