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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

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Communicating on the Job

If you want to:

  • Make a good impression in an interview
  • Get along well with employers and co-workers
  • Develop strong, healthy relationships
  • Have close friends
  • Be a better friend
  • Get along well with family members, teachers, and people in your community
  • Advance at work

...follow the communication guidelines listed below.

Do:

1. Attend to the speaker. Look at people when they talk to you. If you can't see, orient toward the speaker's voice. Give the speaker all of your attention.

Attending means that you don't do anything else but listen to the speaker. You don't fiddle with your papers, answer your phone, look out the window, look at someone else passing by, fidget, or otherwise pay attention to something other than the speaker. You periodically nod your head or make an appropriate facial expression to match the speaker's message (a smile or frown depending on the content of what's being said.)

2. Listen to what the speaker is saying.

  • Listen to what is actually said (hear the words).
  • Listen to what is not said—"read between the lines" (listen for voice intonation).
  • Listen for feeling. Try to guess how the speaker is feeling based on what you hear in his or her voice. Is the speaker happy, sad, fearful, or angry? Don't worry about guessing incorrectly, the speaker will clarify if you guess his or her feeling incorrectly! If you try to determine how the speaker is feeling by guessing, it lets the speaker know that you care enough about him or her to be paying attention.
  • Try to determine the message the speaker is trying to impart. Ask if you are unsure, "Are you saying that...?" or "Do you mean...?" or "Am I understanding you to say...?"

3. Say something in reply that shows you understood how the speaker feels and that you care about the message being relayed to you.

You might say, "I appreciate you taking time to share...with me." or "Thanks for getting back to me about..."

Don't:

1. Say anything hateful or rude. Don't respond to a speaker with comments such as, "That's a stupid thing to say!" or "What a dumb idea!"

2. Give advice. Although people often ask for advice, it's a very tricky situation because you can't solve another person's problem. He or she needs to solve it! If you give someone advice and your idea works, the person will come to rely on you for ideas every time there's a problem in his or her life. If you give someone advice and your idea doesn't work, the person will resent the fact that you didn't help him or her. Giving advice is a no-win proposition! If you are asked for advice, give the person as many ideas as you can—at least two or three ideas, never just one—and let the person choose which idea he or she might want to try.

3. Change the subject or the direction of the conversation. There are three ways that people typically change the focus of conversation and they are listed below.

  1. Changing the focus to yourself. You often hear people saying things like, "The same thing happened to me." When you do that, you change the focus from the speaker to you. Don't!

  2. Changing the focus to some insignificant detail. Stay focused on what the speaker is saying and don't interrupt with questions about details. If the speaker wants you to know some of the details of what he or she is concerned about, the speaker will tell you. When you are the listener, it's your job to listen and not talk!

  3. Changing the focus entirely. If someone is uncomfortable with a message being conveyed he or she will simply shift to a completely different topic...don't! If someone is sharing something with you, you need to pay attention and consider what he or she is saying, even if you don't want to do so!

After reading this list of communication dos and don'ts, you may be thinking that you can follow these guidelines but you know that others will not necessarily notice or appreciate your efforts. That may be true at times, but the more often you follow these guidelines the more likely others will follow suit and follow them too. Try it. See if you can encourage better communication from others by being a better communicator yourself.

Applying good communication skills can help you obtain and maintain employment, and even advance in your career.

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