Four Tips to Make Yourself Better Heard and Understood

Joe Weinlick
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Great office communication is one of the most useful skills in your career arsenal. Gifted communicators often have an easier time with important professional tasks, from giving presentations to negotiating pay raises. Whether you're a self-avowed introvert or a social butterfly, you can improve your workplace conversations and make your voice heard.

Know Your Goal

Better office communication starts with a defined purpose. Before you head into a meeting, presentation or negotiation, get clear on what you want to achieve. Don't go in with vague ideas about a pay raise. Instead, decide that you want a 10 percent raise. Then, write a list of evidence in support of your goal. Finally, think about what objections the other person might have, and figure out how to answer their concerns. This process forces you to organize your thoughts and build a focused, powerful argument. With this information, you can steer workplace conversations effectively and ensure that listeners understand your argument.

Don't Be Subtle

Many professionals exist in a world of pressure and to-do lists. When you're dealing with someone who is busy or distracted, there's no room for subtlety. Instead of dropping vague hints or wasting time with small chat, aim for direct office communication. Be as specific as possible, and provide a call to action that the other person can respond to. "I need help with a project" is less actionable than, "Can you review this short email to client X? I need to know if it strikes the right balance between approachable and professional." Asking for exactly what you want cuts through the chaos of the workplace and helps you get a clear answer.

Use Email Wisely

Email is one of the most useful office communication tools, but only when used wisely. As a rule of thumb, make the recipient's job as easy as possible. Make the email as short as possible, and include one call to action. Consider two emails: the first contains a short sentence and a single question, and the second contains three paragraphs and no clear requests. If the recipient has five free minutes, he's more likely to respond to the first message. In situations that require an extra step, such as reviewing a document or visiting a website, attach the file or provide a link. The fewer barriers to completion, the easier it is to get a response.

Listen and Adjust

One of the most effective ways to be heard is to hear others — after all, people are unlikely to consider your viewpoint if you ignore theirs. If you find that people are unwilling to help or listen, examine your behavior. Are you so focused on a goal that you ignore the needs and input of the other person? When someone else is talking, do you tune out or stare at your phone? If so, your actions could be sabotaging office communication. Start improving by modeling the behavior you want to see. Listen carefully to colleagues and engage with thoughtful responses. Validate the contributions of others, and help when you can. In doing so, you can build the respect and goodwill that motivates others to do the same.

Better office communication can impact nearly every aspect of your career. By making small improvements, you can get your point across and motivate people to listen.

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