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Better Communication Starts With You

Better Communication Starts With You

Communication remains one of the biggest challenges in workplace relationships. When communication flows freely, teams are more productive and creative.  People trust one another and it’s easier to get things done. When communication breaks down, misunderstandings and information hoarding become the norm making it harder to get the work done.

Here are three simple, practical tips to improve your exchanges with others at work.

Observe and Adapt

If you want people to listen to you, consider your ideas or even just respond to you emails, you have to convey your message in a way that makes sense for them.  In other words, you have to speak their language.

Each of us has a different set of preferences and needs in the exchange of information. Some prefer supported facts and a logical case. Others seek out the results without much interest in the details. Still others want to break the ice before diving into business. The key is to identify the preferences of the person that you’re talking with and adjust accordingly.

The people you work with give you clues all the time about how they want you to communicate with them both verbally and non-verbally. Pay attention to how your co-workers answer emails, act in meetings and how much time they spend chatting with others in the break room.

Also, consider your interactions historically. Is your colleague responsive when you stop by to chat about the weekend or does she keep her head buried in her work and give you the smile and nod routine?  If it’s the latter, try a more direct approach the next time you talk. Limit the personal discussion and get down to business more quickly.

Adapting your approach and message to the person you’re talking to increases the effectiveness of the conversation and reduces frustration and misunderstandings.


Translate weak messages

Even if you are an exceptional communicator, you have no control over the way that others convey messages to you. When others deliver weak messages like “The report you created is wrong” “That’s a terrible idea” or “You didn’t complete the form correctly,” it can cause feelings of defensiveness, anger and hurt feelings.

The good news is that you can translate these weak messages into something constructive and diminish the hurt feelings.

The next time you hear a weak message, assume that the other person is asking for something, not just complaining. Translate the weak message into one that’s constructive. When you translate the message “the report you created is wrong,” it becomes, “I would like for this report to be done differently.” Then you respond to the translated message by saying “Let’s look at the report together so you can show me what I can do differently the next time.”

This technique reduces unnecessary frustration and creates opportunities for useful feedback.

Timing is everything

Even though you’re super excited about a process improvement idea you had over the weekend, your manager may not be ready to hear it at 8:03 on Monday morning while she’s running reports that are due by 9:00

Although it’s necessary to talk to a team member about their repeated tardiness, doing so on a day when he spilled coffee on himself on the way into work and had his lunch stolen from the break room may not be very effective.

There is a reason that “timing is everything” is cliché. It’s because it’s largely true. If you want to be heard and understood, it’s important to time your messages accordingly. Despite what your calendar says there’s a great deal of value in being flexible and catching others in times where they’re more likely to be receptive.

You’re likely to have better results when talking to your manager about your idea when she gets back from lunch or on Friday afternoon. You’re conversation with the tardy team member will be so much more impactful when she’s clear headed and less stressed.

Pick your timing carefully!


Would you like more information on workplace communication or team alignment? Contact the experts at Pathfinder Strategies at 888-529-0240 or at

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