I guess the first question to be asked on the topic of Improving Workplace Communication is what kind of communication are we talking about? Are we talking about oral communication? Are we talking about written communication? Are we talking about silent communication? My response would be that we are talking about silent communication first because at least 70% of all communication occurs silently. Developing an awareness of what silent communication is and then building silent communication skills will help anyone to improve oral and written communication.
As an example, suppose you go in to see your manager about an issue. He’s working at his desk as you are speaking with him. The responses you get are grunts and uh-uhs and uh-huhs. He rarely looks you in the eye. When you finish your presentation, your manager mutters thanks and says that he’ll look into it. Well, what is the silent communication you received in that exchange? Did your manager understand the points you were making? Did he actually hear all of your presentation or just parts of it? Which parts? Is he interested in what you had to say? Why didn’t he look at you and engage you in conversation? The manager’s silent communication is about all you received from him. What did his silent communication mean to you? How do you interpret his silent communication?
Our silent communicators, there are at least 52 of them, reveal everything about who we are as people. Who we are is revealed in eye contact, smile, greeting, reading material, vocabulary, viewing habits, eating habits, treatment of others, associates, hobbies, and more. Personal silent communicators will give you a pretty good indication as to whether your manager absorbed and understood what you told him.
Poor communication is at the root of many workplace problems. Former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, and his friend, billionaire businessperson Warren Buffett, visited their alma mater, Harvard University. They both commented on the fact that Harvard was still not teaching basic communication skills to its students, just as Harvard did not teach it to Gates and Buffett decades ago. They agreed that poor communication skills were evident in the young professionals entering business today.