Originally authored by April Klimkiewicz at Bliss Evolution
When striving to maintain positive workplace dynamics, it’s important to consider that you could say the exact same thing in different ways, and it would come across with two different meanings. Communication is key, and it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it that is equally important. This could be the difference between accidentally offending someone and ensuring your intended meaning comes across. Let’s discuss how to say what you want to say to avoid confusion and create the clearest communication we can by looking at the method, content, and process of communication.
Communication method: Message, Email, Phone, or In Person
First, let’s look at the communication method, which can have a big impact on how a message comes across. It’s very hard to convey tone in a written message or email. If you’re using slack to communicate, the great thing is it’s instantaneous, but the unfortunate thing is that an underlying message you are not intending can be received. Tone is just so difficult to understand through the written word. We've all had that moment when someone asks us to clarify a text because they took it the opposite way as intended, e.g. sarcastic when we meant it at face value or vice versa. The problem is when the recipient of our message gets an unintended meaning and does not ask for clarification. In those cases, we think we've communicated exactly what we mean, but in fact, a different meaning has been received.
If you want to minimize confusion, actually picking up the phone and calling someone could be the way to go. Or if you're in the same location, leave nothing to chance and walk over to the person’s office, if possible. Tone is much more easily conveyed through verbal and visual cues. There is much less chance of confusion in communication when someone can read your facial expressions and body language and add that to the context for understanding your message.
Communication Content: What you are communicating about
When communicating information, leave nothing to chance; be exceedingly clear, straightforward, and concise. Think about if you were the recipient of a message - especially if it’s a difficult message to convey - and be sure you’re communicating in a way that takes the person the message is intended for into account. Do you need to soften the language of a request or ensure that something you are saying comes across as firm but not as if you feel superior? In these cases using precise language can be useful. If you’re angry and have to send an email to someone, give yourself some time after you write it to ensure the anger is not coming across in the email, and instead, the course of action to correct the issue is the message received.
Communication Process: The dynamics of communicating in your office
There is going to be an understood, and often unspoken, way that things get communicated in your office. Sometimes a friendly coworker will take you under their wing and give you a head’s up about how things work in terms of communication style with office mates or your supervisor, but other times you’ll have to figure it out on your own. However you figure it out, being aware of what communication is accepted and which ways of communication are office taboos is important in making sure you’re navigating workplace dynamics in a way that will put you ahead.