#273: Invite Collaboration in English and Help Your Team to Work Together

May 3, 2023 | Business Professional English, English Conversation, Leadership Communication, Most Popular

The ability to collaborate is a highly-valued soft skill in the workplace. 

The ability to work effectively with others, share ideas, and work towards a common goal is a key ingredient for success. Collaboration not only helps to achieve better outcomes but also fosters a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.

However, inviting collaboration in English can present unique challenges. 

 

Perhaps, for example, you’ve felt misunderstood at work or have been surprised by feedback that you’re unwilling to listen to others on your team.

Your previous work experience and cultural environments might have valued intense precision and direct communication but now… you’re in a company that values a softer approach to communication, emphasizing collaboration, discussion, and engagement from the team.

What adjustments can you make so your English communication at work can achieve its intended impact and so your team feels comfortable collaborating at work?

 

Recently, I received an email asking me for help with leadership communication in English, specifically how to communicate in a soft-spoken workplace and demonstrate the ability to invite collaboration.

To create an environment that encourages everyone to participate and share their ideas, effective communication, active listening, and cultural sensitivity are all critical components of successful collaboration.

 

As a follow-up to a previous lesson on leadership communication skills in English, in this Confident English lesson, we’ll explore the importance of collaboration as a soft skill, and you’ll learn practical tips and strategies for inviting collaboration in English among your team.

By the end of this video, you’ll know how to create an environment that encourages effective collaboration.

 

WATCH THE LESSON

Invite Collaboration in English and Help Your Team to Work Together

English-Speaking Cultural Values at Work

Before we explore the 4 steps to demonstrate your leadership communication skills in English through collaboration, let’s talk about English-speaking cultural values at work. 

Of course, any discussion of cultural values is generalized; in other words, values can shift from one workplace to the next and are not true of everyone within that culture.

That said, if you’re leading a team in English, let’s take a moment to reflect on workplace values that are common in English-speaking culture.

Generally speaking, English-speaking cultures value:

  • direct idea exchanges with obvious invitations to contribute;
  • polite discussion;
  • indirect communication to avoid conflict or hostility;
  • clarity;
  • and, listening!

 

I want to highlight the value of indirect communication to avoid conflict or hostility.

English-speaking cultures often view direct, critical feedback and disagreement as a negative, uncomfortable experience. To better navigate opposition or critical feedback, we prioritize indirect communication to avoid rocking the boat; this is especially true when providing feedback and/or when having discussions.

  • Def: to do or say something that will cause a negative reaction

When you’re in a workplace culture that values a soft approach, how can you invite collaboration and manage discussions, with these values in mind? 

To effectively invite collaboration and open dialogue with your team members you can follow these 4 steps: 

  1. Invite others to speak;
  2. Employ active listening;
  3. Withhold judgment & acknowledge;
  4. Respond appropriately. 

Let’s explore each one in-depth with some specific English phrases for work.

Step 1: Invite Others to Speak

To effectively invite collaboration, listeners and team members must be clear on expectations and feel safe in sharing their thoughts. 

When inviting others’ thoughts, make it clear that you are open to their thoughts and opinions.

Start with your questions and underline your expectations. 

The following phrases may be helpful: 

  • I was wondering what your thoughts are on X. 
  • I was hoping I could pick your brain for a moment. What do you think about…?
  • I’m looking for some feedback on X. What is your opinion? 
  • I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on X. Tell me what you’re thinking.

Step 2: Employ Active Listening

Before engaging in a discussion with your team, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my goal when I’m listening to this person?
  • Why should I listen to this person right now?
  • Who should I direct my attention to right now?
  • Will my thoughts steer the conversation away from the speaker? 

 

Your answer to these questions will help you recognize the best way to provide support and listen. Most importantly, they’ll help you be present when listening, without being distracted by your thoughts. 

In addition, demonstrating strong active listening skills can help your speaker feel seen and heard. 

Active listening involves going beyond the face value of the words you hear to deepen your understanding of the speaker’s intent and meaning.

There are three ways to show you’re listening. You might:

  • Use verbal cues like mmm and uh-huh
  • Use body language such as making eye contact, nodding or shaking your head, and facing the person.  
  • Paraphrase the speaker’s words to confirm what you heard. 

Asking good, open-ended questions will signal to the speaker that you understand their thoughts and are open to hearing more. In fact, it’s also a great way to provide reassurance that they’re voicing their thoughts in a safe space.

Step 3: Acknowledge & Withhold Judgement 

Remaining non-judgmental in your responses fosters an environment where the speaker knows they won’t be shamed, criticized, or blamed for a poor idea. 

In fact, they’ll feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Use the following phrases to remain neutral and acknowledge their contribution: 

  • That’s an interesting thought. Could you tell me more? 
  • Thank you for sharing that. I like the idea of X. 
  • I appreciate you saying X.
  • Let’s bookmark that for a later date.
  • That’s certainly an idea to follow up on. Let’s revisit it in our next meeting. 
  • I hadn’t thought of it that way. I see your point. 
  • I appreciate your attention to detail. Thank you for bringing that up.

Step 4: Respond Appropriately

Finally, when inviting collaboration, it’s essential to ask good, open-ended questions and/or provide an appropriate response. 

Did you know that English speakers often think out loud when brainstorming ideas

Sometimes, those ideas can be half-formed and require more time to incubate.

  • Def: to aid the development of or give form to something

In addition, those ideas and thoughts may have taken courage to share.

To put it simply, there is value in every thought and you want to encourage the person to keep trying. 

Remember, in addition to demonstrating active listening, asking open-ended questions is a great way to show your willingness to hear others’ thoughts and invite collaboration. 

When asking open-ended questions, the following phrases are helpful:

  • Could you tell me more?
  • How would you…?
  • How might we…?
  • What would be the pros and cons of X?
  • Could you expand on that a little more? 
  • What would be the best way to approach X?

 

I want to hear from you.

After watching this lesson, share your answers to these questions:

  1. Which of the strategies from today’s lesson did you find useful? Why? 
  2. How have you invited collaboration with others at work?

You can share your answers — as well as your questions — with me in the comments below.

~ Annemarie

 

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