Whatever your field of work is, communicating with other people is likely a fundamental part of your job. While it can be one of the most challenging tasks, it is arguably the most important, and one of the most rewarding! Even if you are the best at whatever you do, the importance and impressiveness of your work is diminished if you can’t effectively communicate with your team members, your supervisors, and your clients.
Although I have held jobs in a few different industries in my professional career, my roles have always centered around client communication and communication with my fellow team members. Professional communication has always been one of my favorite roles of each job I’ve held.
Through many years of practice, I have learned three essential elements to effective professional communication. Consistently reminding myself of these three elements gives me the tools that I need to comfortably and competently handle most any conversation I may need to have.
First, it’s very important that, when speaking with others, you are listening and responding with empathy. Regardless of who you’re talking to and what the conversation is about, it is extremely important that the person you’re talking to feels that they were heard, that you understand what they said, and that you care about what they expressed.
Some effective ways to show empathy during a conversation are listening carefully (without interrupting) until the person is finished speaking, asking clarifying questions, and repeating what they said in your own words. These forms of verbal affirmation let the other person know that you understand their position and ensures that all parties are on the same page.
Once you have listened carefully and shown that you care, it is important to respond with confidence. While you probably already have confidence in the things that you know, it is important to also have confidence in the things that you don’t. Everything that you say should be spoken with assurance, and if you don’t know the answer to something being posed to you, confidently respond that you will either figure out the answer yourself or get in touch with someone who has more knowledge about the matter at hand.
Communicating with confidence, even (or especially) during situations or conversations that may be uncomfortable, exudes a level of professionalism that will increase the confidence others have in you, as well as the confidence you have in yourself!
The final important element of professional communication is action. Especially in my position as project manager, it is important that the people I work with always know what to expect after we talk. At the end of every discussion, I try to quickly recap everyone’s next steps, making sure that everyone understands and agrees upon what will happen next. If we have different understandings of the expected result of the conversation, this recap ensures that everyone is on the same page at the end of the exchange. It shows the person I am speaking with that they were heard, that I know what to do about what was communicated, and that the right thing will be done about what they expressed.
As a best practice, once a conversation is complete, you should also follow-up in writing (including any other interested parties on the communication), recapping the main points of the conversation and detailing each party’s next steps. This gives everyone a tangible synopsis of the discussion and allows those who didn’t participate in the conversation to be aware of what happened.In summary, the way to effective professional communication may be simpler than you think. When speaking with clients, your management team, or your valued coworkers, make sure that they always feel that you care about their thoughts, that you are able to respond with conviction, and that you will take action to address their concerns. With these tips, you will be a master of one of the most important tools in your professional arsenal, your word!
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