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4 Strategies to Overcome Communication Barriers in the Workplace

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4 Strategies to Overcome Communication Barriers in the Workplace

4 Strategies to Overcome Communication Barriers in the Workplace

A post from our Communication blog

      Written by Ashley Andrews
Our life would be so much easier if everyone communicated well with each other, and misunderstandings were resolved easily.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in real life; especially in today's diverse workplace where people from different walks of life have to work together in the same environment.

Without effective communication skills, there's a lot of room for misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and tension between co-workers.

Regardless of the industry you work in, these situations are both common and inevitable, and in order to work well in a team and in a company, you need to know how to overcome communication barriers. To help you understand what these are and how to deal with them, we have collected 4 strategies to overcome communication barriers in the workplace below.

Before I go into these though, let me just ask if you actually have any indication of how good your own personal communication skills are? If not, once you've finished this article, why not take a free 4-5 minute test that will give you a personalised report? That can be found here.

1. There's a lot more diversity

This is, of course, a very good thing. A more diverse workforce brings with it valuable new perspectives and skillsets. But communication can be tricky even with our nearest and dearest! Throw into the mix different cultures, religions or belief systems – not to mention gender and generational differences – and there's suddenly a lot more to think about before we speak.

And diversity can be much more subtle than different backgrounds or home countries. There's always a risk that people see the same thing in two different ways: e.g. a well-intended compliment that didn't quite go far enough to reassure a colleague they'd done a good job – or was perceived as false or sarcastic.

So, what's the solution? Well, with the best of intentions, some teams just need a little help getting to grips with diversity in the workplace.

The good news is that there are dedicated courses that can help. And, if it's not possible for your business to support official training, most companies should at least have a diversity policy in place which covers the basics of working in a varied social environment. If you're keen to gain a better understanding of diversity at work, speak to your HR team and see if they're able to support a diversity course.

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2. We need to brush up on our listening (and speaking) skills!

Communication, particularly in the workplace, can be a bit of a competition. Some of this could come down to trying to assert ourselves in the eyes of our peers, by being outspoken and putting forward suggestions. Some of it might be down to lack of time and deadlines. Mastering true assertiveness, however, is less about shouting the loudest and far more about understanding the point of view of others', before putting ours forward.

Ultimately, this involves brushing up on our listening skills. Listening, in and of itself, seems like a bit of an effortless act. But true listening – the kind that leads to genuine understanding – requires a concerted effort. To begin with, anyway.

The modern workplace is packed with distractions, which can be one of the biggest barriers to productive listening. Then there's the urge to interrupt others when we feel like they're not getting to the point quick enough. This is hugely prevalent in pressurised work scenarios, where time is of the essence. Learning to actively listen and communicate our standpoint in a non-dismissive way is a true skill, which many of us could use a little help with. So one way to overcome the hurdle is by taking a course in effective listening and communication.

3. Our channels and processes need work

Sometimes, communication fails at work through no fault of our own. With the best listening skills in the world and an entirely open-mind, if the company's processes and communication channels leave something to be desired we'll struggle to keep everyone on the same page.

Encouraging better communication can involve something as simple as scheduling regular team meetings or creating communication-friendly spaces in the workplace. Then there's instant channels like live chat groups or good old fashioned phone and email discussion. However your business's internal channels and processes could be improved, being able to make suggestions and utilise the changes effectively requires solid communication skills.

If you're not a naturally assertive communicator, this is easier said than done. So developing skills through focused training can help to break down barriers and give us the confidence to spot problems, make suggestions and keep the momentum going once a change has been implemented.

4. We don't fully understand our colleagues

Ever sat in a meeting and wondered what on earth your colleagues are talking about? Do you struggle with business jargon or just feel totally out of the loop when it comes to the other departments you work with? You're not alone. Many of us don't ‘get' the roles of at least some of our peers. And why would we, without a proper introduction?

If you shrink in your seat during cross-departmental meetings, for fear that someone might call you out on your lack of understanding of ‘P & L' or ‘loss margins', perhaps some cross-departmental training is in order? It may be that your whole workplace could benefit from learning a bit about the day job of others.

For example, a sales manager might benefit from something like an HR for non-HR managers course. An HR manager might benefit from a Finance for non-Finance managers course and so on.

Or it might be more appropriate to send departmental management on a course, which they can then funnel down to their wider teams. Most of us have, at one time or another, probably thought; "I have absolutely no idea what so-and-so does", and we can't properly understand the priorities and pressures facing our colleagues without at least knowing the bare minimum about their role.

Most of what blocks us from effective communication at work comes down to a lack of understanding. Whether it's peoples' backgrounds, the different time constraints facing us, lack of proper communication channels or simply not knowing what other teams and individuals do – learning to appreciate differences and articulate ourselves better at work can pay dividends.

P.S. I mentioned up at the top that we have a free test that you can take to check your own communication skills. In case you forgot about that as you read the rest of the article, I remind you it can be found here.

Want to Communicate More Effectively?

We have online courses with full 12-months' access.
RRP from $119 – limited time offer just $12

Do you have any other tips on how to overcome communication barriers in the workplace? Let us know!

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