Say It Well, Say It Right: How To Better Communicate At Work

How we say something is just as important as what we say. Learn how to express yourself better in different working contexts.
How to Better Communicate At Work

Many good things can come from expressing yourself well at work – getting more time to work towards a deadline, for example, or having your suggestion for a project implemented.

According to software company Workday, good communication keeps everyone focused on their goals, builds trust and makes the workplace more enjoyable.

While expressing yourself through email has its own set of rules, follow these tips to improve on communicating your thoughts, ideas and opinions verbally:

To your supervisor: How to communicate your needs

Making a request or asking for help from a supervisor can be a daunting task. The fear of backlash or being seen as less capable are some barriers that employees may have to overcome.

But successfully doing so can enable you to finish your tasks more quickly and do your job more effectively, says career consultant Jennifer Winter. In the process, you may also learn something from your supervisor, such as valuable experience or knowledge that may help you in your career.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Plan ahead. Think about what you need by identifying the problem as far as possible, what would help you to overcome it, and whether you have tried all other possible solutions.
  • Prepare a list of options or solutions. This will help you appear more well-prepared and show that you have considered the problem carefully before coming for help.
  • Timing is important. Ask your supervisor when they are available for a chat. Going to them when they are too busy or stressed may hinder your chances of getting what you need.
  • Go straight to the point. Supervisors are often busy, so be clear, specific and direct when talking to them.
Grasping the right timing is important when trying to communicate better at work

To your staff or team members: How to delegate work

Effective delegation frees up a leader’s time to work on higher-value tasks for the team or organisation. Their team is kept engaged yet has more autonomy, which builds their trust.

According to leadership expert Jesse Sostrin, leaders should be shaping the team’s thoughts and ideas rather than dictating them. Otherwise, they may end up overextending themselves and become too involved in the work.

Here’s how to delegate well:

  • Start with reasons. Explain what is at stake, why the project matters and how your team fits in. This helps to align everyone towards the same goal.
  • Define the desired outcome. Establish the scope of work, deadline and how you will measure the success of the task.
  • Deliver and ask for feedback at the end. Give constructive criticism as needed and acknowledge good work when you see it, but also ask your team if your instructions were clear and if there is anything you can do to improve delegation.
Speak better at work by learning how to respectfully disagree

With one another: How to disagree respectfully

Disagreeing respectfully helps the conversation move forward and, in the best-case scenario, may even steer the discussion towards new ideas or solutions.

  • Identify a shared goal. In a disagreement, chances are that you differ on what you think is best for the project or team. Stating this objective clearly and connecting your opinion to a higher common purpose (such as the project goals) will help you be better understood by the other person.
  • Validate every opinion. Disagreements are less likely to devolve into arguments if each person shows respect for the other’s opinion. One way to do this is to avoid absolute statements (e.g., “this is wrong”), and start your point by acknowledging the other person’s view.
  • Avoid judgemental language. Harsh words (e.g., “short-sighted”, “naive”) can hurt or cause anger. Try to avoid adjectives altogether, as they may be misinterpreted. Instead, contextualise your opinion with just facts, says Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations. For example, instead of saying “this is short-sighted”, say “I think this won’t benefit us in the long run because…”
  • Maintain a normal pace and volume. Even if you find yourself becoming angry or panicked, it is important to keep to a neutral tone. We tend to talk louder or faster when we are emotional, and this could undercut your message or give mixed signals.
  • Listen. It sounds like common sense, but sometimes we fail to do this, especially in a disagreement. Instead of actively listening to the other person’s explanation, we simply wait for an opportunity to jump in and respond.

Do you agree or disagree with these tips? Share which methods have worked well for you at

    Jan 13, 2022
    Hidayah Md Sham
    Lei Ng
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