4 engaging communication styles you should master at work

From meeting with managers to conversing with remote colleagues, learn how to improve your communication in the workplace

Author: Brittany ShootFebruary 11th, 2019Illustration by Abbey Lossing

Effective communication in the workplace often requires an ability to exercise empathy for your coworkers, as well as a willingness to cooperate and compromise. You’ll encounter colleagues with a variety of personalities and backgrounds, however, which is why it’s important to know the best communication styles to use when engaging with them.

When people feel respected and trusted, they are more likely to collaborate effectively and meet their goals. Here are some ways to apply those communication skills to specific interactions with colleagues and team members.

4 communication styles you’ll need to know in the workplace

While a diversity of perspectives can create a better work environment and deliver better professional results, speaking with different individuals in different situations will require different communication styles.

According to the authors of The Responsible Communication Style Guide, a handbook focused on crafting more inclusive writing, the language we use often ends up dictating the terms of the culture. To cultivate an inclusive and collaborative workplace, consider the type of language you want to use, when you want to use it, and how to use distinct methods of communication to connect with various colleagues.

1. Keeping your manager up to speed

When team members see their higher-ups as approachable, friendly rapport increases, and so does everyone’s overall level of engagement. Busy managers will probably welcome straightforward communication and a set schedule for updates. Here are a few ways you and your boss can maintain efficiency while staying in the loop:

  • Create and update a shared agenda in advance so that you and your manager will feel prepared to discuss the most important topics
  • Seek clarification on objectives or tasks when necessary, and self-advocate when it comes to expectations or prioritization
  • If you both decide a one-on-one meeting isn’t necessary during a busy week, stay in touch with a quick text-based update

2. Engaging your introverted office mate

Introverts can be skilled leaders, even if they employ a quieter kind of leadership. Though they may seem to be keeping to themselves, they could also be reflecting on a big idea or strategically considering an action plan before sharing it with the team.

Small talk is sure to make most introverts clam up. But there are plenty of ways to engage with a quiet colleague, including:

  • Text-based communicating, which offers an introverted person the opportunity to reflect before responding
  • Keeping meetings to a minimum so that introverts don’t deplete their energies too much with group interactions
  • Collecting written questions during a meeting rather than relying on people to ask them on the spot

3. Collaborating within a group

Open communication can cultivate transparency and help all members of a team feel like they contribute important knowledge and skills to a project. But in a large team, it can feel challenging to connect with everyone. Some ways to ensure that you are thoughtfully and effectively communicating with many team members at once include:

  • Using inclusive language that is not gender-specific or group-specific
  • Concluding each meeting with next steps assigned to specific individuals

4. Staying in touch with remote coworkers

Just by nature of the job, remote workers may feel disconnected from some of the in-person social aspects of working with others. But you can be conscientious about fostering a relationship with colleagues who work in another location. Stay connected to remote team members by:

  • Organizing online meetings to sync up, regardless of location
  • Relying on remote audio or video meetings to create richer, more animated dialogue
  • Using casual, text-based messaging to build friendly rapport in between meetings

Become an expert collaborator with multiple communication styles

Communication at work doesn’t have to be stressful, but it does require some serious thought. As the authors of The Responsible Communication Style Guide remind us, “A responsible communicator makes the effort to present a diversity of perspectives.”

Like anything worth doing, communicating with focus and compassion takes a little extra time and attention. By considering which communication styles may be most effective with various coworkers, you can help cut down on misunderstandings and potential conflicts in the workplace.

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