As wireless technology makes it easier for individuals to work from a variety of locations, administrative professionals will be called upon to connect a dispersed workforce. To meet this challenge, professionals will need stellar verbal, listening and writing skills. Here are 15 fail–safe strategies for improving your communication abilities:
- Think logically. What is the goal of each communication you transmit? Your objective should be immediately obvious. For example, if you need an executive's approval on a report, state your request early in the message.
- Open your ears. Be an active listener and give others your undivided attention. Don't interrupt or formulate responses in your head until a person has finished expressing his or her thoughts. After someone shares an idea or gives direction, ask questions to clarify ambiguities.
- Assert your needs calmly and confidently. If you're making a request, explain why you need the information you're seeking, and always provide reasonable deadlines when appropriate.
- Avoid jargon, slang or obscure acronyms. Nearly every organization uses corporate lingo. But too much "shop talk" with clients or contract workers can cause confusion. For example, referring to "HD" can leave people scratching their heads. Did that mean hard drive, help desk or high-definition? When writing, spell out acronyms on the first mention.
- Organize your thoughts. Before making an important phone call, think about what you're going to say to avoid rambling. When leaving a voice mail be sure to give your phone number slowly, once at the start of the message, and once at the end.
- Smile. Your coworkers will appreciate your positive attitude and approach to work. As a result, they may be more willing to help you, increasing your chances of generating positive results. When speaking on the phone, it pays to smile, too. Although people cannot see you, a grin will add warmth to your voice.
- Practice impeccable grammar. If you're unsure of the basic rules of grammar or punctuation, embark on a self–improvement campaign. Invest in a business-composition book or take a writing course. Mastering the rules of grammar will ensure your communications appear polished and professional — you also will be better equipped to proofread your colleagues' work.
- Craft specific subject lines in your e–mails. In a world of carbon copies and spam, meaningful subject lines help recipients prioritize their messages. A generic title such as "meeting" means little and may be difficult for recipients to track later. A better subject line would be: "Agenda for May 22 marketing meeting."
- Deliver gracious greetings. Include proper salutations and closings in your correspondence. If you don't, your memo, letter or e–mail may be construed as too informal.
- Limit stream–of–consciousness conversations. Consider the points you want to make before you start speaking with someone. Limit impulsive "I'm-just–talking–out–loud" moments to brainstorming sessions. This often is the one time when free-floating dialogue is useful, expected and encouraged.
- Check and check again. Always proofread your letters or e–mail before sending them. If you're constructing a particularly important document, ask a colleague to review it first. It's easy to overlook small errors, especially if you're familiar with the material.
- Don't just sound it out. Go out of your way to correctly pronounce and spell people's names. It demonstrates courtesy and professionalism.
- Write with flourish. Savvy word choices can make your correspondence more compelling. Use vibrant, powerful language to articulate your points and attract the reader's attention.
- Avoid sarcasm or criticism in e-mail. It can easily appear harsher than intended. If you find yourself using a lot of emoticons in a message, you may want to have a personal conversation.
- Don't delay. Respond quickly to messages, even if it's only to say that you received the communication and will need more time before you're able to act.