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How to communicate effectively

CABA, the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association, has produced some guidance for chartered accountants and ACA students – however, it is also just as valid for all those who are moving from being a student towards being a professional.

Effective communication

When it comes to your career, communication is key. Your productivity levels, workplace relationships, and job satisfaction are all impacted by your ability to influence and motivate others, express your values and goals clearly and give or receive feedback. It’s not hard to see how improving your communication skills can help you move forward in your career. Boost your communication skills.

Active listening

Good communication isn’t just about expressing yourself clearly. It also means being a good listener. Here are a few tips for improving your listening skills:

  • Be quiet: Give the other person time to talk without interruption
  • Use gestures: Nodding, smiling and maintaining eye contact shows that you’re taking in what is being said
  • Be understanding: Listen with respect and empathy. Everyone has different opinions and deserves time and space to voice their ideas and feelings. Try to stay impartial and if you disagree, wait until they’ve finished talking before offering your view
  • Summarise: Repeating back what someone has said using their own words shows that you’ve heard and understood them

Effective questioning

Understanding the role of different types of questions means you can influence and get the most out of conversations.

Closed questions e.g. Will you, Do you, is that agreed?

These are useful in a conversation where you need to be assertive.

Open questions e.g. When, Why, Which, How?

This style of questioning will help you encourage collaboration and participation.

Difficult conversations – a 5-step strategy

We all face challenging or uncomfortable conversations at work, but following the steps below can help you keep them effective.

  1. Take a deep breath: Separate action from reaction
  2. Be open minded: Acknowledge what has happened non-judgementally
  3. Prepare to have the conversation: Consider any assumptions you might have, think about the message you want to get across and what the other person might consider important
  4. Cooperate: Whether you’re apologising, confronting, discussing or giving feedback, a good starting point is what you both have in common e.g. We both want to get this done on time
  5. Set objectives: Re-commit to future actions, behaviours or changes.