Seven steps to effective communication that get results
By Anne Bachrach
Bachrach & Associates
Communication is everything in business and in all of our relationships. How else would people conduct business? In order to enjoy an agreeable business and personal discussion, the communication level has to be excellent.
How does one communicate effectively? Simply put, say what you mean, say it clearly and say it with respect.
Step 1: Establish trust
Some people naturally distrust other people, because they do not know what the other one is thinking. Therefore, the sooner that you come out and say what you want, the sooner you can begin establishing trust.
If you sense that someone is especially apprehensive, then you could try to reassure him or her 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 being cordial and ethical and hope that your professionalism and consistency eventually wins them over — assuming you want to win them over. There are some you may not want as clients or even associates.
Step 2: Speak clearly and concisely
Speaking clearly can sometimes be a problem since not everyone actually takes the time to improve in diction or word usage. For the best results, try practicing speaking in front of a mirror and recording yourself for playback.
The last prerequisite is respect. Never disrespect someone that you just met. First impressions never really go away, so make an effort to present yourself as a confident and respectful business associate. If all you have to say is, “Blah,” don’t say anything.
Step 3: Recognize problems in communication
What are some of the most common barriers in effective communication? For starters, there is language, or word usage. One cannot always assume that what sounds benevolent to you would strike others the same way. People can easily misinterpret or even distort a statement’s original meaning.
It is wise to avoid saying anything questionable that might confuse a listener, or inadvertently provoke a negative reaction. Sarcasm and humor can also be difficult to get across. Humor should be fairly obvious and nothing too droll, or else one could easily take offense to a flippant statement.
Step 4: Learn how to use tone and body language together
In trying to improve your own communication, beware of a defensive posture or negative voice inflection. Once a person goes on the defensive, the conversation tends to spiral into oblivion. Make sure that you use a friendly and welcoming posture, with open arms and a smile. If you sense yourself taking on defensive gestures or even resorting to a defensive tone (perhaps provoked by the other person,) then eliminate those telling signs.
Don’t let emotion overpower good judgment. In fact, the misreading of body language and tone of voice is one of the most common problems in the breakdown of communication. Even if you are saying something agreeable, if you show physical signs to the contrary, your message and your honesty will come under suspicion. Remember that negative and positive body language comes across in any language and in any circumstances.
Step 5: Never assume anything
Assumptions are another common problem, whether they are self-fulfilled assumptions or merely assuming that others see things in the exact same way that you do. Never assume — most people do not see things the way that 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 that your communication is always clear.
Step 6: Recognize communication issues caused by technology
With the advent of new technologies also come new technology-related barriers in communication. Sometimes messages can be misunderstood because of cell phone static. Additionally, when communicating by phone it is common for people to use selective hearing (hearing what they want to hear), which can add to the problem.
Other technology based communication problems might result from lost phone messages or ambiguous email messages. Lastly, remember that this form of impersonal communication usually doesn’t allow for non-verbal clues, although virtual conferencing is an ever-increasing trend.
Other communication problems may result from keeping biases and stereotyping groups of individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age or religion. Remember that nothing is universally true of any kind of person; every man or woman should be given the chance to prove him or herself based on efficient work.
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 how to talk business
If you are trying to get someone to open up then try using open-ended questions rather than yes or no interrogations. When reviewing your own tactful manner analyze how you approach people. Do you bully them with close-ended questions or do you ask them in a positive manner how the both of you can make 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 mentioned above and set goals around enhancing your communication.