Updated: Dec 1, 2021
Below is a list of all the communication behaviors we strive to observe and help you improve your communication skills. Although this list is not comprehensive, it does list many areas that are observable through the words and phrases that you use.
The list is grouped into the following areas: Validating and Clarifying, Boosting Spirit, Welcoming and Inclusiveness, Emotional Intelligence, Psychological Safety, Other Behaviors, and Negative Behaviors.
VALIDATING AND CLARIFYING
In order to have good communication, the message needs to be clear and well understood by the receiver. An important step towards achieving better communication to ensure that the message sent was indeed understood as intended. This is why validating and clarifying what was said and what was heard is so important.
ASKING FOR CLARIFICATION
Ask others to clarify when you do not understand.
“What did you mean by…? Could you please describe it in another way? ”
The best way for others to know that you did not understand something is to let them know. There is no shame in asking someone to clarify what was said. It is better to make sure you understand now, rather than pretend and have it cause issues later on.
Validating the viewpoints and ideas of another team member.
“That’s an interesting idea.”
By letting someone know that their ideas are acceptable, you help improve their confidence and build psychological safety. Although you may not agree with them, you can acknowledge their contribution to the team. New ideas can spark other ideas that would not have existed otherwise.
Clarify what it is you are saying.
“Another way to look at it is… What I mean is...”
Not everyone thinks the same. It is good practice to try saying the message in different ways. Try using examples, stories, and metaphors to get your point across.
Confirm what you understood with active listening.
“If I understood correctly, you were saying…”
Repeat back to the speaker what you understood in your own words to make sure you know what they said/meant. Active listening is a great tool to let others know that you are paying attention and understand what they are saying.
It can be easy to get caught up in all the problems that need to be fixed and focus on the negative. It is a good idea to remind ourselves to stay positive and goal-oriented. Some celebration and encouragement can go a long way in boosting team energy and morale.
Celebrate each effort no matter how small and even if it ended in failure.
“Woohoo! We did it! Great work everyone! We are the best! ”
We often forget to celebrate our effort and accomplishments. Celebrating together is a great way to bond and keep a positive mindset. You can celebrate almost anything. Even getting through a long meeting can be a reason for celebrating.
Encouraging other teammates to share their viewpoints and ideas.
“You got this! We believe in you!”
A big part of psychological safety is overcoming the fear to speak out. You can help your fellow team members by encouraging them to share their opinion.
Congratulate other teammates on their accomplishments.
“That was a great idea, Jane!”
Celebrate those small wins. Anytime someone does something good, immediately recognize it. We all like to be appreciated for our hard work.
Emotional Intelligence is the measure of how well we recognize and adapt to our own emotions as well as others. The more we improve our emotional intelligence, the more we can ensure communication is smooth and reduce conflict that can sidetrack us from our mission.
Being polite and respecting each other.
“Please. Thank you. You’re welcome.”
The three magic words can go a long way. Taking that tiny extra effort to say a polite word or two shows that you care. Of course, it must be sincere. Most of us appreciate politeness and it helps build trust.
Expressing your emotions in a calm and non-threatening way.
“When we went the wrong way, I became very frustrated.”
We can easily let our emotions take control. Being aware of your emotions and letting others know them increases psychological safety.
Being able to wait and accommodate others.
“That's ok. Take your time. I understand.”
Showing patience gives grace to others and allows them to be human. As the sayings go, "we are all human", and "we all make mistakes". Let's remember to be kind and give others a break.
RECOGNIZING OTHER’S EMOTIONS
Notice what emotional state others are in.
“I feel that you are upset. Is now a good time to talk?”
One's emotional state can quickly derail a conversation. Therefore, it is very important that we try to learn the emotional state of someone else when speaking to them. By tailoring our words, we can be careful not to further trigger painful or fearful emotions.
Displaying compassion towards another team member in need.
“What can I do to help you?”
Compassion is about taking action in order to ease the suffering of someone else. This is an important part of psychological safety.
WELCOMING & INCLUSIVENESS
The more we include others in the conversation, the more ideas we can generate, the more solutions we can find, and the more risks we can identify. When people are included, they are motivated, contribute, and feel accountable.
Include others into the conversation.
“What do you think Jim? Let's hear Jane's idea."
The more inclusive you are, the more input you will receive. This means there is a more diverse set of ideas and opinions being used. Therefore, you can have a better chance at coming up with more unique ideas and have more chances to find solutions or avoid pitfalls. If someone is being quiet in the corner, please invite them into the conversation.
EXPRESSING YOUR PREFERENCES
Letting others know how you prefer to communicate.
“I prefer to text. If you draw me a picture, that would help. Just give me the overview.”
Each of us has a preferred way of communicating. Some like text, others prefer a phone call, and others want to email. We also may like information organized or provided in a certain way. Some may want a short summary, others may prefer the details. Some people want to talk about family first, others would prefer to get straight to work. It’s all about understanding each other’s preferences and doing our best to accommodate them.
FINDING COMMON GROUND
Looking for things in common and that can be agreed upon.
“We both like Star Wars! I love pickles too! We can both agree that...”
Many times we focus on what is different about each other. When we notice what we have in common, it is easier to feel belonging. This is the first step towards trust and being able to share more with each other.
RECOGNIZING OTHER’S PREFERENCES
Understand how other people like to receive communication.
“Would you like a summary? Would it be better if I wrote it down for you?”
Knowing how the person you are communicating with likes to receive information can make life much easier for both of you. One can become quickly frustrated when they are not getting information in the way that they prefer. How do you know which way? Simply ask them.
Making others feel welcome and invited.
“Come on in. Welcome to the team! I would like to invite you to...
The first step towards being inclusive is to
Psychological Safety is the measure of how safe one feels on a team to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions without fear of being criticized or blamed. It is part of being inclusive and found to be the number one contributor to high-performing teams. When everyone feels safe enough to share, more ideas and input can be gathered by the team.
Admit when you are wrong or made a mistake.
“My apologies, I made a mistake.”
Letting the team know that you made a mistake helps build trust. They will appreciate you for your honesty. The sooner you can admit your error, the better.
Sharing your thoughts and ideas with the team.
“What do you all think if we did this?”
Having the courage to be brave and share your ideas, opinions, and concerns with the team builds psychological safety.
ASKING FOR PERMISSION
Ask others if it is ok to do something before doing it.
“Do you mind if I...? Is it alright if I...? ”
It is great to take initiative and help out others. But in some cases, they may not want or need help or advice. It is always best to ask first
Helping others who are in need.
“How can I help? Do you need…? .”
We need to be aware and notice if someone is in need of help. When communicating, it is a good practice to ask if someone needs help.
Taking the initiative to complete a task or duty.
“Do you all mind if I take a stab at creating the presentation?”
Showing that you can contribute to the team’s mission by getting work done without being asked is a great way to promote psychological safety. Just be mindful that you are not overstepping your bounds and ask the team if they are ok with you taking on the task.
LOOKING FOR ROOT CAUSES
Looking for the root cause and solution of a mistake or failure.
“Let’s try to find out why this happened.”
When something doesn’t work out, we can be naturally frustrated. Finding out why and how the issue happened and how to prevent it from happening again keeps the focus in a positive and productive direction.
Although words are important, have meaning, and can be analyzed, there are other aspects of communication that cannot be ignored. Specifically, body language, tone of voice, and how you articulate can have a large impact on how your message is interpreted.
TONE OF VOICE
How your voice sounds in terms of sentiment and emotion.
“That is really cool! (said enthusiastically) or That is really cool... (said sarcastically)”
How you say a word, phrase, or sentence can make a big difference. It can sound like a question, an insult, encouragement, or boredom among other things. It is important to keep in mind how your voice sounds and does it match the message you are trying to send.
How the different facial expressions and body movements convey a message.
“I like it! (high-five) or I like it! (rolls-eyes”
Just like how you say something matters, it also matters what the tone is of your body language. It doesn't matter how many nice words you say. If you have an angry or disgusted look on your face when you say them, they will not appear to be nice.
Sounding out all the vowels and consonants while speaking in a clear manner.
When we run words and sounds together or shorten them, it can be difficult for others to hear what we are saying. This can be especially true if it is not their native language. Thus, it is a good idea to practice speaking clearly and articulating each word correctly.
There are several negative behaviors to watch out for. These can quickly derail a conversation, cause confusion, or result in frustration. Keep these in mind as you communicate and remind yourself to make an alternate choice more beneficial towards reaching your goal.
Allowing bias to cloud decision-making.
“All dogs are lazy. Old people don't get it. My doctor said it was true.”
We all have bias and it is there to help us make quick decisions without overloading our brains. However, we can fall into the trap of making the wrong judgment if we are not consciously aware of bias.
Abbreviating words using the first letter of each word
“When will that RFQ be ready? How is your POS working for you?”
It can be very frustrating for someone new to hear many acronyms being used and not understand what they mean. Unless you are sure everyone in the audience knows the acronym, it is always best to type or say each word.
Not being specific or clear about
“Over by that one thing. Where I got all that stuff.”
If you are not clear about what you are saying it will be difficult for the listener to know what you mean. Using times, dates, and numbers as well as any other clarifying information (color, size, shape, etc.) is always helpful.
Speaking in a low tone and running words and sounds together.
“Ima getit today. Izallgud, laders.”
Some people may not speak English as their first language or may have difficulty hearing. It is a good idea to sound out each vowel, syllable, and word so that it can be clearly heard and understood.
Not listening or being distracted while another teammate is speaking.
“What did you say again? I got distracted.”
When you don’t give your full attention to another, it can be frustrating and discouraging to them. Put any distracting items away, mute your phones, and really concentrate and focus on what the other person is saying.
Using impolite or insensitive words.
“You’re an idiot! What a loser! A**hole!”
As soon as you make a rude comment towards someone, they will most likely become immediately defensive. From this point on, they are no longer listening to you, and communication between you is not occurring. If you find yourself being rude, be aware of it and always apologize immediately after.
Blaming other teammates for mistakes and failures.
“John did it! It’s all his fault”
Blaming others is never productive. It promotes fear and anxiety which are detrimental to psychological safety. Instead, focus on finding the root cause of the issue and how to prevent it from recurring.
Criticizing other team members when they make a mistake.
“What were you thinking?”
If you criticize others for their mistakes, they will be less likely to take risks in the future. And risk-taking is important for psychological safety. Again, focus on understanding why the mistake happened and how to stop it from happening again.
Discouraging other team members’ ideas and views.
“That will never work.”
Team members need to feel confident and brave enough to share their thoughts. By belittling them, you take away that confidence. Always thank others for sharing their mind with the team.
DISMISSING Dismissing or invalidating other team members’ viewpoints and ideas.
“Nobody cares about that.”
When a team member brings up a concern or idea and you ignore it, you may be missing out on something that can help the team. That information could save the team time, make them heroes, or stop them from making a mistake. Keep an open mind and consider everyone’s input equally important.
Ignoring a team member who is clearly in need of help.
“We are all busy right now.”
By not being aware that another team member needs help, you miss an opportunity to create a connection with them. And by not helping when it is clear someone needs help, you are showing them that you don’t care. This is very hurtful and detrimental to psychological safety. Practice being more aware of others’ needs for help and look for ways the team can help them.
Interrupt other teammates while they are speaking.
“Let me stop you right there.”
When you interrupt someone while they are speaking, you may be causing the team to miss some important information. The person speaking may feel upset as well. If you have a thought or idea you can’t wait to share, write it down and save it for when it is your turn to speak.
Keeping quiet. Not sharing your thoughts or ideas with the team.
“They will think I am dumb.”
When you keep your thoughts and ideas away from the team, you are not contributing to the benefit of the team. By sharing, you are increasing your and their sense of belonging.
LOSING EMOTIONAL CONTROL
Letting your emotions get the best of you. Lashing out at other teammates.
“I am so sick and tired of this!”
When you are not aware or in control of your emotions, they can quickly take over. This is when people often say things they regret. Be more aware of your emotions and those of others.
Speaking too often or too long. Monopolizing the conversation.
“Please, let me continue.”
When you speak for too long you are not giving the other team members an equal opportunity to speak. This can be frustrating and it is important that every voice on the team is heard. Give yourself a timer to ensure you give others a chance to speak.
Using slang, jargon, or acronyms.
“What is the DFG’s on that? Too many squatchers in this one.”
Be aware that not everyone will know the acronym you are using. As soon as they hear an unfamiliar word, they will start trying to guess what it means. This means that they are no longer listening to the rest of what you say. Do your best to avoid any slang, jargon, or acronyms. If you must use any of these, then make sure to define it the first time you use it with anyone new.