Are you scared to speak up because you’re not sure about your grammar? Or do you avoid asking questions because you’re afraid that they’ll think you’re stupid? Whatever it is that stops you from speaking up, you have to know that taming these fears is a necessary step towards fitting in and belonging in the workplace. Otherwise, you will be isolated, unhappy, and most importantly, unable to maximize your true potential in the workplace.
Want to come out of your shell? Here are 7 tips you can start with:
Avoid the “perfect grammar” trap
Communicate the Canadian way
It is a myth that you need perfect grammar to succeed. Realize that there is greater flexibility in terms of grammar when speaking (as compared to writing). More than grammar, making sense is more important. You need to communicate what you want to say clearly, at the right pace and intonation. Practice speaking all the time and don’t mind your grammar. Just go for it. The more practice you get, the better you will be in the long run.
There are four traits of Canadian communication:
- Clarity – choose the simplest words
- Conciseness – keep the information short
- Coherence – aim for a logical order of words (say the main point first)
- Consensus – use speech that is respectful and polite. This usually requires “softeners” or words that help you avoid friction with other people especially when disagreeing with someone or asking someone to do something (example: “We could”, instead of “we must”)
Pronounce words clearly
To be understood well, speak at the right pace. Slow down your speaking speed and pause in between ideas or “thought groups” in a sentence. Avoid interjections like “umm”, or laughing to hide your nervousness. Don’t worry about your accent! Manitobans are used to them.
Ask when you don’t know
Don’t be embarrassed to ask when you don’t understand or have concerns. Asking questions is expected especially when you’re new to the company. Your supervisor and colleagues welcome this because it shows that you are attentive and want to make sure that you will do a good job. If something is not clear, ask right away rather than staying confused or making a mistake. Mistakes result in wasting time, effort and money.
Welcome comments from your supervisor or colleagues. Your supervisor can also provide feedback in the form of a performance review. Many times, Canadians would make a suggestion rather than tell you what to change. Learn how to read between the lines when they do. If you want direct comments on your communication skills, seek a language coach or a mentor.
This means staying on top of your learning plan. If you want to truly improve, you have to plan and take charge of what you need to learn, the most effective way for you to learn, and when you can learn. Learning English is a continuous commitment. Don’t be satisfied with the bare minimum! Seek to continuously improve your language skills. This is necessary if you want to move up in your career.
Learn from your mistakes and stay positive
In your first few months as a newcomer in a Canadian workplace, you will go through many challenges and awkward situations. This is a natural part of adjusting and slowly integrating into workplace culture. When things happen, avoid being hard on yourself and continue to stay positive. Frame every situation as a learning experience. Recognize your mistake, learn the lesson, and try to apply it the next time you are in a similar situation.
Practice these seven tips and start contributing more to your workplace. As a newcomer, your ideas, suggestions, and questions are unique and valuable. Your company can benefit from your diverse experience. So share your thoughts and start speaking up! This will show your boss and co-workers that you are an engaged and committed team member.
Adapted from Workplace Integration – A Desk Reference for Newcomers to Canada by Paul Holmes 2012. Published through Anthony & Holmes Consulting Ltd. and the Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society.
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