Passport Series: Communication

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Next up on the Passport series is communication. If you missed the others you can find them here, here and here. So, how do we define communication? It’s the ability to give or receive information, including clear and logical verbal expression, active listening skills, manners, collaboration and non-verbal communication such as body language.

The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is an important skill to have both in and out of the workplace. When you communicate well, you build trust among your co-workers and increase productivity. How many of you find it easier to be “in the zone” when the objectives are clear and everyone is on the same page? That’s the power of communication.

While the idea is simple enough, a lot of us struggle with doing this well. Here are some things to remember when thinking about communication.

  1. Listen first! The best way to make sure you give the appropriate response during a conversation is to pay attention to the conversation. Really pay attention, ask clarifying questions if you need to. This is called “active listening”, and it allows you to see the idea or problem from the other person’s perspective. This is important because your goal is to be understood, and when you pay attention to the way the other person communicates, you can mirror some of their words and body language to get your point across in a way they can relate to.

    And yes, I did say body language. Listening is more than just hearing the words. Note their tone and body language. Are their arms crossed? Are they mostly looking at the floor? Are they smiling? All of those things should be considered before making a response. 
  1. Keep it short and simple. If you ramble or give more information than needed, you’ll risk confusing the other person and causing miscommunication. The same is also true if you don’t give enough information. For example, if you need a tailored resume for retail customer service positions, simply saying, “Can you help me make a resume?” isn’t going to help your Employment Consultant give you what you need.

    If possible, before starting a conversation, have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the conversation and think about what you need (and how much you need) to say in order to get that response.

  2. Confidence! Now that you know what you want to say and how you want to say it, you can move on to saying it with confidence. If you mumble or keep your arms crossed and your eyes downcast during a conversation, it makes it much easier for the other person to dismiss or misunderstand you. You don’t want either of those things. Do your best to make eye contact, speak up and smile!
  1. Ask for feedback. Being able to communicate well is a skill, and like any other skill, the way to get better is through practice. Even during regular, non-professional conversations, practice speaking clearly and simply, or making eye contact, or not fidgeting, or whatever it is. Then ask for feedback. You might be surprised by how something in your tone or body language distracts or takes away from your overall presentation. On the flip side, you might also be surprised by how something can be enhanced to better serve you. It’s hard for us to see these details ourselves, which is why it’s important to seek feedback when you can. If you’re an OFE participant, you’re always welcome to ask your Employment Consultant or your facilitators.

The topic of communication is much broader than what we can cover in a single blog post. We can easily break down the definition above to focus just on manners or written expression and still have a lot left to be covered. If you want to learn more, click on any of the links below.

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Author: Nelsa Uson, Employer Liaison

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