Regardless of whether you’re communicating with an employee, a customer, a boss or a colleague, it’s imperative that you avoid any confusion and misunderstandings. The reason? Confusion and misunderstanding only leads to more confusion and misunderstanding.
How to communicate is one of the most important topics you can study and learn. As a result, you end up wasting time going back and trying to explain what you intended in the first place.
To prevent that from happening, here are eight communication tactics you should start using today.
1. Always know “why”
In other words, every communication occurring at work should have a purpose. This could be anything from defining roles and responsibilities to checking in on the progress of a project to giving praise. Even chit-chat has a reason. Chit-chat can build camaraderie.
Before initiating any type of communication, ask yourself, What do I want to accomplish here? This way you stay focused and avoid getting sidetracked.
What if you aren’t the one who initiated the communication? Think about its purpose. If there doesn’t appear to be an obvious choice, steer it toward the “why?”
2. Be clear on your expectations
Let’s say that you have a developer designing your site. When it’s complete, they let you know it’s ready to go live. You look it over but aren’t a fan of the homepage. So, you send them an email that says simply, “Make changes.”
What changes do you want? They’re not a mind reader. When it comes to communication, you want to be crystal clear on your expectations so that you avoid any miscommunication.
In this case, you would tell the developer why you don’t like the navigation and what action you would like them to take. It could be a simple fix. But they don’t know that if you don’t explain what you want.
Also, avoid texting shortcuts, emojis, jargon and regional terms. It may make sense to you but not the other individual. For example, if you were from Pittsburgh and you asked a co-worker if they wanted a “pop,” they might get a little nervous because that sounds a bit threatening. They’re really asking if you want a soda.
3. Communicate facts electronically but emotions in person
It’s easier and faster to communicate than ever before thanks to SMS, email, messaging applications like Slack and project management tools like Trello. These communication channels are integral to the success of any business, but communicating electronically should be reserved for tracking workflows and sharing facts. This is because there will always be a record of the communication that can be accessed whenever needed.
When it comes to highly emotional content, consider that it is most likely better to be delivered face-to-face or at the very least by telephone or teleconferencing. Much harder on you -- but better for the individual you are speaking with.
For instance, if you had to lay off a couple of employees, it would be better to talk to them individually in your office as opposed to sharing the news with everyone on Slack. That action would build distrust in your whole team -- and is at the very least disrespectful.
4. Be respectful of others' time
By this I mean respecting their time away from work. We all need a life outside the office. Of course, the lines have blurred since we’re plugged in 24/7. However, your colleagues, coworkers and employees are not required to respond to you immediately whenever you reach out to them.
In other words, if it’s a Saturday morning and you email a colleague, you may not get a response until Sunday night. There’s no reason to get upset about that. But bothering them until you get a response is totally uncalled for. Someone who has decided to work remotely is probably doing so for a very specific reason -- and one of those is to be free from the "thumbs on" crowd.
As a general rule, unless it’s a life-or-death situation, don’t send work-related communications on the weekends or late at night.
5. Don’t dominate the conversation
This actually applies to both in-person conversations and back-and-forth electronic communications and simply means that you should listen more than you talk. This not only keeps the conversation flowing; it’s also an effective way to receive information.
As an added perk, I’ve also learned that when you do speak, people will listen to you.
6. Keep it simple and concise
I’m sure that you get overwhelmed by information, like I do. This makes it harder to retain every piece of information you come across. It’s also stressful to keep up with this constant stream.
Instead of contributing to the information overload, keep your communications as simple and concise as possible. Cut right to the chase and don’t ramble on. If you need help trimming the facts, focus on two things: What’s your goal, and what are your key points?
7. Pay attention to nonverbal cues
When talking to someone face-to-face or speaking in front of a group, pay attention to “posture, facial expressions and other gestures made by people as they talk. The more you can interpret, the more valuable the conversation becomes.”
For example, if you were conducting a presentation at your next company meeting and your colleagues looked bored and unengaged, you wouldn’t want to keep pressing on. You may have to cut the presentation short or make an adjustment to grab their attention. If not, you’re just wasting everyone’s time, because they’re not interested or engaged in your presentation.
8. Pause to calm down
Let’s say that you’re frustrated or aggravated by a client, an employee or a colleague. Sometimes it’s best to wait until you’ve cooled down to communicate with them. The last thing that you want is to send them a message when you’re emotionally worked up, since you’re not clear or rational in that moment.
Sometimes you can cool down in an hour or by the end of the day, but other times you may want to wait a day or two when you’re really charged.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors