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Effective communication is an essential component of a successful company.
In your role you may need to communicate with a wide range of people including your team, colleagues, shareholders, customers, suppliers, the media and many other stakeholders. You may do this in many different ways including in person, in meetings, through phone calls, by text, by email, through social media and the many other ways that are available.
So how are your business communication skills? Here are some areas for you to reflect on and some ideas for you to try:
Use the most appropriate form of communication. There are so many different ways to communicate but do you ever stop and think about the best way to communicate? You may send an email on a very sensitive issue when it would be better to have a face to face meeting, you may update your team individually on a company development when it would be better to update them all together at a team meeting or you may send a potential new customer a text message when it would be much more professional to phone them and follow up by email. Consider using the most appropriate form of communication for each interaction.
Give people your time. How often do you really give people your time at work? You may avoid having conversations because you are too busy, you may spend your day rushing from one meeting to another, you may be checking your phone when you are in a team meeting or you may be answering your emails without really reading them. Give people your time and you will be surprised how different your business relationships will be.
Consider the other person's perspective and find common ground. Do you approach communication from your own perspective? It is very easy to approach conversations and communication from your own perspective and then find that the communication is not going very well. We are all different so before communicating try considering the other person's perspective and where they are coming from and be interested in them. This will make it easier to find common ground and improve the communication.
Really listen. How often do you really listen to those you come into contact with at work or in your business? You may think you are listening, but you may be continually interrupting, you may be just listening for a gap for you to speak, you may be making assumptions about what the other person is saying, you may be in your own world and not listening at all or you may not be reading written communication in full before replying. How do you feel when someone is not listening to you? Try really listening in all your communication and the people who you are communicating with will feel valued and understood and will be more likely to be open with you.
Ask open questions. Thinking about the last communication you had did you ask any open questions? You may have been trying to sell to a customer and just told them about the product or service without asking anything about what they were looking for and then wondered why they did not buy from you or you may have had a staff meeting and just asked closed questions and come away thinking everyone is happy when they are not. Try showing a real interest in others and asking open questions (e.g. How? What?) and you will find you have much more productive communication.
Be clear and concise. How often have you listened to others or read an email and struggled to understand what the other person is trying to communicate? The person may be speaking for too long, rambling and struggling to get their message across, they may include lots of irrelevant information in their communication or they may be nervous and unable to communicate what they want to say. Think about your own communication and try and be as clear and concise as possible so that you will be understood. If you find this difficult get someone to help you.
Consider your environment. Where is the best place to have each form of communication? You will have overheard private conversations in an open plan workplace, looked over someone's shoulder and seen their emails or listened to a business phone call in a public place like a train. Spend time considering your environment and where the best place to communicate is.
Think before you reply. Do you always think before you reply and allow others time to think before they reply? You may reply to an email or text message as soon as it arrives and then regret what you said later, you may give an answer immediately in a meeting without checking the facts or you may push someone to give you an answer on something without giving them time to properly consider it. Try allowing time and thinking before you reply, as well as allowing others time, and you will see an improvement in your business relationships.
Be polite and respectful. Have you been on the receiving end of bad manners, rude or inconsiderate behaviour? How did it make you feel? Relationships and communication are significantly improved if we are polite and respectful to each other. Even small things like saying hello, please and thank you and showing an interest in others can go a long way.
Consider your body language. Have you ever thought about your body language and the impression you are creating? Other people will pick up on your body language and if it is incongruent with what you are saying they will notice it. Consider your own body language and by developing your awareness of the signs and signals of body language, you can more easily understand other people and more effectively communicate with them
Be open and honest. How open and honest are you in your business conversations? Communication is improved if we are open and honest with each other. Where communication is tentative and secretive, trust becomes a big issue and relationships deteriorate. Being open and honest will build trust and strong relationships and support business success.
Follow up. How often do you follow up on your business communication? When you reach a verbal agreement with a supplier do you follow it up with a signed written contract, when you have a performance issue meeting with a member of staff do you send a written confirmation of what was discussed and when a customer refers a potential new client do you say thank you? Consider following up on all key communication as this will lead to better communication and cut out potential misunderstandings at a later date.
Hopefully the above tips and ideas will help you to think about how you may be able to improve your communication at work or in your business.
Author: Liz Makin
Published: February 2017
Makin It Happen has a range of personal development online courses to purchase, created by Liz Makin, including anxiety management, communication, resilience, soft skills, stress management, time management and coaching. Liz Makin also provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals.
Please email Liz@makinithappen.co.uk to arrange a FREE consultation session to discuss our business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services for business owners, directors, managers and professionals.