Business Relationships: Communication Skills
By Val Price, Business Development Representative with Nexus 5 Group
If you followed my advice in my last blog and refreshed your memory on Steven Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you will recall that he uses several aphorisms to make his points. Perhaps the most famous is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It is hard to overstate the importance of listening to people. Most people listen with the intent to reply, not the intent to understand, Covey points out.
Business relationships give you many opportunities to practice your listening skills. Approach each conversation with the goal of understanding what the other person is trying to communicate and you will lay a solid foundation of trust and respect.
It is also important that you communicate clearly to others. Each interaction is an opportunity to improve your communication skills. Try to be aware of the words you use, the tone, and the clarity of your thoughts. Many of us have verbal tics and throw away words that we can eliminate to improve our conversations. Phrases such as ‘you know?’ ‘right?,’ ‘uh’ and “um” are used as a crutch to give your brain time to catch up with your mouth. Instead of annoying your listener with such repetitive noises, slow down and pause. You don’t need to fill every second of airtime.
Being Aware of Tone
When we are speaking in person it is easy to detect tone and humor that are natural parts of our communication style. These clues are nearly impossible to detect over email or text messages. Take a moment to review what you have written to ensure that it comes across clearly and does not have unintended tonal overload that might be off putting to the reader.
When meeting in person or over video conference, be conscious of body language and non-verbal communication. There are many clues as to how your message is being received if you know what to look for. Head nodding, leaning, hand gestures, and smiling can all be indications that your audience is in tune with you. Blocking (holding an object in between you), smirking, pushing away from the table and purse lips can all be signs that things are not going so well.
Written communications are like the old joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice! We all struggle to get our thoughts down on paper (or a blog post!) and the only way to improve your writing is to write. Find someone you trust to look at important business communications, but most of the burden is on you to review and improve your writing. There are tools-built MS Word and other programs, or you can find a grammar checker add in that will help you with your writing. It is particularly important that you put the time and effort into effective business writing, but lucky for you, the more you write, the better you get!
Communication is a fundamental building block of successful relationships. Hopefully, you have check marks next to all of these. If not, a little practice can go a long way in improving your business communication skills!