7 steps to effective communication that gets results
Communication is everything in business and in all our relationships. Honestly, how else would people communicate? In order to enjoy a pleasant business and personal conversation, the level of communication has to be excellent. How does one communicate effectively? Bottom line, say what you mean, say it clearly, and say it respectfully.
Step 1: Establish Trust
Some people naturally mistrust other people, because they don’t know what the other is thinking. So the sooner you get out there and say what you want, the sooner you can start building trust. If you sense that someone is especially apprehensive, then you can try to reassure them that you are not a threat. As you can guess, this doesn’t always work, so don’t waste time trying to change someone’s mind. Instead, continue to be friendly and ethical and hope that your professionalism and consistency will eventually win them over, assuming you want to win them over. There are some that you may not want as clients or even associates.
Step 2 – Speak clearly and concisely
Speaking clearly can sometimes be a problem, as not everyone takes the time to improve their diction or word usage. For best results, try practicing speaking in front of a mirror and recording yourself for playback. The last prerequisite is respect. Never disrespect someone you just met. First impressions never go away, so make an effort to present yourself as a safe and respectful business partner. If all you have to say is blah, don’t say blah blah.
Step 3: Recognize Communication Problems
What are some of the most common barriers to effective communication? To begin with, there is language or the use of words. One cannot always assume that what sounds good to you would impact others in the same way. People can easily misinterpret or even distort the original meaning of a statement. It’s wise to avoid saying anything questionable that might confuse a listener or inadvertently cause a negative reaction. Sarcasm and humor can also be difficult to convey. The humor needs to be pretty obvious and nothing too funny, or else one could easily take offense at a cursed statement.
Step 4 – Learn to use tone and body language together
When trying to improve your own communication, be wary of defensiveness or negative inflection. Once a person gets defensive, the conversation tends to fall through the cracks. Be sure to adopt a friendly and welcoming posture, with open arms and a smile. If you feel yourself adopting defensive gestures or even resorting to a defensive tone (perhaps provoked by the other person), then eliminate those telltale signs. Don’t let emotion override good judgment. In fact, misreading body language and tone of voice is one of the most common problems in communication breakdown. Even if you are saying something nice, if you show physical signs to the contrary, your message and your honesty will be suspect. Remember that positive and negative body language manifests itself in any language and in any circumstance.
Step 5: Never assume anything
Assumptions are another common problem, whether it’s self-fulfilling assumptions or simply assuming that others see things in exactly the same way as you do. Never assume: The fact is that most people don’t see things the same way you do, nor do they have the same feelings as you do. The less you assume, the better. This falls under the category of making sure your communication is always clear.
Step 6: Recognize communication problems caused by technology
With the advent of new technologies, new barriers related to communication technology also arise. Sometimes messages can be misinterpreted due to cell phone static. Also, when communicating over the phone, it is common for people to use selective hearing (hearing what they want to hear), which can exacerbate the problem. Other technology-based communication problems can result from missed phone messages or ambiguous email messages. Lastly, remember that this form of impersonal communication generally doesn’t allow for non-verbal cues, although virtual conferencing is a growing trend.
Other communication problems can be the result of maintaining biases and stereotypes of groups of people based on their race, sex, nationality, age or religion. Remember that nothing is universally true for any type of person; every man or woman should have the opportunity to prove himself based on efficient work. What cannot be denied, however, is that with more diversity in the office comes the possibility of major cultural differences and personality clashes. Sensitivity training has helped many in this regard.
Step 7: Learn to talk business
If you’re trying to get someone to open up, try using open questions instead of yes or no questions. When reviewing your own understated manner, analyze how you approach people. Do you intimidate them with closed-ended questions or ask them in a positive way how they can make the necessary changes to get a project, for example, moving more efficiently?
The more effective you can be with your communication, the more successful you will be, personally and professionally. Communication can be extremely powerful in helping you or it can hurt you. Apply any or all of the seven steps above and set goals to improve your communication.