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Oops! 7 Awkward (But Common) Grammar Mistakes

 

I’m no English major, but I am a content marketer — attention to grammatical detail is something very near and dear to my heart.

The more time I’ve spent in this role, the more I notice little errors in things like text messages, IMs, and birthday cards. This could either be seen as a good thing … or incredibly stressful to anyone who has to communicate with me non-verbally. (Sorry guys. I can’t help it!)

I’ve become the go-to person for proofreading other people’s content before it goes live, and as a result, I have started to notice a few of the same mistakes cropping up time and time again. So, I decided to write this post with the hope of calling attention to those common errors.

And if these grammatical faux pas aren’t enough — there’s actually another post by my colleague Ginny Soskey that details several other common mistakes. Just in case you want to nerd out a bit more.

Note: I know, I know, not all of these are “grammar” mistakes. But I’m taking a pretty liberal definition of “grammar” in this post — including spelling, usage, punctuation, and the like.

1) The Apostrophe Catastrophe

The two most common misuses of the apostrophe are:

Contractions

The apostrophe is often used as a contraction. For example, “I can’t figure this out.” The apostrophe here is used to omit the word “not” so that “cannot” becomes “can’t.” The same can be used for “don’t” (do not), “they’re” (they are), etc.

Possessives

The second most common use of the apostrophe is to indicate possession. For example, “That is John’s car.” The car belongs to John. Without using the apostrophe in this case, you are pluralizing John, meaning there’s more than one John in your sentence. And then the sentence just doesn’t make sense anyway.

A common point of confusion for both of these apostrophe use cases is the word “it’s.” The possessive form of “it” can cause all kinds of confusion, as it doesn’t conform to the above rule.

For example, “The elephant is known for its memory” is a correct use of the word “its” — even though one might think there should be an apostrophe after the “t” since the elephant “possesses” the memory. A simple way to remember the right one to use is to ask if the word can be separated into two words — “it is” or “it has.” If it can, use an apostrophe.

2) That Tricky Little Comma

There are many uses of the comma, but for simplicity, I’m only going to cover the most frequent errors I spot.

To Separate Elements in a Series

I went to the shop to buy apples carrots bread and milk.

That sounds insane, right? That’s because each element in the series should be separated by a comma.

I went to the shop to buy apples, carrots, bread, and milk.

Ahhh, much better. That last comma, by the way, is optional. It’s called an “Oxford comma,” but whether you use it depends on your own internal style guide.

To Separate Independent Clauses

An independent clause is a sentence that can stand on its own, so when in doubt whether a comma needs to be in the sentence, take the second part of the sentence and ask yourself if it would make a full sentence on its own. If it does, add a comma. If it doesn’t, leave it out.

To Separate an Introductory Word or Phrase

At the beginning of a sentence, we often add an introductory word or phrase that requires a subsequent comma. For example, “In the beginning, I had no idea how to use a comma.” Or, “However, after reading an awesome blog post, I understand the difference.”

There are plenty more use cases for the comma, which is really well documented in this blog post from Daily Writing Tips, which I follow and highly recommend for content marketers.

3) Semicolons and Colons

If you only semi-understand when to use these punctuation marks, here’s a quick explanation to keep in your back pocket.

Semicolons

Semicolons help writers connect two independent clauses that, though they could stand on their own, are closely related and should remain in the same sentence. For example, “It’s her birthday; a party is inevitable!” Notice that each clause could be its own sentence — but stylistically, it makes more sense for them to be joined. (Note: If the first clause contains a coordinating conjunction — “and,” “or,” or “but” — use a comma instead.)

They may also be used to separate items in a list when those items contain commas themselves.

Colons

Colons should be used to introduce or define something. For example, we used one in our blog post title, “The ABCs of Content Marketing: A Glossary of Terms.” Before the colon we give you the title of the post, and after the colon we define what the post is.

You may also use a colon before a list, or when preceded by a clause that can stand on its own. For instance, one might write:

  • A blog post
  • An ebook
  • A novel

And here’s the thing about writing a blog post, ebook, or novel: Your business will benefit as much as your personal brand.

See what I did there? Note that because what follows the colon can stand alone as its own sentence, the first word is capitalized.

4) “Fewer” Versus “Less”

This one drives my colleague Pamela Vaughan up a wall.

You know that show 10 Items or Less? That’s actually incorrect. It should be 10 Items or Fewer, because the object is quantifiable — you can count out ten items. You use “less” when the object is not quantifiable.

If you’re ever unsure whether you should use “less” or “fewer,” ask yourself if you could attach a number to the word. For instance, it makes as much sense to say “He has ten beans,” as “He has fewer beans.” That’s because you can quantify beans. But it doesn’t make sense to say “He has ten angst.” You can’t quantify angst. Thus, you’d say “He has less angst.”

5) “Should Have” Versus “Should Of”

This one seems obvious when written out — particularly in the context of a grammar post — but alas, people get it wrong all the time. The confusion stems from the way we all slur our words together, so in an age of more colloquial writing, I understand why people make this mistake.

Always write “should have” or “should’ve.” That contraction — “should’ve” — is why writers get confused. It sounds a heck of a lot like “should of,” and people probably started writing it without even considering the contraction “should’ve.” But now that you know, it’s a mistake that’s easy to correct.

6) “Couldn’t Care Less” Versus “Could Care Less”

This is another one that seems so obvious when you think about it — but hey, I guess people aren’t really thinking about it when they say it. There’s a scenario in which each phrase makes sense; the problem is, people don’t use the right phrase for the right scenario. Let’s walk through a scenario together to clarify the right usage of these phrases.

Scenario: Bill asks Bonnie on a date, and Bonnie turns him down. Annoyed, he flippantly tells his friend, “Pshh. Whatever … I could care less.”

This is the incorrect usage of the phrase. Why? Because context clues tell us Bill is trying to save face and pretend he doesn’t care about Bonnie. But this phrase, “I could care less,” indicates that he does care a little bit.

He should’ve said, “I couldn’t care less” to demonstrate he has no care left to give.

If you commonly get confused with this phrase, follow the advice of my fourth grade teacher: If in doubt, leave it out.

7) i.e. and e.g.

i.e. and e.g. are both abbreviations for Latin terms. i.e. stands for id est and is translated to mean “that is.” E.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.”

A great trick I learned for remembering the difference between the two of these came from Grammar Girl’s blog. She teaches us to remember that i.e. means “in other words” (both start with i), and e.g. means “for example” (example starts with e).

Not too hard, right? This is particularly important for content marketers, since we often produce educational content that contains clarifications or examples for readers to reference.

Written by Lisa Toner | @

http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/awkward-but-common-grammar-mistakes-list#sm.000006ascwlapld7jwa6fkdz7plk4


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Grammar Police: 25 of the Most Common Grammatical Errors We All Need to Stop Making

grammar-mistakes

Even after years of learning it in school, grammar is just one of those things people still mess up.

It’s hard. Words and phrases that sound fine in your head can suddenly look like gibberish when written down … that is, if you’ve even realized you made a mistake in the first place.
It’s easy for little grammar mistakes to slip by — especially when you’re self-editing. But how do you prevent grammatical errors if you’re not even aware you’re making them?

Download our free writing style guide here to learn how to eliminate grammatical errors from your writing.

Then read through this post and see which common grammar mistakes resonate with you the most. Make a mental note to avoid that mistake in the future, or heck, just bookmark this blog post to remind yourself of them over and over (and over) again.

25 Common Grammar Mistakes to Check For in Your Writing

1) They’re vs. Their vs. There

One’s a contraction for “they are” (they’re), one refers to something owned by a group (their), and one refers to a place (there). You know the difference among the three — just make sure you triple check that you’re using the right ones in the right places at the right times. I find it’s helpful to search through my posts (try control + F on PC or command + F on Mac) for those words and check that they’re being used in the right context.

Correct Usage: They’re going to love going there — I heard their food is the best!

2) Your vs. You’re

The difference between these two is owning something versus actually being something:

You made it around the track in under a minute — you’re fast!

How’s your fast going? Are you hungry?

See the difference? “Your” is possessive and “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.” Again, if you’re having trouble keeping them straight, try doing another grammar check before you hit publish.

3) Its vs. It’s

This one tends to confuse even the best of writers. “Its” is possessive and “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.” Lots of people get tripped up because “it’s” has an ‘s after it, which normally means something is possessive. But in this case, it’s actually a contraction. Do a control + F to find this mistake in your writing. It’s really hard to catch on your own, but it’s a mistake everyone can make.

4) Incomplete Comparisons

This one drives me up a wall when I see it in the wild. Can you see what’s wrong with this sentence?

Our car model is faster, better, stronger.

Faster, better, stronger … than what? What are you comparing your car to? A horse? A competitor? An older model?

When you’re asserting that something should be compared to something else, make sure you always clarify what that something else is … otherwise it’s impossible for your readers to discern what the comparison actually means.

5) Passive Voice

If you have a sentence with an object in it — basically a noun that receives the action — passive voice can happen to you. Passive happens when the object of a sentence is put in the beginning of a sentence instead of at the end. With passive voice, your writing comes across as sounding weak and unclear.

Hold up. Re-read that last paragraph I just wrote — there’s waaaaaay too much passive voice. See how it seems kind of jumbled and not quite punchy? Let’s try that again.

Passive voice happens when you have an object (a noun that receives the action) as the subject of a sentence. Normally, the object of the sentence appears at the end, following a verb. Passive writing isn’t as clear as active writing — your readers will thank you for your attention to detail later.

Make sense? It’s kind of a complicated thing to describe, but active voice makes your writing seem more alive and clear. Want to get into the nitty-gritty of avoiding passive voice? Check out this tip from Grammar Girl.

6) Dangling Modifiers

I love the name of this mistake — it makes me think of a dramatic, life-or-death situation such as hanging precariously off a cliff. (Of course grammar mistakes are never that drastic, but it helps me remember to keep them out of my writing.)

This mistake happens when a descriptive phrase doesn’t apply to the noun that immediately follows it. It’s easier to see in an example taken from my colleague over on the HubSpot Sales Blog:

After declining for months, Jean tried a new tactic to increase ROI.

What exactly is declining for months? Jean? In reality, the sentence was trying to say that the ROI was declining — not Jean. To fix this problem, try flipping around the sentence structure (though beware of passive voice).

Jean tried a new tactic to increase ROI after it had been declining for months.

Better, right?

7) Possessive Nouns

Most possessive nouns will have an apostrophe — but where you put that apostrophe can be confusing. Here are a few general rules to follow:

If the noun is plural, add the apostrophe after the s. For example: the dogs’ bones.

If the noun is singular and ends in s, you should also put the apostrophe after the s. For example: the dress’ blue color.

On the other hand, if the noun is singular and doesn’t end in an s, you’ll add the apostrophe before the s. For example: the lizard’s tail.

Simple, right? If you want a deeper dive into the rules of possessive nouns, check out this website.

8) Affect vs. Effect

This one is another one of my pet peeves. Most people confuse them when they’re talking about something changing another thing.

When you’re talking about the change itself — the noun — you’ll use “effect.”

That movie had a great effect on me.

When you’re talking about the act of changing — the verb — you’ll use “affect.”

That movie affected me greatly.

9) Me vs. I

Most people understand the difference between the two of these … until it comes time for them to use one in a sentence. They’ll say something like:

When you get done with that lab report, can you send it to Bill and I?

But that’s wrong.

Try taking Bill out of that sentence — it sounds weird, right? You would never ask someone to send something to “I” when he or she is done. The reason it sounds weird is because “I” is the object of that sentence — and “I” should not be used in objects. In that situation, you’d use “me.”

When you get done with that lab report, can you send it to Bill and me?

Much better.

10) Do’s and Don’ts

I’m not talking about the do’s and don’ts of grammar here — I’m talking about the actual words: “do’s” and “don’ts.” They look weird, right? That’s because of two things:

  1. There’s an apostrophe in one to make it plural … which typically isn’t done, and
  2. The apostrophes aren’t put in the same place in both words.

Unfortunately, it’s AP Style … so we just have to live with it. It’s a hot angle for content formats, so I wouldn’t shy away from using it. But when you’re checking your writing for grammatical errors, just remember that the apostrophes should be in different places.

Note: There are different schools of thought about how to punctuate this one depending on what style guide/usage book you’re using. The Chicago Manual of Style, for instance, recommends “dos” and “don’ts.” The important thing is to be consistent and stick to one style guide, whether it’s AP Style, Chicago, or your own house style guide.

11) i.e. vs. e.g.

Confession: I never remember this rule, so I have to Google it every single time I want to use it in my writing. I’m hoping that by writing about it here, the trend will stop.

Lots of people use the terms interchangeably when trying to elaborate on a point, but they really mean two different things: “i.e.” roughly means “that is” or “in other words,” while “e.g.” means “example given” or “for example.” The former is used to clarify something you’ve said, while the latter adds color to a story through an example.

12) Peek vs. peak vs. pique

This is another one I often see people mess up even if they know what they mean.

  • Peek is taking a quick look at something — like a sneak peek of a new film.
  • Peak is a sharp point — like the peak of a mountain.
  • And pique means to provoke or instigate — you know, like your interest.

If you’re going to use one in your writing, stop and think for a second — is that the right “peek” you should be using?

13) Who vs. That

This is a tricky one. These two words can be used when you’re describing someone or something through a phrase like “Lindsay is a blogger who likes ice cream.” When you’re describing a person, be sure to use “who.” When you’re describing an object, use “that.” For example, you should say “Her computer is the one that overheats all the time.” It’s pretty simple, but definitely something that gets overlooked frequently.

14) “Alot” vs. A lot vs. Allot

Hate to break it to all of you “alot” fans out there … but “alot” is not a word. If you’re trying to say that someone has a vast number of things, you’d say they have “a lot” of things. And if you’re trying to say that you’ve set aside a certain amount of money to buy something, you’d say you “allotted” $20 to spend on gas.

If you’re trying to remember to stay away from “alot,” check out this awesome cartoon by Hyperbole and a Half featuring the alot. That face will haunt you for the rest of your content marketing days.

15) Into vs. In to

Let’s clarify the “into” versus “in to” debate.

They’re often confused, but “into” indicates movement (Lindsay walked into the office) while “in to” is used in lots of situations because the individual words “to” and “in” are frequently used in other parts of a sentence. For example, “to” is often used with infinitive verbs (e.g. “to drive”). Or “in” can be used as part of a verb (e.g. “call in to a meeting”).

So if you’re trying to decide which to use, first figure out if the words “in” or “to” actually modify other words in the sentence. If they don’t, then ask yourself if it’s indicating some sort of movement — if it does, you’re good to use “into.”

16) Lose vs. Loose

When people mix up “lose” and “loose,” it’s usually just because they’re spelled so similarly. They know their definitions are completely different.

“Lose” is a verb that means “to fail to keep or maintain; fail to win; cease to have,” like losing your keys or losing a football match.

“Loose” is an adjective that means “not tight” or “not closely constrained,” like loose clothing or a loose tooth.

A trick for remembering the difference is to think of the term “loosey-goosey” — both words that make up that compound word are spelled with two o’s.

17) Then vs. Than

What’s wrong with this sentence?

My dinner was better then yours.

*Shudder.* In the sentence above, “then” should be “than.” Why? Because “than” is a conjunction used mainly to make comparisons — like saying one thing was better “than” another. “Then” is mainly an adverb used to situate actions in time: We made dinner, and “then” we ate it.

18) Use of Commas

There are entire courses on correct comma usage, but let’s go over some of the more common comma use cases here …

To separate elements in a series.

Each element in a series should be separated by a comma. For example: “I brought a jacket, a blanket, and an umbrella to the park.” That last comma is optional. It’s called an “Oxford comma,” and whether you use it depends on your own internal style guide.

To separate independent clauses.

You can use commas to separate independent clauses that are joined by “and,” “but,” “for,” “or,” “nor,” “so,” or “yet.” For example, this is correct: “My brother is very smart, and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

An independent clause is a sentence that can stand on its own. Here’s how to test it: Would the second part of the sentence (following one of those coordinating conjunctions) make a full sentence on its own? If so, add a comma. If it doesn’t, leave it out.

To separate an introductory word or phrase.

At the beginning of a sentence, we often add an introductory word or phrase that requires a subsequent comma. For example, “In the beginning, I had no idea how to use a comma.” Or, “However, after reading an awesome blog post, I understand the difference.” Other common introductory words and phrases include “after,” “although,” “when,” and “while.”

To learn about more use cases for the comma, check out this blog post from Daily Writing Tips.

19) Assure vs. Insure vs. Ensure

All of these words have to do with “making an outcome sure,” which is why they’re so often mixed up. However, they aren’t interchangeable.

  • “To assure” means to promise or say with confidence. For example, “I assure you that he’s good at his job.”
  • “To ensure” means to make certain. For example, “Ensure you’re free when I visit next weekend.”
  • Finally, “to insure” means to protect against risk by regularly paying an insurance company. For example, “I insure my car because the law requires it.”

20) Less vs. Fewer

You know the checkout aisle in the grocery store that says “10 Items or Less”? That’s actually incorrect. It should be “10 Items or Fewer.”

Why? Because “items” are quantifiable — you can count out 10 items. Use “fewer” for things that are quantifiable, like “fewer M&Ms” or “fewer road trips.” Use “less” for things that aren’t quantifiable, like “less candy” and “less traveling.”

21) Semicolons

Semicolons are used to connect two independent clauses that, though they could stand on their own, are closely related. For example, you could use a semicolon in the sentence: “Call me tomorrow; I’ll have an answer for you by then.”

Notice that each clause could be its own sentence — but stylistically, it makes more sense for them to be joined. (If there’s a coordinating conjunction between the two clauses — like “and,” “but”, or “or” — then use a comma instead.)

You can also use semicolons to separate items in a list when those items contain commas themselves.

22) Compliment vs. Complement

These two words are pronounced exactly the same, making them easy to mix up. But they’re actually quite different.

If something “complements” something else, that means it completes it, enhances it, or makes it perfect. For example, a wine can complement a meal, and two colors can complement each other.

The word “compliment” though, refers to an expression of praise (as a noun), or to praise or express admiration for someone (as a verb). You can compliment your friend’s new haircut, or pay someone a compliment on his or her haircut.

23) Farther vs. Further

People often use “farther” and “further” interchangeably to mean “at a greater distance.”

However, in most countries, there are actually subtle differences in meaning between the two: “Farther” is used more to refer to physical distances, while “further” is used more to refer to figurative and nonphysical distances. So while Paris is “farther” away than Madrid, a marketing team falls “further” away from its leads goal. (Note: The word “further” is preferred for all senses of the word in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Nations.)

The word “further” can also be used as an adjective or as an adverb to mean “additionally.” For example, “I have no further questions.”

24) En Dash vs. Em Dash

Both “–” and “—” are versions of the dash: “–” is the en dash, and “—” or “–” are both versions of the em dash. You can use either the en dash or the em dash to signify a break in a sentence or set off parenthetical statements.

The en dash can also be used to represent time spans or differentiation, such as, “That will take 5–10 minutes.”

The em dash, on the other hand, can be used to set off quotation sources, such as, “‘To be, or not to be, that is the question.’ —Shakespeare.”

25) Between vs. Among

Let’s clear this one up: The word “between” is used to refer to two (or sometimes more) things that are clearly separated, and the word “among” is used to refer to things that aren’t clearly separated because they’re part of a group or mass of objects.

So you choose between a red shirt and a black shirt, but you choose among all your shirts. You walk between Centre Street and Broad Street, but you walk among your friends.

These are just a few grammar mistakes we’ve picked up. Which ones do you frequently catch? 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Written by Ginny Soskey | @gsosk August 20, 2015 // 8:00 AM


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Poor grammar on websites scares 59% away

Fifty-nine per cent of Britons would not use a company with poor grammar on its website. Have you checked yours recently?

A new study has revealed that 59 per cent of Britons would not use a company that had obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website or marketing material, and 82 per cent would not use a company that had not correctly translated its material into English.

The research, conducted by Global Lingo, polled 1,029 UK adults on their online purchasing and browsing habits.

Those taking part were asked whether or not they tended to notice the quality of spelling or grammar or a company’s website – 74 per cent said yes.

When asked whether bad grammar or obvious spelling errors would stop them buying from the website, 59 per cent said it would, with the majority claiming that they “wouldn’t trust” the company to provide a good quality service. Others would be put off due to an obvious lack of care, or would consider the company to be unprofessional.

“The fact that such a high percentage wouldn’t trust a company with poor spelling or grammar just goes to show crucial it is that businesses make the most of every opportunity, especially in these tough economic times,” says Richard Michie, marketing and technology director at Global Lingo.

“You only have a short amount of time to make an impression on a potential customer, and if your website or ad is riddled with grammatical errors, it’s not going to place you in a favourable light. Competition is tough, and if you don’t take the care to present yourself in as professional a light as possible, you may well be losing yourself important business.”

When consumers were asked if they had ever come across a website that was clearly translated from a foreign website into English, which then read inadequately with bad grammatical mistakes, 31 per cent of individuals admitted that this had indeed happened to them. But the impact is dramatic: just 4 per cent of this number then continued to use the website or purchase goods from it.

This works both ways, so if you are doing business internationally, ensure that your foreign-language website is mistake-free.

http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/24623-poor-grammar-on-websites-scares-59-away


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How to Disagree – Effectively

Do you know how to disagree – effectively – with your colleagues, bosses, and coworkers? If so, you have an unusual skill and you practice professional courage that few people in organizations exhibit. Yet, the most effective teams and organizations regularly disagree about ideas, goals, strategies, and implementation steps.

People inside of organizations are afraid to provoke conflict and they don’t want to get into an argument or disagreement that they can’t manage. They fear public humiliation, damaging their professional brand in the eyes of the organization, being proven wrong, and rejection by their colleagues. This means that people who run organizations or departments, teams, or work groups mostly fail to get the best out of the people they hire and employ.

You need to create a culture that honors differences of opinion and varying points of view. People who feel rewarded and recognized for healthy disagreement are likely to disagree again.

This environment must also provide safety for the employee who disagrees which means managers and meeting leaders need to know how to mediate conflict. And, employees need to know how to participate effectively in disagreements.

How, asks Margaret Heffernan, author and former CEO of five businesses, in her TED Talk, “do we get good at conflict?” She says that becoming good at conflict allows people to be creative and to solve the problems. She asks, how do you begin to have conversations more easily and more often in organizations and make healthy disagreement a norm.

In the example she used, a manager became more afraid of the damage that the silence on the management team was causing. He became more afraid of the silence than he was of disagreement. He determined to get better at disagreement, and he changed his approach. With commitment and practice you can change the dynamics on your team.
5 Tips About How to Develop a Culture That Encourages Disagreement

I have written about how to create a work culture and environment in which disagreement and conflict will become a healthy norm. They include steps such as:

Set clear expectations that conflict and disagreement is expected, respected, publicly recognized, and rewarded.
If you are the leader of a team or department, examine whether you might be inadvertently discouraging disagreement by your words or actions. If they are incongruent with your expectations, you are stifling disagreement.
Ask your team to add respectful disagreement to the group’s norms.
Make sure that executive compensation and other employee bonuses and profit sharing are tied to the success of the company as a whole and not to individual departments.
Hire employees who appear to have skills in healthy disagreement and conflict resolution. You want people who can solve problems and problems are rarely solved without disagreement.

How to Disagree with a Colleague

While employees disagree in a variety of ways and settings, most frequently disagreement occurs during a meeting – of two or many. You can also disagree by email, IM, phone, Skype, and more in this electronic age. But, disagreements are better in person as is most communication.

The professionalism of your approach to disagreement is

Say When You Disagree to Promote Better Decisions

. A colleague who feels listened to, respected, and acknowledged is the outcome of a positive disagreement. When you disagree starting with acknowledging the strengths of your colleague’s position, you start out on solid ground.

Start out, also, with the points that you and your colleague agree about and build your case for the differences on your areas of agreement. No matter your job or department, when you disagree with a coworker, you need to step away from your vested interests to understand his. The chances are that he feels as passionately about his approach as you do about yours.

When you think about how to disagree, recognize that you will still work with this coworker every day. Compromise might be the answer. So might acknowledging that there are certain points that you will never agree on, so you may need to agree to disagree. Ask, even if they are important points, are they worth sabotaging an overall solution? I think normally – not. A point comes when the organization needs to move forward – even with an imperfect solution.

Once you agree on a solution, approach, or action, the key to organizational success is that team or meeting members need to move past their need to disagree and support the final decision. This means whole-hearted commitment to making the effort succeed. Anything else sabotages the success of your organization.

http://humanresources.about.com/od/conflictresolution/a/how-to-disagree-effectively.htm


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10 Simple Secrets of Great Communicators You Can Improve Your Workplace Communication Skills

Secrets of Great Communicators

Updated June 28, 2016.

Would you like to become a great communicator? Powerful reasons exist for why you will want to enhance your ability to communicate effectively.

You will create more opportunities to accomplish your work mission. You will build better and more rewarding relationships with your coworkers and manager. You will accomplish more goals with less energy and reduce the opportunity for misunderstandings and cross-purposes.

Great communicators are viewed as successful individuals by coworkers. They become go-to people in an organization because people equate efficacy with effective communication. Great communicators contribute more in their organizations and receive more opportunities for promotion and recognition in their careers. Are you motivated to learn the secrets of great communicators? Here are ten of them.
Build the relationship first – always

When a great communicator approaches a coworker, he takes the time to say, “good morning” and “how’s your day going?” “Did you have a great weekend?” The effect of the relationship-building forays is incalculable.

He sends the message, each time he communicates, that he cares about the receiver of the message. He demonstrates that, no matter how busy or overextended he is, he has time to care about you.

When I worked at General Motors, I was reminded of this secret – loudly. One morning, I answered an internal phone call, “Susan Heathfield, how can I help you?” My caller’s response was a silent pause and then he said, “Hi Susan, how’s your day going? Has it been a good week since we met on Monday?” Something about the way he deliberately slowed our entry into the business discussion got my attention.

Practicing this behavior was difficult for me at first because my tendency was to jump right into the business discussion, but I’ve never regretted that I took the time to remind myself. My internal call greeting became, “Hi, this is Susan.”

Build the relationship first for successful communication. For even more successful communication, continue to build the relationship in all interactions in any setting over time. Goodwill has an accumulative effect.
Know What You’re Talking About

Obtain the knowledge, insight, and forward thinking ability necessary to earn the respect of your colleagues for your industry or subject area expertise. Your coworkers won’t listen if they don’t believe that you bring expertise to the table. Your successful coworkers spend time with you because they respect your knowledge and the value that you bring to the conversation.

They won’t respect or listen to, let alone be influenced by, individuals who do not know what they are talking about. So, when you think about secrets of great communicators, subject matter expertise may head the list.
Listen More Than You Speak

I received feedback recently that a manager held a performance development planning meeting with an employee and talked 55 minutes of the hour. This is an egregious example of a manager dominating a discussion, but it serves as a reminder.

Great communicators listen more than they speak. When they speak, they are frequently asking questions to draw out the knowledge and opinions of their coworkers.

When you allow yourself to listen, you often hear what is not being said. You can read between the spoken lines to understand the whole context of the other person’s thinking and needs.

This does not mean that they never speak, but it places the emphasis on using the knowledge of the team. It affirms for the team members that their opinions matter and they are valued. It marks you as a great communicator who cares about what others think.
Focus on Understanding What the Other Person Is Saying

When a colleague is speaking, don’t spend the time preparing your response in your mind. Instead, ask questions for clarification and to make certain that you thoroughly understand what the other person is communicating. Focus your mind on listening and understanding.

If you find yourself (and that little voice in your head) arguing, prepping your response, or refuting what your colleague is saying, you are not focused on thoroughly understanding her communication. You have stopped listening and have refocused the discussion on your needs.
Use a Feedback Loop

Say, “here is what I heard you say” and repeat the gist of the content of the message that you received from the other person’s communication. Don’t ascribe meaning to your coworker’s communication. You are using a feedback loop to check your understanding and to make sure you shared meaning.

When you check your understanding, you avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding. You circumvent hard feelings and protracted explanations about what your coworker meant.
Listen to the Nonverbal Communication the Other Person Exhibits

Nonverbal communication is a powerful voice in any interaction. The voice tonality, body language, and facial expressions speak more loudly than the verbal communication (sending) or the actual words in many communication exchanges. Your coworker’s posture, how he holds the whiteboard marker, and his distance from you as he speaks are all powerful messengers.

This is why you find that great communicators seek in-person interaction. They know the amount of information that they lose when they communicate via email, phone, IM, or texting. The youngest generation at work may not recognize the importance of talking with coworkers in person.

They are enculturated to use electronic methods and this must change. For facts, these methods work. If you want information that is richer and deeper, and for discussion and exchange, you seek out your coworkers. Great communicators listen with their eyes.
Watch for Patterns, Inconsistencies, and Consistencies

In any communication, the opportunity for misunderstanding is ever present. A key indicator that your coworker is not stating her true feelings or that she is going along with the group, rather than agreeing with the decision, is a combination of factors that you can observe.

You want to watch for patterns (is this how your coworker typically reacts) and inconsistencies (is this consistent with what you expect from this person).

You also want to watch for matching words, message, tone of voice, and body language. If any of these verbal and nonverbal communication factors are inconsistent or sending different messages, communication failure is imminent.

Coworkers tend to listen to the nonverbal communication over the verbal. If you are coaching an employee who sends inconsistent messages, this is a powerful factor in the misunderstanding that can happen with coworkers. It’s simple, preventable, and often overlooked as a key factor.
If Something that Another Employee Is Doing or Saying Bothers You, It’s Your Issue

You are the person who is bothered by the action or communication of your coworker. His actions or communication may have triggered your reaction, but the response belongs to you. You will never effectively communicate if you are pointing your finger and trying to make it your coworker’s issue. He was just trying to communicate.

You need to take responsibility for owning your own emotional reactions. Use “I” messages to demonstrate that you know that you are responsible for the reaction. For example: “You really messed up that customer interaction” is much less effective and honest than, “I was upset watching you interact with that customer for these reasons…”

You-ing a coworker is rarely effective communication. You will most likely receive a defensive response which makes the communication fail. Delivering an honest I message instead is powerful.
Wait to Give Critical or Controversial Feedback

If you are going to say anything critical or controversial, or if you’re angry or emotional, wait 24 hours before you say it, send it, or post it to see if you still feel that way. Pausing before communicating is an under-appreciated skill of great communicators. You don’t need to communicate what you think or feel immediately. In fact, your communication will be more powerful and thoughtful if you allow the circumstances to marinate for a period of time.

In this era of immediate and constant communication, thoughtful communication goes by the wayside. Instantaneous reaction is promoted and reinforced. It is often ineffective and demeaning. Great communicators collect their thoughts and develop significant “I messages.”
Open Your Mind to New Ideas

New ideas live or die in their first communication to a person who has power in an organization. Using the other communication skills presented here, you can make a new idea flourish or fail in an instant.

Rather than immediately rejecting a new idea, approach, or way of thinking, pause and consider the possibilities. Consider what might work in your organization rather than what will fail. Think about the possibility rather than the impossibilities.

Don’t be guilty of the lethal sins of rejecting, putting down, or diminishing an idea before it has been articulated and explored. Great communicators listen for opportunities and pursue them.
All Communication Will Go Better if Your Coworker Trusts You

It is not enough to be a good listener and to draw out the other person’s opinions. They will not level with you or share their real thoughts if they don’t trust you.

You gain trust in your everyday interactions with people when you tell the truth – even when it’s difficult. When you consistently exhibit integrity and trustworthiness in your daily interpersonal conversations and actions, you build your ability to be a great communicator.

The coworkers with whom you interact will open up to you. They will be more likely to problem solve with you without concern for losing, and they won’t fear looking bad, stupid, or uninformed if they trust you. Do you see the power of communicating when you have the other party’s trust? It’s amazing.

If you work to enhance your own communication by practicing these skills and taking these actions, you can become a great communicator. Becoming a great communicator will enhance your career, make your days at work rewarding and fulfilling, and reinforce positive relationships with coworkers who love to work with you. Can it get any better than that?

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The Importance of Communication for Managers

importance of communicationAnyone involved in management – whether it’s for a large or small company – knows well the relational complexities involved. Sometimes you have to give criticisms on an employees performance, other times you get the privilege of praising another employee’s performance. You’re often tasked with overseeing projects both large and small, while directing a diverse group of individuals and personalities in the process. Needless to say, communication skills are essential for any management position.

While communication in management is not always easy. You may find yourself having to work with difficult people, or with unmotivated people. But if you come to the table with the right tools to do the job, you will have an effective team of individuals proud of the work they do for you, and you can feel your own sense of pride in developing these key business relationships n the workplace.

4 Key Areas of Communication in Management

Relationship Building

Relationship building is a key discipline to master. It helps you establish trust and camaraderie with your employees. They will come to you with problems, and when the time comes that you must give negative feedback they will actually be able to hear you out. On the flip side of that coin, when it comes time to give positive feedback, your employees will take it to heart and it will motivate them to do better work. In any work environment, as a manager is important to build these relationships early on.

Employee Engagement

One aspect of the manager-employee relationship has to do with including employees in on project management and development – allowing them to give their input. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to accept every idea that comes across your desk, but the fact that you’re sincerely listening to concerns positions you as a respected and trusted leader within the company. In short, if employees truly feel like they are a part of the process, they will connect to projects in a more meaningful way, and do high-quality work.

Employee Recognition

Every manager should learn how to properly recognize employees in the workplace. However, it’s not enough to simply recognize and praise an employee in your office, you must make every effort to make recognition a very public event. Recognizing an employee for their hard work shows that you value their contributions to the organization. Again, this is another communication strategy that will motivate employees to do better.

Employee Coaching

Finally, there is the discipline of employee coaching. Unfortunately, not every employee candidate is going to walk into the office with a flawless performance record. They may fall down and make a mess a few times before really grasping the tools needed to succeed in the workplace. You, as a manager, are an instrumental part of that success. According to a Gallup survey, successful managers should be having in-depth conversations with employees about performance about once every quarter at least. It’s important that you keep these conversations as informal as possible, so you can actually connect with the employee you’re trying to coach.

Conclusion: Communication is Motivating

Communication is a life force. If employees know where they stand in the work place, and they feel comfortable in that environment, they will be motivated to do good work. Solid communication skills are not just good for the life of the company, but they help you understand how everything is going within the company. It gives you some real-world “data,” so to speak.

July 15, 2013 by