Ineffective communication is at the root of countless problems both in our careers and our personal lives.
That’s why I often advise my coaching clients to pay particular attention to the words they say (and write) at work, as well as at home, before they say them.
Talking without thinking can lead to frayed relationships and lost jobs. But it’s not always easy to know how to keep our end of the conversation productive, especially when a colleague or other contact has annoyed us.
To simplify your business communication strategy, it helps to remember that it is best to speak only what is truthful and helpful. The Buddha said this best in describing the principle of “Right Speech.”
According to the Buddhist publication Tricycle, Right Speech was defined as “abstinence from false speech, abstinence from malicious speech, abstinence from harsh speech, and abstinence from idle chatter.” Author Beth Roth explains what this means in plain language:
“In the vernacular this means not lying, not using speech in ways that create discord among people, not using swear words or a cynical, hostile or raised tone of voice, and not engaging in gossip. Re-framed in the positive, these guidelines urge us to say only what is true, to speak in ways that promote harmony among people, to use a tone of voice that is pleasing, kind, and gentle, and to speak mindfully in order that our speech is useful and purposeful.”
Here is a breakdown of these important suggestions to help you navigate them during your workday:
Say what is true. Avoiding the truth has a way of coming back to haunt you. Did you make a mistake on a project? Own up to it rather than passing the buck; it will reflect better on you in the end than trying to dodge the consequences. Likewise, though it can be difficult to tell your boss, coworker, or employee something they don’t want to hear, telling the truth about better ways to do business can improve performance for the whole team.
Speak to promote harmony. Certain ways of communicating are almost guaranteed to cause conflict and clashes with others. Being defensive, accusatory, or harsh in your speech can lead people you need as allies to start avoiding you. Instead, encourage open dialogue and practice active listening skills in your conversations. As the saying goes, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Talk gently. Though we can’t control the voice we were born with, we can work to adjust the tone of our voice to be more pleasing. Be aware of what tone you are projecting, and avoid raising your voice unnecessarily. A kind, gentle, and well-modulated voice puts people at ease and facilitates smooth communication.
Speak mindfully. This may be the most important principle of all when it comes to talking with others. Speaking mindfully means that you get to control what you say, how you say it, and when you say it. When you take the time to be mindful about the words you choose, then you can avoid coming across as cynical or hostile. Mindful speech takes practice, though. It can be challenging to hold back instead of blurting out the first response that comes to mind, especially when many people are talking at once in a meeting. But it is particularly important to steer clear of “idle chatter,” otherwise known as gossip, and avoid using profanity in the office or with clients.
Mark Strong is a Life Coach, Career Coach, and Executive Coach based in NYC. You can find more information at www.markstrongcoaching.com.