5 communication habits to ditch once and for all in 2021

2020 has been disruptive on many fronts, including how to communicate effectively in the workplace. And as we kick off 2021, there are some communication habits we should leave behind.

“When confronted with a tough situation, leading and communicating from a place of truth and optimism will set the stage for trust to be built amongst your team. It allows teams to be engaged, stay motivated and derive a positive solution,” says Dayna Lapkovsky, founder and president of Frank, a women’s leadership community that fosters professional and personal growth through peer-coaching.

According to her, transparency is key when it comes to your communication approach this year. But don’t confuse it with having no filter:

“Being transparent does not necessarily mean ‘putting it all out there.’ Leaders sometimes need to buffer information, especially information of sensitive nature, but practicing open communication will foster a space of respect and non-judgment. Transparency is about being straightforward, factual, realistic — and even vulnerable at times.”

Want to master the delicate balance between open communication and professionalism and communicate like a true leader? Start by ditching the following five communication habits.

1. Taking issues at face value

Lapkovsky says people are often way too quick to take issues at face value instead of digging deeper to find the core of an issue — especially during stressful times.

“When we are in the middle of a challenge, it is easy to quickly name a scapegoat as it takes more time and effort to really investigate and identify the root of the issue at hand. Therefore, we often get stuck on a symptom instead of the cause of the problem,” she says.

“Instead, we can approach our challenge — personal or collective — with curiosity, non-judgment and openness. By asking powerful questions we can peel back the layers and reveal the heart of the challenge.”

So the next time you are faced with a tricky situation at work, avoid jumping to conclusions and reacting too fast. Take your time and ask questions so you can address the matter more constructively.

2. Using a single communication style

Perhaps you’ve figured out a way of communicating that suits you. While there is no need to stop doing something that is working, using a single communication style at all times is a bad habit you’ll want to break.

Why? Because you’re missing out on the opportunity to read a room and adapt accordingly.

“The best leaders have flexible communications styles and know how to leverage them to their advantage. You can be fierce and assertive while in a negotiation while being compassionate and encouraging to your employees. By exploring and understanding the authentic leadership styles in your toolbox, you can quickly adjust your style to garner the best results,” says Lapkovsky.

3. Rigid meeting schedules

Rigid meeting schedules are so 2019. 2020 brought the era of the Zoom meeting — and a whole host of communication challenges.

According to Lapkovsky, as we continue to work virtually in 2021, communication habits need to evolve to better encompass our new working environment and capacities. It’s about finding the right balance of timing, frequency and tech tools to maintain company culture, connectivity and efficiency.

“Perhaps a standing Monday morning video touch base is needed to take the collective pulse of the team each week. Or it may be more efficient to meet in the afternoon while your employee’s child is napping,” she says.

“Being flexible and responsive to the needs of your team is a big part of being a good communicator in 2021. Aside from team-wide formats, one-on-one meetings are important for maintaining deeper connections and providing individualized troubleshooting.”

4. Over-responsiveness

Remote work also brought the rise of over-responsiveness. Wondering since when being responsive became a bad thing? It’s not bad per se, but it’s detrimental if you feel the pressure of being on 24/7 to make up for the fact you are working from home.

“However, as we are not being seen plugging away at our desk, there is a new trend of over-showcasing that we are working that is emerging. We are feeling that it is necessary to be “on” almost 24/7,” says Lapkovsky.

“For example, being glued to your inbox and responding to emails immediately. While it shows productivity and engagement with your work, it is also extremely disruptive. As we no longer have visual cues (like a closed office door) to tell our colleagues that we are doing focused work, we must create new systems to maintain productivity.”

She recommends carving out virtual office hours with your team where you are available to answer any questions. During this block of time, you can tackle lower-engagement work that will not be impacted by someone pinging you.

5. Getting straight to business

If there is one silver lining to be found in times of crisis, it’s the moments when humanity shines through. So don’t get straight to business. Check-in on those around you. It can go a long way.

“Asking people how they really are is more important than ever. In our present state of stress, the pandemic, racism and political uproar, no one right now is ‘fine.’ Finding moments to connect with your colleagues to check in and offer support can go a long way,” says Lapkovsky.

Showing your colleagues you care will improve communication and foster an atmosphere of trust and support. And you don’t have to try to fix everyone’s problems either. Listening deeply and validating feelings can make a world of difference.