It Starts With You: Self Control and Communication
Before looking at the behavior of other people, it is best to start with yourself. Negative communication can come in many different shapes and sizes - an angry tone, an angry email or simply failing to acknowledge someone properly in a meeting. Think over the last month or two and consider the last time you had this kind of difficulty. Specifically, who was your negativity directed at? How did the other person react? Apart from the disrespectful nature of such communication, this kind of behavior also makes it more difficult for you to work with others.
Going forward, there are several techniques you can use to improve your workplace communication. First, think through how you are going to converse with the other person; develop a communication plan. If you are delivering bad news, deliver this in person if possible - delivering such news by email is likely to lead to misunderstandings. Second, put yourself in the shoes of the other party - how would they react to your message? This leads to a related principle - timing. Bad timing can easily turn a reasonable message into a negative communication. For example, schedule a meeting with the other person to discuss an issue rather than simply walking up to their desk. After setting the stage for the conversation, you need to be able to respond to the other person. If you see the other party starting to become upset, then address those emotions immediately.
Managers face additional challenges when it comes to communication in the workplace. If you are providing feedback to an employee as a manager, understand the power dynamics at play in this type of conversation. Employees need to understand where they stand in terms of performance and where they can improve. Negative communication tends to focus on the person's character rather than specific actions they can take to improve. If you have a scheduled a meeting with one of your staff, prepare some notes to help you focus on the person. If you need more ideas on how to improve your communication, think through one or two case where you interacted successfully with a superior and how that person communicated.