The Green Sheet Online Edition
July 28, 2008 • Issue 08:07:02
The ability to communicate effectively is the key to success in life. It is a skill essential to all business and personal relationships. Every transaction between individuals requires some form of communication whether face to face, via telephone, by written documents or through the Internet. Communication always has an impact and can build or destroy relationships.
To be certain we share an understanding of what communication entails, I turned to Webster's II New College Dictionary. It defines communication as "the exchange of ideas, messages or information." Webster further defines oral as "spoken rather than written," and written as "to form (for example, a word) by inscribing letters or symbols on a surface."
What is a good communicator?
Good communicators share common characteristics They:
- Build strong relationships with clients, customers, employers, employees and peers
- Understand others and use their skills to achieve the results they seek
- Articulate their goals and create strategies to achieve them
- Understand the needs of clients and customers and overcome objections easily
- Build high-performing teams and achieve top-notch success
- Are perceived as leaders within their industry
According to WikiAnswers (http://wiki.answers.com), a good communicator is someone who knows fundamentally that putting in time to ask the right questions and really listen to the answers is never wasted.
Good communicators have the ability to:
- Listen well
- Think clearly
- Comprehend written and spoken language
- Use good memory tools
- Express ideas clearly in words
- Write succinctly and competently
- Interpret nonverbal cues
- Respect other parties to interactions
- Win the trust of people in all walks of life
What about style?
Several elements contribute to a person's oral communication style:
- Ability to listen
- Content, including accuracy, thoroughness and conciseness
- Word choice
- Voice, including volume, tone, sound and speed
- Body language (or nonverbal cues)
- Grammar usage
Paying attention to these elements will help you become a more effective communicator. Many of these same elements apply to written communication as well. The additional features of written style are:
- Appearance of the document, including the paper, font size and style, margin size, and spacing
- Completeness of the document
- Brevity of expression
- Ease of comprehension
Again, paying attention to the details assures you are conveying your message effectively.
How can I improve?
There will always be barriers to good communication. Muddled messages, inconsistency in the information presented, poor grammar, general misunderstanding of word usage, lack of good listening skills and a failure to ask clarifying questions are just some of the obstacles you may need to overcome.
Here are some tips to help improve your communication skills:
- When speaking, maintain eye contact to show interest and to hold attention.
- Use standard English wherever possible. Be careful in using slang, colloquialisms, or regional dialects or sayings.
- Use correct grammar.
- Articulate clearly. Do not mumble.
- If you are uncertain how to pronounce a word, select another word. It is embarrassing to mispronounce a word or use an incorrect word.
- To add interest, vary both the tone and pitch of your voice, as well as the speed with which you deliver your words.
- Be careful that your tone of voice reflects enthusiasm and not aggression. A positive outlook, pleasant pitch and appropriate volume will help you appear more intelligent and energetic.
- Verify all names - twice. Business owners are always impressed when you call them by name and know their distinct business names and activities.
- Be businesslike and professional. Unless you have a personal relationship with someone, do not discuss controversial issues such as religion, politics or other hot topics.
- Until given permission to use a person's given name, refer to customers and prospects as Mr., Mrs. or Ms.
- Refrain from using curse words, racial slurs, sexist comments or other inappropriate remarks.
Can old habits be broken?
Some habits that detract from the quality of communication are ingrained and difficult to break. But there are several things you can do to improve your skills:
- Ask for feedback. Contact a peer, mentor, friend or family member you trust, and ask the person to critique your speech patterns and habits or to review written documents. Listen carefully to your helper's comments and suggestions and implement recommendations.
- Video tape or audio tape yourself. Then watch or listen to yourself, and make adjustments as necessary.
- Take a class. English 101 at a local university, community or technical college can be a good resource as you work to improve your skills.
- Hire a tutor. Many local college and university students need additional income. An English major or a graduate student can really help you in developing top-notch communication skills.
- Buy a book. Internet bookseller Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) generated 25,559 hits when I searched for "learning English" just now.
In the payment processing industry, every transaction requires some level of communication. As you evaluate your business effectiveness, take time to assess your communication skills. Do not let poor communication keep you from building long-term success for your business.
Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 601-310-3594.
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