Have you ever been afraid to ask a question or to make a suggestion at work? Even though you may be a confident person, you still hesitate to speak up.

No matter what you call it, chances are your answer is “yes”. At some time or another, most people have been fearful or hesitant to offer a suggestion or new idea at work. It can also be difficult to ask for guidance, help or even time off.

Now consider this: have you ever been afraid to ask a question or make a suggestion with your family or friends? You probably answered “no” or at least “not as often.”

The main reason for this is that you almost certainly have better communication skills and patterns with your family and friends than you do with co-workers and others at the office. You have been around your friends and family longer, and you know their speech patterns, tones, style of joking, and so on. As a result, you are more comfortable with them and enjoy better relationships with them.

Comfortable communication equals better relationships

Now, think about what it would be like if you could have that same kind of comfortable communication with your office mates. If better communication equals better relationships at home, wouldn’t the same hold true for work? Of course, it would.

Conveying your messages clearly and coherently will ensure you are not misunderstood. This should naturally result in better communication all around which, in turn, will improve relationships significantly.

Remember, though, that the opposite holds true as well. Communication is a two-way street, and good listening skills are half — if not more — of good communication. You don’t want to end up misunderstanding someone else because you weren’t really listening to what they were saying.

Better communication results in better relationships because it puts everyone on the same track. Fewer misunderstandings happen when you make yourself clear, when you provide specific details, and when both parties practise effective listening skills.

Better relationships equal improved morale and increased productivity

Once you start developing better relationships through better communication, you will benefit in several ways:

* You’ll feel more accepted at work. Most of us want to feel like a valued and valuable part of a group, a member of something.

* With good communication skills, you’ll feel like you belong, like you are a part of the office community.

* You won’t have that fear of stepping forward as much, because as your comfort level increases, your professional relationships will strengthen.

* Feeling more comfortable at work will make you feel better about your contributions to the office workload. There’s nothing like the feeling you get from being a trusted and effective team member.

* You will find that you can make suggestions for changing procedures, or even changing a product, without worrying about what others may think of you.

* Since you’ll feel better about being around your co-workers and bosses, your morale will improve.

* Improved morale in turn will help you be more productive.

* You will realise that you don’t need to become friends with everyone; you just need to improve the working relationship you have with them so working together becomes much more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Improved morale and increased productivity benefits everyone

Good communication is a win-win situation for everyone in the office. Once you improve working relationships with co-workers, you will automatically feel better and work harder. Your co-workers are happy because there are fewer chances for misunderstandings, and now they know you just a bit better. Your boss is happy because the better communication in the office has resulted in happier workers who are more productive.

You’ll be thrilled to make that suggestion or ask questions because you’ll know that others are willing to listen to you. You know they aren’t going to laugh at you or roll their eyes, even if you come up with an off-the-cuff comment. They’re going to give you the respect you deserve. You’ll increase your productivity because people won’t misunderstand you and you won’t misunderstand others.

Let’s look at the formula backwards: To improve morale and increase productivity, you need better relationships, which are achieved through better communication. It’s really quite simple. In a nutshell, better communication is the way you can increase productivity and become a more valuable member of your team.