Improving Work Relationships with Better Communication

Co-workers talkingGood working relationships are important. They can help employees meet work goals and make work more enjoyable. One way to strengthen work relationships is by improving communication skills.

From walking in your co-worker’s shoes and recognizing the interests of others, to active listening, the following tips can help employees learn how to be better communicators.


Tip #1: A new pair of shoes

The first step to better communication is to put yourself in your co-worker’s shoes. This can be tricky. His or her personality type, work style, goals, and/or priorities may not be the same as yours. For instance, someone may want to make small talk before talking about a project. Someone else may prefer to get straight to business. Seeing things from your co-worker’s point of view doesn’t mean you have to agree. It does, however, mean trying to understand where your co-worker is coming from.


Tip #2: Active listening

Ready for that two-way conversation? The next step is active listening. When someone makes us upset, we tend to think about how we can defend ourselves. We may also feel too angry to really hear what he or she is saying. Instead, make an effort to really listen.

These tips can help you show the other person you’re all ears:

  • Give signals: Keep eye contact, nod or say “okay” or “mm-hmm” when the other person makes a point. Your co-worker will pick up on these cues.
  • Repeat back, in the other person’s words or your own, what the speaker’s most important points are. You might say, for example, “What I hear you saying is…” and restate the point. Your co-worker will feel heard. Your co-worker will also have the chance to let you know if he or she meant something else.


Tip #3: Understand

You’ve shown you’ve heard the other person. Next, let your co-worker know that you understand his or her logic. You might say, “I understand how you can see things that way.” This approach improves the chances that your co-worker will listen to you. Another tip: When you hear your co-worker making a good point, use it to build middle ground that both of you can agree on.


Tip #4: Stand your ground

You’ve listened. You’ve shown your co-worker that you understand where he or she is coming from. Now you want to make sure your opinions are being heard as well. That’s where assertiveness comes in. Being assertive means speaking up for your own interests while keeping others’ interests in mind. An aggressive person, on the other hand, recognizes his or her own interests but ignores the interests of others. An aggressive person also often uses aggressive (or passive aggressive) words, or aggressive body language (such as glaring or pointing). To improve your work relationships, it’s important to talk assertively, but not aggressively. Try these tips:

  • Stand straight and steady and maintain eye contact.
  • Speak in a clear, steady voice.
  • Speak with confidence. (Try stating your point of view without saying “I think” or “Maybe” beforehand.) If this is hard for you, practice in “low-risk” situations, such as when you’re returning an item to a store.


Remember – Technology makes it easy to avoid talking face to face, even with co-workers who sit across the aisle. Know that a warm “good morning” and a smile can go a long way toward making your bond stronger.


These tips – provided by MHN, Health Net, Inc.’s behavioral health subsidiary – can help employees learn how to be better communicators. (To learn more about MHN’s services, please visit MHN’s website at, call 1-800-327-7526 or email


This article is for informational and self-help purposes only. It should not be treated as a substitute for financial, medical, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice, or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified professional.


Managed Health Network, Inc. (MHN) is a subsidiary of Health Net, Inc. The MHN family of companies includes Managed Health Network, MHN Services and MHN Government Services. Health Net and Managed Health Network are registered service marks of Health Net, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Stacy Madden