Businesses today are lucky to have many tools available to help facilitate effective communication. From messaging apps to video calls and online team collaboration platforms, there is no shortage of ways to communicate with colleagues, customers, partners and business stakeholders. While there are several different communication systems businesses can incorporate into their day-to-day processes, the qualities of effective communication are still required regardless of which platform is being used.
Listen Carefully to the Conversation
Listening is a key element required for effective communication. In business, it’s important to practice active listening, which means making an effort to hear and understand what someone is saying to you. If a colleague is talking to you about an issue with a customer, it’s important to understand the details before jumping in with a solution.
People do not like conversing with someone who doesn’t take the time to listen to what they have to say. To show your colleague that you’re actively listing, you can repeat or rephrase parts of their conversation to demonstrate your understanding of the situation with the customer. Asking questions to gain clarification of the details is also a way to actively listen and get a comprehensive understanding of the big picture.
Know Your Audience
Modifying the message based on the audience is a criteria for effective communication. What you have to say to one person won’t be right for another based on their role in the organization and their knowledge of the topic. To effectively get your message across, you need to alter your language, tone and the medium so that it's right for your audience.
For example, the way you speak with an executive in your organization might be different from the way you speak with a peer, even if the content of your message is the same. Some people use more formal language with superiors while using casual business language with colleagues. The culture of your company will also affect the way you communicate with internal and external stakeholders.
Be Concise, Complete and Correct
Providing succinct, to-the-point communication helps to avoid repetition and frustration. By removing unnecessary details from the communication, you can reduce the chances of misunderstanding. These days, people’s attention spans are short, so getting your message across in ten minutes is more effective than taking 30 minutes. For example, if you’re meeting with a customer about a sales opportunity, show them that you respect their time by keeping your presentation as concise as possible.
While effective communication is short and concise, it also needs to be complete. This means that the message needs to include all of the pertinent facts, and should be organized logically, so it’s easy to follow. Based on who you’re speaking to, you can assume certain aspects of their knowledge, while providing details they may not know. Providing the full meaning of the message is key to communicating effectively. For example, if you’re working with a new business partner and discussing purchasing supplies from them, it’s essential to provide them with all the specifications of the materials you need. Without providing that valuable information, the supplier may not be able to deliver the right parts, which could cause frustration, delays and poor relationships.
Providing the facts as they are without overstating them is one of the qualities of good communication skills and avoids ambiguity and confusion. If you’re dealing with a complaint a customer has with an employee, for example, you must get feedback from both parties to understand the problem.
Incorporate Feedback into the Message
Effective communication involves giving and receiving timely feedback. Feedback helps show both you and the person you’re communicating with whether the message was sent and received accurately. If the feedback is entirely off-base, this may show that you didn’t communicate effectively or that the receiver didn’t fully understand your meaning.
In a business environment, feedback is critical when working in a team. For example, if you’re in a managerial position, you’ll need to provide your staff with constructive feedback about their performance, their role and their communication skills with customers. Feedback also involves giving praise, which can boost company morale and increase camaraderie.
In addition to providing feedback, effective communication requires receiving it, too. Constructive feedback is useful for improving your performance at work. If you’re in charge of giving a speech during a company-wide meeting, for example, be sure to ask key members of your staff for feedback after the speech. Their feedback will tell you whether your speech was effective in getting your message across, and will show you if your staff understood the main points you wanted to communicate. Their feedback will also show you areas where you need to improve your communication skills. For example, if criticism was that the speech was too long, you know that for next time you can work on being more concise in your communication.
Show Respect Through Your Conversation
Being respectful of the people you communicate with is an important criterion for effective communication. People are more motivated to engage with you if you show respect for them and their ideas. For example, if you’re meeting a prospect for the first time, you can show respect by addressing them using their name, which makes them feel appreciated. Taking the time to read about their business and addressing them in your conversation goes a long way to showing the prospect you respect them.
If you’re speaking with a business partner over the phone, show your respect by staying focused on the conversation at hand. Instead of checking your email or browsing the web while talking on the phone, staying engaged with them during the phonecall is the respectful thing to do.
When communicating over email with colleagues, take an extra few minutes to proofread your message, so it’s free of typos and spelling or grammatical mistakes. You show respect by taking the time to construct your message carefully.
Don’t Forget About Non-Verbal Communication
The words we use to communicate make up less than 10 percent of the message that we convey. This means that non-verbal signals are critical to effective communication. The tone of your voice shows the way you’re feeling when you communicate. If you mean to be friendly, for example, be sure that your tone is friendly.
Your hand gestures, your stance and your body language help to convey the meaning of your words. Crossing your arms signals that you’re defensive or closed off while making eye contact shows that you’re looking to make a connection.
Pay attention to the non-verbal signals that are being communicated by the person to whom you’re speaking. Their posture, tone and body language will show you how they are feeling about what you're saying and can help guide the way you communicate with them.
Requirements of Good Communication System
A good communication system requires that you choose the right communication system for the job at hand. With so many options available such as phone, messaging, email and in-person, you have to pick the medium that best suits the topic of the conversation. For example, you wouldn’t text your boss to resign from your position or to ask for a raise. Those kinds of important conversations should take place in person. Similarly, you don’t need an in-person meeting for minor business issues, which can be communicated over email to save time and resources.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.