Communicating effectively at work

On average, we spend 40 hours a week in our workplaces. Effective communication is the key to healthy relationships with our colleagues and team. Being able to share our thoughts and ideas in a healthy way is actually more about listening and paying attention to others than it is about what we say.

  1. Talking the talk

    It sounds obvious but being able to speak clearly and confidently to our colleagues is a skill that is easily forgotten. Its helps to take a couple of minutes to consider the way we will communicate to ensure messages are communicated as we intend and to step into the perspective of our colleagues. Also important is focusing on the delivery of what we want to say. Pick an appropriate time to speak to a colleague (that is, not just before they’re rushing off to a meeting. Maintain a calm and steady voice at a regular volume. Leave enough time for colleagues to ask questions or clarify points they didn’t understand. Remember to use ‘I’ rather than ‘you’ statements. For example, “I feel upset when…” rather than “You make me upset when…”, as the latter can come across accusatory.

    2. Make personal connections.

    Relationship building is vital in any working situation, and it’s easier to be able to communicate to colleagues positively – and make successful requests – when we build a rapport. In fact, research demonstrates that face-to-face requests are 34 times more successful than emailed ones. If appropriate, start a friendly conversation by asking them about their day or weekend, or make a point of opening a conversation with a quip about something you might have in common, such as an interest in sport or cultural events. Adding this personal touch is a great way to encourage colleagues to relax and open up around you, which makes it easier to communicate and cooperate with them on a regular basis.

    3. Be an active listener

    Being an active listener in a conversation actually only takes a few simple steps to reap big reward. Always maintain eye contact when another person is speaking; face their direction as they are talking; avoid looking at the phone or computer (which implies you’ve got elsewhere to be) and, most importantly, do not interject while a colleague is mid-sentence. Ask questions at appropriate times, and make sure the questions relate only to what is being said. Don’t plan out responses while a colleague is talking, as important points may be missed – don’t be afraid to take a minute after a colleague has spoken to process what they’ve said and respond accordingly. In fact, taking that pause will better demonstrate to colleagues our complete focus and attention to the conversation!

    4. Be open to compromise

    Enter into any conversation being open to compromise. We won’t always get the ideal outcome we want, but at the end of the day the best outcomes are the ones that can satisfy the needs of everyone involved as much as possible. We want our opinions and needs to be understood, just as our colleagues do. Having an ability to show empathy and willingness to compromise makes for fair communication and demonstrates that we are about the interests of the team, which makes for a positive and collaborative working environment.

    Source: This is an edited extract from ‘Communicating effectively at work’, available from AFA Care and Benestar at For more information about accessing AFA Care resources available at Benestar please visit