8 Techniques to Avoid Miscommunication In the Office

October 26, 2016

There is always a chance for miscommunication. Not only does language make communication difficult with double meanings, homonyms, synonyms, and the importance of correct grammar. Language is also changing each day. The constantly evolving trends in language and communication can make it difficult to get a point across – especially when you’re dealing with different generations of people. Add in the different forms of communication (virtual, face- to- face, memo, body language, etc.) and you have a recipe for miscommunication. Let’s go over some of the different ways that you can try to avoid any communicatory missteps.

1. Think about what you want to say before you open your mouth.

It almost seems unnecessary to say since we were all taught this lesson in grade school. However, some things bear repeating. Before you say something, make sure that you’ve quickly gone over it in your head first. You don’t have to take a long time as you mull over it. Just gauge the situation and your sentiment before it leaves your lips. Saying rash things in the heat of the moment is what gets most people in trouble.

2. Voice your needs because you are your best advocate.

Another aspect that a lot of people ignore (especially those in management and corporate positions) is the concept of voicing their own needs.

There are a lot of people pleasers out in the working community and they are often left unheard. Some are too shy to speak up. Others are too meek.

While some people turn to their union reps, others don’t have that option. If they want to see a change, they have to make that change or at least start the ripple of change themselves. It is a difficult position to be in for a people pleaser, which is why they often hold their tongues.

Some people take that silence as consent. If those workers are unhappy and their silence is misconstrued, it is a type of miscommunication.

3. Don’t forget to be polite.

You may be asking for a raise or talking about the project on your desk. If you aren’t being polite, there is a chance that your words are actually falling on deaf ears. As the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey, than vinegar.” Don’t neglect to be polite with whoever you are speaking to, whether he or she is a team member, a boss, or someone lower on the totem pole.

4. Don’t forget Occam’s Razor.

Occam’s Razor is a philosophy that states that you should assume ignorance instead of malice when communicating via internet. Since a large portion of the working class now works remotely as freelancers, jobs get outsourced to different countries, and there are more off-site workers, there is more of a chance that you’ll be communicating virtually these days.

If you read an email or message and think that person is being hateful, spiteful, or malicious, take a step back. Instead of assuming the worst, assume that person is just ignorant of all of the information. Ask questions for the sake of clarity before jumping to conclusions.

5. Speak the right type of language in the appropriate settings.

There are five ways that people can express joy, love, appreciation, and general positivity:

  • Affirming words
  • Gifts
  • Acts of kindness or service,
  • Physical contact
  • Spending quality time with each other

While these things may not be appropriate for professional settings (save for the affirmative language), the workplace does have its own ways of expressing itself.

There are different “dialects” within workplace communication. Some people are more quantitative and want to be able to talk and see raw data. Others are visual people and like to view graphs and charts. Still, others are auditory and like to hear and tell stories and anecdotes in order to convey their message.

If you are in a managerial or leadership position, make sure to encourage your team to use different types of workplace language in order to help other team members process the information that is given to them. This is why it is also important to note everyone’s different personalities.

You don’t necessarily want to cater to everyone’s needs and fulfill all of them, but you do want to at least touch on them and acknowledge the different styles in which they communicate.

I suggest having your team take the Myers-Briggs Personality indicator test in order to see an overview of their general personalities.

6. Don’t forget to listen to the other person as well.

Active listening is just as important as trying to get your message across – no matter who is talking at that particular moment.

7. Be clear, concise, and explicit.

Make sure that you keep the message as clear and simple as you can. Try not to ramble and try not to give a lot of extra details. This will help clarify your message.

If your team needs even more clarifications, they can ask you questions. Part of this lies in trusting the team that you hired. Someone thought that they fit the bill of being a good employee for that position. That person may or may not have been you – but you should still trust in that decision.

8. Watch what you assume.

The most common reason for miscommunication is due to assumptions. This is also one of the most disastrous presumptions in the workplace. Remember that you can’t be in anyone else’s head but your own. You can’t be sure what anyone else is thinking.