Goal: Better Business Communication

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I often meet with friends for happy hour, holding a glass of wine in one hand and holding onto workday frustrations in the other. Most times, these frustrations can be attributed to poor business communication, whether by clients or within the internal team.

Determined to decrease these happy hour rants, we’ve compiled some strategies for becoming a more effective business communicator to get the message across right the first time, promoting success for our team, our work and ourselves. Listen to some ideas!

Good communicators are able to effectively share their thoughts because they often start by listening to others. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” author and businessman Stephen Covey notes as the fifth of 7 Habits for Highly Effective People. “If you’re like most people,” Covey writes, “…you probably want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely.” It can be tempting to make assumptions or blanket statements to respond faster, but “fastest” communicator is not the equivalent of “most effective.” If you can accept that it may take longer initially to have the right conversations and components before moving forward, it can help save time and resources later on. “What I understand you to say” may feel like a simplistic approach after conversing with a colleague, but it may be necessary in establishing trust and understanding.

The benefit to conversing before, during and after your decision-making is two-fold; not only are you hearing your team’s feedback before soliciting a solution, you’re also including them throughout the process. If it’s more of a conversation than checking off boxes, it shows that you understand the value of a team and, ideally, will be reciprocated. As noted in Psychology Today, “Communication that builds trust is elevated communication.” Communication that inspires feedback and continued conversation will break through the noise of everyone’s day.

Allow your communication style to be flexible depending on your audience. After all, your audience is composed of a group of individuals or a single individual, all with different views and communication styles. Will this group or individual respond better to an email or an in-person conversation? Is it better to keep things succinct or give them context of a broader plan? What tools do you need to give them in your communication to best get your point across and progress that communication? It’s a mistake to think sharing words and ideas doesn’t depend on people, not just the message. In New York Times best-selling author Dave Kerpen’s new book, The Art of People: 11 Simple Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want, he says, “It’s those with the best people skills who win the day. Those who build the right relationships. Those who truly understand and connect with their colleagues, their customers, their partners.”

In fast-paced environments, it can be tricky to tailor communication styles to every individual. Consider the following: Your body language makes up 55 percent of your communication. Tone of voice accounts for 38 percent. That means that 93 percent of what you say isn’t actually being said. It’s important to be mindful of your body and presence, considering that’s the majority of what your audience will find most resonating.

Another tactic for getting people on the same playing field is the use of analogies, which are a great way to provide imagery or context. Kim Kaupe of ZinePak told Inc., “They…can help resolve conflict. One person’s vision of ‘large’ may be different than another’s. By using clarifying questions and an analogy you can pinpoint, e.g., ‘Do you mean large like an elephant or like a large FedEx envelope?’ You’ll know everyone is envisioning the same end goal.”

People are inundated with communication every day. Take communication as your opportunity to be the breath of fresh air (and clarity!) people appreciate in the day. “If you’re not sure where to start,” says Vivian M. Campi, principal at Professional Coaching, LLC, “the basic who, what, where, when, why and how is a sensible approach. The win-win with this strategy is that it fosters clear dialogue, makes people accountable to answer direct questions and often uncovers problems that need to be addressed but would have been overlooked had this approach not been utilized.” Another one of Ciampi’s tactics is that of becoming the “universal translator.” This is someone who can take the craziness out of the day and apply it in an action that resonates with anyone who comes into the stream of communication. It may require you to step out of your comfort zone or discipline, let go of jargon or technical terms, but it will yield winning results as others will be able to understand wholly. ■

Sources: bizjournals.com, coachingtheprofessional.com, inc.com, middlemarketcenter.org, psychologytoday.com, stephencovey.com and ubiquity.acm.org.