Communication Do’s and Don’ts

September 9, 2019

Are your communication skills hindering your career development? Do you welcome others’ ideas even though they differ from yours? Or, do you talk down to people?

Good communication enhances relationships, contributes to productive work environments, and advances career development  Thinking about what we say and how we say it can minimize misinterpretations. Below are common communication don’ts and dos.


– Trust and respect everyone.  Respect is essential for cultivating relationships. Treat others as you wish to be treated and value their opinions. Avoid stereotyping. This reinforces negativity and alienation.

– Listen without judging. Don’t interrupt, fidget or jump to conclusions before someone finishes a sentence. Ask questions when you’re unsure. Ensure your message is understood, as well. Summarize what you hear to minimize misunderstanding. Let the speaker know you hear and understand his thoughts. Consider what someone is feeling but not saying. Empathize: “I’d be angry if that happened to me.”

– Use verbal and non verbal strategies. Superior verbal, problem solving and reasoning skills establish credibility. However, words seldom capture the total message. A caring touch, smile or other nonverbal cues say a lot. They can reinforce messages and establish sincerity. The same sentence can have a different meaning when voice tone differs.

Project a confident, professional, energetic image. Attend to environmental factors such as comfort and colour to enhance communication.

– Address mistakes and conflict immediately. Schedule meetings to resolve issues. Aim for win-win solutions. Both you and the other party should express views, documenting facts. Ensure you understand each other’s viewpoints, and explore potential solutions. Agree on a plan to resolve the conflict, and know how you’ll measure success.

Never blind side coworkers. Always discuss problems with those directly involved, first.

– Polish telephone skills.  Create a professional first impression. Be courteous. Speak briskly, but pronounce words clearly.  Leave concise, understandable messages. Repeat your name and phone number twice. Give the date, time and reason for your call. State whether you’ll call back or want the person to call. Indicate when you’ll be available.

– Keep information flowing. Advise others of important developments and stay informed about company and industry news. If you can’t meet deadlines, ensure all affected people know what happened. Provide a new due date, and honor the deadline.

– Share credit and praise. Thank, recognize and specify contributions of people who helped you succeed. Praise often, and publicly link praise to a specific activity or attribute.

Offer constructive feedback. Instead of criticizing, begin with a compliment, and offer suggestions for improvement. Help others identify and harness strengths.

– Participate in company projects and social activities. Creating something with others is an excellent way to develop friendships. Casual discussions during lunch or coffee breaks can also strengthen relationships. Don’t engage in idle nasty chatter. What you say can haunt you later.

– Request feedback. Ask a valued colleague to list three communication skills you do well, and three you could improve upon. Practice refining needed skills.


– Play the one-upmanship game. “That’s nothing. Here’s my story.” This tendency, often used by insecure types, turns others off. Colleagues won’t share because it’s tiresome to have comments “topped.” Let the speaker know you hear him. Ask questions to draw out pleasant memories

Send unprofessional emails. Be precise, brief, focused. Never type all caps. They have the same effect as screaming.  Think before posting. Realize you’re making an impression and leaving a written record. Avoid offensive language, and don’t criticize or complain. Never respond negatively to inflammatory mail. Schedule face-to-face meetings to discuss concerns. Review and proofread.  Address the recipient to communicate respect, and type your name.

– Be sarcastic. Although some people tell the truth by sarcasm, the receiver often feels angry. Sarcasm can make the recipient feel abused, embarrassed, and unwilling to share information. If someone directs a sarcastic remark to you, say, “Are you concerned about X?” After listening, say, “Next time, please tell me about your concern directly.”

– Keep your door closed all the time. A closed door sends the message you don’t want to be disturbed.  If you need quiet, leave the door slightly ajar. When working under time constraints or engaged in a confidential discussion, tape a message on your closed door. For example, “On deadline. Please leave a note, and I’ll get back to you.”

– React defensively and angrily when criticized. This gives the other person power over how you’ll behave. Maintain your power. Don’t speak when you’re angry or upset. Take time to prepare and mentally rehearse a response that will benefit both parties.

– Blame. This creates distance and defensiveness. Although you may need to identify people involved in a problem or ask what system caused a failure, don’t publicly identify and blame others.  Think about what you can do to resolve the situation.

– Display personal items in your work area. Give your space “personality” but don’t offend others.  Items you feel are “humorous” might be perceived “unprofessional.”  As`well, avoid displaying controversial materials that could create conflict.

– Overdo business casual. Avoid wearing flip-flops, sweat suits, tattered, revealing or flashy clothes. You could be sending the message you’re not a serious professional.

Additional tips for enhancing communication are discussed in award winning Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life by Carole Kanchier:

Check audible edition;

Author Bio: Carole Kanchier, PhD, is an internationally recognized newspaper/digital columnist, registered psychologist, coach and author of Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life.  Kanchier has taught at University of California, Berkeley and Santa Cru, University of Alberta, and other institutions of higher learning. Dr. Kanchier is known for her pioneering, interdisciplinary approach to human potential.