10 Tips for Careful Communication

Many mishaps and misunderstanding in the office stem from poor communication. This leads to a destruction of value as it diverts the efforts of the organization away from value added tasks to focus on containing and rectifying the situation.

Communication is all about the transfer of information, and ensuring people have the right information to make the best decisions possible. We are all brokers of information. Our responsibility is to make sure we make the best decisions with the information available, and be open to the fact that someone might have information that could affect our decision.

Here are a few tips for careful communications

  1. Avoid “Reply all”- Too often people hit the “Reply All” button. Most often it is not warranted. Before using the “Reply all” ask yourself “who really needs to be included?”, and limit your response to those individuals.
  2. Only include those that need to be included- Many times emails are sent including anyone and everyone, most of which have no desire or need to be included. Be respectful of people’s time and only include them on emails that require their attention. Some emails do need to be sent as information. A simple technique to help would be, only include those that are part of the decision making or required to “action” in the “to:”, and all others included for information be included in the “cc:”.
  3. Follow up a conversation with a confirmation email – Remembering that some discussions are best left out of emails, there is nothing wrong with sending a follow up email to clarify the take away points from a discussion. Something along the lines of “As per our conversation…… “, will provide an opportunity for others to clarify if there were any misinterpretations or understandings before things get started.
  4. Whenever Possible avoid email- It is always better to walk over to the cubicle next door or pick up the phone to discuss a situation rather than sending an email. Email is far overused method of communication that can easily spiral out of control. It is amazing how simply an email can be taken out of context whether it be; improper wording or capitalization. By talking directly, you have the ability to clarify or diffuse a situation before it snowballs.
  5. Make a clear distinction between fact and opinion- Many times opinion can be misrepresented as fact which can cause more confusion lead to issues being blown out of proportion. An opinion which is asserted or perceived to be presented as fact will cause the receiver to become defensive and less open to communication. Discussions take on a completely different tones when based on fact versus opinion. A fact based discussion can be perceived as confrontational and an “I am right you are wrong” tone. Conversely an opinion based discussion is subjective and based on an accumulation of facts which is more easily diffused as everyone has a right to their opinion. By clearly distinguishing fact and opinion or objective and subjective observations, the receiver is more likely to be open to discussion and less defensive resulting in better communication.
  6. When receiving communication always listen- Before dismissing or jumping to conclusions. Listen to the entire the message and don’t get caught up in the way the message is delivered. Focus on understanding the message. Before assuming negatively, politely ask for clarification and help understanding. Many times the message received is not what was intended to be sent.
  7. Avoid communicating when emotional– Emotions such: as anger, frustration, hurt, impair judgement and can result in sending a message that should not have been sent. When in this situation, draft your message and step away. Take some time to clear you head and regain composure. It is better to refrain than to regret. Always maintain composure when communicating, especially when sending an email. If sending an email on a sensitive topic which might stimulate or has stimulated an emotional response, always wait until you regain your composure and objectivity before hitting send. Once it is sent, it is out there with little chance of getting it back. Even though many email programs have a recall function, the reliability is very low.
  8. Remember some topics are best left out of email- Although email is a great tool for keeping track of conversations some content is best left out of email. As emails are easily misinterpreted, caution must be exercised. Email can be subject to litigation discovery. Many litigation battles have been won due to misconstrued emails. Before sending an email, ask yourself if this is something that should not be open to discovery.
  9. KISS Rule- Keep it Short and Simple. Always make sure that your communications are direct and to the point. Clarity is the best cure for miscommunication.
  10. Most importantly ALWAYS exhibit Humility. Always remember that communicating is an exchange of information. When dealing with other people, remember we are all information brokers and some have information that others don’t. By understanding that we or someone else might not have all the information to make an informed decision, we are better able to be open minded to the exchange of information. This will lead to better communications and better decision making.
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Empathy In The Workplace

Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions or experience of others. It is more than a simple sympathy, which is the ability to understand and support others with compassion and sensitivity. In other words, it is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs.

In the workplace, empathy can show a deep respect for coworkers and show that you care, as opposed to just going by rules and regulations. An empathic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale, and loyalty. It is a powerful tool in leadership.

Empathetic people listen attentively to what someone is telling them and not easily distracted. They spend more time listening than talking. They want to understand the circumstance of others which helps those around them especially the feeling of being heard and recognized.

Executives and managers have an attitude of openness towards an understanding of the feelings and emotions of their subordinates. It is crucial in the workplace. It is necessary for every organization which deals with failures, poor performance and employees who truly want to succeed.

When you have compassion, you can easily understand what a person is feeling in a given moment, and understand why other people’s actions make sense to them. It helps us to communicate our ideas in a way that makes sense to others. It also helps us understand others when they want to approach us.

However, only a few people have this trait. Some people have fantastic natural empathy and can pick up how someone else is feeling simply by looking at them. Some people are insensitive that they won’t even notice that you are angry until you begin shouting. Most people lie somewhere in the middle and understand how someone else is feeling only at times.

If you want to understand the feelings of others, you need to learn to empathize with yourself first because understanding and accepting your own feelings is essential in empathizing with others.

Anyone can learn to understand how others are thinking and feeling. When you understand what someone else is thinking or feeling, it becomes easier to interact with them. But there’s a nonverbal aspect to an interaction that deserves special attention. The knowledge you gain from empathy can help you to use appropriate nonverbal communication which is more effective than oral communication.

Empathy, therefore, allows us to create bonds of trust. It gives us insights into what others may be feeling or thinking. It helps us understand how or why others are reacting to situations, and it sharpens our sound judgment.

Appearance-Obsession in the Workplace

When you are deliberately thinking ‘Dress for Success’ and keep up with updates in fashion and styles, you are not obsessed with appearance, at least not yet.

Particular women and men that are appearance-obsessed are preoccupied daily with their looks in their private lives as well as in their workplace. Enormous amounts of resources are devoted to achieve conformity with the changing fashion, beauty and cosmetics innovations.

What are the signs of appearance obsession in the workplace?

Here is a list of questions given to me by a Holly, a young female executive who admits that a great deal of her working day is spent in questioning and obsessing over her appearance and the others’ reaction to her looks.

How do I look in the clothes that I am wearing now?

How do I look from the back? From the side?

Do these clothes make me look fat?

How do other women look today?

What are they wearing to work?

Who looks ‘hot’ in the meeting today?

How many in the office have noticed me today?

Should I go home and change during lunch?

What cosmetic procedure can fix some blemishes?

Who are the cosmetic surgeons to the stars?

These questions and many more take away from Holly’s ability to focus on her projects and deal with her subordinates, not to mention meeting dead lines…

When Holly looks back at her last year’s job performance she feels ashamed, lack of self respect and pride. Holly was fired from a prestigious position. She could not focused, deliver, nor couls she meet dead lines. Holly became one of my executive coaching clients just after her recent job lose.

What is happening here?

Obsession with perfection, beauty and appearance has been growing fast in this culture. This obsession is fed by TV shows like Extreme Makeover and other programs that ‘educate’ the public about how easy it is to construct a perfect look. Some women who were more sensitive than others to their appearance become more obsessed as our culture is exposed to mega dosages of cosmetics and plastic surgery possibilities.

The New Workplace Issue

Considering the pervasiveness of this new obsession; what is the chance that a young female worker will feel comfortable with her own appearance at a new workplace? Or even veteran woman who is now in a new role? Growing in our culture, women today are trapped, thinking their presence is about attractiveness, beauty and the size of their body parts.

Co-workers and workplace culture play a major role in how women react to their own bodies, and specifically their appearance in spite of themselves. Some women in this culture easily fall into a “man-made” trap. The need for perfection in body size and shape coupled with changing fashions and looks that are ‘in’ or ‘out’ creates pressures on women in the workplace that need to be addressed.

There are health and psychological consequences to the new phenomenon; using our bodies to express fashion/beauty trends seems to induce a new emotion in the general population: shame. That is not shame about behaviors or acts but shame about our natural and healthy bodies and the normal process of aging. Obsessions may develop as an attempt to deal with shame and/or through the effort to cover up that disturbing feeling. Making one’s appearance the center of one’s being is exceeding the boundaries of what is beneficial to the workplace and for the mental health of its members.

In my experience, poor body-image and appearance-obsession are issues that will respond well and be helped by coaching and if necessary, psychotherapy.