10 ways to communicate more effectively with customers and co-workers (free PDF)

Developing good communication habits can help prevent misunderstandings, build positive relationships, and enable effective collaboration in the workplace. Here are 10 practical tips to guide you toward better communication and steer you away from potential conflicts and confusion. You can also read the article on TechRepublic.

1. Beware of interrupting

Titanic wireless operator Jack Phillips interrupted a wireless message from a nearby ship, telling them to shut up. In doing so, he prevented that ship from sending Titanic an iceberg warning.

Be careful about interrupting others, particularly your customers. They’ll be especially upset if, while they’re explaining a problem, you interrupt them and start offering a solution. If you feel you have to interrupt, at least cut to the chase and tell them what you think their main idea was. That way, they can at least confirm or correct you—and in either case save time.

2. Listen actively

Did you ever get the feeling, when talking to someone, that you were talking to a wall? The person may have heard you but gave no indication of it at all. Avoid doing the same thing. When communicating with others, it’s just as important that people be aware that you’re listening as it is that you’re actually listening. For that reason, be involved with and react to what the other person is saying, either via a nod, or an “I see,” or a paraphrase of their statements. You’ll strengthen your own understanding and make a better impression.

3. Avoid negative questions
Suppose you say to a customer, “You don’t have Word installed?” and they answer “Yes.” What does that mean? Yes, you’re right, Word is not installed? Or yes, they DO have Word installed?

Asking a negative question creates confusion. It’s clearer if you phrase the question positively (e.g., “Do you have Word installed?”) or ask an open-ended question (“What applications do you have installed?”). If you must use the negative, try a question such as “Am I correct that you don’t have Word installed?”

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