How we communicate with coworkers is essential to creating a more respectful and therefore effective workplace. While our respect and sensitivity training course goes in-depth about everything workers can do to be more respectful, there are some quick pointers that anyone can readily adopt into their routines! Below you will find 5 suggestions to help improve the way you communicate with others in the workplace and your personal life. 

1. Actively Listen

When someone is talking to you, do you listen? You’ll probably say, “of course!” But are you really hearing them? It seems that with so many distractions in our lives today and in the office that active listening is slowly slipping into extinction.  Too often, we are so absorbed with ourselves and thinking about when we need to pick up the kids, what we are having for dinner, etc that we don’t actively listen when someone is talking. We’ve all done it, so you are not alone!

What you can do:

Start by actively listening, rather than passively listening (see above examples).  Active listening requires that we set aside those distracting thoughts that consume our minds and focus solely on the person speaking. This may mean that we step away from our computer to give them our full attention.  It also requires that we  give them eye contact and encouraging non-verbals to let them know we agree with their ideas — and more importantly, that we hear them!

The next time you’re lured into letting your mind wander during a conversation, simply focus on the present and the speaker.  Do this at least once today and before you know it,  you’ll be on the path to becoming an active listener fostering respect with those you communicate with.

2. Value Dissenting Opinions

It seems more and more that we live in a world where dissenting opinions are losing value. It seems that nowadays it is only my way and no other way.

But valuing those opinions that are different from our own — even if we don’t agree with them is a more powerful tool to building consensus among people and groups. By acknowledging that someone else’s opinion matters as much as our own is the first step to creating a respectful dialogue. You might be surprised to find that although someone else’s opinions differ greatly from yours their intent may actually be the same. For example, we all want to see the country improve, although our opinions on how to do that may differ.

What you can do:

Next time you engage in a conversation that focuses on a differences of opinions, take a step back and actually consider the other person’s opinion and value it as much as you value your own. You might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome after making this simple, yet powerful effort.

3. Watch Your Cues

If you’ve ever taking a public speaking class, you know that usually one of the assignments requires you to be taped speaking so you can see how you REALLY present yourself.

While we may not always be aware of the visual cues we project, they may be speaking more loudly than we are in work situations. Watching the video with the sound off, participants learn which cues they are projecting and if they are in alignment with what they intended to project.

Sometimes our visual cues can be way off and we come across not what we intended but what the other person perceives. So being aware of how we present ourselves from someone else’s point of view can save a lot of confusion in the workplace and build respect along the way.

What you can do:

Ask a confidant at work how they perceive the way you act. Are you nodding your head yes, when you actually mean no? Are you smiling when you deliver bad news? If so, try watching your cues in the workplace and notice the reactions.

4. Contribute Porportionally

While this tip can have multiple interpretations, I am referring to meetings. You know the person (maybe it’s you!) who monopolizes an entire meeting with their comments. Or it’s the person, who gives the longest explanation for the simplest point. Whoever it is, you get the idea. This type of disruptive and disrespectful behavior takes many forms.

What you can do:

The next time you are in a meeting and notice that you are contributing too much, try to scale it back, if necessary. Instead let the person, who never gets a chance to say something share their ideas first.

Or if you are in a meeting and someone else is not contributing proportionally, gently remind them that everyone should have a turn speaking. Maybe at the next meeting, you even set a timer and everyone gets no more 3 minutes to speak per topic.

5. Speak Only What You Know is True

This tip can be interpreted a couple of ways. I am going to focus on it’s similarity to gossip and not the larger issue of what is truth. Too often people are talking about things in the workplace that simply are not true and it’s harming the entire organization. Here’s an example of that destructive behavior:

Employee #1 says to employee #2 that he heard that the company might be filing for bankruptcy and letting everyone go. Employee #2 doesn’t ask where employee #1 heard this but starts to think that it may be true, since upper management has taken away our 401 K and cut some of our vacation time. They’ve also let a couple of people go in each department. Now that employee #2 thinks about it, there has been a lot of whispering going on.

The problem is that it is not true. Yes, the organization is going through hard times (like everyone else) but they are not closing and are not filing for bankruptcy. Clearly, employee #1 is spreading gossip that has not been confirmed.

What you can do:

Don’t pass along knowledge that you have about the organization until you know it is true. If it’s not, it will only create panic and fear and you’ll lose all respect.


Paul Meshanko is an author, professional speaker and business leader with over 20 years of experience in leadership development and organizational culture change.
After a 12-year career with AlliedSignal, he opened Legacy Business Cultures in 1997 to serve the Nation’s growing demand for innovative and proven strategies for creating best in class workplace cultures. Paul specializes in change management and employee engagement training, diversity and inclusion training, executive coaching and organizational assessments. Under his leadership, the business has grown to become one of the most successful boutique talent and development providers in the country.