I’ve noticed over the past 10 years of interacting with adult colleagues and adult learners on a daily basis that professional communication has declined pretty rapidly. I blame it on those darn cellular telephone devices (cell phones), Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. We often want to write a quick response without too much effort or consideration. Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well in the working world and can, in fact, undermine your credibility. I’ve compiled five quick tips to improve your communication so that you can pass as a real adult in the workforce. (Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone that you still play with Lego after work!)
1. Avoid emojis and “text speak”
It may be hard to believe but “LOL” and “TTYL” have not always been a part of our vocabulary. And there’s a good reason for it! Text acronyms (text speak) are not always easily understood by everyone and may alienate other cultures, age groups, and demographic groups. Save your winky face emoji and LOLs for texting your BFF, Rose.
2. Stop swearing
There is often a time and a place for our colorful four-letter word friends, but professional communication isn’t one of them. Sure, you may be angry and want to get across that you’re really upset with something, but swearing in professional communication settings is not appropriate. It makes you appear immature, disrespectful, and uneducated. Before firing off that bleeping response to that bleeping colleague who is pushing your buttons, take a moment to really consider what you are meaning to say and say it like an adult. As my high school teacher always said, “Use your words.”
I’ve noticed that a lot of us (myself included) try to legitimize what we’re saying from time to time by using filler words like “honestly” and “to tell the truth” and “frankly.” Like all filler words, these cloud your real message and call into question the honesty of your communication at other times. You should simply be honest and direct in your communication and, well, in all your endeavors.
4. Check your spelling
Spell checkers are available for almost all email programs and internet browsers and word processors, so there is no excuse for poor spelling in emails, documents, and presentations. Not taking the time to check your spelling and sentence structure says to others that you don’t care. This is a simple one to fix quickly. Even if you aren’t the best at grammar and punctuation and spelling, you can use programs like Grammarly to up your grammar and spelling game.
5. Things and stuff
Being vague in your communication can cause confusion, frustration, and errors. It’s better to say what you mean and be direct—but not too direct (more on that later). Using weak, indirect words like “things” and “stuff” when describing ideas makes you sound less knowledgeable about the topic and that hurts your credibility. The next time you want to tell your boss you’re bringing the “stuff” over, stop and determine what that “stuff” is and use the actual word(s). Is it a report? A computer and projector? Use the real term(s) for it and your credibility will go way up. You will look like you actually know what you’re talking about.
A final note on being direct: There is a fine line between being direct and open and being accusatory or mean. Take, for example, the phrases “you’re wrong” and “that’s incorrect.” When you say “you’re wrong,” it implies accusation and people do not take that well. If someone says something incorrect, it’s much easier to say “that’s incorrect” and explain why. People are more open to correction when they know it’s simply a wrong concept or thought that they had, not that they are a bad person.
There you have it: five ways you can professionalize your communication and level-up your adult skills. Do you have any other suggestions for professional communication? Leave them in the comments below!