The basics of effective workplace communication

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StudyPerth
Apr 03, 2019

You’ve sent in your job application, practiced your interview questions, and have been offered the position you applied for – congratulations!

Ahead of stating your new job, it’s useful to do a bit of self-reflection and really understand your communication style. After all, every job requires communication – with your colleagues, management, customers, and stakeholders, just to name a few.

The StudyPerth team was lucky enough to recently participate in Effective Communication training through Australian Institute of Management in Western Australia (AIM WA), so we thought we would share a few tips that we learnt along the way.

 

Message sending… received… read… understood?

The communication process seems simple enough – the sender composes a message (verbal, written, non-verbal, or otherwise) and conveys the message, then the receiver ‘reads’ the message and actions accordingly.

In reality, it isn’t so simple. Have you have ever received an email or text that reads like it was meant to be a joke, but you’re not quite sure if it was? This is an example of a breakdown in communication.

When a sender composes a message, there is a lot of contextual information going into that message including, but not limited to, the sender’s:

  • Cultural learnings
  • Beliefs, values and attitudes
  • Biases, prejudice
  • Attitudes
  • Emotions and feelings
  • Status and power, and
  • Personal issues

 

Similarly, the receiver’s contextual information influences the way a message is received and ‘decoded’.

For example, your colleague could be having a bad day due to personal reasons. What may have been an innocent offer of constructive criticism via email from you to your colleague about the report they developed may have come across (to the colleague) as a personal attack on their work and skills, because they are already on edge.

 

Communications channels

The accurate interpretation of messages – written or otherwise – is important in everyday life, yet unfortunately the average person does not communicate well. Effective communication is more than just speaking and listening; it is an exchange of understanding.

If we were to break down the communications ‘channels’ to words (content), voice (tone, pitch) and body language, do you think people interpret all three channels equally?

Nope! In reality, the division is more like 55 per cent body language, 38 per cent voice, and 7 per cent words used.

 

Which platform works best?

In the example above of the upset colleague, the communication breakdown likely came down to the fact that they chose to use a non-verbal platform (email: words-dominant). While your email could have been perfectly reasonable and polite in your mind, something in the decoding process by the receiver (your colleague) broke down, meaning they received your message as a negative.

In today’s society, many companies enforce the practice of having business decisions communicated via the written word – usually in an email, for tracking purposes. While there is definitely a time and a place for this, we encourage you to also practice better communication using your voice and body language.

Want to tell your manager you appreciate their support as you learn about your new job? You could write it in an email… better yet, you could tell them in person! After all, you saying ‘thank you’ with a smile and positive body language speaks so much louder than a few words in an email.

 

In our next effective communication blog, we will describe the four communication styles, outline the difference between deductive and inductive thinkers, and talk about how to adjust your communication style to suit the person you’re talking to.

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In collaboration with governments, educational institutions and stakeholders, StudyPerth provides a leadership role in building the profile of international education in WA and overseas.

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