Did you know that, according to Warren Buffett, if you can improve your communication skills, you’ll earn 50% more money?
If your employees and peers need to take time out of their day to decipher your communications because they’re so confusing, how much time are they wasting on a regular basis? And if they misunderstand what you’re saying, there might be follow-up calls, emails, and texts in your future as they seek to clarify your original message, wasting even more time for everyone involved. Your recipient could even move forward on the basis of their misinterpretation of your message! Misunderstandings like this, large or small, can cost companies thousands of dollars, if not more, in lost time – and it’s especially the case in technical writing. Errors in instructions and documents can be costly, result in fines, lead to accidents, and hurt your overall business.
By honing your communication skills, you can save yourself and your organization time and money. Keep reading as we dive into the signs of bad communication in the workplace and with individuals, the benefits of honing your skills, and the steps you can take to come out on top as an excellent communicator.
What Are the Symptoms of Bad Communication?
While individuals and organizations can certainly “get by” with poor communication – it happens all the time – it’s not without its cost. In fact, one author and communication expert has estimated that poor communication can cost companies with 100 employees $420,000 on average each year! One study even found that there is a $1.2 trillion loss every year in the United States due to these types of errors. To take a different approach to it, a recent report suggests that teams lose about a full day’s worth of work in time (7.47 hours) every week just clearing up poor communication. Other downsides you might notice in your business that result from bad communication include:
- Regularly missed and/or extended deadlines.
- Increased project costs.
- Misunderstandings and mistakes that lead to errors or increased costs.
- Regular follow up-messages and calls for clarification.
- Too many meetings covering too little substance.
- Delays in communication, especially from leadership.
- Confusion during periods of change.
- Employee mistrust and low morale.
- Problems with remote and hybrid work models.
- Lack of accountability.
- Lack of innovation.
- High employee turnover.
- Loss of efficiency and productivity
But what improves your communication as an individual? Knowing the signs of where your communication skills could use work is the first step to improving those skills. You might notice these signs in yourself or others in your workplace:
- You often interrupt others.
- You lose focus or stop paying attention when people are talking to you.
- You don’t ask questions.
- People often ask you for clarification on your emails or messages or go to someone in your department for clarification.
- You use negative body language.
- You’re often multitasking, especially when someone is trying to talk to you.
- You make assumptions about motives.
- You expect some level of mind reading.
- You’re using unclear language in writing or automatically assume the recipient knows what you’re referencing.
- You notice that people have stopped asking for your thoughts and opinions.
What Are the Benefits of Improving Your Communication Skills?
Elevated communication skills bring a wealth of benefits to both organizations and individuals. Here are just a few!
You’ll Cut Down on Lost Time
As discussed above, miscommunication is a huge time and money waster. By honing your communication skills, you can ensure that your message is clear the first time you send that email or text message. You’ll get your point across quickly with all the information your message needs without it being a word salad or novel. This not only saves time initially, but also cuts down on the need for unnecessary follow-ups that you then have to take more time addressing.
You’ll Be Better Able to Handle Conflicts
Conflicts happen in the workplace, and how we respond to them can have a ripple effect through an organization. If a conflict or disagreement goes on too long, companies can start to see delays in projects and rising costs. However, by improving communication skills, leaders can help minimize miscommunications, really hear their employees, take steps to prevent conflict from the beginning, and clear up any disagreements that arise. Not only will your company and employee morale improve, but you’ll see the difference in your company culture and experience less stress all around.
You’ll Become More Empathetic
Empathy is the understanding of why a person feels the way they do. It allows us to build relationships, understand different viewpoints, and be better communicators, especially during challenging times or times of conflict. A focus on your communication skills and empathy can improve how you say things as well as your body language, eye contact, facial expressions, and more.
You Can Focus on Personal Growth
Better communication skills are necessary for personal growth. You’ll be able to focus more on elevating workplace relationships and creating a better work environment for everyone involved, while also building trust, authenticity, and value in your everyday discussions. These skills are also key to being more self-aware, which helps us identify when we’re not being clear, coming off as rude, or coming across as “closed off” from the conversation.
How Can You Improve Your Communication Skills?
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to start improving your communication skills, starting today! Try these five ideas to start seeing results quickly.
Be Mindful of Your Body Language
One of the first things we can do when it comes to improving communication is watching our body language. While this doesn’t necessarily affect our written communication, it can eventually translate into other skills that will be reflected in your writing.
Changing body language isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight, but here are some small steps that will make the difference.
- Stop crossing your arms, especially when your legs are also crossed.
- Make eye contact.
- Take your hands out of your pockets.
- Keep your facial expression friendly and open.
- Relax before speaking so you’re not tense. (Try some deep breathing!)
- Watch how you carry yourself.
- Stay still; don’t fidget.
You’ll probably notice yourself doing a few of these things when talking, but the key to breaking these habits is to stop as you notice. Eventually you’ll train your brain and your body to be better communicators for you!
Think About What You’re Trying to Say
One good way to improve your written and spoken communication skills immediately is to ask yourself, “What is the purpose of what I’m trying to say?”
This will help you get to the point quickly and clearly, without rambling. To answer this question more effectively, focus on
- Who needs to know this?
- What do they need to know?
- When do they need to act on it?
- Where does the action take place?
- Why is the information important?
- How are they to accomplish it?
Now, that’s a lot to get into a purpose statement, but it is helpful to think through these important components when arriving at your purpose.
Always read over your messages, emails, or texts before sending them. Even if you’re in a hurry, this simple step is essential to effective communication. You could accidentally give your reader incorrect information or make your message less than clear by not taking time to proofread and edit. It only takes a few seconds and can save you (and the reader) a lot of headaches!
Write More and Read More
Reading or writing in your free time and at work is an easy way to improve your writing and communication skills. Read a novel at home, read the news on your phone, or take notes during a meeting. Communication is just like anything else – it takes practice to become better at it .
Schedule Some Training
Training is another excellent way to elevate your communication skills! By working with experienced people who understand the importance of clear and concise writing in the workplace, you can learn their skills and adapt them to your own line of work.
Did you know that Shea Writing and Training Solutions offers technical communication training? Our courses focus on guidance, feedback, instruction, and practice to help you hone your skills and become a better communicator. With one-on-one feedback, you will see an increase in your writing effectiveness and a decrease in formatting problems. In addition, we offer courses on email etiquette, grammar, template use, and more, so you can be sure you’re writing to a gold standard in everything you do.
The importance of communication can’t be understated. Poor communication skills can lead to wasted time and confusion, and a potential loss of profits and efficiency at the company level. So it’s time to ask yourself: how much is poor communication costing you and your business?
Shea Writing and Training Solutions is here to help you elevate your writing and communication skills! With a focus on the Instructional Systems Development process, we take an ‘engineering’ approach to our work and ensure that we base our training design and the training itself on an assessment of your desired outcomes. If you’re curious about the training opportunities we offer, whether for yourself or for your employees, take a look at our various training and development courses right here.