How To Improve Communication At Work And In Your Personal Life

improve communication

Communication is the foundation to any successful relationship. Yet so often we fail. So why is it so hard for humans to communicate effectively? Is it because we are too complex for our own good? There are many dimensions to this fundamental aspect of our lives, and I want to examine a few of them today. I hope after reading this post you’ll a refreshed perspective on how we interact with one another and how to improve communication at work and in your personal life.

The Blame Game Is Lame

Things go wrong all the time at the office, among families, and between customers and businesses. We love to put the blame on someone else or the circumstances of situations when things don’t happen as we expected or in an productive manner.

Rarely do we admit that the cause of failures were due to ineffective communication. Why? Because we all tend to think we communicate better than we actually do, and blaming something else is easier than looking at the flaws in how we relayed information to one another. So next time things don’t go the way you anticipated, don’t jump to conclusions without analyzing if your communication was effective.

Ineffectiveness Not Nervousness

The National Communications Associate presented a lot of intriguing information in their study How Americans Communicate.

  • 62% of Americans felt they were very comfortable communicating with people (talking with relative ease)
  • However, only 42% said they were effective when communicating

It’s important to understand the difference between nervousness and ineffectiveness. They aren’t the same thing, and when communication breaks down, it’s stemming from problems with effectiveness most of the time, not feelings of anxiety or the jitters.

Verbal And Non Verbal Communication

We all know that there are many different ways we communicate, in writing, speech, and through physical observation. However, we live in a world that is built around a talk centered model of communication. We can’t go through life without talking to our loved ones, friends, and colleagues.

  • On average, we use 16,000 words in a 17 hour day, ranging all the way up to 47,000 words a day

That’s a LOT of talking folks. Not only that, there’s a huge span in the amount of words that we use on a daily basis. 47,000 words is almost three times that of 16k, and I’m sure there are many people who fall below this average too depending on the type of work and lifestyle they lead. Where do you think you fall in this spectrum? Think how hard it would be to actually calculate that data!

How To Improve Communication At Work And In Your Personal Life

I listened to a fascinating lecture by Professor Dalton Kehoe at York University about communication and he talks about several easy steps we can all take to improve how we communicate.

1) We need to need to discover ourselves.

2) We should focus on building relationships with other people.

3) We need to influence others

4) We need to be aware of what’s going on.

5) We need to never stop listening!

It’s important to be multidimensional to be effective communicators. Before you can better you have to identify your weaknesses. We all have them! Perhaps its a lack of eye contact, low confidence causing shortfalls in assertiveness, being out of the loop, interrupting others, or not sharing your opinions.

We also need to work on building relationships with those we interact with in order to communicate effectively and to be able to influence others. And if we want to be able to predict, survive, and thrive, we absolutely need to understand and be aware of what’s going on around us, what’s happening next, and look at how we’re being treated in each situation.

The Multiple Layers Of Face To Face Communication

We all communicate over emails, texts, and phone calls now that we’re in a world that can’t function without technology. And while it’s essential to know how to communicate effectively when we can’t actually see the people we’re relaying information to, we can not discount the significance of face to face communication.

Even if we don’t exchange words, we are communicating when we are face to face. It’s inevitable! Our body language and facial expressions communicate how we’re feeling. So we can’t just think about what we say in words to each other, we must also work on what we’re communicating through our bodies.

Face to face communication is made up of mutual exchanges and adjustments because we can’t help but react to one another. Think about the last argument or disagreement you had and try to remember the beginning and how the communication started. What triggered the reactions that each of you had? How did your physicality and words affect those around you? Don’t stay in your comfort zone and just blame someone or something else. Identify what parts of your communication were symmetrical or complimentary and how you used power to influence each other.

Never Stop Improving How You Communicate

We’ve all been in situations when we’ve said things we later regret. The valuable takeaway is that we learn from those experiences and remind ourselves regularly that we can’t take words back once they’ve been said. Even if we apologize, that doesn’t erase what came out.

We’re also complex beings, and we often need to adjust our communication style based on who we’re interacting with. Keep an open mind about your weaknesses and never stop improving how you communicate. We can’t be happy if we aren’t able to communicate effectively!

Untemplaters, how would you rate your communication skills and style? What are the most common causes you’ve identified when communication breaks down? Do you have any tips on how to improve communication at work and in your personal life?


Unconventional Guides

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

My Money Design November 5, 2012 at 3:48 am

The biggest cause of communication break down? – No one listens! People talk and talk, but they rarely ever get to the point or address the question on the table. I know several people that are really good at filling up the airways with meaningless jib, jab, but it doesn’t help. The blame game is also a large challenge. So long as people cannot take responsibility for their own mistakes, progress remains unchanged. Great topic!


Financial Samurai November 5, 2012 at 8:02 am

I can’t agree with you more. Listening is the most important skill! It’s what we were taught in negotiations and communications class in grad school. You can tell who are the smartest people in the room by those who display the best eye contact and who listen the most.

At least speak no more than 50% of the time!

My tennis team captain can’t stop YAPPING away. And in the end, he’s grown delusional.


Sydney November 5, 2012 at 8:57 pm

It’s so true that not listening breaks down communication quickly, which is a common weakness for people who talk constantly without stopping or letting anyone else speak.

Like most things in life, having a healthy balance is important to communication because we all need to be able to share our thoughts while also listening to others.


Moneycone November 5, 2012 at 5:04 am

One thing I learnt is that when you need something, it is always better to talk to the person face to face rather than email him or her!


Sydney November 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Yeah it’s much more efficient that way to speak to someone in those cases, and the requests also don’t come across as harsh. Nobody likes getting emails that say “I need this ASAP!” which we’ve all received at one point or another before.


Money Beagle November 5, 2012 at 6:12 am

Understanding your audience is a big key to successful communication. At work, I can talk to two different managers about the same project I’m working on, but I’ll know that one manager prefers a detailed discussion where the other one things kept short and high level. If I didn’t understand that, I’d probably bore and frustrate the manager that likes things higher level, and I’d come up short in delivering the information to the manager who prefers detail.


Sydney November 5, 2012 at 9:26 pm

This is true. Adapting our communication styles can be very effective. This is especially true when relaying constructive criticism to someone or showing support for a friend going through a tough time.


Financial Samurai November 5, 2012 at 10:56 am

There’s a great book I read during business school which I recommend for everyone. It’s called “Difficult Conversations.” Touches upon marriage, money issues, negotiating a raise, prickly neighbors, etc. Well worth it!

The best communicators are the ones who go the farthest in any organization imo.



Sydney November 5, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Sounds like an excellent read. I’ve had more and more difficult conversations as my career and life have progressed. Learning how to have those tough dialogs isn’t always fun but it really opens all kinds of doors.


Edward Antrobus November 5, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I’m sure I fall well into the lower end of the spectrum. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m at 1/3 of the average or less. Not only does my job leave me without human contact much of the time, but I’m also a big believer of “you have 2 ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as you speak.”


Sydney November 5, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Yeah sounds like you would be well below the average on your work days. I’ve had some work days when I barely spoke with anyone, but typically I have several conversations every hour.


Thomas S. Moore November 6, 2012 at 5:48 am

Great timing with the post Sydney as this is something I am working on every day. I am an extreme introvert and would rather be left alone but that just doesn’t have a place in the work environment as people tend to judge you and think you “think you are better then others”. The one thing I do have a problem with though is that when I do make an effort to communicate is that is seems no one is ever really listening to the other person. Most of the times people are cutting one another off and I am like are you even listening? I have had more then a few people ask am I paying attention because I am quiet while they are talking. I am like what am I supposed to be doing while you are talking?


Sydney November 6, 2012 at 7:58 am

I’m glad you liked the post Thomas. I totally know what you mean about how extroverts can sometimes judge introverts as having an attitude of being better than others when it is totally not the case! One tip that you can try is nodding your head and maintain eye contact with the speaker as you listen. It may sound silly but it really helps the people who are speaking know you are engaged while you are listening. I’ve worked on that myself and it has helped me. 

And yeah it’s frustrating when people talk all over each other and interrupt. Sometimes I feel like we should go back to raising our hands when we have something to say like back in school. :)

Btw I wrote a post about being introverted that I think is right up your alley. Check it out:


Tie the Money Knot November 6, 2012 at 7:22 pm

We have two ears and one mouth, for a reason! Old saying, but very true.

In general, communication is truly essential for success. If one can’t communicate effectively in multiple settings – individually, meetings, presenting, etc – it will be more challenging to succeed on the job. Of course different jobs have different aspects to them, but the bottom line is that communication and building relationships are essential.


Dominique Brown November 19, 2012 at 5:24 am

I would probably rate myself 9/10 when it comes to my communication skills. I think that the most common cause of a communication breakdown is when people don’t tend to listen. We should always be sensitive when we communicate, and we should also put the person’s feelings into consideration. To be able to improve our communication skills, we must first learn how to listen and know your audience. Communication is a lot about what you don’t say and or how you say it. .


Sydney November 20, 2012 at 12:20 am

I agree with you on knowing your audience and also being mindful of what not to say. Some people just start blabbing about things without thinking or paying attention to the feelings of others.


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