5 ways to be a better communicator at work

Want to feel heard? Make these five communication tips your new workplace resolutions.

5 ways to be a better communicator at work

Clear communication is highly valued in every industry.

Communication skills in the workplace are as crucial as any new-fangled technology to the success of a business in any industry you can think of—especially now with so many people now working remotely to stop the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, people tend to be really, really bad at expressing their wants and needs. There's never been a better time to learn how to be a better communicator.

Not only can proverbial crossed wires make your job more difficult (and less pleasant), it can also be costly, literally. In his often-cited report “The Cost of Poor Communications,” David Grossman surveyed 400 companies with 100,000 employees each, and found an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of poor communication to and between employees. Ouch.

Good communication skills help you to move through the twists and turns of human interaction with less friction. Learn to do that, and you’ll stand a much better chance of staying calm and resentment-free, and possibly even landing the kind of assignments you’ve been longing for.

Monster asked career experts for tips to help you improve your communication skills, so you can go from feeling disengaged to practically ecstatic about your job.

Resolution No. 1: Only promise to do things if you can actually do them

In some ways, being a “yes man” can serve you well in your career, but it’s easy to slip into the “I need to please everyone” mode and get overwhelmed. Bite off only as much as you can chew at one time.

“Remember that age-old adage: Actions speak louder than words,” says Yvonne Thomas, a Los Angeles-based psychologist who specializes in career issues. “Be consistent in doing what you say and saying what you do.”

If you say you’re going to finish a PowerPoint presentation by Friday, do it. If you can’t do it, don’t commit. It’s better to say no to something upfront than fail to complete the assignment.

“This is critical in business because you gain credibility, trust and respect on the job,” Thomas says.

Resolution No. 2: Don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed

As much as you adopt the advice from Resolution No. 1, you’re likely still going to be overworked at times. (Such is life in the working world.) That makes communicating when you’re feeling overwhelmed critical to your long-term success. Don't wait for a crisis to emerge before you practice your communication skills.

“The solution is to go to your supervisor or manager as soon as you know you need help or feel as if you cannot complete everything assigned to you in the allotted time,” says Tandee Salter, a business-success coach based in Columbus, Georgia. “Ask if you can get some help completing the assigned work or if deadlines can be extended.”

Resolution No. 3: Share relevant news with your co-workers

Want to be recognized as an informed, interested employee who looks out for others? One of the best ways to do so is to pass along relevant news to the people you work with.

“It doesn’t have to take hours of your day, but if you are surfing the internet, listening to the radio, or reading the news and you learn something that might be useful or interesting to your team, take a few moments and provide them with that information,” says Brandon Slater, cofounder of Life's Secret Sauce, a company that works with people to improve communication skills and confidence.

Resolution No. 4: Streamline communications by creating a “talk to” list

One of the key tenets of how to be a better communicator involves getting organized. Instead of shooting your co-worker an email every time you need an answer, try to save all of your questions for one communication—whether that’s in a conversation or an email.

To help organize and consolidate your thoughts, “create a ‘talk to’ list for that person,” says Maura Thomas, founder of Regain Your Time, a professional development consultancy based in Austin, Texas. “As you think of things you need to communicate, create tasks that start with his or her name, along with whatever you need to say.”

For example:

Joe: Ask his opinion on the pricing for the client proposal; confirm proposal deadline

This way, you won’t be guilty of the very thing you’re trying to avoid in Resolution #2.

Resolution No. 5: Ask open-ended questions

Good communication isn’t just about expressing yourself; it’s also about asking the right kind of questions so you’re able to receive information as successfully as you deliver it.

“One of the simplest ways to improve your communication skills is to ask open-ended questions,” says Tom Hopkins, founder of Tom Hopkins International, a sales training company based in Chandler, Arizona. “These are questions that begin with who, what, when, where, why, and how.”

Let’s face it—questions that only require yes/no answers aren’t going to tell you much. But asking questions that begin with the five “w”s gives the person you’re talking to the chance to share his or her knowledge with you.

“The trick,” says Hopkins, “is to be prepared to listen to the answers and ask the next questions based on those answers until both parties are clear on the next steps or actions to take.”

That’s when you’re really engaging in effective office communication.

Be heard

Learning how to be a better communicator takes time and persistence, but not only will you benefit, but so will everyone in your life. Could you use more tips for excelling at your job? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll receive career advice, job search tips, and workplace insights to help you rise to every occasion. We hear you and we're here for you.