Before my experience in PR, I would’ve claimed I was a great communicator. I enjoy engaging with new people and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. However, as I put my skills to the test for the first time as an intern at Cognito this summer, I realized this was not communication at all – I was just a “talker.”
In my first few weeks, nerves about my own skill level and not wanting to disrupt my new peers often kept me quiet. I soon learned the office environment is anything but that. Ideas are discussed openly and questions are shared across the room. Participating in these discussions is encouraged, but a bit more technical than I expected. I slowly adapted my skills, allowing me to learn more about the business than I would have while quietly pretending. It’s time to reassess how we communicate, both inside and out of the office, and try to get more out of our relationships with those around us. Here are some techniques to get you started:
Be receptive. The first missing piece of my communications skills puzzle was listening. No, not silently learning from the conversations buzzing on around me. Instead, actively participating in these conversations, and not dismissing other opinions. It is important to stand by your own skills and not allow criticism to weaken them. Listening to feedback is a huge growth opportunity for people of any experience level. So ask for that second opinion and follow up with peers whenever possible. People will return the favor, and everyone’s work quality will benefit.
Be real. Whether in conversation or via email, people respond well to moments of humanity that break up their screen-filled day. It’s how memes came to be and Wendy's became Twitter famous. While humor is not always the most effective or appropriate method of communicating in the office, other skills such as empathy provide a personal touch that can increase engagement. Everyone feels the pressure of squeezing all their obligations into one day, and it’s easy for our conversations to become a little robotic. Remember that we are all real people with real lives outside of our Outlook calendars – remind people of this to stand out.
Be a team player. Prioritize the success of your team as a whole and communication will come naturally. If peers are not discussing the smaller tasks and working towards a common goal, there is a missed opportunity to grow and improve the product/service together. Using someone’s individual skills and specialties strategically can benefit the work of the entire office, not just the individual. Being open eliminates the need to fake a skill that one of your peers has mastered. If everyone promotes one another, everyone has the opportunity to improve and the group becomes more successful.
Be confident. While it’s mutually beneficial to ask for help, it should not devalue your own skills and contributions. It’s easy to drown your voice in “I’m sorry’s,” “I think’s,” and other general fluff. People will be more receptive, respectful, and involved when thoughts are presented with clarity. Maintaining good body language and eye contact are equally important to communicating respectfully. Confidence in yourself and your ability to voice an opinion rather than faking it will cultivate trust from others and improve overall office communication.
The need for real, confident, and collaborative office communication reaches far beyond simply talking. Mastering this skill is tricky an. It starts with remembering that no matter your position, everyone has the opportunity to be both a teacher and a student.
Improved communication within the office creates a comfortable environment that promotes growth and improvement for everyone.
Megan Burke is an intern in Cognito's New York office