7 verbal communication tips to help you integrate in the workplace

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Are you scared to speak up because you’re not sure about your grammar? Do you avoid asking questions because you’re afraid that co-workers will think that you’re incompetent?

Speaking up in the workplace is necessary not only to fit in but also to build your credibility. Want to come out of your shell? Here are seven tips for you:

  1. Avoid the “perfect grammar” trap

  2. It is a myth that you need perfect grammar to speak. There is greater flexibility in terms of grammar when speaking compared to writing. Substance is more important than grammar. First, think about your message. Then, communicate it as clearly as you can putting emphasis on key words so that your message will be easily understood. Practice speaking often and don’t mind your grammar. The more you practice, the better you will be in the long run.

  3. Communicate the Canadian way

  4. 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 (for example: “We could”, instead of “we must”)
  5. Pronounce words clearly

    Speak at the right pace and use the proper intonation. Do this by slowing down and pausing in between ideas or “thought groups” in a sentence. Avoid interjections like “umm,” or laughing to hide your nervousness. This will only make you harder to understand. And don’t worry about your accent! Manitobans are used to them.

  6. Ask when you don’t know

    Don’t be embarrassed to ask when you don’t understand or if you have concerns. Asking questions is expected, especially when you’re new to the company. Your supervisor and colleagues will even welcome it because it shows that you want to do the job correctly. Ask right away rather than staying confused or making a mistake. Mistakes waste time, effort and money.

  7. Seek feedback

    There’s a lot to be learned from honest feedback. Your supervisor can also provide this in the form of a performance review. Your Canadian co-workers will usually make suggestions rather than tell you what to do or change. Learn how to read between the lines when they do this (read 5 steps to giving constructive feedback at work that really helps for examples). If you want direct feedback on your communication skills, seek a language coach or a mentor.

  8. Master English

    Learning English is a continuous commitment. Don’t be satisfied with the bare minimum! Even native speakers take classes or join clubs to improve their communication skills. This is necessary if you want to move up in your career.

  9. Learn from your mistakes and stay positive

    You will go through many challenges and awkward situations during your first months as a newcomer in the workplace. This is a normal part of adjusting and integrating into the culture. Don’t be hard on yourself and continue to stay positive during this process. It will help to frame each situation as a learning experience. Recognize your mistake, learn the lesson and strive to be better the next time you’re in a similar situation.

Practice these seven tips and start contributing more to your workplace. Never forget that your ideas, suggestions and questions as a newcomer are valuable. Your company has a lot to learn from your unique perspective. So don’t be shy! Share your thoughts and start speaking up! This will show your boss and co-workers that you are an engaged and committed team member.
Article updated September 17, 2020.
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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Community Resources

Read Speaking up at work: 4 tips to make your voice heard for more tips.

Want to hone your conversation skills? Join a conversation circle! Check your nearest church or immigrant serving organization (check this article for links: Language training programs in Manitoba). You can also join our Virtual Coffee Chats where you can improve your English while learning about life in Manitoba.

There are many online resources that can help you polish your spoken English. Check out Online resources to improve your pronunciation for great links.

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