Think of the conflicts you’ve experienced in the workplace over the course of your career: How many of these were caused by misunderstandings? Miscommunicated information or intentions can cause workplace discord, cause rifts between employees, and lose clients. Fortunately, most misunderstandings can be avoided with improved business communication skills. How can you make sure everyone is on the same page?
- E-mail or Face-to-Face?: Before approaching a colleague or client about a particular situation, carefully consider which communication medium is best. If misunderstandings are likely, play it safe and schedule a face-to-face meeting when possible, or at minimum, a phone conversation. Communication goes far beyond the words that make up a message. Tone of voice, facial expression, and body language all affect how a message is perceived. Without hearing the speaker’s tone of voice, a simple question may be misread as accusatory or a joke taken as a serious, offensive comment all. Face-to-face conversations also allow you to get feedback from your listener as you go along and head off misunderstandings at the pass.
- Follow up: If you’ve had a conversation in which an important issue was discussed, it’s often helpful to follow up with a brief e-mail, restating some of the most important points of the conversation. By putting the information in writing, you can ensure that both parties walked away with the same idea of how the conversation was resolved. In addition, you have a written record of the issue to refer back to should future misunderstandings arise.
Stay tuned: Next week we’ll continue the discussion and address more ways to avoid misunderstandings in the workplace.
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