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2 Tips for Better Work Communication

The greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity. – George Orwell


Communication is a huge part of day-to-day work lives. Working in a creative industry, we all give and get creative feedback on a regular basis. 


So, the topic of language came up within our internal meetings lately, because how we use language can affect our productivity, and also how satisfied we are with our work life. We boiled down our conversation to these two tips:


Number one – be direct.


Direct communication can be hard because we were all trained from a young age by statements like – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. However, being honest and direct can be a way to show respect for other people. 


For example, a couple One Floor Up post production team members like to listen to The Always Sunny Podcast which features writers and actors from the long-running sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia about four egocentric friends who run a bar together. 


In one of the latest episodes, one writer shares:


I’ve worked for some showrunners that I can tell, like, I pitched something they don’t like and they do this whole song and dance of, like, letting me down gently by like, “Oh, yeah, that’s interesting. Let’s consider that idea.”. 


But you guys are great ‘cause you’ll just be like,”Nah, that’s not it.” And then just move on. And I kind of appreciate that because there’s something patronizing about needing to let me down gently […]. 


Because there’s an assumption there that I WILL come up with a better idea if you just tell me you don’t like that one. So, I prefer that. 


But being direct requires a certain amount of trust in relationships, which brings us to our second point.


Number two – show up wholeheartedly.


The book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott, offers two guiding principles for the workplace – to care personally and challenge directly. 


Malone Scott says that these two principles build stronger relationships and create a culture of sincere and helpful guidance that inspires team members to bring their best selves to their work. Additionally, she says these techniques maintain high employee satisfaction and drive stellar results. She says: 


Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes everyday. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.


Similarly, Brené Brown’s work in Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts advocates for qualities like vulnerability, curiosity, and connection over things like avoiding difficult conversations or pretending to have all the answers. She states:


It turns out that trust is in fact earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.


It’s worth noting that both of these tips can be hard to use effectively if the majority of communication happens over email, text, or chat. Something that sounds harsh when written can be taken totally differently when it is spoken. So, despite all the challenges it presents, finding time for face-to-face communication might be the greatest starting point.


Brown offers this concluding thought:


The irony is that we’re choosing not to invest in developing the hearts and minds of leaders at the exact same time as we’re scrambling to figure out what we have to offer that machines and AI can’t do better and faster. What can we do better? Empathy, connection, and courage, to start.

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