In the workplace, oral communication is extremely important because it allows team members to stay on the same page and work toward a shared goal. Practicing effective oral communication at work will not only ensure you can share your ideas and ask for what you want (like a raise or a promotion), it can also help you avoid misunderstandings and overcome conflicts. Keep in mind that the elements of purpose, audience, structure and tone also come into play here when communicating a strong message.
Today, it’s easy to pick up a smartphone and type an email or text your friends and family, but that doesn’t mean oral communication is any less important now than it was in the past. In fact, oral communication is one of the top abilities that employers look for in new hires. But one study suggests that only about 25% of four-year college graduates excel in oral communication (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006). This is surprising when you consider how important this ability is for any job. You may be a fantastic nurse, a math genius, or an expert at remembering facts, but if you can’t clearly and professionally speak to a patient or pitch a proposal to your boss, you’re probably not going to get very far in your career.
Let’s explore the three steps you can take to improve your oral communication in any situation.
The first step toward excellent communication is to prepare what you want to say. Whether you’ll be explaining a new policy to a group at work, training a colleague, or meeting with your boss to ask for a raise, you want to think about the main points you’re trying to make—and how you want to make them—before you begin. The Six W’s will help you identify those main points (who, what, where, when, why, how).
Although much of your spoken communication will occur spontaneously, there are some situations, such as work presentations and interviews, when you should rehearse.
3. Seek Feedback and Reflect
Practicing good oral communication is an ongoing process. The good news is that every time you speak (whether in a group or one on one), you can use those experiences to improve the way you communicate in the future. To do that, you must learn how to seek feedback and reflect on what you’ve learned. You can do this either as you’re speaking or after you’ve spoken.
Following the steps for speaking up will help you create and impart a strong message. But don’t stop there—here are a few tips to keep in mind when speaking to others.
|Positive Attitude||Speakers with positive attitudes are much more interesting for an audience, so being positive is a great way to win your listeners’ attention. One of the ways you can show your audience your positive attitude is by using the positive body language you learned about earlier.|
|Stay Neutral||To communicate in a professional manner, it’s important to stay neutral so that you don’t appear to be overly influenced by personal feelings or opinions, even during difficult work projects or in tense situations. Staying neutral requires you to regulate, or manage, your emotions as part of yourself and social awareness skill. Effective communicators are careful to use professional language and keep their emotions in check to ensure that the main points of their message can be heard.|
|Be Authentic||Although some of these speaking techniques may be unfamiliar to you, you don’t have to pretend to be someone you aren’t or pretend to know things you don’t, especially when communicating with people. A confident, relaxed communicator who speaks authentically is easy for an audience to relate to and listen to.|
|Appropriate Language||Formal communication almost always requires a beginning (such as a greeting) and a conclusion (such as a thank-you to your audience). Being concise, or speaking with only the words that are necessary, is important, especially in formal communication. And it’s always a good practice to avoid verbal fillers such as “uh,” “like,” or “you know.”|
|Adapt to Your Context||No matter what your job is, you’ll find that you and your coworkers will speak differently in the workplace than you do elsewhere—at home or out with friends, for example. Moving between different contexts requires you to change your language so that it’s appropriate for the current context. This is called code-switching. Specifically, code-switching means altering how you speak based on who you’re speaking to. For example, slang might be appropriate in a conversation with a coworker in the hallway, but probably not during a presentation to your department. Code-switching can help you better identify with a group of people so they will understand your message.|