When speaking about the importance of business communication, some of the most successful business people (like Warren Buffett and Richard Branson) have said that being able to communicate effectively is the most valuable skill in any business environment. In this article we offer some tips on how to improve your communication skills when dealing with colleagues, employees/employers, and clients.
- Understanding the role of active listening
One of the most common misconceptions about what constitutes effective communication is the idea that communicating means focusing all efforts on getting a message across, whether verbally or in writing. However, trying to send out a message without listening to the other party first results in monologues and not in two-way communication.
Active listening involves focusing your attention on the other person and putting your “internal dialogue” on hold. There are verbal and non-verbal ways of demonstrating that you are an active listener: through body language, maintaining eye contact, asking for clarification, and posing relevant questions.
- Establish a clear process
When communicating with others, try to follow the listen – respond – gather feedback process. In particular, gathering feedback is crucial in order to avoid misunderstandings. During this stage, it is important to summarise your own understanding of the message and to double-check that both parties are on the same page. Doing this can also help establish rapport, reassure the other party, and confirm that you are doing your best to establish an open communication channel.
- The importance of being assertive
A common misconception about assertiveness is that it is the mark of rude or hostile communications. However, being assertive is a crucial communication skill that helps build interactions based on mutual respect and sincerity. Assertive communications take into account the feelings of the other party and leave no room to misunderstandings. At the same time, they can help defuse conflict and address criticism effectively.
- Responding to criticism
Criticism and disagreements are bound to happen when dealing with colleagues, employees, and clients. Instead of letting negative comments create a block in the communication process, it is important to look beyond the surface and try to find common ground while remaining calm. It may help to put yourself in the shoes of the other party and think about the real issue that is bothering them. For example, if an employer complains about you being late, they are probably expressing how much they value reliability, efficiency and productivity. Chances are that these concerns are also important to you, so respond to criticism by addressing these issues instead of becoming defensive.
- The value of storytelling
Business storytelling is very useful when it comes to grabbing the attention of prospective clients. Storytelling techniques aim to go beyond simply transmitting information and instead focus on inspiring trust and moving people to action. In the business context, it is important to build stories around a specific goal rather than just for entertainment purposes. Some tips for effective storytelling include making references to your vision and values, demonstrating empathy by addressing your audience’s fears and objections, and ensuring that every story has a moral. Some of the most popular providers of business storytelling training are CIM and Impact Factory.
- Use technology to your advantage
Over the past few years, many tech tools have been designed with the objective of helping streamline corporate communications. Email is the most widely used communication tool in business environments, but it is not always the most effective, hence the popularity of alternative communication channels. For example, Slack is a group messaging tool that promotes a collaborative approach and can be easily integrated with productivity tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Zendesk. Another useful tool is Vmoso, which combines messaging, emailing, and content sharing features to facilitate agile enterprise communications.
- Anticipate communication pitfalls
Lastly, it is important to be familiar with the most common communication mistakes that take place in the business environment. Some common errors include:
- Assuming that the other party understands your message
- Failing to ask follow-up questions
- Not tailoring your communication style to the recipient
- Letting emotions get on the way when handling criticism
- Postponing “difficult” conversations
- Sending e-mails when a face-to-face meeting would be more effective, or vice versa
- Failing to request feedback on a regular basis
- Violating privacy and confidentiality
Effective communication skills are a must in today’s business world. By making a conscious effort to improve your communication skills, you can add value to your company, inspire trust, and foster a healthier business environment.
Guest article contributed by Bizwiki – the business wiki