The Art Of Communication
Something to think about… Writing composes only 7% of a conversation….the other parts of an actual conversation is 38% tone, inflection, volume and speed followed by 55% body language and eye contact…in Instant Messengers and email, a reader is only receiving 7% of the intentions of the other party while adding thier own tone and inflection to the sentences read thereby injecting thier own perception of the writers true intentions. Remember this before you assume the meaning of what is being said to you in a text, email, or any other written form, get clarity by having a face to face conversation when possible even if you must compromise to a phone conversation this will at least give you more to work with while drawing a mental picture of the true intent.
Everyday you improve your business communication skills and prove to be professional and persuasive. How? Your employer has chosen you to manage their most valuable resource: their people. Now it’s time to dig deep and sharpen those skills.
Communication is so critical even more in business and somehow it never fails to amaze me how few people take the time to give it good “thought”. Because we are always communicating to someone every waking minute of every day, It is important to make ourselves aware of whether the “what” and “how” that we are communicating is being heard with our true intention because it is not what we say it is what is heard that stands out from the background noise called perception.
Four Basics Of Communication.
Before we discuss the non-verbal elements of business communication which makes up only 7% of the conversation and perception, Let’s explore what makes the 38% that we know as the words chosen, tone, inflection, volume and speed basics of verbal communication to gain a better understanding. By understanding the four different verbal communication styles, you will become more successful in your ability to influence whomever you may be speaking to, regardless of whether the conversation is taking place at work or elsewhere.
Once you learn to master the art of Influence by identifying the verbal communication styles of others you will be able to lead and influence with confidence.
Business Communication trainer Lee Hopkins teaches that all verbal communication should rest on three methods of delivery:
• Being empathetic, putting yourself in your listeners’ shoes so you can anticipate the impact of your communication • Finding, establishing and expressing a common denominator with your listeners so you can bond solidly with them • Creating an impact by projecting a strong, persuasive, powerful message An article in “JobsAhead” takes requirements for effective business communication several steps further, recommending that it needs to be: • Complete, so nothing can be erroneously assumed • Concise, using a minimum of words to get the message across • Considerate, sensitive to the needs of the recipient • Concrete, key points are organized and nothing is vague or open to interpretation • Clear, using familiar words to prevent misunderstandings • Courteous, considerate of the recipient
If you combine the advice from those two sources, your words will be well received and carry influence as well.
Business Communications vs. Personal Communication
Communication is unique in every situation. The way you communicate in your interpersonal relationships i.e. your friends, your employer, your peers and others is internal. You communicate externally with clients, competitors and service providers. In both relationships, you communicate with one very specific purpose: to create and/or add value to your business/personal life.
Corporate culture is reflected in business communication within every organization.
Communication is sometimes highly structured, communications occur within a particular layer of the org chart under specific circumstances – what I am saying is everyone communicates with everyone else any time in small organizations or less structured larger ones. Your personality type determines your natural communication style. Be observant of the communications dynamics at work to ensure your style is in sync with the culture, simply put mirror tonality, speed and body language.
Your Communication Skills Impact The Fulfillment Of Management Functions.
Master the art of communication and you’ll be taking a giant step toward lasting career success. You need effective communications skills to be able to meet the following expectations of employers.
• Promote your ideas • Share your knowledge • Build collaborative relationships • Give and receive feedback • Resolve conflicts • Manage difficult employees and customers • Brand, market and sell your products or services • Negotiate partnerships, contracts or the resolution of a problem
Body Language Statistics
In her article, “Body Language in Business”, Linda Ramsey states that: • Face to face communication is 90% more effective than written or printed messages. So when you have an extremely important business communication, deliver it in person! • Body language communicates 55% of a message. The words themselves comprise only 7%. • What people see makes up 55% of a conversation. This is a corollary of the body language part of communication. • The tone of voice makes up 38% of what people hear in a conversation. So how you speak is almost as important as what you say!
Your takeaway from these numbers is that the “how” (your body language and tone of voice) of business communication is just as important, if not more important, than the message you are communicating.
How You CommunicateDistracts or Reinforces Your Message Your message obviously needs to have merit, be appropriate to the situation and relevant to your objective. How you communicate has the potential to impact, or even inspire, a powerful, important message from seemingly nothing when properly executed.
We’ve all either dismissed or given our full attention someone just because of: • The way they walked into a room • How they shook your hand • What their body language said • The way they facilitated or participated in a meeting • Their ability to make a presentation or speak in public • The quality, quantity and timing of their writing • How they came across on the telephone • Their attention to business etiquette – or lack of it • How they dressed
“What” is communicated, combined with “how” it is communicated, conveys a message to people that you respect them, you respect their professionalism, and that you expect the same from them in return. Communication is engaging the exchange of thoughts, opinions and beliefs. (Nobody has ever had a productive one-way dialogue.)
The “How To” of Practical Applications of Communication Beginning with the first contact you have with someone, we will look at the “hows” of communication when business is involved one application at a time. (I am making the assumption that you are well informed and secure in your knowledge of the “what”).
The business handshake
Historically, a handshake was a gesture of good faith that both people were unarmed and had honorable intentions. Today’s business handshake is a barometer of confidence, trust, sophistication and mood. Eight tips from an expert will help you keep the upper hand.
Probably the most complex element of business communication is ensuring that others are really getting your message, remember that 50% of your message comes from your body language such as eye contact, the direction of your position, hand placement, etc. You need to be certain that your body language reinforces your message while also recognizing the body language of those receiving your message to gauge how effectively you’re getting your point across. Be aware of the elements of intimate, personal, social and public “space” to help you stay on the professional side of the line.
There will be two recurring circumstances during which you will be communicating a message to more than just one person at a time: public speaking and facilitating or participating in a meeting. (If you are blessed enough to naturally love being in the spotlight this shouldn’t present any major problems for you.) But if you were born with a fear of public speaking, you may find these situations pretty nerve-wracking, especially the first few times. The simplest solution is to take Southwest Airlines up on their ad – “You are now free to get up and move about the country”. If that isn’t an option, learn how to master your emotions while getting your strong message across.
Did you know that there 11 million business meetings every day in the U.S.? Think of the number of hours that represents – hours during which meeting attendees could have been taking care of business in other ways. (If I had a dime for every hour I’ve spent in meetings, I would be a financially overwhelmed!) So the first key to holding a successful meeting is making an executive decision: Is this meeting necessary?
Collect a representative samples of memos, letters, emails and faxes circulating throughout your organization to determine the style of business writing considered appropriate – how formal or casual they are, who is on which distribution roster, the topics usually addressed in writing. Put yourself in the position of the recipient and be sure you answer his or her first questions: How is this relevant to me? What do you want me to do? And, what’s in it for me.
While not as impactful as a face-to-fact meeting, a telephone call is a “real time” business communication and your caller deserves your undivided attention, difficult though that may be. As a manager, it is very possible that an administrative assistant will answer your incoming phone calls and screen them for you. Depending on your specific function within the organization, you may take many calls or only a few. Regardless, the rules of telephone etiquette apply whenever you take a call or your ability to add value to the organization during that particular communication may be lost.
Giving and Receiving Feedback
Feedback connects everyone and their behavior to the organization around them, but can become an emotional roller coaster if it is handled insensitively. It is most effective when it is invited, which is why there is much discussion among human resources professionals about the best way to administer performance appraisals. Unfortunately, feedback has developed a negative connotation because it is too frequently provided only as a criticism and only comes from one person. Ideally, feedback should be used equally as often to complement behavior.
Negotiating is the ability to influence people and the art of letting someone else have your way! At the end of a successful negotiation, both sides of an issue feel that they got what they wanted, or are at least better off than when they went in. So it’s not about one side winning or losing, it’s about finding a way for both sides to win. Are you a master negotiator? See if negotiation is one of your business communication strengths. We will address this point in a follow up article.
Conflict resolution is really about personal courage. It may be easier to be an ostrich, but unresolved conflict tends to escalate and never disappears what it does is simmer just below the surface and, at the worst possible times, may surface as an inappropriate outburst of anger. Today’s workplace is trending toward the importance of teamwork in which people with different opinions must work together like a well-orchestrated dance. Your goal as a manager is to manage it constructively. Your most successful strategy may just be to encourage meaningful conflict rather than conflict avoidance.
Conducting difficult conversations
Now that you are a manager, the chances are very good that one-day you will need to hold a difficult conversation. People dress inappropriately for work; personal hygiene is unacceptable; flirtatious behavior can create a sexual harassment problem; use of vulgar language draws complaints. This time, instead of waiting to be asked for feedback, you need to proactively seek permission to provide the feedback.
The “Art of Saying No”
Depending, again on your corporate culture and your personality type, saying no can be a very difficult part of business communication! Many people are uncomfortable having to tell others you can’t do something, or you may feel obligated when a co-worker asks for a favor, you might even feel pressured when someone above you on the org chart tells you they need something done. When this happens, it’s because a little voice inside you is saying that “if I say ‘no’, I am rejecting the person making the request”, when if fact, you are simply rejecting their current request. Saying “yes” when you really want to say “no” can become a major stressor in your job and waste valuable time. So it’s well worth some initial discomfort to become comfortable learning to saying “no”.
Using Humor at Work
Laughter really is good medicine! It’s been proven in the medical community to raise your immune system and release those healthy endorphins. No wonder the benefits of laughter are actually being harnessed by businesses in laughter workshops and formal “laugh sessions” as a part of their business communication training.
Jokes It is important to be aware of the vehicle you deliver the humor through because one person’s idea of a good joke is another person’s insult. How do you avoid humor that has the potential to offend your co-workers? There is one simple answer: Use jokes about situations, not people. Why? Because regardless of age, hair color, sex, national origin or anything that distinguishes us as humans, we all can identify with a situation.
Wordplays and puns Another potential issue that comes with the use of humor is wordplays, puns or anything else based on figures of speech, slang or jargon. Be sure the humor is in the concept, not the words themselves. Co-workers whose first language is other than English may not understand them and will be left wondering what they missed.
Suzan St. Maur, a leading business and marketer based in the United Kingdom, suggests that humor be used as a “spicy condiment” in your business communication. As with cayenne pepper, use it in moderation if you don’t know your audience well.
Everything you communicate during your workday reflects on your organization. Be sure what you communicate (your message) is relevant, timely and accurate. Be sure how you express it reinforces your message. Above all, be sure all your business communication creates or adds value. Whether you are speaking to a community group, negotiating with a corporation, conducting a performance review or simply answering the phone, for that period in time, you are a reflection of your company.
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