Ask a hundred people about their communication skills and most, if not all, will tell you they believe they communicate well. They don’t distinguish between what they say from what others understand, because for most of us we assume if there is a problem with the communication it’s the other guy, not us.
Effective communication isn’t about using big words or correct grammar. It isn’t about saying what you think and leaving it to the other person to decipher. Communication is a big issue in any business, and in business partnerships it can make or break the business, and the relationships.
What’s required to have successful communication? One of my favorite quotes, that is in my book Finding the Fork in the Road, is by Francois Graganon.
Between what I think I want to say, what I believe I’m saying, what I say, what you want to hear, what you believe you understood, and what you actually understood, there are at least nine possibilities for misunderstanding.
This sums it up. The challenge with communication is that we believe others understand what we are saying and frankly they think they understand as well. So no wonder that things go awry.
What are the secrets then to successful communication?
- Listen to understand, not to be heard. Don’t listen with the intent of formulating a response.
- Ask lots and lots of questions, and then some more. We simply do not ask enough questions. Ask questions for understanding, to gain clarity, to eliminate assumptions, to demonstrate interest…just ask.
- Verify and confirm. Confirm that what you think you said they heard, and understood. How? Perhaps a statement such as “just so that I’m sure I communicated effectively, can you tell me what you understand from our conversation?”
- Really care. When someone feels that you care about them and what they are saying, problems are easier to work through.
- Remember you are just one voice. It doesn’t matter if you own more of the business than your partners, their voice counts. You can’t have successful communication is you are the bully.
- Regular and frequent communication is required. Problems often come up when there isn’t regular communication. I don’t mean the conversation in the hall, but scheduled interactions to build the relationship and develop your communication skills.
- When you feel resistance from the other person, find out why. Stop and ask them what they are thinking and feeling. Determine what information they need to make a decision, or a different decision.
- Don’t let your emotions drive the conversation. When you are angry and you want to discuss something, what the other party responds to is the emotional energy you are putting out.
- Give equal space in the conversation. This is more than simply monopolizing the conversation. Big personalities can take over without meaning to. They can be so full of energy, excitement or ideas that there isn’t space for others.
- Treat your business partner with respect. I’ve seen it all…screaming, name calling, throwing objects (even chairs), using foul language…you get the picture. Even if they are acting like a jerk it doesn’t mean you have to.
Effective communication with your partners is requiring. It means you have to be invested in making the relationship work and so do they. Like anything in life you want to improve, you have to practice. If the outcome isn’t what you expected, look in the mirror and review the quote above. Did you shortcut the communication, make assumptions, let your emotions rule, not listen because you had already made up your mind? Working to improve your communication may just be the hardest assignment you take on. Know that it’s all worth it. Without it, your relationship with your partners will always be tense and lacking.
Challenged by your business partners and see no solution? Check out Finding the Fork in the Road, and take the first step toward peaceful resolution.