Professional communication is one of the pillars of any organisation, as poor or effective communication directly impacts company performance. Sharing information, sending instructions, client liaising, planning and learning are all forms of professional communication directly affecting your bottom line. If you haven’t taken the time to analyse your professional communication skills, you should consider taking the time to work on this impactful skill by studying courses in office administration and professional communication.
A 2015 study analysed 390,000 employees in 81 organisations spread over 10 countries and found several key differences in communication between high-performing and average companies:
- High-performing organisations were twice as likely to use less jargon when communicating, keeping language simple and direct. Only 21% of employees in average organisations claim to use jargon-free communication.
- Average organisations are 40% more likely to pack messages into their communication. High-performers prefer to avoid cluttered and mixed messages.
- High-performance companies are 60% more likely to consider their audiences when communicating and twice as likely to make emotional connections with said audiences.¹
These are simple do’s and don’ts that can easily be incorporated into any communication strategy to improve organisational productivity. That being said, the starting point for improved professional communication is with each individual. Pioneer effective professional communication in your company with this list of 10 no-go phrases and how to avoid them.
Learn how to professionally communicate with clarity, direction, and confidence.
‘Just’ is an unproductive word that makes you look apologetic for needing something. Don’t apologise for a need, simply state it.
- Poor communication: “I just need to finish this report.”
- Professional communication: “I need some time to finish this report.”
Lawrence Kink described ‘very’ as “the most useless word in the English language” as it communicates nothing. It’s intended to enforce a statement but instead dilutes it. Either leave it out or use a better adjective.
- Poor communication: “Our clients are very happy about our new product.”
- Professional communication: “Our clients are ecstatic about our new product.”
Perhaps you know what you mean by ‘stuff’, but the recipient of your message doesn’t and this makes you look unsure of yourself. Use specific communication to appear more confident.
- Poor communication: “I have stuff to do before the meeting.”
- Professional communication: “I have to finish the XYZ report before the meeting.”
George Mahl, a psychiatrist at Yale University, found that on average people use filler words for every 4.4 seconds of spontaneous speech.² While they buy you time, they undermine your credibility.
Communicate with authority by replacing these words with silent pauses. They allow your listener time to process the information you’re communicating and make you more convincing. If you’re using filler words because you’re unsure of what you’re saying, simply state it.
- Poor communication: “So, the uh manager will see you in around… um… half an hour.”
- Professional communication: “The manager will see you… I’m not sure when. Probably in about half an hour.”
‘Like’ is another form of filler word that buys time to introduce your next idea, and instantly destroys the credibility of that idea. (“There are, like, so many new interns starting this month.”)
‘Like’ is also used as a poor communicative substitute to convey similarity (“it’s like being on a rollercoaster”), or to quote others. If you aren’t using a simile, choose a more precise word to validate your intelligence.
- Poor communication: “She was like, ‘I can’t believe I have to do this’.”
- Professional communication: “She said she couldn’t believe she had to do it.”
When you ask others if you’re making sense, it opens up the possibility for them to question whether you are, and makes you seem desperate for approval. If you want to engage your listener, ask for their opinion. Otherwise leave this phrase out altogether.
- Poor communication: “… and that’s why we should have longer breaks. You know what I mean?”
- Professional communication: “… and that’s why we should have longer breaks. What are your thoughts?”
Presenting an idea as a question subconsciously communicates to your audience that you don’t value your idea. Phrase your ideas as statements to convey confidence and authority.
- Poor communication: “That idea could work, but what if we tried doing it this way?”
- Professional communication: “I think we should do it this way.”
Stating this communicates that what you’ve been asked to do is actually a problem or inconvenience. Communicate with more confidence by framing the task in a positive light.
- Poor communication: “No problem. I’ll get to it straight away.”
- Professional communication: “I’ll happily take care of that.”
This common phrase communicates that you are unsure of your abilities. If you try, you might fail. Don’t try, just do it.
- Poor communication: “I’ll try my best.”
- Professional communication: “I’ll get it done.”
Starting a sentence with a qualifier such as this discredits anything that follows it. Communicating where you lack expertise serves no purpose. Leave it out to sound more confident.
- Poor communication: “This isn’t my specialty, but I think we should cut the red wire.”
- Professional communication: “I think we should cut the red wire.”
Want to find out about more ways to have professional communication?
Maximise your career performance by taking the UCT Professional Communication and Office Management online short course.