WHAT IS BUSINESS COMMUNICATION AND HOW TO IMPROVE IT
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Effective communication skills are paramount in business. Exceptional communication promotes a healthy, happy workplace and leads to better performance for both the employees and the company itself. Productivity is increased, and creativity can be fully expressed when interpersonal business communication is flowing successfully.
Without proper communication, however, businesses are bound to have trouble. When communication fails, conflict can occur within a business that could otherwise have been avoided. Lack of proper communication can also lead to less productivity in the office, meaning that your business will struggle to reach its full potential. The better you communicate, the better you will do within the company for which you work.
This short guide will cover the basic communication skills needed for the workplace as well as many communication techniques and tips that you will be able to immediately apply in your business.
What is Communication?
Communication is the delivery or exchange of information between two or more people. It is a means of connection with another person or many other people and its purpose is to increase understanding and to impart meaning.
Some may think that communication is synonymous with speech, but that is not the case. Verbal communication is only one of many ways we communicate. In addition, it is not always the case that our verbal expression is received by the listener. When we speak but are not understood, it is a sign that we have failed to communicate.
Only when a message is delivered, received and understood can it be truthfully stated that communication has occurred.
Communication is not a monologue, but a dialogue. It requires both a transmitter and a receiver to function properly. The transmission of information can be verbal, non-verbal, written, visual or a combination of the four. Miscommunication can happen in many places along the line of communication, making communication one of the hardest aspects of a business to master.
What are Some Barriers to Successful Communication?
Many factors can contribute to miscommunication. Communication barriers include:
- Unsolicited Advice
- Lack of Empathy
- Complicated Jargon
- Heightened Emotion
- Lack of Interest
- Cultural Differences
One or all of these could be at play during a moment of communication between you and a colleague. When engaging in communication, keep your language simple, clear and to the point so as to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. Enter the conversation with an open-minded, calm attitude. Even if the person you are communicating with is in a heightened state of emotion or is projecting unrealistic expectations upon you, you will stand a far greater chance of reaching them if you remain in a state of neutrality and respect.
The Importance of Communication Skills in Business
When communication is flowing, inspiration, motivation, and action abound. When people feel heard and understood, they perform better. They feel accepted, needed and important. They want to contribute more and more, and they will work harder for you because they feel like their voice matters.
Much the same, when you are able to communicate with your team effectively, you provide the inspiration for your team and you will flourish within your business. In a company with effective communication, ideas form more easily, the workplace atmosphere is bright and positive, and you will cultivate a loyal, passionate team that sticks with you.
Conflict is resolved expediently and harmoniously within a network that has cultivated a communicative environment. In fact, communication allows for conflict to be a good thing, as its resolution often leads to a greater understanding on all sides and can very often be a catalyst for growth and expansion.
Developing Successful Business Communication Skills
In order to elevate your communication skills, you must first understand the various lines of communication within your business. There are multiple types of business communication. These avenues of communication are:
- Upward (Information shared up the chain of command)
- Downward (Information flowing down the chain of command)
- Lateral (Information shared between those on the same level within the company)
Mastering all three avenues within your workplace will help you to gain recognition and will aid in your growth within the company. Before you engage in communication ask yourself if you are choosing the proper avenue.
Also, ask if you are choosing the most effective channel for your communication. There are myriad channels to choose from. Some of these channels include:
- Body language
- Facial Expression
- Energy or “vibe”
- Posted Sign
- Handwritten note or letter
- PowerPoint presentations
These are just some of the ways in which you can communicate your message and often multiple channels are at play. It is important that you choose your method of communication wisely by taking into consideration the intended message, the receiver(s) involved and the potential barriers to effective communication. Is what you need to say best served by an in-person conversation, or would an email suffice?
Remember, even the choice to visit someone in their office versus calling them on the phone is communicating something. Consciously decide what you intend your receiver to walk away understanding and carefully choose your method of delivery and environment in order to support that intention.
How to Communicate Effectively
There are some basic communication skills that will help you on your way to improving your interpersonal business communication. Choosing to work with these communication tools will help you to naturally enhance your business relationships over time.
Remember, ultimately it is not about what you say or write, but about what is heard, received and understood. You could give the most eloquent speech in the world, but the words hardly matter if the meaning is missed. Moreover, real communication is between people, meaning that proper transmission is not enough. You must also master the art of receiving.
These four basic skills will set you up for successful communication in your business.
Listening (or, Receiving)
The power of listening is often overlooked when it comes to communication, yet it is more than half the battle. The person speaking or delivering information to you in some way is attempting to transmit meaning. Sometimes their line of communication isn’t clear, and that’s where listening comes in real handy.
Listen for meaning and don’t get caught up in semantics. Words and language are powerful and often come already encoded with meaning, but if you are a good listener, you are able to hear the message through the words. You can help yourself by placing all your focus on the transmission and none of your focus on your response.
When you aren’t worried about what you have to say, you are able to fully receive what the other person is conveying to you. Then, when they are finished you can place your full attention on assimilating the information received and delivering a response back to them.
Clear, Concise Transmission
When it is your time to speak, do so clearly and without fluff. If you need to take a moment and a breath or two before responding, do it! There’s no need to respond right away. It’s better to take a moment, gather your thoughts, know what your point is and then express it concisely. Speak slowly, articulately and choose your words carefully to support your point.
Stick to one point at a time and follow it all the way through. Going off on tangents will only confuse your listener and stop the flow of communication.
Pick up on body language, facial expressions and the overall energy of the person or people with whom you are communicating and adjust your tactics accordingly. Remember, you want to promote understanding and lower the risk of being misunderstood. This means that you are going to have to up your non-verbal communication game.
You are constantly giving non-verbal cues as well. Be mindful of your tone of voice, body positioning and any fixed facial expression that may come off as hostile, hard or closed-off. If you notice that the person you are conversing with is displaying harsh body language, take that as a sign that you need to consciously soften them with your tone, choice of words and smile.
It can feel strange and somewhat manipulative to alter your behavior on purpose to affect change in the other person, but in fact, humans are constantly doing this with each other – it’s just that some aren’t conscious of it. When you harness the ability to adjust your non-verbal cues and pick up on the non-verbal cues of others, you are able to use that ability to affect positive change with your communication.
You may not always agree with who you are speaking with, but in all cases always show respect. You can do this by listening actively, by refraining from condescension or superiority in your speech and by seeking greater understanding for the benefit of the company.
At the end of the day, your communication is in service of something greater than yourself: the success of the business for which you work. Treat others always with respect and watch that respect return to you.
Communication and Conflict
Conflict is going to happen even in the most peaceful of work environments. Misunderstanding, emotional triggers and cultura