You didn't become an entrepreneur because you wanted to fail.
But sometimes, habits you didn't even know you had sabotage your efforts.
One of those bad habits is a lack of good communication skills.
Effective communication is the key to all relationships, whether they're personal or professional.
And if you want to sell more and see your business scale, you have to take the way you dialogue with employees, coworkers, and customers seriously.
Investing your time in becoming a better communicator will not only allow you to form better personal relationships, it will help you save money and run a much more efficient business.
If you aren’t the world’s best communicator right now, don’t worry! Here are seven simple steps that will improve your communication skills when you put them into practice.
Do you start to communicate with someone without having a real plan about what you're going to say? This can lead to misunderstandings that cause frustration.
A frustrated person won't typically be very receptive to whatever you're saying.
Take the time to really think about the purpose of your communication so that you can remain focused on the topic you want to discuss. A little planning can go a long way toward getting the results you want from any communication.
Consider making a simple outline about what you want to address and the key issues surrounding it. That way, you'll have a reference if you find yourself getting flustered or off track.
Just to give you a glimpse of the impact poor communication can have on your business, check out a few of theses stats from a 2013 report:
A 2019 survey showed that 80% of American workers felt like their job was more stressful because of ineffective communication.
85% of employees consider good communication an "employee benefit."
52% of employees say they've seen their companies lose sales (and other poor financial outcomes) due to bad communication.
These are just a few stats, but they outline the depth of the effect communication has on the productivity of your business.
You're only human and so, sometimes it's difficult to tell if someone is being completely honest. Good communication (consistently, over time,) encourages trust and increases the influence you have with your coworkers, employees, and/or customers.
You know how it feels to be less than honest because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. ("Did you love the business plan that doesn't make sense and will take precious resources to implement with little payoff? I worked really hard on it." 😫)
But, if you value integrity and productivity, then the good of your business has to carry more weight than feelings or opinions.
Still, you can and should make a valiant effort to communicate in a kind and understanding way, but you will always run into a situation where someone disagrees, is offended, or simply doesn't understand.
Communication is a two-way street, and if you want to engage people in effective conversations, then you have to learn to practice active listening.
Being a good listener shows people that you actually value their input and consider them worthy of hearing.
This can be quite difficult in heated conversations, difficult decisions, or tense moments. You often begin thinking of what you're going to say as the other person is talking.
Keep in mind, doing this makes for seriously ineffective communication.
Rather than devising a battle plan or counter attack, you need to truly hear the other party out. When you show true understanding, you'll receive the respect and response that you're looking for.
Quick Tips For Active Listening:
A large portion of how you communicate comes from your body language. Your movements and physical stance give several clues to how you really feel about the situation.
Body language includes: eye contact, how you shake hands, how you position your arms or legs, and even how you sit when you listen. These can all send subtle (or sometimes, NOT so subtle) messages to others. It's important to be aware of the messages you're sending physically so that you can be a good communicator.
Simple Body Language Tips:
It is vital to good communication that you have an open mind when you're entering a conversation. Avoid judgment of any kind, especially of a personal nature.
If you enter with preconceived notions of an idea or a person, you won’t hear the perfect solution. You may think that coming into a conversation with a case built against the other person is "being prepared."
In fact, it's setting you up for failure. It would be like going into battle already wounded.
Let me say this:
A mind is like a parachute. It works better when it is open.
This philosophy can help you find the key you're missing in your business, or in your personal relationships.
No matter how smart you are, you do NOT know it all. (I promise.)
If you close your mind to others because of physical appearance, background or position, previous encounters, etc., you'll miss out on the full value the other person can add to your business or personal success.
You don't enjoy hearing about the things you're bad at, right?
But it seems a whole lot easier to point out others' mistakes.
It's difficult for the person you're talking with to maintain self-esteem in situations where you're simply telling them what they do wrong. As a good communicator, you should practice constructive criticism.
Remember, ALL people bring something positive to the table.
An old psychological tactic is to provide a "compliment sandwich" to your listener.
This means you should recognize and praise something they do well, THEN tell them something they need to improve on and the steps they can do to achieve success. Afterwards, follow it up with another compliment about something they do.
It shows you value their contributions and that the process of improvement is a collaborative one. The key to constructive criticism is to provide a clear and attainable path to improvement.
Everyone wants to do well and be successful. If you can communicate the path they need to take to improve well, anyone will walk down it. This can work in any relationship.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do is to make sure you're clear about the ideas you want to express.
Make sure you're speaking in terms that can be understood by all parties, and that accurately portray your thoughts and feelings.
Be careful not to send mixed messages or throw a whole pile of topics at someone.
(If this is your approach, well... you may have better success with simply puking on the floor and walking away. 🙊)
If you have a large number of ideas to relay, again, use an outline. Even in one-on-one communication, this allows all participants in the conversation to be able to follow along and keep track of the thoughts you think are vital.
The great thing about these communication tips is that you can start practicing them today, with everyone you meet.
Being a great communicator is important to success in business and in life, and it's a skill that you can learn quickly and practice all the time.
Remember, improving this skill will allow you to improve every relationship in your life, both professionally and personally.
Originally published 11/13; Updated 2/21.