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How to Improve Communication with Your Coworkers and Manager

If you want to be a better leader, you have to be a better communicator.

A research done by Hart Research Associate found that 93% of the employers being interviewed considered communication skills more important than a graduate's major.

Study done by Fierce, Inc. found that 86% of employees cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communications as the main source of workplace failures, and a study done by Ketchum Communications found that only 31% of people believe their leaders communicate well.

Peter Drucker, author, and one of the most influential thinkers on management famously said "the most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said." - This is a GREAT advice when communicating in workplace.

But what does that mean? And how to hear what isn't being said?

Psychology #101: three elements of communication:

  1. Verbal: what people actually say

  2. Tonality: voice, volume, pitch, speed

  3. Body language

Most people focus on #1 & #2 - yet the most effective way to tell what somebody is thinking is #3. FBI, CIA and police observe suspects' body language and monitor their physiological response to tell if they are telling the truth or not. This is equally effective when applied in workplace.


When you are talking to a client and trying to agree on something, your client said "Yes, that's fine" - but they were shrugging their shoulders or shaking their head while saying this, it means they actually disagree with you, but was trying to pretend to agree (what's what I called counterfeit yes - which was covered in detail the short course I just released) just to avoid awkwardness or to try to get out of the situation asap.

Once you've spotted that contradicting body language (verbally saying yes but shaking head), you can respond using labelling: "It seems like you have more questions about this?"

By labelling your counterpart's emotions, you address the elephant in the room by demonstrating that you have spotted and are trying to understand their concerns.

Another tip that I personally found really helpful, but also takes tremendous effort to practise is "Listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply." This phrase is originated from Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I came across this when I was doing my counselling class, one of my classmates pointed out that we often get so worried about what to say back or even worse, how to get OUR point across, that we listened with the intent to get the gist of what the other person was saying, then immediately refocus on our internal monologue to determine the best response."

By doing so, we fail to listen to what the other person is actually saying (I am professionally trained to listen, but certainly still find myself guilty of this from time to time - it's incredibly hard to keep my mouth shut and just listen sometimes, especially when you are emotionally invested in the matter).

Listening is the most difficult yet invaluable skill to learn, the more you truly listen, the more in control you are in the situation, and the more likely you are going to achieve a desirable outcome.

I hope these are helpful - if you've enjoyed reading this, you are likely to find my negotiation short course interesting, go check it out here.


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