Hack your life at work (part one)

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Life hacking basically means changing daily habits or creating new ones, through which we increase our happiness or satisfaction. The most popular life hacks deal with mindfulness, productivity or health. However, professional success doesn’t rely only on productivity, but also on our happiness levels when at work. Considering that we invest a significant part of our time at work, we will publish a series of articles dealing with hacks which can decisively improve how we feel and perform at work.

Communication abilities often matter decisively

We learn how to communicate from birth and, whether we are aware or not, we continue to develop these abilities during our entire adulthood. Our ability to communicate coherently according to a personal or professional situation has a considerable impact on results we obtain. Therefore, taking control over knowingly developing our communication abilities has effects along our entire lifetime.

One of the first capital lessons is: always communicate for a purpose! It is very important that all participants to a conversation to understand which is the purpose of that conversation, especially because oftentimes different people expect different things from the same conversation. Communicating with a clearly stated purpose not only reduces the time needed to reach that goal, but also increases the chances of obtaining consensus.

Before being able to state the purpose, it is important to be able to correctly identify it for any given conversation. This ability is best developed through constant practice, but it is important to keep in mind that a purpose always exists, even when it seems that we don’t want to obtain anything. For instance, when we’re just shooting the breeze with someone, there is a purpose which can be stated: “I just want to chit-chat with you, because I want to relax for 10 minutes.”

Other communication situations in which the purpose may be harder to identify are a competitive dispute or a negotiation. But even these conversations have a shared objective between all participants: in the first instance, the goal is to win the dispute, while in the second it is to reach an agreement which is “beneficial for myself”, applicable to each person. Stating the objective at the start of the conversation dictates the mental context in which that conversation is taking place, as well as clarifies a set of rules which apply in communication – both these things may make the difference between failure and success.

For example, when gathering ideas in a brainstorming, it is important to state (and impose as rule) that no idea will be judged or critiqued on the spot. This rule frees up participants who cut down on their inner filters applied to their ideas before saying them out loud. Thus, there is an increased number of ideas which get said, automatically increasing the chances of better ideas to emerge, and so increasing the likelihood of reaching their objective.

Communicate in a positive manner, regardless of the situation!

When correctly identifying the purpose of each conversation, it becomes clearer that only positive communication can help us control the outcome of each talk. Even when delivering negative feedback, more often than not our purpose is to prevent that person from repeating the same action in the future. We all instinctively go into defensive when being attacked, even if only with words. Therefore, we mainly seek to refute or answer back to the attacker, instead of trying to understand what the purpose of that conversation is and why it is happening to us.

Keeping a calm tone and communicating in a positive and constructive manner can make the difference between liked, popular or respected people and those you run away from in the office!

Not least important, communicate with empathy in order to get the message across with maximum impact. Empathy does not mean mirroring how the other is feeling about a specific topic, but rather it means to be aware of everybody’s feelings when starting a conversation and of what that conversation will do to them.

When offering feedback on someone’s behavior, for example, it is vital to communicate with empathy in order to make sure that our message is received. For instance: “I know that how you speak in public is important for you and, even though it is not as important for me, I understand the value it has for you, so please pay attention to the following feedback!” As stated before, empathy means understanding, not imitating – and this difference is a key one, because knowing this allows us to focus on developing our abilities in the right direction.

Of course, there are also other behaviors which we use intensely at work and the development of which may be significant in raising satisfaction levels at the workplace. But, until the next article in this series, we recommend you to consciously improve your communication abilities daily.

In the meantime, you can find more articles on life hacking on our blog.

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