What If Your Workplace Miscommunications Are Actually Your Fault?
Have you ever thought to yourself “Wow, this person isn’t very smart. I can’t believe they’re not understanding me right now” and then realized… you’re the one who isn’t doing a good job at communicating clearly? You’re not alone. Chances are, if the person you’re communicating with is confused, not understanding what you’re saying, or misinterpreting what you’re saying, it’s highly possible that you’re the one who needs to communicate better.
The good news is that it's never too late to change!
You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to implement every tip on this list at once. The important thing is that you’re working on improving your communication skills over time. If you want to become a better communicator and avoid the pitfalls of miscommunication in the workplace, this will be a great resource for you.
Let’s first take a look at some common trends to look out for as you figure out how good of a communicator you really are.
Common Signs That Show That You're The One Who Is Miscommunicating
For the most part, people don’t even realize how poor of a communicator they are. This is especially true when it comes to communicating in the workplace. Here are some common signs that show you may be the one with communication problems:
- You’re constantly needing to repeat yourself
- You get frustrated because you feel your message isn’t getting through
- You feel like others aren’t listening to you
- You have a hard time getting others to give you feedback on projects or tasks
If any of these sound familiar, stop for a minute and acknowledge that maybe it’s not them. Maybe it really is you!
How To Become More Self-Aware Of Your Poor Communication
Commit to becoming more self-aware of your communication style. Self-awareness starts with knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
Ask a mentor, manager or trusted colleague to provide you with honest feedback on how others experience you as a communicator. Or sometimes it’s easier to share your strengths and weaknesses on paper, then ask someone to talk through them with you and confirm or deny your perception of reality.
Another tip to becoming more self-aware is to learn about your communication style. There are countless models that can help you learn more about yourself, such as the Meyers-Briggs personality test, Insights Discovery, or Enneagram. These models can help you understand more about your personal communication preferences in areas like how much time do I need to process my thoughts before sharing them? Am I naturally assertive or am I slower in stating my opinion? Do I appreciate structure and planning before moving forward? How much detail do I like to know when communicating with others?
Use this knowledge! Once you’ve built some awareness around the way you communicate, take steps to become more purposeful and intentional about how you show up for conversations at work so that it supports the results you’re looking for.
For example, if one of your blind spots is coming across as too direct or abrasive at times, be sure that others receive these communications in writing initially rather than verbally so they have an opportunity to consider their reactions before responding immediately. Or, continue being direct but with a different tone of voice and maybe add a little fluff.
Genuinely Ask For Feedback About Communication
You asked for feedback and you got it: your work communications need work. Commonly, people find the idea of asking for critical feedback hard to swallow, even when they know they need it. So here are some tips that will make the process easier:
- Be prepared to hear negative feedback.
- Ask people you trust to be honest.
- Ask different people from different settings.
- Ask when you're feeling calm and relaxed.
Asking for feedback can be scary, but it's one of the most empowering things we can do in our careers. Should the fear of judgment keep us from doing what we want professionally? No! Never let fear control what you do or don't do at work!
Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
At its core, emotional intelligence is a set of skills that allows you to manage your emotions and recognize the emotions of others. It has five core components:
- Self-awareness: You are able to recognize and understand your own moods, emotions and drives as well as their effect on others. You also use this awareness to guide your thinking and behavior.
- Self-regulation: You are able to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods; manage feelings so they're appropriate; prevent things from bothering you too much, too often or for too long; as well as regulate your own behavior by adapting in response to the changing circumstances around you.
- Internal motivation: If you are internally motivated—you find inspiration from mastering a challenge rather than external motivations such as rewards or bonuses.
- Empathy: You try to understand how other people feel, treating them in accordance with their emotional needs while reading social cues like facial expressions, values, interests and concerns.
- Social Skills: Your ability to understand interpersonal dynamics helps you build effective relationships while navigating social networks at work.
Why is emotional intelligence so valuable in the workplace? The answer is simple—employees who have high emotional intellect are more likely to be successful in teams without causing drama or conflict first (leading everyone else back into their boss's office).
Practice Being More Direct
Sometimes the problem in your communication is that you aren't communicating enough. If there's anything you need to say, just come out and say it. Don't assume the other person knows what you're getting at. They might know what you mean, but they also might not: Being vague can sometimes send the message that you don't actually care about speaking up in the first place.
Practice being more direct. It will make your life much easier in all aspects, from social interactions with friends to work relationships with coworkers and superiors. And if your coworker says something confusing to you? Don't be afraid to ask for clarification if you don't understand!
We know it’s hard to learn that your communication needs some work. Just remember, learning how to communicate better in the workplace WILL be incredibly beneficial for your career. Good communicators are more likely to be listened to, understood, and trusted by their peers, their bosses, and the people they manage. And that means they'll have a better chance of leading their teams and companies in ways that benefit everyone.