10 Ways to Improve Your Communication with Your Boss

22nd January 2017
10 Ways to Improve Your Communication with Your Boss
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Being able to effectively communicate with your boss (and having good communication skills in general) is imperative if you want to enjoy a successful career. After all, they hold the keys to things like positive performance reviews and can greatly impact your ability to advance or get that promotion.

Yet, they aren’t just the gatekeeper for getting ahead; keeping your job could also require talking with your boss in a clear, concise manner that is truly heard. While you probably already know the necessity of having good communication skills, actually being able to get through to your boss may be easier said than done.

Let’s Get to Work on Your Communication Skills!

Here are 10 ways to improve your communication with your boss that truly work.

Tip #1: Be Prepared

If you’re not a natural communicator, then going in to speak with your boss unprepared is a poor strategy. You’ll likely be too wordy, have trouble getting to the point or lose your train of thought.

All of these common blunders make it difficult for your boss to pay attention. They are almost certainly busy with a thousand different tasks to get done; the last thing they want is to feel like you’re wasting their time.

Try to think of your speech as if it’s just the highlights, where you only cover the most important points quickly. Not only will your boss be more likely to listen to a shorter speech, they’ll probably remember what you said much better as well.

Tip #2: Be Specific

Generalities are your enemy when trying to hammer home an idea, proposal, defence of your actions, vision for the future or whatever else you’re trying to effectively convey to your boss.

This is the time to get specific, narrowing everything you’re going to say down to a few well-considered points. Going hand-in-hand with the advice to hit just the highlights, this tip ensures that those highlights actually have something to do with your point.

Tip #3: Keep Your Emotions In Check

Blubbering like a child probably isn’t a good way to make your boss hear you, especially if they aren’t a touchy feely type of person. While sharing your emotions and struggles can actually bring you closer together and help them see things from your point of view. breaking down should be a very rare occurrence (if at all). Why?

Everyone has issues that they have to deal with, but most don’t burden their boss with these feelings. Most of the time your emotional display will be unwelcome and uncomfortable, unless you and your boss already have a good relationship. So, to get the best results, try to speak with your boss when you’re composed and in control.

Tip #4: Be Accountable

If that project you’ve been working on is under-performing, don’t make ten different excuses as to why it’s not your fault. Take ownership of your failings, look your boss in the eye and tell them how you plan to learn from this setback and adapt to overcome in the future.

This can go a long way towards instilling trust in your ability to get back on track, and will probably go over much better than trying to explain everything away.

Tip #5: Speak in Actionable Terms

Saying that “you’d love to be considered for the upcoming project” is good, and it does show initiative. Yet, to really take your communication to the next level, try using language that’s actionable and measurable instead. For example, say “I’d love to go over 3 reasons why I’m the best candidate for the project with you on Friday.” How is this better?

You’ve given your boss measurable terms and a clear idea of the next step. They’ll know that you plan to speak with them on a specific day with a specific topic in mind. This is superior to a much more general statement, which has no clearly defined concept of what’s coming next.

People tend to fall into this way of speaking a great deal, and not just at work. A good example of the difference is found in a typical New Year’s resolution. If you say that you’d like to lose weight this year, that sounds good, but it includes no plan of action to back it up.

However, if your resolution is to visit the gym 3 times a week for 30 minutes for the next year, this has a clear and measurable outcome. Which of these resolutions do you think will be more effective?

Tip #6: Be an Active Listener

All too often people just tune out when someone else is speaking, even their boss. They are simply waiting for their turn to speak again, and this is a poor way to build rapport.

Force yourself to be in the moment, actively listening to what your boss has to say. Not only will this give you fodder to ask intelligent questions and keep the conversation moving smoothly forward, your boss will be able to pick up on your undivided attention.

No one likes being ignored, and actually listening to your boss will make them much more inclined to listen to you.

Tip #7: Convey the Right Message

Communication isn’t only performed with your words – your body language and posture also send a message. Don’t cross your arms and lean away from your boss, look down at the ground often or hunch your shoulders.

These can either convey an attitude of defiance, resistance or poor self-esteem and weak belief in what you are saying. Instead, it’s important to sit up straight and look your boss in the eye, and even lean forward a bit as if you’re anticipating the exciting things they have to tell you. The right body language is a big part of an engaging conversation, so don’t neglect this piece of the puzzle.

Tip #8: Be Perceptive

What does being perceptive mean? Your boss is human too, and they aren’t immune to having a bad day or a fight at home. Try to determine their mood before jumping into your pitch or whatever else you have to say.

If it’s important that your conversation goes well, don’t pick a day when your chances are less than stellar. Bide your time and wait until your boss is in a good mood before you bend their ear – chances are your patience will be rewarded.

Tip #9: Be Persistent

This isn’t advice to annoy your boss, asking them for an answer to your query every time that you see the whites of their eyes. Instead, don’t be like far too many employees, who might drum up the courage to speak with their boss once but then don’t try again or stick with it.

This type of behaviour is quite common when asking for a pay raise, for example.
Or, an employee may only speak with their boss when he or she initiates the conversation. Don’t make your boss track you down; touch base with them again about your discussion a day or two later if the situation warrants a follow-up.

Tip #10: Be Consistent

Perhaps the best advice is that waiting to speak with your boss only when you need something isn’t a wise choice. Keep lines of communication open with them at all times, volunteering brief but regular updates about work-related projects.

You can also quickly inquire about their kids, favourite sports team, hobbies or whatever else you know they like talking about. Just keeping a regular back and forth going can do wonders for your work relationship. It also lets your boss know that you don’t only speak to them when you need something – making it easier to talk to them when you do.

These 10 ways to improve your communication with your boss can have a profound impact on your success at work. Using this knowledge, you may find that your interactions have never been smoother, or your ability to persuade grows by an astonishing degree.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of effective communication skills, and lacking them can hold you back even if you’re good at your job. You may have been oblivious to these basics of good communication for years – which could be why work is always a struggle.

Fortunately, simply by reversing your habits when it comes to connecting with your boss, you could begin to enjoy a much easier road ahead.

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