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In research done by the University of Pittsburgh, the formula for effective communication involves a transaction between two or more people with each participant having an active role in the process. For the speaker, this means making sure the message is delivered clearly. For the listener, this means actively listening and trying to understand the message.

Being a part of a team means effectively communicating with people whose strengths and abilities may be in different areas than yours. But what things can you do to make sure you do your best at communicating at work? Consider the following tips to unite with your coworkers and do the best job possible.

Be An Active Listener

Active listening involves taking in a message from someone with purposeful attentiveness. In a paper by the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension, the key to active listening lies in using the whole body to listen. This means using both verbal and nonverbal cues, like facing the speaker and maintaining eye contact. To fully absorb the speaker’s message, let your body relax and avoid interruption. Respond by nodding or replying with encouraging words.

If a co-worker is providing feedback, don’t formulate your response in your head, but instead, serve as an active listener and do your best to understand what the message-sender is communicating. Avoid interrupting and allow the speaker to finish their thought.

Express Yourself

Learning to express yourself in a clear and concise way is just as essential for effective communication. When presenting your message, try to parse your thoughts as succinctly as possible. Don’t assume the listener will automatically understand.

Verbal communication is also critical when it comes to conveying essential messaging. Yes, this means talking to a team member, face to face, about why a missed deadline matters. Avoid using Slack or email in a situation where the issue of intonation matters. Without the verbal cues in-person expression provides, your message is left open to interpretation by the receiver.

A message as simple as, “Bob, we missed the deadline for Project XYZ. Let’s talk about it,” can be interpreted multiple ways. Whether the intention is to let a coworker know missing the project’s deadline is serious, without the proper cues, your coworker could easily ignore the gravitas of the situation. A better way to communicate would be to sit down with Bob in person and use your words and body language to explain the seriousness of the situation.

Providing constructive feedback is vital to any project and how we do it matters. There are ways to address mistakes and how to correct them without making a personal attack. It may seem easy to say, “Bob is a lazy coworker who misses deadlines,” and blame Bob as an individual, but effective communication allows for pointing out what led to the mistake in the first place.

If you’re on the opposite end and receiving criticism, try not to take it personally. Use active listening to hear the feedback the person is giving you and do your best to retain the information that will help you do a better job.

The Five Ws and 1H

According to the Project Management Institute, there’s a simple formula to follow for effective communication called “The Five Ws and 1H.” The Five Ws and 1H will help you determine how your team can work together and stay organized. When starting a new project or opening a line of communication, ask yourself the following:

Who needs to be communicated to?

What needs to be communicated?

When should it be communicated?

Where should it be communicated?

Why communication of information is essential and to what level is it important?

How the communication needs to be done?

Use effective communication skills to contribute to a successful workplace. Not only will build stronger relationships with your team, but you’ll accomplish more.

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