7 December 2009 How to Communicate with Tact and Professionalism Have you ever been awed by someone who always seems to know what to say and how to say it in any situation? These people know how to communicate with diplomacy, tact, confidence and professionalism. They speak honestly, confidently and receive criticism constructively. They are powerful, not intimidating, and say what needs to be said without offending or creating conflict. This paper explains the why(s) and how(s) to do these things. Determine your objective before diving into communication.
Anticipate reaction before making statements or sending correspondence. Refrain from hurling insults, and rise above petty name-calling or the blame game. Use appropriate terminology; however, do not sound robotic or overly technical. Stay in control of your body language, the audience will evaluate your message through body language, as well as the words you are saying. Learn how to say no clearly and decisively. These are all good examples of communicating with tact and professionalism. The cornerstone of communication is listening.
To become a good listener we should remain open minded and listen to what is being presented to us. Improve listening skills by asking questions, drawing out feelings, encouraging elaboration of needs, and by helping others discover new things about themselves. While listening we must maintain eye contact, and say words of encouragement. However, when people are too emotionally involved they tend to hear only what they want to hear, and not what is actually being said; therefore, avoid emotional involvement. Try to remain objective and open-minded.
Listening is awareness of, tending to and organization of data entering our nervous system via our hearing mechanism (Listening: A vital Skill). Unlike hearing, which is a physiological passive activity, listening is an active cognitive process. Listen actively, never interrupt the other party. Try to understand what the other person is saying. Reflective listening takes place when we understand what is being presented and we put this understanding into our own words by restating their statement or position (Rautalinko, Lisper 282). Managing emotions is also vital in the work environment.
If needed, count to 5, 50, or 500 before responding. Take deep breaths, relax muscles, take a drink of water, but don’t get defensive. Ask a question, ask for time, and check physical responses. Because managing emotions is critical, when possible, wait 24 hours before responding to an email. We must help others manage their emotions as well. Let them vent, de-escalate the situation, listen, support, and encourage a cooling off period along with a commitment to continue the conversation after the cooling off period. We must learn to express feelings without drama.
When trying to avoid conflict the problem usually gets worse. The earlier a problem can be identified and intervention occurs, the better. Good communication skills require us to be able to resolve conflict. Find something in the others person’s argument to agree with to ensure they feel heard. Don’t place blame. Use “I” statements, instead of “You” statements to avoid blame. Being direct and clear help, yet be positive use affirmation and encouragement to get the best from people. Workplace stress can make people hostile toward one another causing them to lose their loyalty and confidence in the company.
Because stress is usually compounded by time, number of employees, and the nature of the work being done, it is best to know where the workplace stress is coming from. Personal lives, financial issues, or being turned down for a promotion can also cause employees stress. Measuring the effects of workplace stress along with these other symptoms will give employers a better idea of where problems within the workplace structure exist (Psychosocial Factors: Creating a Well-Balanced Work Environment). An easy way to avoid some of work stresses is positive feedback.
Positive feedback is easy and motivational it is as easy as telling a co-worker “job well done” (Employee Feedback-How to Build Staff Morale and Grow Your Business). Thank people for a job well done. “Thank You” takes very little effort feeling valued and appreciated helps moral and self-esteem. Congratulate a person for taking initiative and for solving the problems for others. Discuss career opportunities even if they are outside of the current workplace. Celebrate successes as a team. Negative feedback is not easy focus on the behavior (activity) not the person.
Be specific when explaining why the behavior is a problem. Express opinions as opinions not fact, anticipate reactions, and focus on the future. Remember in order for a feedback culture to work, employees must trust their leader, have a clear purpose, trust co-workers, take part in decision making, and feel safe. When receiving negative feedback, avoid defensive reactions. Listen without interruption; however, clarify any misunderstandings. Ask questions to clarify what you did or did not do, ensure you heard correctly.
Before taking action, ask for time to think and digest, then get back with the person providing the feedback. Being an effective communicator takes skill. These skills must be developed, honed, and built upon continuously. To be effective in business, a person must communicate well. To be a good manager, learn to communicate exceptionally well. Since we are not all the same, the greatest skill we can have, in order to instantly and significantly improve communication skills, is to understand other points of view and empathize with how others see the world (Communication Skills Training – Effective Communication).
Always act politely and have patience, look for small step improvements. Gather information, think through options. Be willing to make change within yourself to improve situations. Follow up and follow through. Saying “NO” to management or co-workers can be one of the most difficult things a person learns to do. Once a clear sense of priorities is established, saying “NO” at work becomes easier. Weigh the risks and benefits of every refusal, both professionally and personally. The response must be tailored to fit the request.
Ask the following questions: Do I have the time, energy, and will to complete this request? Is the request within the parameters of my job description? Does my job, livelihood, or promotion hinge on saying yes? Will agreeing to the request be a hardship for family or other important relationships? Because no communicated in a timely manner is easier to deal with than a non-answer, state the answer clearly and decisively. Explain briefly why the request does not fit within commitments and priorities. Ensure the refusal is explained and not taken personally.
When possible, suggest other ways of getting the project done. Great managers must accept and understand that people have separate realities. Understanding and accepting different perceptions of reality as a fact of workplace life will reduce frustration, and help us begin to deal with conflict more effectively. Conflict is not something that can always be avoided in the workplace; therefore, how people manage and diffuses the conflict is entirely up to them (Effective Communication for Conflict Resolution).
The next time you are awed by a powerful speaker, coworker, manger or anyone realize these people learned all they really need to know about how to live, what to do, and how to be in kindergarten: Play fair, don’t hit people, clean up your own mess, and apologize when you hurt somebody. Works Sited Petress, Kenneth C. “Listening: A Vital Skill – Brief Article. ” Journal of Instructional Psychology, Dec, 1999 Rautalinko, Erik and Lisper, Hans-Olof. “Effects of Training Reflective Listening in a Corporate Setting”. Journal of Business and Psychology, Vol. 18, No. 3 (2004): pages 281-299 Print. Adubato, Steve. Effective Communication for Conflict Resolution. ” NJBIZ, Nov, 2008 Alex, Dakotta. “Psychosocial Factors: Creating a Well-Balance Work Environment. ” www. dakotta. com/articles/66. Aug, 2009 Chandler, Robin. “Communication Skills Training-Effective Communication. ” www. articlesbase. com/business-articles. Dec, 2005 McCoy, Jennifer. “Employee Feedback-How to Build Staff Morale and Grow Your Business. ”www. businessperform. com/articles/workplace-comminication. Aug, 2007 The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2008. Web. Dec, 2008 Fulghum, Robert. All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. New York: Villard Books, 1988. Print.