“What do you do when you are working with someone who simply isn’t a strong communicator?” asks training specialist Shaun Belding in his Winning at Work e-newsletter (top-notch reading for anyone in the workplace).
“It might be someone who speaks in one- or two-word sentences. Perhaps it’s someone who only gives you half the information you require, assuming that you already know the other half. It could be that they are communicating to you in their second language, and simply don’t possess enough language skills yet. In some cases, poor communication comes from individuals so intent on using important-sounding buzzwords that they completely baffle the listener. (e.g. ‘We need to granularize the core alignment of the cloud-driven segmentation…’)”.
All these things can be irritating if you happen to be s tickler for accuracy or perfection. But, whereas you might be somewhat more tolerant in other circumstances, it becomes really frustrating when your colleague’s lack of clarity begins to impact your ability to do your job.
And what makes it harder is that poor communicators rarely have any inkling of how bad they really are.
So what can you do about it? Reproaching the offending parties outright for their sloppiness is usually not an option. Nor is offering to give them lessons written or verbal language skills. However, there are solutions.
What Belding advocates is the use of clarifying questions that let your coworker know that they do not make themselves entirely clear.
” Be gentle, and don’t make them feel stupid. For example, if your coworker sends you an email that says, ‘Pls advise re: customer paperwork’ don’t just email back with ‘ What on earth are you talking about?’ You’re better to send a message back (or better – call) that says something like, ‘Absolutely! Just so I make sure I’m getting you the right information, can you confirm which specific customer and paperwork? Thanks!”‘
Although the questioning may annoy your fellow worker in the short term, the next time he or she comes to you with a query or request, he or she might present the information more clearly. if that happens, you’ve done a great job, but Belding concludes with a very pertinent warning:
“Don’t be too quick to place all the blame on your coworker. Communication, after all, is a two-way street.
Azriel Winnett is the author of the highly acclaimed, eye-opening book How to Build Relationships That Stick. An enhanced edition is now available as a paperback.