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<xTITLE>How Can We Communicate Better At Work?</xTITLE>

How Can We Communicate Better At Work?

by Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Have you ever received or given ambiguous instructions? Do you always provide information through memos or other written communication? Are poor cooperation, lower productivity, tension, gossip and/or rumors the results?

Experience shows that there are many ways we can enhance our communication skills. For the next 30 days try some new techniques and follow the tips for good communication listed below and see the difference!

Communication is a two-way process. The speaker gives information and the listener provides feedback. If the listener does not provide feedback, then the speaker must ask for it. Example: As the listener, paraphrase what you hear the speaker saying or ask questions to clarify. If the speaker asks for feedback, he/she might say, Awhat are your thoughts on this proposal?

Understand that not everyone is going to agree with you. Respect other people’s ideas.

Communicate purposefully. Think about what you want to convey and ask yourself if your message is clear. Ambiguity is generally caused by failure to be specific. Example: Instead of saying, I need this report next week, say what you really mean, AI need it Monday morning. In the first example, the employee may operate under the assumption that any time next week is fine, but will fall short of your expectations when the report is not completed by Monday morning.

Be reliable. Managers and employees who lack credibility fail to create open lines of communication and inhibit the growth of trust. For example: If you say you are going to do something by a certain date, do it. If something beyond your control interferes with accomplishment of the task, tell the person before the due date to avoid catching them off guard.

There is no substitute for face-to-face communication with employees. Written communications such as memos, electronic mail and posting items on a bulletin board are not as successful as personal contact even though they are all effective means of communicating some types of information.

Really listen to your employees and colleagues; acknowledge their input and show respect when they speak. People tend to feel more a part of the team and will be more productive. Example: Ask questions to show your interest and acknowledge feelings.

Providing current information to employees helps them to feel like an integral part of the organization. Withholding information fosters distrust and allows rumors to perpetuate.

The following examples provide you with tips to improve your communication skills and cites examples of barriers to avoid in your communication with others.


1. Listen attentively
2. Ask questions and invite questions
3. Provide feedback to others and ask for feedback
4. Be tolerant of others
5. Be honest
6. Demonstrate respect by being open
7. Clarify your own ideas before communicating
8. Communicate purposely - Focus on your real message
9. Consider the timing, setting, and social climate
10. Acknowledge the other person’s perspectives and explain your own perspectives
11. Consult others when planning to communicate
12. Be cognizant of your tone, expression, and receptiveness
13. Demonstrate empathy
14. Have a sense of humor
15. Look for a common goal (s)
16. Ensure that your actions support your communications
17. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
18. Communicate not only for today, but for the future as well


1. Poor listening skills
2. Lack of interest
3. Lack of trust
4. Stereotyping
5. Power struggle
6. Intimidation
7. Inability to understand the other party or no desire to understand the other party
8. Avoiding the issues
9. Mechanical problems - inadequate PA system, problems with integrative technology
10. Language barriers
11. Low self-concept
12. Defensiveness
13. Inaccurate assumptions
In May, 1996, APHIS employees were notified of the creation of a new program called Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR). CPR became operational on June 3, 1996. The focus of the program is mediation, a form of conflict resolution which uses a neutral third party to assist in the resolution process.