Meeting a new person at work, at a networking event or at an interview can be a challenge. But this vital piece of office communication is easier if you go ‘deep’, even from the first ‘How are you?’.
- Office communication starts with putting people at ease
- Office communication can be honed anywhere
- What women in male-dominated fields know about is communication skills
When I wrote Beyond the Boys’ Club I was reminded of this when I first met Eileen Brown. I interviewed her regarding her longtime technology expertise in IT, a field not known for its ‘female friendliness’.
1. Office communication starts with putting people at ease
From the first moment Brown illustrated the ease at which she put people. When I asked her the standard ‘how are you?’ she avoided the ‘good’ or ‘busy’ response to which we’re all accustomed. Instead, she quickly responded ‘fine’, but then creatively elaborated with a few extra details.
Brown was indeed ‘fine.’ However, she was also ‘nervously trusting her husband to harvest all the courgettes from her garden so they didn’t rot while she was travelling’. Certainly, it was more information than I normally get back when I ask ‘how are you?’
I smiled, relaxed and it led us to talk about gardening for several minutes. In those first few minutes we bonded over our mutual love of certain types of homemade jam.
This rapport-building meant we had a great start for our interview. Using charm and humour as part of your communication skills is a good starting point for anyone wanting to develop better relationships.
2. Office communication can be honed anywhere
Similarly, Brown described in our interview how the move she made from the Merchant Navy to IT. It was the result of a fortuitous conversation where she again offered that extra sentence.
Brown remembered: ‘I sat in an Amsterdam airport in the winter after returning from Mexico. I had flip-flops, no socks and tanned legs. I turned to the stranger next to me and asked if it was going to be this freezing in the UK.
He looked surprised I had struck up a conversation. He then asked me where I had been. I explained I had just left the Merchant Navy and was now looking for work in East Anglia, as I was about to get married. As it turns out, he remarked he knew a guy in the IT sector … and the rest is history.’
3. What women in male-dominated fields know about is communication skills
Trusting her gut and being charming has continued to work well for Eileen, now a digital marketing consultant, as well as for many other successful women in male-dominated fields. These women often have to trade on their ace communication skills; it often sets them apart from colleagues!
One of the things I love about working with women in male-dominated fields like Eileen’s sector of technology, is that they always want to know more, to learn more, to be more. They know that even once they have the technical qualification, the learning does not stop — nor do they want it to.
For example, they discover that learning to present themselves to an audience of three, or of three thousand becomes vital the more senior you get. They take comfort and delight in realising you don’t have to know it all on your first day or even in your first decade.
It’s a good reminder to ask yourself ‘What part of office communication do I now know that would have impressed my younger self?’
Remember how far you’ve come and where you are still honing your office communication skills, on and off the clock.
Let me know how far you’ve come since you’re earliest days at work!
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