Anyone who works in an office will understand the importance of office communication and the chaos that can ensue when it goes wrong but how exactly can you check if you have those all important people skills and who is going to teach you how to communicate better? We take a look at different methods of communicating in the office and list the 10 most important people skills you need in the office environment.
Learn to listen
If you can hear echoes of your parents saying, ‘listen to me’ now, you are not alone. We all struggle, from time to time, with listening to what other people are saying and, maybe more importantly, getting the real meaning behind what they aren’t saying. Quality listening is a matter of practice and tricks like responding as someone else is talking, taking notes, using mnemonics to help you remember things and even maintaining an acceptable level of eye contact are all important people skills and key elements of office communication.
Communicate your ideas
Learning how to communicate better in both formal and informal office situations is one of the most important people skills you need in the office. When communication breaks down, irritation levels can rise and business mistakes can be made. Sometimes planning a communication before you make it can help avoid misunderstanding so talking a conversation through with a trusted colleague or asking them to look at an email before you send it can be really helpful. One great rule for communicating in the office is to learn not to make an immediate response until you are sure you have understood a situation.
Have confidence in your abilities
Too many of us talk our own abilities down and fail to recognise self-appreciation as one of the important people skills. When we acknowledge our own abilities we are useful to colleagues and inspire others to have confidence in themselves. If you have a tendency to underestimate yourself then get into the habit of recording your achievements in a diary and looking back at this when you take on a challenging task. Adopt an, ‘I did this so I can do that’ mentality and you will be surprised at what you can achieve. You might also want to remember that self-confidence is a really important part of making a good first impression.
Recognise the ability of others
Understanding the abilities of others is a key management skill but, even if you are not aiming to advance your career, appreciating where other people in your team excel is definitely one of the people skills you need in the office. Don’t be afraid of giving the limelight to someone else if you think his or her abilities will best suit a task. This type of generosity will be popular with both management and your colleagues and will stand you in good stead over time.
Take responsibility for your actions
It is a rule of office life as well as home life that sometimes things will go well and sometimes they will fail to meet the mark. Recognising this and learning to take responsibility for your actions, no matter what the outcome, is one of the tricky but important people skills. Always do your best and be prepared to own up if you make a mistake but take the glory if you get things right. Honesty is a key aid to communicating in the office and, even if it is a bit painful at the time, it will be appreciated in the long run.
Foster a positive attitude
Office life isn’t all about fun and games and inevitably, from time to time, work will become a bit tedious or results may not be all that you imagined. It is at these times of low ebb that our important people skills will really be tested. Employees who take a negative view can be a drain on team morale and even slow down improvements. Positivity is all about recognising a difficult situation and talking in terms of making improvements and solving problems rather than what has gone wrong.
Honesty is definitely the best policy when it comes to office communication. What Walter Scott said about ‘a tangled web’ of lies is still true today, especially in office situations where the temptation to embellish the truth can be strong. Dishonesty generally grows and can cause a lot of disruption and discomfort. Far better to be honest about a situation, about your abilities or even about your colleagues than to have to explain your mistruths further down the line when you are discovered. It is always worth remembering that office communication with people you don’t trust is difficult. Make sure you are 100% honest about your actions and thoughts.
Develop your work ethic
It can often be tempting to find the easiest path to a result or take short cuts that will get a job done quicker but a strong work ethic is a vital part of your important people skills toolkit. People usually choose to work with those they perceive to be willing to put the effort in to get a job done. If you have a tendency to over-delegate or finish jobs quickly in order to get home early, it might pay to look closely at your work ethic. Spend a bit more time and effort on the boring tasks and you will probably find a few more interesting ones coming your way.
Recognise and manage stress
Office stress comes from a variety of causes; unreasonable expectations, long work hours and difficult clients are just a few examples. None of us function at our best when we are under too much stress and it is never good for office morale. If you notice either yourself or colleagues being a bit more snappy than usual, making poor decisions or taking unexpected time off, make time to find out what the reasons might be for this. You can do this for yourself by listing things that are putting you under pressure and for other people by talking to them. Don’t be afraid to talk about work place stress to managers and even ask for a referral to occupational health personnel. Stress doesn’t go away on its own and is far less likely to have a long-term impact if it is recognised and talked about.
Look for opportunities to make yourself useful
Being helpful is one of the more underrated people skills you need in the office but it is no less important for that. By looking for opportunities to help and support other people you will be demonstrating your commitment to your job and giving your colleagues and managers the chance to see what you can do. The best way to be helpful is to ask, ‘How can I help?’ rather than launching straight in.
Working on your important people skills and learning how to communicate better is a great idea, particularly if you are ambitious and looking to move up the career ladder into management level positions. Another sure-fire way to prepare yourself for management is to undertake a flexible course of management related online study. Make effective office communication your aim and watch your reputation and success levels increase.
For more advice on how to progress in the career world or tips on management and leadership, be sure to check out more of our career-related or management-related articles here on SkillsTalk.