In the workplace, it is often challenging to communicate effectively and to avoid misunderstandings. Unconsciously, we interpret each other’s ‘social signals’ whilst speaking in order interpret what somebody is saying. As a matter of fact, these non-verbal ways of communicating, influence our communication to a greater extent than anything we say. Actually, more than half of our communication depends on the how you we say things, rather than what we say.
This applies to all situations in our daily life, and also at the workplace. It also essentially shapes our relationships with our colleagues, managers, and subordinates, and also to clients. The features shaping the way we come across are the tone of the voice, gesture and facial expressions, body language and posture, appearance and eye contact.
The reaction to your words changes accordingly to the ‘social signals’, which you send when speaking. It is up to the hearer how your message is interpreted, either in a positive or negative way. This forms the basis for any (business) relationship, which influences all future encounters. This is reason why it is crucial to be aware of the huge influence of non-verbal communication, and to use it in your favour. In general, when you know how your social signals are perceived in negotiations, in team meetings, or at presentations you are more likely to be successful in your job because you can avoid pitfalls.
What does this mean for success in the workplace?
Having said that the largest part of our daily conversations depends on implicit, non-verbal features and tone of voice there is always room for misunderstandings. On the one hand, often people are unaware about the way they are perceived by their colleagues. On the other hand, colleagues or co-workers might not feel entitled to comment on someone’s behaviour.
Further, there are often tight deadlines at work and people need to work under pressure. As a consequence, people do not have the time to worry about how they say things in order to get their job done. All these factors play an important role when it comes to how we communicate, and can potentially create conflict at the work place. However, to be able to work together productively, hardships or misunderstandings should be kept at a minimum. This is why it is worth paying close attention to the way we have conversations in order to maintain a positive and productive atmosphere at work.
Some practical tips for the workplace:
• Be aware of your own body language and non-verbal signals whilst speaking or giving presentations. You also ask for feedback on how you are perceived by others.
• You can train yourself in ‘interpreting’ social signals by developing a greater ‘emotional intelligence’ to enhance your soft skills.
• Try to be empathetic to and to see the situation from the other person’s perspective.
• If you feel like someone did not communicate according to your standards of ‘good communication’, focus on the message and what has been said instead of how it came across.
• Do not take offence when people don’t communicate according to your personal expectations.
• If the situation does not change, try to speak to people individually and tell them you feel about their way of communicating with you Try to give feedback in an calm and open way in order to clearly state what is irritating you and why.
• You could also establish ground rules for good communication for your team so that everyone is aware of each other’s expectations.