Three Habits Of Highly Effective Communicators
Updated: Jul 6, 2021
One of the most important skills business professionals can master is communication. No matter what industry you work in and no matter what your role is, effective communication in business is key.
Let's be honest, though: Becoming a master at effective communication in business takes serious work. No matter how carefully you choose your words, communication breakdowns are going to happen. That's because all of us think a little bit differently, and all of us communicate things a little bit differently. While it's impossible to avoid these blunders completely, there are things you can do to reduce the number of communication mishaps that occur and resolve them when they do.
It's also important to note that becoming performing effective communication in business is about more than just mitigating misunderstandings. Using the right words, you can gather information about your clients and customers that helps you strengthen those relationships, build rapport and increase your likeability.
As the longtime CEO of a debt collection agency, I have been involved in some of the most difficult conversations on the planet. I have also seen how the right words can turn challenging and uncomfortable conversations into positive ones. I want to share with you three traits I believe all strong communicators possess and how you can apply them to become a better communicator today.
1. Effective Communicators Listen
Powerful and effective communication in business starts with deep listening. For some people, this is easier said than done. I get it: It's incredibly challenging to listen to someone who is saying something that doesn't align with your feelings about a situation. I also believe many of us enter conversations with our own biases and agendas, which can hamper our ability to keep an open mind and truly consider what other people are saying.
But to build long-lasting relationships and resolve conflicts, it's imperative you make a constant effort to be a good listener and ensure the people you're talking to feel heard and understood. Not only does this help you gather important information and avoid misunderstandings but also I've seen throughout my career that the more I'm able to make other people feel heard, the more receptive those people are to what I'm saying.
One technique that has helped me improve my listening skills is challenging myself to repeat what other people have said to me. This forces me to listen closely to every word. It also signals to others that I've heard them.
2. Effective Communicators in Business Focus on Solutions
One of the biggest mistakes I hear business professionals make is to only tell people what they can't do for them. If you've been the customer or client in this scenario, you know how frustrating this can be.
The reason this is such a big problem is that when we only tell someone what we can't do for them, we could make that person feel unimportant and unvalued. If someone asks you for something you don't have an answer to or is outside of your company's policy, your instinct as a business professional might be to immediately go to the facts, inform that person why you can't help them, and move along to the next thing. While this might feel relieving to you, it leaves the other person feeling annoyed and stuck.
While I don't expect you to be able to meet every customer or client's exact request, I believe there is usually something you can do, and focusing on that is key.
For example, I was once working with a bridal store, and the owner mentioned she had a bride who believed the wrong color dress was ordered when she saw her dress in person for the first time. It was the correct color, but it didn't live up to the bride's expectations. Instead of having the store's employees tell the bride that was the color she ordered, we decided to reframe the conversation to ensure the bride felt heard and to focus on what could be done. Luckily, the store owner was able to speak with the designer and could get the dress in a different color quickly, so the owner told the bride, "I can understand the dress color isn't what you thought it would be. The great news is, we are able to get you the dress in a new color."
To help your team get in the habit of talking in terms of solutions, I urge you to start by preparing responses to your most common customer and client pain points. Planning out your responses can give you the time and clarity you need to brainstorm solutions, which is something that's difficult to achieve when you're in the middle of an already-tense conversation.
3. Effective Communicators Choose Their Words Carefully
This one pretty much goes without saying. Effective communication in business involves being careful with words. They approach every conversation and every phrase as an opportunity to create a connection or disconnection. As Maya Angelou famously said,
"People will never forget how you made them feel."
We must consider the feelings our words create.
I understand this isn't always easy. You've probably been in a conversation that got out of control quickly, even when you thought you were being polite and not doing anything to anger the person with whom you were speaking.
When you're in the middle of a heated conversation, it can be hard to determine what went wrong and how to get the conversation back on track.
What can help is understanding what creates conflict and what creates a connection in the first place.
For example, I've found that using positive language, such as, "I can understand your frustration," and, "What I can do for you is..." allows customers and clients to relax, communicates you have their best interest in mind, and creates connection.
On the other hand, using negative language such as, "No," "Can't," and, "Unfortunately," can cause people to stop listening and disconnect.
Your Master Communication Skills Await
Becoming a master communicator takes time and constant effort, and you can start by applying these habits.
The great news is, I have a made-for-you 3-step communication strategy that will help you develop each of these habits. Check out The Communication Code for Customer Service today!
This post was originally published on Forbes.com. You can find the original version here.