How to Become an Effective Communicator

When identifying why teams are successful, we often highlight their practices and systems. However, another, arguably equally important reason, is that these teams have at least one effective communicator in their ranks. 

Contrary to what some believe, no one is born knowing the ins and outs of professional communication. Instead, a strong communicator’s success results from a specific set of characteristics and skills. 

That means that with enough goodwill and effort, you can overcome communication difficulties and accomplish your goals. To point you in the right direction, we’ll discuss:

  • Some of the most common characteristics of successful communicators and
  • Our best tips to ensure your voice is heard. 

With that in mind, let’s dive in.

How to become an effective communicator

What is an effective communicator?

Effective communicators express their thoughts clearly but are also mindful of others’ reactions. 

However, people with exemplary communication skills do more than choose their words carefully. 

Before we delve deeper into their other qualities, we’ll briefly touch on the importance of effective communication

Why is effective communication important?

Good communication is an invaluable tool, whether you’re trying to improve your personal or professional life.  

Most notably, having excellent communication skills can help:

Yet, communication is an interplay of various factors, and learning how to convey your message can be challenging. 

So, why do the interactions seem effortless when you observe those with a firm grasp of all communication elements? 

What looks like an innate ability to speak clearly typically results from several characteristics conducive to fruitful communication. Let’s discuss them in greater detail.

The characteristics of effective communicators

Observing others is one of the simplest ways to glean how to become a better communicator. 

Strong communicators share several qualities regardless of their age, background, and professional niche. 

Consequently, they overcome hurdles quickly and prevent communication breakdowns

Now, let’s discuss their most notable characteristics and use this information to better understand what makes an effective communicator. 

Characteristic #1: Confidence

Confidence has a significant impact on career success, and some psychologists suggest it’s comprised of two elements:

  • Locus of control and
  • Self-efficacy. 

The term “locus of control” stands for a person’s belief in their ability to change their circumstances. We can draw confidence from either an internal or external locus of control. When it’s internal, we believe that success comes from our effort and actions. 

On the other hand, when we draw from an external locus of control, we think that elements outside our control determine our fate. 

Strong communicators tend to have an internal locus, which explains their high levels of self-confidence even in the face of adversity. 

Self-efficacy, another tenet of confidence, is our belief we can thrive in specific circumstances. For example, confident communicators are more likely to hope for a positive outcome when dealing with a difficult task. 

Self-efficacy allows people to respond rationally to criticism, and you can foster it by:

  • Asking for feedback,
  • Focusing on positive takeaways from your experiences, and
  • Minimizing negative self-talk

In addition to the above points, there are other ways you can build confidence, including:

  • Being yourself: Don’t say something because you think it will appeal to others. You’ll only create unnecessary stress and tension and become stuck in an unpleasant loop of people-pleasing. 
  • Maintaining eye contact: Effective communicators know that nonverbal cues are just as important as their words. Thus, they use eye contact to reinforce the emotional undertone of their messages. 

Even if your confidence isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can still communicate effectively by following this advice. 

Gradual changes make a big impact over time, and you soon won’t have to worry about imposter syndrome hampering your self-confidence. 

Example of confidence

To see how confidence benefits communication, we’ll join Lexie, a product manager, at a team meeting. 

During the meeting, Lexie proposes a new strategy for completing a project. However, a few team members raise concerns about the plan’s feasibility. 

Instead of becoming combative, Lexie listens carefully to their feedback and asks clarifying questions to understand their position.

After listening to their input, Lexie calmly explains the rationale behind her proposal and provides concrete examples of how the strategy has worked successfully before. 

She also invites the team members to offer improvement suggestions and encourages an open dialogue.

By standing behind her idea while actively listening to feedback and encouraging collaboration, Lexie effectively communicates her vision and empowers the team to collaborate toward achieving their shared goal. 

Characteristic #2: Assertiveness

Few interactions yield the desired results without the appropriate level of assertiveness. 

Moreover, this social skill is crucial for effective communication and is one of the most fruitful communication styles a person can adopt. 

Assertive communicators can:

  • Present both positive and negative feelings and ideas in a direct, honest, and open way,
  • Assert their rights and opinions while also respecting the rights and views of others, and
  • Take responsibility for their actions without deflecting blame.

As a result, people with this communication style can foster a work environment that involves:

To become more assertive, aim to be:

  • Clear,
  • Direct, and 
  • Honest.

Additionally, before and after communicating with others, ask yourself these questions:

  • What does this person require from me?
  • How do I feel about this situation?
  • What is my interlocutor thinking and feeling about these circumstances?
  • What communication channel fits our needs the best  email, voice call, or video call?

One of the simplest ways to develop assertiveness is using the DESC script. The meaning of this acronym is:

  • Describe: Describe the situation in an unbiased and objective manner. 
  • Express: State your thoughts and feelings about the situation. 
  • Specify: Say which outcome is the most desirable. 
  • Consequences: Specify the positive and negative consequences. 

The DESC script should allow you to facilitate effective communication by decreasing anger and defensiveness. Anger, in particular, is a strong emotion and is one of the most common communication barriers

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip 

Many find it difficult to be assertive when working remotely. If you suspect this applies to you, read more about the topic in this blog post:

Example of assertiveness

How would an assertive communicator react at work when feeling overwhelmed?

Let’s look at Karen, a project manager at a large company that takes on 50 client projects per year. 

Her boss wants her to take on the company’s most important project for that year because he believes she is more than capable of handling the project. 

Karen agrees to take on the project but immediately feels overwhelmed when she gets the materials and the deadlines. 

She wants to perform well and doesn’t want to disappoint her client or boss, but she cannot finish all her assigned work alone. 

So, she sends a message explaining her position.

Karen reaches out to Jamie
Karen reaches out to Jamie via Pumble, a business communication app

The boss agrees that the workload is unrealistic. He admires Karen’s determination to finish a smaller number of projects with higher quality rather than to dive into multiple projects and leave half of them unfinished.

Together, they identify the project the boss can delegate to another project manager, thus freeing Karen’s time to focus on her newest project.

Characteristic #3: Inclusivity

Skilled communicators take into account all communication participants. Moreover, they:

  • Respect different viewpoints,
  • Hear out those who disagree with their arguments
  • Share their ideas freely,
  • Don’t shrink from difficult conversations, and
  • Inspire others to do the same

We can see that some of the most significant traits of inclusivity make up what we can call the EACH framework. The acronym signifies 4 components:

  • Empathy: It stipulates the acknowledging of the needs and feelings of others without judgment. 
  • Authenticity: It involves expressing your needs and emotions transparently while respecting others. 
  • Courage: This requires speaking up and taking risks in difficult situations. It compels effective communicators to step outside their comfort zone and confront issues with understanding and compassion. 
  • Humility: It allows us to recognize that everyone has a unique perspective and that no one is always right. It also enables us to remain receptive to feedback and learn from others. 

Aligning our behavior with this model can create a culture of empowerment that engenders effective communication. 

Furthermore, it helps us bridge differences and build strong relationships, which should be the goal of all effective communicators. 

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

To learn more about inclusivity in workplace communication, as well as diversity and equity, see this blog post:

Example of inclusivity

Inclusivity is a powerful asset for effective communicators in leadership positions. 

Let’s review how it helps Karen, a team leader, reach out to a new hire. 

Although the employee has been with the company for 3 months, Karen has noticed he’s still struggling with the workload. So, instead of immediately reprimanding him and demanding justifications, Karen opens communication with empathy and humility. 

Karen connects with John
Karen connects with John using Pumble, a team communication app

Notice that there’s no blaming or demands. 

Instead, the purpose of Karen’s message is to inspire the employee to speak up about his needs without fear. 

Characteristic #4: Participation in the feedback cycle

The feedback cycle refers to how we receive and respond to messages during communication. Rather than simply rejecting or accepting information, effective communicators take the time to actively analyze and understand it. 

Consequently, they can find ways to motivate and guide their coworkers and team members. 

Since feedback rests on communication that strengthens relationships, we should know both how to request and provide constructive criticism. 

Keep in mind that giving feedback should never be:

  • Done in public,
  • Used as punishment, or
  • Done aggressively or without assertiveness

Instead, try following the GROW model during your next feedback session. The model was inspired by Timothy Gallwey, a famous tennis coach, who used a similar strategy to help his players up their performance.

The acronym stands for:

  • Goals,
  • Reality,
  • Options, and
  • Way Forward.

So, adopting the method involves the following stages:

  • Defining the objectives a person is expected to meet,
  • Agreeing on the facts supporting the objectives,
  • Reviewing all options before arriving at a joint decision
  • Deciding which actions should be taken, and
  • Establishing clear deadlines

Communicators who use the GROW model hold productive feedback sessions and work on motivating their coworkers. Besides being clear and direct, they’re also mindful of their body language to avoid a negative reaction from their interlocutor. 

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Giving feedback is only one part of the feedback cycle. 

If you feel you need a bit of help in requesting feedback, check out this blog post:

Example of giving feedback

Applying the GROW model during feedback sessions allows communicators to find ways to resolve pressing issues quickly. 

Here’s how John, head of a Sales team at a small company, summarizes his insights after a meeting.

John keeps his colleagues in the loop
John keeps his team in the loop using Pumble, a team communication app

Not only is the team now aware of their new responsibilities, but they know who will assist them in fulfilling their duties. 

At their next meeting, they can share their progress and see whether this strategy is leading them toward the desired outcome. 

Characteristic #5: Self-awareness

Self-awareness is just what it sounds like — the ability to be aware of yourself as you are and see yourself as clearly and objectively as possible through reflection and introspection. 

According to some research, self-awareness is crucial for communication in the workplace and overall job-related well-being.

Organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich has studied this elusive communication skill and found that most people tend to think they are self-aware. Still, only 10–15% genuinely are, as she expounded in an HBR article.

Furthermore, she recognizes two types of self-awareness:

  • Internal self-awareness: The way we see ourselves (our aspirations, values, passions, etc.) and our impact on others and
  • External self-awareness: The understanding of how other people perceive us.

Neither of these types is superior to the other, and they are both equally crucial for successful communication. 

Internal self-awareness allows us to understand what we want and need and how to communicate it. In contrast, the external type helps us see things from the other person’s perspective and adjust our behavior accordingly.

Here are some practices to adopt if you want to build your self-awareness:

  • Evaluate your goals and motives: Think about why you’re communicating, what you’re hoping to achieve, whether you have a hidden agenda, how you feel about your interlocutor, and similar. 
  • Ask friends and family to describe you: Ask your most trusted circle of friends and family to give you their honest view of you as a communicator, with a particular emphasis on what you could improve on.
  • Ask colleagues for feedback: Choose the coworkers who are likely to give you honest and thoughtful feedback and ask them how to improve communication. If your self-awareness levels are low, you might feel hurt and surprised by the comments you hear at first, but acknowledging them is vital for becoming more self-aware.

Example of great self-awareness

For strong communicators, self-awareness is a tool that often alerts them when to shift gears. 

And for Mike, that means not talking about one of his favorite topics. 

Mike is in the break room at work, eating lunch and chatting with a new coworker. 

A discussion about the traffic congestion that morning leads Mike to start talking about a great interest of his — sports cars.

As he elaborates on why a particular sports car is his favorite, he notices his interlocutor seems distracted and bored by the topic. 

He wraps up, apologizes for getting carried away, and asks the new colleague how he has been doing so far at his new job.

Characteristic #6: Respect

Respect is an important element in communication — according to the report The Human Era @ Work, as many as 63% of employees state that being treated with respect by their leaders makes them more satisfied with their jobs. However, research that covered 20,000 employees across the globe has shown that half of the employees don’t feel respected by their bosses

Strong communicators both command respect from others and issue it during their interactions. 

After all, you’ll have difficulty figuring out how to become an effective communicator at work if your coworkers feel disrespected. 

To show respect towards others, you’ll need to:

  • Be polite: Good manners are always necessary, so don’t let a bad day influence how you treat others.
  • Listen attentively: Communication is a two-way street, so don’t forget to listen as much as you talk.
  • Avoid negativity: Never insult or make fun of other people’s ideas, even if you feel frustrated with them.
  • Talk to people (not about them): If you have a problem with an idea, discuss it head-on with the person who had the idea, not behind their back.
  • Refrain from criticizing: Disagreeing with an idea is fine — but nit-picking an idea and patronizing the person who had it can only damage your professional relationship with this person.
  • Treat people equally: It doesn’t matter whether someone is a seasoned senior executive or a junior specialist who just arrived at the company. If both are invited to a meeting to share ideas, listen to both with equal respect.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

For more information on respect in workplace communication, check out the below blog post:

Example of respect

Connor is a young software developer who’s new to the company. However, he has worked on 5 successful products thus far and has a great deal of experience to share. 

While at a stand-up meeting, the team starts talking about a recurring bug they can’t seem to fix.

Connor speaks up because he has experienced similar issues while working on his previous products. 

But, most of the team rebuffs him before he can form a full idea because they don’t know him, and he is young. So, they assume he is “just a new guy” who’s decided to talk to have others take note of him. 

The team leader is familiar with Connor’s background, so they halt the discussion to let Connor speak his mind. 

Led by the example of the team leader and ultimately impressed with what Connor has to offer, the rest of the team listens in silence and refrains from criticizing what they don’t understand about his idea. 

When Connor finishes explaining his idea for the fix, the team lead points out a minor logistics problem in Connor’s plan. But, together, the team finds a solution for the bug.

Characteristic #7: Empathy

A 2021 report from Ernst & Young LLP notes that as many as 46% of employees feel that their employer’s efforts to practice and promote empathy are dishonest. 

However, empathy is worth pursuing, as evident by how it benefits the workplace. According to the 2022 Workplace Empathy Mental Health Report, HR professionals believe empathy is conducive to a psychologically safe environment, and it can: 

  • Increase employee motivation by up to 74%,
  • Improve the selection process of high-quality job applicants by 55%, and
  • Lower turnover rates by 54%. 

Other benefits empathy brings include:

  • An overall boost in productivity,
  • Improved understanding of other people, 
  • Increased cultural competence, and
  • Improved professional relationships.

Moreover, empathy is one of the defining characteristics of effective communicators. 

To become more empathic in communication, you’ll need to:

  • Practice listening, openness, and understanding,
  • Watch out for signs of burnout, overwork, and workaholism in others,
  • Show interest in colleague’s ideas and challenges,
  • Demonstrate the willingness to help out where you can, and
  • Support colleagues who are going through a personal loss.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

For more information on empathic communication, check out this blog post:

Example of empathy

Xavier has been the chemistry teacher at the local elementary school for 5 years now — and he’s just lost his twin brother in a car accident. His colleagues understand this is a difficult time for Xavier and empathize with him.

The math and music teachers have experienced similar personal losses in the past year, so they offered to take Xavier out for lunch and talk about anything he wants to discuss to process the loss. 

Other colleagues have been similarly understanding and open to talk. Whenever Xavier wanted to talk about his loss, they’d listen.

The school’s dean has even sent an open invitation to Xavier in case he wants to discuss taking a vacation. 

Also, the school’s psychologist has extended her condolences and said Xavier could come to her office whenever he wants to talk. 

Xavier feels appreciative that his colleagues have supported him during this difficult time. He’s glad he took the position in this school instead of going abroad 5 years ago.

Characteristic #8: Emotion control

Emotions play a significant role in communication — especially if we consider how often people jump into making decisions solely based on how they feel. 

We can identify positive, negative, and two-fold emotions.

Frederickson’s Broaden-and-Build Theory focuses on positive emotions, highlighting their importance in workplace communication

According to this theory, positive emotions such as joy and gratitude expand our thought-action repertoire. Consequently, they lead to an increase in:

  • Openness to new experiences,
  • Creativity,
  • Flexibility,
  • Coping strategies,
  • Resilience, and
  • Social support. 

On the other hand, negative emotions are often associated with more challenging interactions. They can include feelings such as:

  • Anger, 
  • Frustration, 
  • Sadness, 
  • Anxiety, or 
  • Fear.

These emotions push us to make ill-advised decisions or engage in conflict at the workplace

In communication, negative emotions can be two-fold and have both positive and negative effects. 

Effective communication means managing positive and negative emotions, leveraging both to your advantage. To learn how to control your feelings, try to:

  • Identify your emotions: If all you know is that you’re feeling upset or unbalanced, you need to identify what you’re feeling, when the feeling started, what triggered it, etc.
  • Acknowledge and accept your feelings: Keeping control of your emotions is not the same as repressing them. Psychologists agree that feeling our feelings is essential to our well-being because it points us to a problem that needs addressing.
  • Reframe your thoughts: If you enter a situation (e.g., a business networking event) with a negative attitude (“No one there will like me.”), you’re setting up a lens through which you’ll look at the experience. Advise yourself as you would a good friend in such a situation. Would you accept their irrational fear that no one will like them, or would you advise them to stay open for positive experiences?

Example of emotion control

We’ll look at Sarah, a QA intern at a big tech company, to see how negative emotions can wreak havoc on our mental health

So far, Sarah has received praise from her colleagues and manager and is overall happy with her performance on the team. 

But, a few days before her next team meeting, her manager asks her to talk about her experiences and what she thinks about her previous tasks. The thought of speaking in front of everyone makes Sarah nervous, and she can’t stop doubting herself. 

The day before the meeting, she sits down to reflect on her emotions. After examining her feelings, she realizes that public speaking has always been a sore spot for her. 

She knows she’s done her best at the job and has no reason to second-guess her competency. Since she’s acknowledged these feelings, she outlines what she’ll talk about at the meeting and feels much better afterward. 

Characteristic #9: Stress management 

While stress management may not seem like a typical communication skill, it’s still an ability that strong communicators use to their advantage. 

When under stress, you’re more likely to:

  • Pay insufficient attention to a conversation,
  • Misunderstand or miscommunicate something,
  • Say something you’ll later regret, and
  • Enter into unproductive conflicts.

On the other hand, being less stressed engenders smooth communication.

To alleviate stress at work, the American Psychological Association suggests:

  • Tracking stressors: Identify what’s causing you stress and try to understand your feelings and actions in these instances. 
  • Establishing boundaries: Decide when you’ll be available for work contacts, and avoid checking emails and messages at night. If you work from home, create a work corner or home office to strike a clear balance between your workstation and the rest of your life at home.
  • Developing healthy responses: Identify what helps you relax (e.g., yoga, exercise, hobbies, socializing, etc.).
  • Taking the time to recharge: Manage your workaholic tendencies and “switch off” from work when you’re not on the clock.
  • Relaxing: Try meditation, yoga, and similar mindfulness practices. 
  • Getting support: Accept help from others who can help you manage stress and explore stress management resources (e.g., online information, referrals to mental health professionals, etc.).
  • Talking to a supervisor: Have conversations with superiors about employer-sponsored wellness resources.

Example of proper stress management

Without proper stress management, we’re more likely to lose our temper and produce low-quality work. For this reason, Stella decides it’s time for a change. 

She is a history teacher at the local high school, which currently focuses on providing virtual lessons. 

She feels stressed on Mondays, which causes her to miscommunicate and misunderstand information during online faculty meetings.

However, she’s decided to tackle this problem and improve her mental health and productivity. 

She first realizes the faculty meetings occur immediately before her lessons with a challenging group of students who tend to sabotage her classes — they pretend their internet connection is down. 

Then they send her messages about assignments before and after the lessons. This is probably the situation that causes the stress and lowers her efficiency at the faculty meetings. 

Next, she decides to instigate an official policy that prescribes the hours students can contact her.

Additionally, she decides to take her breaks and vacation days “more seriously” in the upcoming period. Also, she combines her 10-minute yoga exercises with mindful meditation for a better effect.

Finally, Stella discloses her troubles to her colleagues who teach the same problematic students. Together, they share insights and ideas for improvement.

Tips on how to become an effective communicator

Whether you’re delivering a presentation or just trying to express your feelings, you should be able to do so clearly and confidently. And that’s sometimes easier said than done. 

For this reason, we’ve compiled some tips you can apply to become a more effective communicator. 

Tip #1: Listen actively

Active listening requires a high level of concentration so that we can take in information without judgment. 

In addition to setting us up for communication success, active listening significantly bolsters our critical thinking. 

Not only do we perceive and process the words we hear, but we also identify information our interlocutor has left out. 

To make sure your interactions turn into productive conversations and listen actively, aim to:

  • Speak up in group discussions when someone is cut off or ignored,
  • Provide positive reinforcement using verbal and non-verbal cues, 
  • Demonstrate comprehension by paraphrasing information, and
  • Keep an open mind.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

To learn more about active listening, its benefits, and how it differs from passive listening, check out this exhaustive guide:

Tip #2: Pay attention to nonverbal communication

Our words are only a minuscule part of communication. Besides what we say, people take note of our clothes, facial expressions, and gestures. 

Some estimates project that nonverbal communication may cover up to 70% of communication. So, if you’re dissatisfied with how you communicate, it may not be your words. 

You might just need to pay more attention to your behavior. In the future, try to consider your:

  • Body language: Off-putting posture, like crossing your legs and arms, can make others uncomfortable. Also, try not to slouch or fidget to avoid looking unconfident or defensive. Another thing you should be mindful of is respecting people’s personal space. 
  • Voice: Your speed, pitch, and tone can make or break a conversation. A monotonous tone brings engagement to an all-time low, while nervousness can leave you fidgety and breathless. For some, breathing exercises help clear their mind. You could also practice speaking to family and friends to tweak how you project your voice. 
  • Eye contact: Making eye contact typically conveys respect and honesty. When speaking to several people, try to make eye contact with everyone to demonstrate you are fully engaged in the discussion. 
  • Facial expression: Our faces tell a detailed story about our emotions. Frowning can betray a sense of fear and unease, negatively affecting your audience. When talking with others, focus on relaxing your facial muscles, and smile occasionally. Your audience will positively respond to the message if you are friendly and open. 

Tip #3: Be more responsive

Effective communicators understand the value of both technical and soft skills, so they strive to be as responsive as possible. 

Responsiveness refers to how quickly and successfully a person responds to someone’s request for feedback or advice. 

Boosting responsiveness can enhance internal and external communication, allowing coworkers to view us as responsible and dependable. 

Some find it easier to be responsive in an office setting because they’re constantly in close contact with coworkers. However, remote workers sometimes struggle to keep up with corporate communication. Fortunately, being responsive isn’t all about replying to a message the minute you receive it. 

Having good work message skills does help, but there are other ways you can master this soft skill, including:

  • Managing expectations: Different people have different communication styles. Therefore, their expectations regarding responses can differ as well. If you’re swamped with work when a message lands in your DM, take a few seconds to say your answer may be delayed. If possible, provide an estimate of when you’ll be able to pen a more detailed response. 
  • Keeping others in the loop: If you receive an invitation to collaborate or provide help, the person on the other end is counting on you. As you work to finish a project or retrieve information, keep them posted on your progress. 
  • Choosing the appropriate communication channel: Communication typically fails without an efficient channel of communication. Responsive employees take advantage of business communication software and are always clear about how others can reach them. 
  • Eliminating distractions: Even minor distractions can block us from focusing on urgent issues. Responsive communicators take steps to limit business chat notifications and avoid information overload. A few minutes here and there eventually pile up to hours we can never get back, so experiment and learn what works for you. 

Tip #4: Be friendly

From a young age, we’re taught to be friendly to those around us. This way, we form meaningful relationships that pack our personal life with purpose. 

But, what part does friendliness play in communication?

We naturally gravitate towards warm and kind people because they make us feel good even in stressful situations. According to the Friends in the Workplace Survey from Wildgoose, the same is true about friendliness in a business environment. 

Around 57% of respondents stated that having friends at their workplace makes their job more enjoyable, while 22% reported feeling more creative thanks to workplace friends. 

Becoming a better communicator goes hand in hand with being more friendly. Forming solid connections with teammates erases their discomfort when they reach out for help, feedback, or advice. 

To bond with coworkers and contribute to a friendly environment, you should:

  • Keep in touch: A few days or weeks may have passed since you last chatted with one of your coworkers. Still, that’s no reason you shouldn’t message them and ask how they’re doing. They’ll surely appreciate you checking in, which will solidify their high opinion of you. 
  • Stay curious: When listening to a teammate share a story from their personal or professional life, don’t be shy to ask questions. You don’t want to cross boundaries, but when appropriate, a simple question can demonstrate your care and interest. 
  • Remember the details: If a teammate shared they were struggling with an issue a few weeks back, you should send a thoughtful message. It’s always nice to see that people care about you enough to remember the details. 
  • Know when to pause: Keep conversations balanced and leave enough room for every participant to chime in. If you’ve spoken for too long, dial it back and let others talk. 

Tip #5: Ask questions

Professionals are, at times, afraid of posing stupid questions. They don’t want to look uninformed and incompetent, so they bite their tongue, hoping that someone will eventually volunteer information. 

Strong communicators aren’t immune to these feelings. But their communication is effective because they ask questions despite feeling a bit embarrassed. 

Questions beginning with “How,” “Why,” and “Why not” can benefit all employees because they promote:

The modern workplace is dynamic and fast-paced, so employees rarely get the information they need in one go. If they were to wait for someone else to clarify the issue, they might have to wait several days and possibly risk breaching deadlines. 

So, if you have a question, ask it. You’d be surprised how favorably people look at curious individuals willing to learn new things. 

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

For more help regarding posing questions at work, check out the below blog posts:

Tip #6 Participate in meetings

Another way you can become a better communicator is by being an active meeting participant. 

With more companies switching to remote and hybrid models, some employees have seen a surge in weekly meetings. 

It’s easy to brush these sessions off as an inconvenience. After all, why spend an hour listening to something that may not directly apply to you when you could do something more productive?

But, skilled communicators try to make the most of any situation, which includes in-person and virtual meetings. They know how to:

  • Interrupt politely,
  • Volunteer their skills and time to get work done,
  • Respect their peers, and
  • Stay on topic.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

To learn more about proper behavior during virtual meetings, check out this blog post:

Tip #7: Be flexible

Communication flexibility refers to a person’s ability to adjust their communication style to cater to their audience. 

Whether you’re talking to a coworker or prospective client, following these guidelines could help:

  • Adjust your approach: The same style won’t work for everyone. For instance, if your interlocutor prefers a more indirect approach, you risk alienating them with a direct manner. Similarly, humor is often subjective, so be careful with your jokes. 
  • See with whom you communicate the most: It’s nearly impossible to accommodate everyone, but you can definitely be flexible with the people you interact with on a daily basis. 
  • Adopt changes: If you know your coworkers well, you can ask for advice on their preferred style of communication. You can then implement changes and use this insight in future interactions. 

Tip #8: Use short words to explain complex concepts

From friends to employers, we receive a large amount of information every day. When we struggle to remember the specifics, it’s not that we have a terrible memory. We simply have a hard time recalling complex words. 

You don’t want to overwhelm others with unnecessarily long and complex phrases. 

In life and communication, less is more, and simple wording does an excellent job of grabbing people’s attention. 

Moreover, when you can break down complex concepts into digestible bits, you demonstrate you know how to be an effective communicator in the workplace.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Depending on the type of work you do, you may catch yourself using industry jargon, which is sometimes difficult to understand. 

To learn more about this topic and refine your professional communication, check out this blog post:

Tip #9: Use metaphors

Our brains like bite-size information, but we often encounter sets of complex data in a business setting. For this reason, effective communication relies on metaphors as storytelling tools which make this information stick. 

Metaphors are handy during presentations, adding intrigue to an opening statement or a call to action during closing. However, strong communicators use them daily to help their words drive decisions and generate emotions. 

Business magnate Warren Buffet is known for his use of metaphors. Take a look at this example:

“The ballooning costs of health care act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy.”

Buffet could have easily said this instead: “The high costs of health care have a detrimental effect on the American economy.”

It doesn’t have the same emotional punch now, right?

To avoid bland communication and add depth to your words, you should:

  • Eliminate clichés: The workplace is often rife with corporate buzzwords, but you should minimize using clichés. Don’t opt for the first idea that comes to mind when coming up with a metaphor. Your second or even third option is likely more original and engaging. 
  • Use vivid images: Think about the feelings you want to evoke in your audience. You want to take them on a journey that will stay with them for a long time, so painting a vivid picture is imperative. 
  • Avoid complicated phrasing: You don’t have to use long sentences or literary language to captivate your audience. On the contrary, most good metaphors use simple, everyday language to create an instant and lasting connection with listeners. 

Tip #10: Be present

In business communication, meeting anxiety sometimes gets the best of us. So many thoughts race through our minds, and the overwhelming nervousness prevents us from focusing on the present moment. 

But, usually, that’s all it takes to let our communication skills shine — being present. 

When we sit down with a colleague, we should be able to stop thinking about other emotional and professional issues. 

If you find that you’re frequently distracted during communication, you can try one of the following strategies to help clear your mind:

  • Work on your time management skills: The fear of missing deadlines can make our minds spiral. You may be sitting in front of your teammate, but in your head, you’re solving a different pressing problem. With a reliable time tracking app, you can set timers, categorize your time, and prevent unfinished tasks from preoccupying your focus. 
  • Take notes: Effective communicators use every resource available, including notes. Notetaking sounds like an outdated concept for some, but it bolsters memory and increases creativity. During an important conversation, writing down the most crucial details is sufficient. After a meeting, you could compare your notes to the meeting minutes to ensure you haven’t missed the main takeaways. 
  • Don’t check your devices: Put your phone away during meetings and discussions. If you feel you might succumb to the temptation to check your DMs, pause notifications for the duration of the session. 

Tip #11: Work on your conflict resolution skills

According to research by CPP, a staggering 89% of workplace conflicts escalate, and 27% of employees have seen a conflict grow into a personal attack. 

These figures highlight the importance of long-term conflict resolution skills, which lessen the impact of destructive behavior in the workplace. 

To deescalate such situations, we should learn about the emotional and cognitive traps that can exacerbate conflict and prevent resolution:

  • Blind fairness: It can reinforce biases by preventing us from seeing what’s objectively fair.
  • Overconfidence: It can lead a person to overestimate their knowledge and abilities. As a result, it may promote overly risky behavior and prevent us from considering an alternative stance. 
  • Commitment bias: It results in an unwillingness to diverge from a past decision even if it doesn’t bring about desired results anymore.
  • Avoidance: Conflict avoidance is an ineffective behavioral strategy because it leads to unresolved issues, resentment, and damaged relationships. 

Conflict resolution skills stem from a high level of confidence and emotional intelligence. Of course, no one can become a better communicator overnight. But you can speed up your progress and resolve conflicts more effectively by:

  • Identifying the root cause: If someone snaps at you for placing a mug on the desk too loudly, there’s probably an underlying issue much bigger than the situation that made them lose their temper.
  • Staying rational: Conflicts can get quite emotional, and those involved may become defensive. Therefore, it’s essential to stick to the facts and determine how to remedy the situation. 
  • Keeping a positive attitude: If your negative emotions get the best of you, you’re more likely to remain entrenched in your bias. However, if you maintain a positive attitude and are willing to cooperate, you’ll find the solution more quickly.
  • Examining your role: Analyze how you communicate throughout all the steps of the common communication models.

Tip #12: Suppose positive intent

You become defensive and combative when you believe your interlocutors are entering conversations with negative intent. 

However, in a positive work culture, teammates aren’t out to get you. So, there’s no reason to stay on your toes, waiting for accusations and microaggressions to come your way. 

The truth is, your coworkers likely all have the same goal — to do the best they can during their work hours.  

You prevent anger and frustration from clouding your judgment by supposing their interactions are fuelled by positive intent. Consequently, you can pay better attention to what they’re actually saying. 

And, on the rare occasion you detect hostility in their tone, you can ask what’s going on or seek support from a supervisor. 

Tip #13: Let go of assumptions

Successful communicators know that assumptions are often the top obstacle in any interaction. 

Our beliefs and misconceptions find ways to enter workplace communication, stopping us from seeing the situation for what it is. 

Overcoming this issue takes time and effort, but we can view a situation with fresh eyes by:

  • Going beyond black-and-white thinking: If we believe that one way of thinking is always right while others are by default wrong, we could fall victim to groupthink. Moreover, this exclusion can place blame on our interlocutors and prevent them from speaking freely. 
  • Noticing emotional reactions: As we mentioned, nonverbal cues can help us understand the world around us. A raised eyebrow or scrunched nose may show us how our interlocutor feels about the conversation more than their words. So, pay attention to the nonverbal messages you send to others and their emotional reactions. 
  • Holding ourselves accountable: Consider alternative perspectives to test your own. “What if” questions can test your assumptions by highlighting different scenarios. What if I was too pushy during the meeting? What if they were scared to voice their views? This kind of self-reflection gives our thinking an empathetic and inclusive dimension we may have failed to consider otherwise. 
  • Being aware of cultural differences: We all come from different backgrounds, meaning we have different expectations and beliefs. When faced with unfamiliar territory, we may reinforce unconscious stereotypes and biases to make sense of the information. Fortunately, with continuous self-analysis, we can challenge such limited thinking. We should also bring attention to the biased behavior of others and help them bridge differences without misunderstanding. 

Tip #14: Don’t take anything personally

When someone is rude or demanding, it’s easy to interpret the conversation as a personal slight. But, do we really know what’s happening behind closed doors?

Their nervousness could be bubbling over because a project has gone array. Or, they might have carried their personal baggage into the workplace. Finally, it’s possible that they’re just not a skilled communicator. 

Whatever the case, it’s no fault of your own and shouldn’t affect how you communicate. 

Try to remember which conversations have made you uneasy and what communication style the person employed. 

If you notice a pattern, you’ll learn which behavior unnerves you and find ways to alleviate these feelings. These insights will allow you to assess the situation objectively and understand that it’s not personal. 

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Another important instance in workplace communication you should learn not to take personally is when you’re dealing with difficult people at work. The way people behave and communicate is a reflection of them, and not you. However, as it’s all often easier said than done, we’re bringing an entire set of steps to dealing with a difficult coworker to help  you better hope with these toxic workplace scenarios. Read all about it in the following blog post:

Wrapping up: Keep working at becoming a strong communicator to better your professional life

Learning how to become a better communicator can feel like an uphill battle. Some people look like they have a head start, but you can still change your behavior if you put in the time and energy. 

Start with analyzing your approach and pinpointing what you can do to improve. Then, focus on your audience and familiarize yourself with their communication preferences. 

Thanks to this information, you’ll soon discover how to connect with others in meaningful and impactful ways. 

References:

  • American Psychological Association. (2018). Coping with Stress at Work. Retrieved 27.04.2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/healthy-workplaces/work-stress
  • Baguley P. (1994). Effective communication for modern business. McGraw-Hill
  • Brooks, A. W. & John, L. K. (2018). The Surprising Power of Questions. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 27.04.2021, from https://hbr.org/2018/05/the-surprising-power-of-questions
  • Businessolver. (n.d.). 2022 Workplace Empathy Mental Health Report. Retrieved 15.03.2023, from https://www.businessolver.com/resources/state-of-workplace-empathy
  • Fredrickson B. L. (2004). The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367–1378. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2004.1512
  • Ludlow R. & Panton F. (1992). The essence of effective communication. Prentice Hall.
  • O’Rourke J. S. (2015). Effective communication. DK Publishing
  • Workplace conflict: Statistics that reveal its cost. CMOE. (2021, April 27). Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://cmoe.com/blog/workplace-conflict-costs/

Free team chat app

Improve collaboration and cut down on emails by moving your team communication to Pumble.

FREE FOREVER • UNLIMITED COMMUNICATION

Learn more Arrow Right Primary
Pumble chat app
SEE HOW IT WORKS (0:39)
Closing video