Communication is essential to life at the office. Good communication skills can get you hired or promoted. On the flip side, poor communication skills can get you passed over for a job, or even fired. No matter where you are on the office food chain, you have to communicate in order to get your job completed. Regardless of your quality of work or level of knowledge, a lack of communication skills will impact the efficacy of your work and knowledge.

Given the importance of clear communication in every job, here are six strategies to consider in your own communication:

Be specific.

One of the reasons cute or catchy phrases can be so annoying is because they lack clarity and specificity. If your coworkers or clients are going to understand what you mean, your communication needs to be specific and clear. Phrases that simply talk around a subject are a waste of everyone’s time. Even consider taking out the term: ASAP. What if ASAP is next month for your coworker? Is that what you want? Be clear about when you want information or reports. Coworkers can always negotiate timelines, but the term ASAP is frustrating and doesn’t allow the tasked individual to be in control of his/her own schedule, and it makes the tasking individual look unorganized and demanding.

Pay attention to your body language.

Take a moment to think about what your body language might be communicating to others. Slouching can make you look uninterested in your work. Avoiding eye contact can look untrustworthy or like you are lacking confidence in your message. Or do you keep typing or looking at your computer screen when coworkers step into your office? Interruptions are annoying; however, your lack of attention and interest speaks volumes to others.

Keep email short and sweet.

This one is tough. Much of our communication is electronic, and sometimes, we are tempted to download everything we know into an email. Avoid that temptation. Some people have to sift through hundreds of emails a day. Clearly identify what responses you need, and say what you mean in as few words as possible.

Don’t gossip.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. This one should be a given in life, but when it comes to life at the office, it is all too common for employees to talk about one another. Gossiping about others will quickly land you in the untrustworthy category. A toxic team member will always be held back by drama, despite the knowledge or value of his/her experience.

Care what others think.

Ask questions. Communication isn’t just about what you have on your mind to say. The world does not revolve around you, so ask questions of others. Open-ended questions can also buy you time to help your form a clear idea of what is being said or needs to be done. Questions help clarify and avoid misinterpretation.

Do not avoid tough topics.

If you have bad news, outline it clearly. Sequestration, contract losses, or option years not being exercised are all important topics that project team members have a right to understand. Do not avoid tough topics. Be direct (but kind) and deliver tough information in person. Coworkers who avoid hard things or talk in circles about them are considered weak.

So much goes into communication at work, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Pick a few things to focus on and improve your communication with others at the office. It doesn’t always matter how much you know; however, it always matters how well you communicate with others.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.