Plan Your Communication to Save You Time and Energy

As I often say, “You can’t NOT communicate,” but leaders often figure they can avoid communicating with their teams and just focus on the “important work.” Here’s what leaders don’t realize: They are already communicating whether or not they intend to. It is human nature for others to read into our actions based on their perceptions. And as we know, actions speak louder than words.

Plan Ahead to Prevent Cleaning Up a Mess Later

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New Year’s Resolutions To Improve Your Communication Skills

It’s that time of year again – the time to make New Year’s resolutions. But instead of just going the traditional route – pledging to join a gym to work off holiday excesses – why not opt to give your career a boost as well? Resolve to improve your communication skills.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly! How you communicate with others—whether in person, in writing, or online—has a tremendous impact on your career. It affects every aspect of your working life, no matter how good your specialized skills are in your particular field.

For the coming year, make these communication resolutions to enhance your career:

1. Resolve to keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.”  It’s important to give people your full attention.

2. Take a presentation skills class. Work on becoming a better presenter. You need to get your point across. And if you do so effectively, not only does your audience gain information, but you look good.

3. Use “reply all” only when it is necessary for everyone on the list to see the email. In my writing classes, many participants say they really dislike receiving unnecessary emails. If you don’t want to receive unwanted emails, you need to stop overusing “reply all,” also.

4. Be smart with social media. Don’t allow social media to hurt your career. If your sites suggest you drink too much, curse a lot, or post nasty comments, people may question whether they want to work with you or hire you.

5. Learn to command the room. You want to stand out — in a good way. Dress appropriately. Walk into a room as though you belong there. Stand tall. Don’t fidget. Shake hands correctly and make small talk. When nervous, say something positive to yourself. Before she enters a meeting room, one woman I coached says to herself, “I own this meeting!”

6. Offer your opinion. If you don’t speak up in meetings, your boss, colleagues, or clients won’t know what you know. And speak early in the meeting. The longer you wait to talk, the harder it is likely to become.

7. Monitor your volume. Make sure you speak loudly enough to be heard. Many people don’t. Do not underestimate how powerful a strong voice can be – but don’t confuse powerful with shouting. You want your opinions, thoughts and ideas to register with others.

8. Apply for awards. Winning professional or community awards helps to build your credibility, and can be an important way to promote yourself. To be eligible for many awards, other people have to recommend you; for some, however, you can nominate yourself. This is not an obnoxious thing to do. You still have to earn the award.

9. Be friendly and helpful. People want to work with others they know, like and trust. It may seem obvious, but too often people neglect the little things that build relationships. Greet people you know and also those you don’t know. Smile. Say “please” and “thank you.” Help people when you can. Make connections for others, both online and in person.

10. Send thank-you notes. In the New Year, start showing appreciation for the kindness of others. If you receive a gift, visit the home of a boss or colleague, or are a guest at a meal, you must send a note. You also need to send a thank-you note after a job interview.

These 10 potential resolutions provide numerous possibilities for improving your career. There are many more communication suggestions discussed in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, 2017).

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141.

Someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own

   

My coworkers post such vile things on their Facebook pages. I want to tell them that they’re all idiots.

I want to work out; I don’t want to argue with my trainer about the election. If she doesn’t stop talking about her candidate, I will go elsewhere.


I don’t want to discuss politics at work. Yet, my colleagues say nasty things about the candidates and often end up yelling at each other. What do I do?

 

The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences, as the comments above testify. But it’s time for people to fight back – politely, of course – and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures to behave. Nor is it the way we should behave.


Bear in mind:

— You don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others.

  

— You can be “polite and powerful” and express yourself without resorting to bad behavior.

 

Use these tips to encourage polite behavior in your workplace and in your wider world. (These apply to your social media postings, also.)

 

1. Don’t attack back. Remember that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. I know this may be a hard concept to accept, and even harder to implement – but it is worth practicing. If somebody says something to offend you, it may feel good to respond with a comment like, “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” But this type of response is not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything. Plus, it gives the other person power over you, by getting you to say things that most people will regret later. 


2. Disagree agreeably. If you have difficulty with someone, talk to the person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Explain your reasons. Provide the specific information, quotes and/or research. You can say, “I see it differently, and here’s why…” which is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names. Or, you can say, “Let’s agree to disagree and move on,” or “I am not discussing politics at work. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.” 


3. Avoid inflammatory words. Using harsh words such as “stupid,” “ignorant,” and “dumb” only inflames a situation, and this approach is unlikely to lead to a positive resolution. Name calling is just wrong – and childish. Cursing at people is not only mean, it also reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing. (Additional information on word choice and how to respond assertively to aggressive comments can be found in my book, 
The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)


4. Remember that it’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you.  This includes meetings in person or via Zoom. Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary. Greet others when you see them. Don’t interrupt people. Help them when you can. These behaviors are common sense, but unfortunately they’re not always common practice.

 

5. Do something. If you really don’t like something, take action. Don’t complain to others, get involved. Join organizations. Volunteer for causes you support. Start a blog where you assertively (politely and powerfully) express your opinions – but make sure you follow your company guidelines, if you do. 

6. Walk away.  And if you don’t want to do any of the above, you can always avoid hostile or impolite discussions by removing yourself from the conversation or taking a break from social media.

 


Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com.    

 

 

 

 

Don’t Whine About Your Job. Do Something!


My coworker hates her job. She keeps complaining to me. I have tried to talk to her about what she could do, but she is not listening. She is worried about finding a new position during the coronavirus pandemic. 
 

My husband keeps threatening to quit his job. He only comments negatively about his job and the people who work with him. I wish he would just do something.

My friend was having difficulty with her schedule, but she didn’t go to her boss to discuss alternatives. She just quit. When I had a problem, my boss adjusted my schedule. My friend’s might have been adjusted, too, if she had said something.

As these comments from participants in my seminars indicate, tackling problems that affect our work lives can be difficult. 

When some people become dissatisfied with their work, they do nothing. Perhaps they don’t know how to proceed, or maybe they don’t believe there is anything they can do to improve the situation. Usually, the only action they take is to whine about their bosses, their colleagues, or the work. 

Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything – except having your friends, colleagues and others stay clear of you.

Some, on the other hand, get so frustrated that they impulsively quit their jobs without having another lined up, or without even a plan for the future.


 Both reactions can affect your career negatively. However, there is an alternative that can help people evaluate their work situations. Answering the following four questions encourages people to take action and decide their next steps. 

1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue? It is easy to say, “I hate my job,” but it is important to identify why. What is the real issue that is causing you to be unhappy? Be honest and be specific. Is it the type of work you do, or just one aspect of the job? Is it the commute, the money, your boss, the people you work with, or any number of other causes? One man I coached liked most of the facets of his job, but wanted to quit because he had to make frequent presentations. Another realized that her new position involved using unfamiliar technology, which made her feel uncomfortable and unqualified.  

2. Can you solve the problem? Now that you have identified the issue, is there something that can be done? Is there a realistic solution? If so, what do you have to lose by asking for it? Make the case for your suggestion, including any benefits to your department or to the company. Remember that if you don’t speak up, chances are nothing will change. 

3. Are there advantages to this job? If you can’t solve the problem, think about what you are gaining from the position.  Don’t just quickly say, “Nothing.” Here are four possible things to consider: 

–Is the job a stepping stone?  Will you need the skills you gain from this position to qualify for a job on the next rung of the ladder? One of my early jobs involved working for a horrible boss. Yet I stayed until I had gained the experience I needed, and then I left.   

–Is there any education or training perk to which you have access? Some companies will fund part or all of your ongoing education. This can be a major benefit for many people. 

–Who are you meeting? Does the job allow you to interact with people and build your network? If so, it is possible that by having a strong network, additional job opportunities will come your way. 

–Can you learn to manage your boss? Learning to work with difficult people is an important skill that almost certainly will be beneficial to you at some point in your career.

4. Is it time to start a job search? Depending on how you answer the above questions, you may decide that it is time to start looking for a new position. (Specific suggestions for looking for work during the pandemic can be found in my blog, Looking for a job? 10 tips to help you succeed in a coronavirus world). You may even decide to change careers. Any number of alternatives may now be available to you. This doesn’t mean you just quit your job. Generally, it is best to look for a new job (or career) while you are still working at the old one. 

Information on conducting a thorough job search can be found in my book The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.   


Whether you decide to stay at your current job or to look for a new one, feel good about your choice. You are doing something: You have taken charge of your career. 

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedInTwitterFacebook or my website:pachter.com
  
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence.  (bpachter@pachter.com)