Good communication is a critical resource for all business owners. Your success in getting the point across can be the difference between closing a deal and losing out on a potential opportunity.
You should be able to clarify the company practises clearly to consumers and partners and address their concerns about your goods or services. It is important to interact efficiently in negotiations to ensure that the aims are achieved.
Communication is also important to the company. Good communication can help to build a good working relationship between you and your workers, which in turn can increase morale and productivity.
This guide will clarify the main aspects of both verbal and non-verbal communication, how to listen to and understand others, and how to make the best possible first impression on people you meet in and around your company.
Progress in any conversation is likely to be accomplished by both parties listening and understanding each other. Apply the following skills in any company situation in which you interact with others.
Key communication skills
Useful communication skills to establish successful interpersonal relationships include:
- Enable listening
- Perception of non-verbal signals
- Maintain eye contact
- To be mindful of the private space of people.
- Use positive body language.
- To work with various points of view.
- Personal awareness skills that help to communicate include:
- Understand the advantages of a good mindset
- Awareness of how others see you
- Presentation — appropriate dressing for various occasions.
Speaking verbally to more people can bring great rewards to your establishment if it is carried out successfully, but it can also be harmful to your business if it is approached in the wrong way. The words you use are important, but the way you express them is just as crucial.
Using positive language
You are more likely to obtain positive results by using a positive, rather than a negative expression.
Positive language is positive and encouraging; it offers options and provides solutions to problems. This is a vocabulary that stresses constructive behaviour and the importance of consequence.
If you’re negotiating with a manufacturer who’s not willing to move on price, the way you speak should express a desire for a win-win scenario (i.e. a situation in which both parties can be satisfied). This will likely make your supplier more able to compromise (perhaps on issues other than quality, such as shipping costs or payment terms) than if you simply refuse to budge and accuse them of being rigid.
Using ‘I’ statements
‘I’ statements, rather than ‘you’ statements, frequently yield stronger outcomes when exchanging conversation both verbally over the telephone and face-to-face.
I’m going to need more information before I make a decision’ sounds a lot better than ‘You need to give me more details before I can decide.’ The reason the ‘I’ argument sounds nicer is that you’re saying what you need instead of telling the person what they should be doing.
Assertiveness Versus Aggression
Assertiveness (often with the use of ‘I’ statements) is what you’re planning on doing. Instead of coming off as offensive, you make a point about something that you believe or hear.
Aggression is entirely different and is typically viewed as offensive or unfriendly. The term ‘you’ is often used. A few individuals will get upset if you start telling them what to do simply because you’re telling them. Likewise, when talking to employees, it is wise to soften your language when requesting for them to complete tasks. They are much more likely to respond better to calm requests than to seemingly demanding orders.
Consistent assertiveness shows others that you are comfortable and open to suggestions, but will not be taken advantage of, leading to a mutually beneficial outcome.
Speaking style means the sound, rhythm, accent, volume and speed of your voice.
The same sentence can be interpreted and understood in entirely different ways, depending on the context in which it is spoken. People you talk to can be motivated by a positive style of speech, just in the same way they can be put off by negative speeches.
You should also strive to communicate in a positive voice — avoid monotonous responses, or speaking too quickly or too slowly. You should aim to be as clear as possible, and try to engage the listener, as this is much more likely to encourage the response that you are after than if they deflate the conversation.
The more you can find out about the needs, desires, preferences and circumstances of an individual, the easier it is to achieve win-win outcomes. You know more about people by asking them the right questions and taking the time to listen to their responses.
People often tend to react well when they feel like someone else is genuinely seeking their opinion, especially in a business situation where discussions may have important implications for both parties.
Types of questions
For any business scenario, you can use the following types of questions:
Open questions — questions that allow a person to clarify or explain, to help develop a relationship, and to enable them to open up. Well-chosen open questions encourage answers to questions you might not have thought about; for example, ‘How has your business developed over the last few years?
Closed questions—questions that require only a brief, concise answer, such as ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ such as ‘Are you satisfied with the proposal? ‘It is useful for finding out the facts, restricting or directing a conversation in a particular way, and gathering the relevant details from which you can create an open query.
Probing questions — more detailed questions intended to gain a more accurate interpretation of the other party’s view of the matter. For example, ‘How can I change my offer to make this proposal a win-win for both of us?
Confirmation questions — these are used when you need to be absolutely certain that the other person understands your message. ‘What benefits do you think this plan would bring to your company in the coming year?
Summary Confirmation Questions — used to explain the interpretation of the needs of the other party. For example: ‘Could I summarise what you just said to me so that I could verify if I understood you? You said you want a computer system that will allow you and your staff to complete their tasks in half a time, and train all your staff to use this new system?
Using questions in a conversation
Generally, when you use a range of question types in a conversation, you will have the most success. By using open and closed questions together, you can help guide a conversation and encourage the other party to contribute.
Using only open questions can lead to digression — a conversation that strays away from the course. If you use only closed questions, it can make it too easy for the answering party to agree or disagree. Yes or no. Closed questions are not good relations builders or conversation starters. It is therefore important to use both questions of both types because they only encourage basic responses.
Question styles to avoid
Some types of problems do not lend themselves well to business circumstances. These include the following:
Destructive Questions—’Are you saying this is my fault?
Leading or manipulative questions—’You’re going to have to do that tomorrow, right?
Multiple questions at once—’When are you going to want it? And don’t you want to do that?
Can’t you get it anywhere else? Asking this kind of query does little to improve your reputation or the ability to compromise properly.
Try To Listen Properly
It is one thing asking good questions — it’s another thing to actually take the answers on board. You will often be overwhelmed by your own thoughts, emotions and beliefs, and so you continue to only hear what you want to or, more often than not, what you expect to hear.
You’re always worried about your next step, or what you should say next, or you’re trying to guess where the other party could be heading. You’ll need to dissolve these internal thoughts and give your full attention to the person who is speaking in order to be able to listen effectively. Only then can you really understand what they mean?
Be An Active Listener
This involves paying attention to the person who is speaking — both verbal and non-verbal. For example, if you see them looking down or seem embarrassed in any way when they say, ‘That’s all I can tell you right now,’ you may deduce that they’re withholding details.
Being this type of active listener alerts you to the opportunity for an open or well-constructed question to gather missing information. If you don’t listen actively, it can be easy to miss such signs.
It’s important to ensure you don’t let your attention roam around. Essential pieces of information can be missed if you are not aware and engaged. It can lead to misunderstandings later on, or perhaps awkward circumstances where you seem to have misunderstood everything you’ve been told.
One way to help you centre your attention during a business discussion is to ask the speaker questions. Not only is this going to help you steer the conversation where you want it to be at, and at the rate you want it to be, it will also ensure that your mind is focused on the topic at hand.
Confirm your understanding
At the end of the day, active listening should lead to a complete understanding of what another person said. You will do that by talking back to them, in your own words, from your understanding what they said.
A simple way to do so is to clarify, paraphrase, or summarise. Examples of a summary question in such cases include:
‘And what you mean is …?
‘So, what do you need from me is …?
‘So, summarising what we agreed is …?
It’s usually a good idea to evaluate your understanding on a regular basis during a conversation. You may paraphrase or summarise:
When the other party has received a substantial volume of details
If anything is not obvious to you
Moving to a new area for discussion
At the end of the conversation.
Clarification is also a helpful technique when the other party seems to ask for a lot more information. If their questions are not well structured, too broad or vague, you might give too much information by answering them straight away. It’s always a good idea to understand a question before you answer it.
A major part of the way we communicate is through non-verbal signals in conversations. It includes the expression of the body, the way you smile at others during interactions, and the facial gestures you use.
Your Body Language
Your body language can back up all of the words you use and how you say those words, but it can also betray your true feelings if you’re uncomfortable in a conversation.
There are two main elements of body language to consider
Posture — It ‘s important how you sit or stand during a conversation. Your stance should be open. The body turned to face the other person whenever possible. Leaning forward slightly will show an obvious interest in what they say, and that you are actually listening to them.
Gesture — simple motions, such as nodding your head and spreading your hands, may have a positive impact on the conversation. During the conversation, you can move your hands to create a sense of animation about a subject, but be careful not to overdo it. Maintaining eye contact is really important.
See, negative body language creates a negative impression and tends to hinder progress. Someone looking at their watch, playing with their pen and doodling during the discussions, will come across as uninterested or uncooperative. This non-verbal interaction generates an impression of disinterest and can lead the discussion to fail or disintegrate.
Much offensive body language that you can stop includes:
- Fists clenched
- Pleated arms
- Eyes rolling
- Shrugs, shuffles
- Imitation of the behaviour of the other person
- Pointing finger.
You can easily learn positive body language by looking at how others conduct themselves during a conversation. Anything that seems positive is worth copying, while anything that repulses you in a conversation should be avoided.
Looking at people in the eye when speaking to them is a good way to let them know that you’re listening to them and that you’re interested in what they have to say. Eye contact can also express the sincerity and trust that is often important in business situations.
Not looking at the other person in the eye can indeed make you look uninterested, anxious, or even shifty. If someone starts to have negative views like this in a business situation, it can sometimes be hard to reverse them, so you should try to maintain eye contact and focus on whoever you’re talking to, whether they’re a customer, a client or an employee.
Of course, it’s necessary not to stare at them, inadvertently or otherwise.
Our faces are incredibly expressive and sometimes give away our feelings before we have a chance to explain what we’re thinking. It ‘s crucial to try to keep your facial expressions optimistic during a business conversation.
Smiling is very important — a simple, natural smile is known to help the other party relax during a conversation. Holding eye contact is also the key to success, as explained above.
Alleviate negative facial expressions, such as:
- frowning or scowling
Meeting new people and introducing yourself
Your first impression can be the difference between beginning a good business partnership or finishing with a one-off meeting. It’s really easy to make a bad first impression on others, even without realising that you did. It’s a lot harder to make a good impression, so you have to put some work into your introductions.
Making a good first impression
The way you introduce and show yourself gives people the first impression of you. Many people start forming an opinion within 3 seconds, and these opinions can be difficult to change.
When we introduce ourselves to others, we suggest that we’re interested in developing some kind of ongoing partnership for mutual benefit. There are three layers to our introductions:
Handshakes (often, but not always)
Moving to a conversation.
You ‘re more likely to recall a person whose hand you’ve shaken. There are four key incentives for handshaking:
When introduced to someone and when you say goodbye
If you run into someone you haven’t seen for a long time
When you enter a conference, and the members are introduced.
When you make an agreement or enter into an agreement.
The introduction will tell people who you are and invite them to connect with you. You need to sell yourself and feel comfortable when you’re doing so because that’s going to put others at ease.
When you introduce yourself, apart from your name, you should think of including:
Your job or your title
Your job, your company or your industry
A short overview of your business
A ‘memory hook’ (a quick, ear-catching phrase which people are more likely to remember)
A beneficial statement of a particular product or service that you provide.
The length of your intro will depend upon the situation of your introduction. It shouldn’t be too long, so it’s possible to incorporate other items, such as your company and your benefit statement.
Always try to speak clearly and smile, to make eye contact with the person you ‘re talking to. Using a bit of humour will make people more comfortable, but note that some forms of humour are offensive.
If the introduction does not go according to plan, cultural differences could be a factor. Every culture has its own way of meeting people in business situations, especially when its the first time.
Here are three examples of how the common business practises of other cultures contrast with those used in the United Kingdom:
In Brazil, an initial handshake is considered to be very important. A lot of small talks is likely to take place before the meeting begins properly, and the tone set here can be very relevant in the relationship growth process.
Meetings in Russia are always very formal, organised and intense. Most Russian negotiators agree that a formal meeting is a serious matter and should be handled accordingly. Humour is seldom seen in these serious circumstances.
Formal exchanges of business cards are conducted in China at the beginning of the first meeting. The respect you show to the card is equal to the respect you show to the individual.