Whether you’re working on becoming a better communicator for work or in a relationship at home, effective communication is not just about what you say. It’s about how you choose to say it. It’s about when you choose to say it. And perhaps most importantly, sometimes it’s about choosing not to say anything at all.
Remember, less is more.
As with many things in life, less is more works in the world of communication, too. This is especially true if you’re new on the job — or new in a relationship, for that matter. Think of each meeting and each conversation — no matter how small or informal — as an opportunity to listen and learn. Be an “active” listener. Make eye contact, think about what is being said and how others (who have been there longer than you) are responding, take notes.
Don’t be afraid to speak up to ask questions, but…
Context is King.
Part of being a strong communicator is learning to direct your questions to the right person at the right time. If you’re sitting in a meeting where everyone is in a heated discussion about whether or not the new tech is performing as it was expected to, this is likely not the best time to ask the lead engineer to explain how the tech works. When you speak up in a meeting, try to make it meaningful. Your contribution — whether it’s a question or a comment — should help move the conversation forward.
Treat email conversations with care.
Moving the conversation forward is especially important over email. According to tech research firm The Radicati Group, the typical business person receives about 120 emails a day. If you’re planning to add to that number, make sure it’s for a good reason. State your message clearly. Keep it short. If more than a few of your peers or your boss is on the thread, consider pairing down that cc list to just those you know will benefit from your input. And whatever you do, don’t “reply all” with a joke — even if it’s really good. Save the chuckles for your circle of friends. And by circle, I mean your offline after-work crowd, not your social network.
Speaking of that social network …
It’s worth remembering that social is a powerful communications tool. Social amplifies your message, whether you want it to or not. You know that joke you think is hilarious even if it offends your mother? Don’t post it. That picture of you on the beach, taken in the middle of the day when you were supposed to be at work at your previous job? Don’t post it unless you want that to be the first impression your new boss has of you. Remember that it’s not just about choosing what to say, sometimes the most effective communication is to say nothing at all.