From business to business, workplace to workplace, Small Business Owner to Small Business Owner, they all had the same nagging problem. Poor or lack of effective communication skills.
The reasons for your communication problems are many but there’s one reason that I find most common. You have no strategies for how you communicate. You are mostly controlled by your emotions and by what is happening in your business or your life at any point in time.
Because of this, you fail to consistently place people at the centre of your communication process. As a result, you appear to be a weak and ineffective leader, in need of personal and professional development.
But this does not have to be the case. You must understand that using effective communication skills can help you build strong relationships. Yes…with clients and customers, team members, managers, internal customers, competitors and even “frenemies.”
What is “effective communication skills”?
Let’s be clear what we mean when we talk about effective communication skills.
First, it’s not about about glitzy PR and Advertising. Neither is it about high-energy Public Speaking. Although your communication efforts could be skyrocketed with having sound public speaking skills.
It is really the skill of communicating, so that your message IS clearly & successfully delivered, received and understood, Regardless of the medium!
To achieve this, your communication must be clear, relevant, tactful in choice of words and tone, brief and informative.
The question I know you’re asking is: How will I know that my communication has been effective?
Feedback is the big indicator that lets you know that you have successfully shared a message. Just remember though, that feedback can take many forms, including body language, facial expressions and the tone of voice.
Benefits of communicating effectively
I’m sure you know that the benefits that the benefits of having great communication skills are many. All the same, let me remind you of my favorite 10. You can:
1. Repair damaged relationships/Build strong relationships
2. Resolve conflict maturely
3. Connect with people quickly & easily
4. Build trust and become a valued influencer
5. Explain complex issues in a simple manner
6. Increase your self-confidence
7. Impact the way people respond to you
8. Solve problems quickly
9. Handle difficult & differing perspectives
10. Improve teamwork
Don’t you just want to be able to tick at least 7 of those benefits? If you do, here are…
10 simple, effective communication skills you can use right now!
These sills will help you to do more than “benefit boxes”.
They will also help you to place people at the very centre of your communication efforts. By doin this, you will also build strong and valuable relationships.
If you’re ready? Here they are …
1. Focus on issues not personalities
When I advise people to do this, there’s always someone who will tell me I’ve just never met their supervisors, or customers, or suppliers or (you fill in the blank) ___. That may be true and it may also be true that that person might just be a difficult and rude person.
But you must focus on the issues and communicate with respect in every interaction, whether you like the person or not. I am not promising it will be easy. Regularly I have to deal with people who bring out the urge in me to wash them off in curse.
However, when you can resist this urge, or don’t feel the urge at all, it will speak volumes for your maturity as a person and a leader. It will also establish you as the consummate professional who employs effective communication techniques, in every situation.
2. Be direct and sincere as your default communication position
Are you one of those people who say “yes” when you really don’t mean it? And do you often try to say what you think people want to hear, instead of saying what you think?
Stop that right now!
Instead, state your concerns directly and sincerely. And when you do, suggest alternatives as to what you think will work better in the situation.
You will earn far more respect from you colleagues or employees when you do this than if you engage in doublespeak.
3. Listen more than you speak, especially in sales situations
There are 3 main reasons you will be tempted to talk too much when you are pitching an idea or selling something.
(1) when you think you haven’t made your point well and you can’t stop talking.
(2) you know so much about the product or service, you can’t resist doing a data dump.
(3) you haven’t identified what is the problem and selected the information that is relevant to solving it.
If this is the case, you have to up your communication game, as listening goes.
A better approach is to let the potential client talk, and you listen.
In this case, you’re listening for what they are NOT saying as much as what they ARE saying. When you listen in this manner, when you finally speak, your points will be clear and relevant to the pain or problem the other person is having.
The short video below sums up the point I’m making in an entertaining manner:
In addition, don’t be afraid to get the skills you need. For example, public speaking for everyday business people will help you greatly with getting your customers to take the actions you want them to.
That’s how effective communication works.
4. Having effective communication skills lets you listen without passing judgment
Do you know somebody who, 13 words in a conversation, declares something like: “He’s an idiot!”
Or a person who knows the solution to the problem before you can express it properly?
If you’re a manager or leader and this is one of your default ‘effective communication’ methods, then you need a communication re-set.
Here is what you should do:
Allow yourself to suspend all judgements and conclusions. Listen attentively to what is being said, even if you believe you’ve heard it all before or have opinions on it.
Only then should you give feedback on what you have heard. Then you will be in a much better position when you offer solutions or encourage your employees to think of other possible solutions.
5. Use effective communication skills to improve performance
Those of you who have responsibility for HR in your business are especially required to communicate effectively.
But far too often, you are inclined to make statements such as “I’m so disappointed in you!” or “you are capable of doing so much better than this…” You believe this is effective communication which would motivate an employee to change their behavior. But you are wrong.
Comments like these are really just your opinions, and rushing to express them is not only an indication of poor communication skills, but also poor leadership.
On the other hand, let’s say you first identify the specific behavior which needs to be improved.
Next you shared this with the employee(s) and discuss how you can solve the problem together.
Then you established a feedback system with appropriate triggers. That would be an excellent example of meaningful communication skills.
6. Know when to communicate directly instead of hiding behind emails
For certain issues, it’s best to have a face-to-face discussion. This should be a no-brainer except for the presence of cowards who hide behind emails.
You are not one of them. Are you?
A good communication strategy for sensitive and or contentious issues is to address them face to face.
In this way, you can look the person in the eye, listen to the tone of their voice and and observe their body language.
These are all important tactics for diffusing any tensions that might arise from the situation. In addition, you can give immediate feedback.
An email facilitates none of these. And when it is blind-copied to a person who is not involved, you escalate it to the level of maliciousness.
To improve you communication, next time, try doing a face-to-face instead of email.
7. Address tough or sensitive issues maturely
What is the best way to do this?
Well, you should not try to soften a point when you have to deal with tough or sensitive issues.
But hold on…
Let me remind you that this approach is not an excuse for you to be rude, abusive or belligerent.
What it really means, is a chance for you to demonstrate that you know how to be strong and assertive in any situation.
So how should you approach it?
Be direct, constructive, and straightforward so that your message and its importance come across clearly and respectfully.
Make sure your words and your body language are in sync, so that you’re not undermining your own message.
Addressing tough or sensitive issues in this manner also guarantees that even when people don’t agree with you, they still respect you and your position.
8. Don’t attempt to solve a problem by starting a shouting match
This seems to be hard to resist for many small business owners.
Let’s say you have to fill a “make or break my business” order and one of your employees messes up. Again. The temptation to scream at him or her is at an all-time high…and who can blame you.
But you must resist that temptation.
Instead, focus your energies on addressing the problem. Communicate a solution to the team in simple and clear language so that implementing it will be easy. In other words, fix the problem first and deal with the ‘who” afterwards.
When you deal with the “who”, be equally judicious in your choice of words, tone and volume.
I know from experience that the effective communication process and the integrity of the team are enhanced when you address the problem in this manner.
And if you drive yourself, there’s always the car, with the window up, to really express how you feel about the incompetent so-and-so whom you will fire soon, anyhow! (just keeping it real for you!)
9. Allow for feedback in your communication process
If you don’t, not only is this an indication of your poor communication skills, it’s also leads to an abuse of power.
Some time ago, when I was owner and CEO of a gym I had recently acquired, I came up with a brilliant idea to fix a security problem we were having. To me, it was incredible that no one had thought of it before.
I could hardly sleep the night before. I rushed off to the gym early the next morning. At the first opportunity, I called a team meeting and shared my wonderful idea. And waited for the applause. And waited…and waited…
It turned out that my idea was a lousy one.
One by one, my staff explained to me why my idea couldn’t work. I listened attentively as they pointed out the flaws in my hot idea. But as I did, I felt a growing sense of elation. I was listening to my team, I was not imposing my will, I had allowed for open feedback in my communication process.
But most of all, I had not made it difficult for my team to share an idea which improved the security and saved me $000s in the long run.
So allow for feedback in your communication process.
Listen to and acknowledge the concerns of others and address them. You would be surprised to find that this approach could garner support for an idea which others might otherwise have rejected.
10. Don’t use a “One-Size-Fits-All” approach to all your communication
I cringe whenever I hear a businessperson declare: “What you see is what you get!” or “This is me, I can’t change!”
This is usually your excuse for using a single style of communication in every circumstance, regardless of who you are speaking to.
By now you must know, that “one-size-fits-all” is a label you should run far from. I can never get a picture of an item fitting my 145lb frame and that of a 225lb woman, equally well.
Similarly, I can’t see you using the same communication style with your child as you do with your top customer.
So why not exchange your one-size-fits-all approach for that of smart communicator?
Smart communicators know that in delivering a message you have to consider the receiver of that message. The more you can fashion the message to suit the needs of the receiver, the better your chances are of your message hitting the target.
Not only that! Smart communicators also control the conversation. And you know, who controls the conversation, control the outcomes.
Your next “communication skills” steps…
So there you have them! A huge gift…10 simple, practical, effective communication skills.
You also now have no excuse to continue to distinguish yourself through poor communication skills.
Starting now, you can begin using them to improve your communication skills.
At work and everywhere else. Just choose one skill and begin applying it right away.
Come on, this is not beyond you. You CAN build strong business relationships with effective communication skills!
To your communication success…