Nothing is more important in relationships, in business and for success than communication.
We all think we communicate well and wonder why others just don’t ‘get it.’ How often have you thought you gave crystal-clear instructions, yet the results were not what you wanted?
Do you find yourself having the same discussions with people over and over, but with no new results? Do you hear “It’s not my fault,” “I thought you meant…,” “I was waiting on…” and wonder if anyone accepts accountability?
Business communication skills are critical for success and as a rule, is learned and not innate. Miscommunication reduces trust, which in turn creates a multitude of other problems.
- Questions are imperative for effective communication. If you do nothing else, adding questions to your business communication skill set will shift your conversations and results. We take for granted that we understand when often our own assumptions, judgments, and filters obscure our understanding. Ask questions to ensure you have understood what the other party is saying and that they have understood you. Questions elicit information from the other party that stimulates further discussion and/or questions which create a dialogue that would not exist without questions being asked and answered.
- Agreement on the definition of terms. When you say “I want it by tomorrow,” or “You need to be more responsive to…,” or “Can you work overtime?”, how do you know that you and the other party are in agreement on these terms? Agreement on meaning is crucial for successful communication. When you tell someone “You need to be more responsive,” what does that mean to each of you? What does ‘by tomorrow’ mean? Is that first thing in the morning, by close of business, or something else? In order for your communication to be effective, specificity is critical. Take the time to be explicit; it will eliminate a lot of wasted resources, redos, and frustration.
- Be clear about your message before speaking. Often we speak without really thinking about the message we are about to deliver. Are you providing information, needing clarification, asking for help, discussing performance, or something else? When we think of business communication and building critical skills, considering what we want to accomplish and what message we want to deliver is often overlooked. We begin speaking and assume the other party will get it. If we aren’t clear in our own minds first, it reduces the chances of success dramatically.
Clearly, this is a short list. Communication is challenging and most of us don’t do it well, even if we think we do.
Miscommunication interferes with trust, productivity, relationships, and profitability, and prevents companies from being ‘all they can be.’ Being skillful at communication requires practice and patience.
By using the techniques outlined above you will be taking the first step to improving your business communication and building critical skills for putting you on a path that will change your company and the mindset of those working in it.