How Engaging Are You in the Workplace?

The book  P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. Communication Strategies that Move People to Action by Marlene Caroselli, Ed.D. offers some interesting discussion points and exercises to help readers be more persuasive in their communication.

Each letter stands for a different strategy and the letter E – Engage – resonated with me. 

How often have you been in a meeting and wanted to offer a new or different thought and started by saying…

  • “This may sound stupid, but…”
  • “This may be outside the box, but…”
  • “You may have already thought about this, but…”
  • “This probably isn’t possible, but…”

We start our sentence that way as a protection mechanism so that if the group dismisses what we say, we have already wrapped the comment in an excuse so we won’t be made fun of or thought silly or frivolousness or uninformed. 

Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success. Paul J. Meyer 

However, the message it truly says is this:

“I am about to speak but please don’t listen to anything I say because even I don’t have confidence in the idea.”

Wow. I know that wasn’t what you meant. 

The other example that happens to women frequently is that they offer an idea in a meeting and either don’t speak with confidence, just whisper the idea to their neighbor or offer the idea while others are talking and the next thing you know…someone else (often a man) will voice the idea as if it were his own. 

“Wait- didn’t I just say that?” you think.

How engaging is your communication strategy? And not just in person but also in writing. Do you bury your main points in the middle of a lot of unnecessary information so as not to sound too aggressive?

The book offers a few suggestions:

  • Start fast and with a bang.
  • Understand your audience so that you communicate the benefits to them, the fact that it won’t be disruptive to their existing process and the ease of implementation.
  • Focus on “them” rather than “you.” WIFM (What’s in it for them?”)
  • Site sources if possible or give examples of prior successes.
  • Connect the solution to the problem.
  • Be rational rather than emotional.

In an article on effective workplace communication by How Stuff Works, one of the best tips is effective listening. Once you have offered your idea or opinion, make sure to listen to what people say but also how it is received. Read the body language of those around the room. Are people nodding and leaning forward or sitting back with crossed arms? 

In the article, they suggest listening as if there will be a quiz:

Being an effective communicator means listening as well as talking. Sounds easy, but listening actually takes some practice.

Each time you have a conversation, pretend there’s going to be a quiz at the end of it. Try to keep a mental checklist of all the important points the other person makes. When the conversation is over, force yourself to recall at least three important things the person said. Get in the habit of doing this until listening becomes second nature.

Effective and engaging communication is critical for women in the workplace. It is a fine line we walk between being seen as a credible contributor or an overbearing shrew or a shrinking violet. If only we could be like E.F. Hutton (when they speak, everyone listens, according to their tagline).

It takes work, practice, study and confidence. 

If this topic is of interest, you may want to check out a few other articles on the subject:

10 Tips to Develop Effective Workplace Communication Skills

Having a Voice in a Male Dominated Workplace

6 Ways to Communicate More Effectively in the Workplace

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