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Paula Pipitone Shares 5 Relationship-Building Communication Strategies for Executive Assistants

Paula Pipitone

Are you an executive assistant who wonders how to boost his or her communication in the office and beyond? Paula Pipitone discusses essential communication strategies for EAs in the following guide.

Paula Pipitone’s Thoughts: Why Executive Assistants Need Great Communication Skills

Executive assistants employ several “hard” skills such as managing customer relations software, writing memos, and juggling several schedules. It’s easy to know when you’re doing a good job with these tasks as you can see the results of your work. On the other hand, “soft” skills such as interpersonal communication are less clear and more difficult to measure.

Executive assistants often need to work on their verbal and written communication to make their workplaces run more smoothly. Building strong working relationships relies on the following soft skills:

  • Organizational skills such as time management.
  • Intrapersonal qualities such as friendliness, positivity, and openness to constructive criticism.
  • Ability to understand the message and the intention of the person you’re communicating with.

Pipitone’s 5 Relationship-Building Communication Strategies for EAs

Employers and employees take communication skills for granted. In fact, many people assume that either you are a great communicator or you aren’t — as if you can’t work on or improve these skills. You’ll notice this in many job descriptions for EAs: Personable, flexible, extroverted, and “self-starter” are common buzzwords.

Paula Pipitone wishes that aspiring EAs would take a chance on new jobs and resist becoming disheartened if their soft skills don’t match up exactly with what the job posting says. You can learn! Consider the five tips below for a starting point and add your own goals if you notice weak points in your own soft skills.

1. Follow Up With Contacts

Few things are more frustrating in the workspace than sending an email or message that isn’t promptly returned. Make an effort to acknowledge when someone contacts you. Your job as an EA will keep you very busy — you will certainly have days that make you feel as though you’re running around and putting out fires — and it’s understandable that you can’t address everybody’s needs at once.

You can, however, let your coworker know that you received her message and that you’ll address the issue after lunch, and you can prioritize getting in touch with a client who wishes to reschedule tomorrow’s meeting with your boss sooner rather than later. Paula Pipitone wants to stress to new EAs that attending to smaller details like these truly make a difference in working relationships.

2. Speak Your Mind Respectfully

Are you in the habit of saying “yes” when you shouldn’t? As an executive assistant, you may assume that it’s not your job to create conflict. If you want to help things run as smoothly as possible, though, sometimes you must disagree with others. Learning how to bring up your concerns while respecting the person you’re speaking to is an invaluable skill. You don’t have to remain silent if there’s a problem. 

3. Listen Actively

Pipitone understands that you may be put in the middle of tough situations that require you to communicate differing opinions to both parties. For example, your boss desires one outcome, but your client wants another. It’s your job as the person in the middle to fully understand what each person is saying so that you can relay information, change schedules, or cancel appointments effectively.

4. Check Your Body Language

We all have communication quirks that we don’t realize. Perhaps you frequently sit with your arms crossed, check your phone too often in meetings, or stand too close to others when you speak. You may not mean to send a particular message with any of these nonverbal cues — but you are.

If you want to build better relationships with your coworkers and managers but you feel like you’re doing everything you can, Paula Pipitone suggests assessing your own nonverbal communication skills. Pay attention to whether you may be unintentionally conveying disinterest, annoyance, or disrespect to the people you work for and with. Ask a trusted friend or coworker if you’re unsure.

5. Ask Questions

Do you suspect that one of your projects is more time-sensitive than the others? Should you check in with a certain client who your boss can’t seem to contact? Often, being an EA may feel like you need to learn how to read minds. You may feel like you’re toeing the line between making your boss’ life easier and annoying him or her with too many questions.

However, remember that asking one necessary question now may allow you to work more quickly and complete the task correctly. When in doubt, ask thoughtful, clarifying questions that will save time later.

Paula Pipitone Bio

As an administrative professional with more than two decades’ worth of experience supporting high-level executives and managers, Paula Pipitone enjoys sharing what she has learned and bolstering the skills of assistants who are beginning their careers. She currently serves as the executive assistant for the senior vice president at FINRA, a Congress-authorized nonprofit that works to improve financial market transparency and protect investors.

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