How you communicate with your team, investors, and clients sets the foundation for a booming business and successful relationships at work. Strong communication fosters successful relationships, as well.

Some leaders naturally communicate better than others, but every professional can employ communication strategies to enhance their relationships. Improving communication with your team takes commitment, but the payoff will ensure workplace satisfaction and help your business thrive.

Working with an executive coach can help you utilize essential communication strategies in everyday life and business practices from 1-on-1 meetings with your direct reports to investor relations. It will make it easier to have those hard but necessary conversations.

1. Nonviolent Communication

The way you speak can diffuse tension and allow you to communicate your truth without creating conflict. The practice of Nonviolent Communication, developed by Marshall Rosenberg, will enable leaders to use observations, feelings, needs, and requests to use compassion when talking with others.

Nonviolent communication’s goal is to allow you to connect with your team and yourself empathically, which will lead to more satisfying relationships. It also allows you to share your resources so everyone benefits.

Before practicing nonviolent communication, it’s essential to realize when you’re using “violent” communication.

Violent communication happens when the person communicating uses words, tone, and body language to show they are:

  • Judging others,
  • Bullying,
  • Have racial bias,
  • Blaming others
  • Discriminating,
  • Speaking without listening,
  • Criticizing others or themselves,
  • Name-calling,
  • Reacting when angry,
  • Using political rhetoric,
  • Being defensive or judging who’s “good/bad” or what’s “right/wrong” with people.

Nonviolent communication helps leaders use empathy to confront any anger that can bubble up from hard workplace conversations.

Four Steps to Practice Nonviolent Communication

When practicing nonviolent communication to create successful work relationships, you integrate consciousness, language, communication, and means of influence.

These four steps are:

  1. Observation: This is where you learn state observations without judgment. You want to state simple facts you have observed. For example, instead of saying, “You never pay attention when I’m speaking,” you can say, “When we spoke earlier, I noticed that you were on your phone.”
  2. Feelings: Take responsibility for your feelings, filters, and experiences. What someone says or does can trigger a feeling inside of you, they are not the cause. For example: “When I hear you say____, I feel ____because I need ____.” By connecting your feelings with your needs you make it easier for the other partner to respond compassionately.
  3. Needs: This is where you learn to make the connection between your feelings and unmet needs.  You want to expand your vocabulary of feeling words as they give you a more nuanced way to describe your needs. This will also allow you to make clear requests of others.
  4. Requests: As a final step you can now make specific, doable requests. They are made in such a way that it enables the person to respond compassionately to the request.

Nonviolent communication is designed to bring people emotionally closer, which isn’t every employee’s goal when they come to work. So it needs to be applied slightly differently in the workplace.

When this simple NVC process is used in the workplace it can help you and your colleagues get along better because it teaches you how to be real and transparent. It allows for greater authenticity and humanizes interactions. It teaches us to listen with empathy. NVC builds trust and understanding which translates into more effective teamwork.

Image via DocuSign on Unsplash

2. Negotiation

Managing a diverse team means managing employees with a range of emotions when things get stressful. Whether it’s the stoic employee who is hard to read or the worker who cries when things get stressful when you’re negotiating with someone, utilizing some of our friends Chris Voss’s key tactics can help. We love his book “Never Split the difference” we see it as a wonderful guidebook to life.

“How can you separate people from the problem when their emotions are the problem?” Voss, a former FBI negotiator, and renowned author wrote in Time Magazine. “Emotions are one of the main things that derail communication. Once people get upset at one another, rational thinking goes out of the window.”

So when you negotiate at work, don’t ignore someone’s emotions. Instead, identify and influence them based on their feelings.

5 Steps To Successful Negotiating In Successful Relationships

Negotiating demands emotional intelligence. To enhance these skills, use these five steps to morph into a successful negotiator:

  1. Mirror: After the other person stops speaking, repeat the last one to three words they said back to them. This step requires good listening. Mirroring their words back to them helps your counterpart feel safe and increases the likelihood they’ll reveal more of themselves to you.
  2. Label: Show your counterpart you understand their emotions and have empathy by identifying and labeling them. Saying things such as “It looks like you’re concerned about…” can go a long way.
  3. Get to a “no”: When people can say “no,” they feel empowered and in control. So frame your questions to allow them to say “no.” For example, “Is now a bad time to talk?”
  4. Trigger “that’s right”: Summarize and reaffirm the other person’s emotions to allow them to say “that’s right” back to you. This tactic will enable them to see you’re empathetic towards them.
  5. Create the illusion of control: By allowing the other person to think they’re in control, you’ll secretly gain the upper hand. Help the other person get to the solution you want by asking “How?” or “What?” so the other person figures out the answer.

Image via Kraken Images

3. Own The Room

If you’ve ever heard of companies being built around a “cult of personality,” it’s often because the way the leader speaks draws others towards them. The leader portrays themselves as charismatic and a visionary.

Perhaps as a new CEO or new leader within an organization, “owning the room” doesn’t come naturally to you. Luckily, you can enhance this skill through work with an executive coach.

While owning the room, you’ll demonstrate your authentic value and distinction while positively connecting to others to build successful relationships.

Similar to crafting your image online, when you present to others in person or via video conference, you want a “signature voice,” according to Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins, who wrote, “Own the Room.”

A signature voice manifests in a presentation style that is uniquely and distinctly your own, which will bring your leadership presence to the next level and inspire your team.

An executive coach can help you hone this signature voice over time in a way that works for you and feels authentic.

4. Radical Candor

You might be more familiar with Radical Candor as a way to give feedback, but this is a crucial communication strategy to building successful relationships with your team.

Radical Candor is the feedback that is kind but clear, specific, and helpful. To build a striving team and successful work relationships, you need to challenge people directly to course correct.

For even the most seasoned managers, giving feedback can feel challenging. Radical Candor helps you stay honest and be direct. Practicing Radical Candor when you work with your executive coach can help you improve this skill over time.

When applying Radical Candor in your work relationships, thinking of the acronym “HIP” can help.

Keep your feedback HIP:

H – Humble & Helpful
I – Immediate & In-Person
P – Public Praise & Private Criticism

Image via Campaign Creators

5. Active Listening And Observing

Listening ranks as one of the most essential elements in building successful relationships while at work. You want your team, investors, and clients to know you hear them and truly understand what they’re saying, regardless if you agree with the point or not.

Your goal as an active listener is to listen more than talk and then paraphrase back to the speaker what you understood so that they can confirm understanding. This allows for clarification and reflection.

Tips For Active Listening To Build Successful Relationships

But how do you listen effectively? Try these tips:

  • Ask open-ended questions of the speaker.
  • Let the speaker finish talking before you begin.
  • Give verbal and nonverbal cues you’re listening to, such as head nodding and eye contact.
  • Listen for both feelings and content.
  • Ask follow-up questions.

According to the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley, “the speaker feels more understood and less threatened” when the listener employs active listening techniques.

Active listening can help prevent miscommunication and spare any “hurt feelings.” When active listening is done well, it can improve communication, prevent disagreements from escalating, and overall increase relationship satisfaction — meaning your employees will be happier at work.

Image via Christina @

How To Use These Communication Strategies At Work

Amidst the craziness of launching a new company or securing your next round of funding, utilizing these communication strategies can easily fall to the side.

Nonviolent communication, negotiating, owning the room, Radical Candor, and active listening all require practice and are skills you can improve upon with practice. Yes, it takes time to hone these skills, but the investment will pay off in the long term because your team will feel heard, valued, and you’ll build successful relationships with your team.

While working in our executive coaching program, you can work on these skills by role-playing with your coach and allowing them to shadow your interactions and meetings with team members so you can receive feedback.

Mastering these communication strategies is a must for a leader, but your entire team can benefit from using these in their interactions with each other. Our program can be designed to work with everyone on your team to improve the overall office culture.

What is Nonviolent Communication?

Nonviolent communication enables the speaker to use observations, feelings, needs, and requests to use compassion when talking with others.

When using nonviolent communication, you can connect with your team and yourself empathically, which will lead to more satisfying relationships.

What Is Radical Candor?

Radical Candor is feedback that is clear, specific, and helpful but has the receiver’s emotions in mind. A workplace that allows Radical Candor fosters an environment with solid feedback, allowing everyone to have an open mind and grow.

What Is Active Listening?

Active listening is a technique that shows the speaker you understand what they’re saying, regardless if you agree. You can show you are listening actively by asking open-ended questions, using nonverbal cues, not interrupting, and paraphrasing back to the speaker what you understood.