When you talk to your supervisor at work, do you think about the words you use? How much time on average do you spend editing your emails before you send them?
Good work communication is important to your professional reputation. Your verbal and written communication skills give you a chance to make a positive impression—or a negative one.
Here are four quick rules to have better work communication, and possibly improve your standing at the office as a result.
1. Focus on the positive and offer solutions.
Take a look at this sentence:
“We’re behind schedule today, and we have a dozen patients in the waiting room.”
While it communicates the reality of the situation, it’s also negative. It doesn’t offer a solution—just a problem, and it could be interpreted as complaining.
Now compare it to this sentence:
“A few patients took a bit longer than expected, but we’re back on track now to treat our 12 waiting patients within 30 minutes of their appointment time.”
This conveys the same information—the office is running behind and there are a dozen people waiting to be seen—but it also shows declarative action: you’ve taken steps to fix the problem. You’re not just reporting, or worse, whining about the situation. You’re being proactive and handling it.
Which one do you think creates a more positive perception of you to your boss and coworkers?
That’s right—the second one. So when you’re relaying information, even bad information, always focus on how you frame it.
2. Drop unnecessary words.
We’re all guilty of this. Words like “actually,” “honestly” and “absolutely” don’t add anything to your sentences, but they tend to slip in anyway. Unfortunately, these words detract from what you’re trying to say.
Think about it: do you need to say, “Honestly, I’m happy to hear that”? How much does “honestly” accomplish, other than implying there are times when you’re not speaking honestly?
This is particularly true of emails, which should be brief and to the point.
If you’re not sure how to identify unnecessary words, try looking for ones that end in “ly.” Chances are these are adverbs, and you can use a stronger verb to replace them.
3. Remove slang from your vocabulary.
This is similar to unnecessary words, but slang sometimes carries an even greater stigma. Using slang words and phrases can make people view you as young and inexperienced, which isn't good for your work communication.
It’s hard to eliminate slang from your speech, but a good way to combat this is to take a moment to plan out what you want to say before you speak. You should also scour your emails to remove any trace of slang.
Your words will probably sound better without that extra “literally” anyway.
4. Stop using “I” and “me.”
Have you ever paid attention to how much you say “I” on a daily basis? It might be more than you think. The problem with “I” and “me” is that they put all of the focus on you, without regard to your coworkers, employers or patients.
For example, if you don’t like a recent system change, you might say something like:
“I don’t understand the new checking-in process, and it slows me down and makes it harder for me to do my job.”
That is a valid concern. But phrasing it this way can make you sound focused on yourself, instead of the betterment of the office.
Instead you could say:
“The new checking-in process slows down patient visits, which backs up the waitlist and puts more stress on the administrative staff and physicians. Is there a way we can make it more efficient?”
The second sentence shows that you’re concerned for the people you work with and the office as a whole, instead of just yourself. And it shows a willingness to fix the problem.
Hopefully these tips help you with improving your work communication. What tricks do you have for communicating effectively? Do you have any work communication pet peeves?