We all have days where we feel like we're struggling to get our point across.
You know you said something critical to the discussion at hand, but your colleagues—or your senior leaders—somehow didn't hear it.
It's possible that changing the way you talk about your work can help others better understand it. Writing for Fast Company, Anett Grant shares the three things you're doing wrong when you try to explain your work to your colleagues. She makes her recommendations with tech people in mind, but the guidelines are useful for anyone facing communication challenges.
1. You take too long to get to the point
When reporting on your work, it's tempting to tell a story: what you set out to do, the methods you attempted, how it turned out, and what you concluded.
The problem, Grant writes, is that the busy person you're talking to probably won't find this story as fascinating as you do.
"You have to give the conclusion first, ideally in the first two minutes," Grant explains.
Many people feel personally invested in their process and hope to be praised for their effort, but your conclusion is the most important information, especially if you're making a report to a senior leader.
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2. You make your listeners feel dumb
You probably spend most of your day interacting with people who share your specialized field of knowledge and a common technical language.
As such, you might forget to set that specialized language aside when speaking to someone else. Or you might get so caught up in explaining the technical details that you forget the point of the conversation.
"When you speak to your boss, your peers, or your senior leadership team, your goal isn't to demonstrate how smart you are," Grant writes. Instead, you should be trying "to make them feel smart."
Grant recommends imagining that you're speaking to a friend: A conversation where your primary goal is to connect with the other person, whether they know everything you know or not.
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3. You're too pessimistic
Priorities change, projects get cancelled, and mulling over it isn't going to change that.
"Stay positive, and move onto the next project," Grant recommends. "And when you talk to others in your organization, make sure they know you're looking forward to that."
Too much negativity can irritate your colleagues and bring down your team's performance and morale, according to one expert on productivity and well-being. If you find yourself feeling cynical often, two strategies that might help are to focus on what you enjoy most at work and to take a brief break a few times a day (Grant, Fast Company, 2/8).
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