Have you ever been given feedback that you are too harsh or brutally blunt? Check out this article by Lisa Marshall of Quick and Dirty Tips to learn some tips on how to improve your communication skills.
Use More Positive Language
Beyond understanding your natural communication style (and how to flex it), other very small changes can make the biggest difference. Sometimes it’s just a matter of using more positive language. Instead of saying something is “black,” you can simply say “it’s not white.” For example, if someone asks your opinion of their presentation and you think it’s horrible, instead of saying, “It’s horrible,” you could instead respond with something like:
“It was a good start. Would you like some specific recommendations to make it even stronger?” or “I’m not sure that the presentation represented our company (or you) in the best possible manner. Would you like specific recommendations? ” To build relationships and trust at work, it’s always important to frame conversations positively.
Show More Appreciation
Another small change that can also make a huge difference is showing your appreciation. Feeling appreciated lifts people up—it makes us feel safe. Research suggests that when you express appreciation more often than negative feedback, you boost employee performance, engagement, well-being and health. And because expressing appreciation is considered a “communal behavior,” this will help to balance out some of your agentic behaviors. Strong leaders display a balance of both communal and agentic behaviors. And by the way, I’ve written about why we should show appreciation and also how to give compliments previously.
Ask More Questions
One other change that can make a difference is to purposefully infuse humility and curiosity into your communication. Instead of directly telling others what to do (which tends to be the natural evolution of our communication as we advance in our careers), you could help others reach collaborative conclusions by asking more questions. You may want to read a book I just finished called Humble Inquiry by Edgar H. Schein (a professor emeritus at MIT Sloan School of Business). He suggests in his book that “The time Humble Inquiry is often most needed is when we observe something that makes us angry or anxious. It is at those times that we need to slow down, to ask others in a humble way in order to check out the facts, and to ask ourselves how valid our reaction is before we make a judgment and leap into action.”
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