Good communication skills are essential in any business. You need to get your point across effectively, both verbally and in writing to build better relationships with clients and employees and resolve conflicts more effectively.
But while some people are naturally gifted communicators, the rest of us must work a little harder to hone our skills.
If you’re in the second category, read this article to learn seven effective ways to improve your communication skills as a business owner.
Any business owner worth their salt knows that communication skills are key, both with employees and customers. However, effective communication is more than just talking.
It’s also about listening.
What is active listening, though?
This skill involves paying attention to what the other person is saying, both verbally and non-verbally, and then responding in a way that shows you understand. This may seem common sense, but many fail to do it properly.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say one of your employees tries to talk you into giving them a raise, and you don’t have the money. They give you a long list of reasons they deserve more money, and you shoot down their idea at the end of their spiel.
This is an example of passive listening. You’re not paying attention to what they need; at most, you’re “listening” for things that would prove your point in their speech.
Listening actively means paying attention to their reasons and asking follow-up questions. You also consider their non-verbal cues, like body language and tone of voice. At the end of the conversation, you might say,
“I see this raise is important because you need to feel more valued and evolve professionally. We do not have the necessary funds for a raise now, but would you consider X or Y instead?”
These alternatives can be more flexible time or accessing a professional development course, or whatever you think your employee might like.
Active listening has several important benefits for businesses:
- It builds rapport and trust between employees and bosses.
- It allows for better two-way communication, which is essential for problem-solving and decision-making.
- It can resolve conflict before it escalates.
In today’s competitive business world, those who can master the art of active listening will be well ahead of the game. Here’s how to hone this skill:
- Make eye contact and keep an open body posture to show that you’re interested and invested in the conversation.
- Repeat what you’ve heard to ensure you’ve understood it correctly.
- Ask questions if there’s anything you’re unclear about.
- Try to find solutions and compromises instead of arguments that support your point of view.
Anyone who’s ever been in a business meeting knows that not everyone likes to talk. In fact, some people seem to go out of their way to avoid saying anything at all.
While it’s tempting to dismiss these people as introverts or shy, the truth is that they may have a lot to say if given the opportunity.
That’s why one of the best ways to improve your communication skills as a business owner is to let everyone talk. Not only will this help you better understand the perspectives of others, but it will also give you a chance to practice your active listening skills.
Plus, you may be surprised at the creative solutions they come up with.
But just like a school teacher can tend to favour the extroverts or fall prey to their tendency to monologue, business owners can do it too.
Here’s how to avoid that:
- Encourage questions: Make it clear that you value questions and feedback from your employees. Encourage employees to speak up rather than sit quietly listening to you.
- Keep it short: No one wants to listen to someone ramble on endlessly. Get to the point and then open up the floor for discussion.
- Be engaging: Make eye contact, use facial expressions, and vary your vocal tone to keep your employees engaged in the conversation.
- Name names: If some people constantly refuse to speak up, call them out by name. This will encourage them to participate next time.
Body language is a powerful tool that can be used to improve communication and collaboration in the workplace.
Just as important as what you say is how you say it.
Your body language can convey confidence, interest, openness, insecurity, boredom, and hostility. Using your body language effectively can help you connect with your employees better and build trust.
There are a few simple guidelines you can follow to make sure your body language is sending the right message:
- Make eye contact: This shows interest and engagement in the conversation.
- Smile: A genuine smile conveys warmth and openness.
- Lean in: This shows interest in the other person’s words.
- Use open body language: Avoid crossing your arms or legs, making you seem closed off.
The tone of your voice is just as important as the words you use when communicating with your employees or business partners.
A harsh, judgmental, or condescending tone will only alienate and anger the other person. On the other hand, a warm, friendly, and respectful tone will make the other person feel valued and appreciated.
Learning to use the right tone can be the difference between a productive conversation and a heated argument.
Here’s what you can do:
- Avoid using harsh words: Even if you’re feeling frustrated, try to use respectful and constructive language.
- Use a calm tone: This will help diffuse any tension or emotion that might be running high.
- Be sincere: Sincerity can be conveyed through your tone, so make sure that what you’re saying matches how you’re saying it.
Aggressive communication is not just what you might think (i.e., swearing, yelling, or being openly rude). How you express an opinion or wish can seem aggressive, even if that’s not your original intention.
Here’s an example:
If you’re communicating a short deadline to an employee and say, “I need this by tomorrow,” that can come across as aggressive.
A better way to communicate the same message would be to say:
“I need this by tomorrow. How can I help you achieve this? What resources do you need to accomplish this by that time?”
Or imagine a business partner coming to you with a new business proposal. Based on your experience and intuition, you know that opportunity isn’t very valuable.
Now you only have a few minutes at your disposal, so you won’t get the chance to explain to them at length your arguments.
- An aggressive way to communicate your response would be cutting them short: “Nope, not gonna work, sorry, we’ll talk later.”
- By comparison, the right way to respond would be, “That’s an interesting proposal. Let me think about it and get back to you soon.” Then, set up a meeting and allow them to present their proposal at length. This way, you’re showing that you respect their idea even if you don’t agree with it and that you’ll take the time to provide a well-thought-out response.
- Practice active listening to identify the good things you can take from their presentation. Remember to keep an open mind throughout that meeting.
- That way, even if you shoot down their original plan, you can find some good things to build on later.
Here’s how to achieve non-aggressive communication:
- Avoid using absolutes: Words like “never” or “always” are often seen as aggressive. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” try, “I feel like I’m not being heard.”
- Use “I” statements: This will help avoid sounding accusatory. For example, instead of saying, “You’re being unreasonable,” try, “I have a hard time understanding your point of view because of X and Y.”
- Avoid judgmental language: This will only put the other person on the defensive. For example, instead of saying, “That’s a useless idea,” try, “I’m not sure if that’s the best solution now because of X and Y. But I see you want to achieve A and B. Let’s think about other ways on how we can build on what you just said.”
- Be aware of your tone: As we mentioned before, the way you say something can be just as important as the words you use. Avoid sounding condescending, judgmental, or angry. Instead, try to communicate calmly and sincerely.
If you want to learn more about effective communication, you can take plenty of classes. Whether you’re looking to improve your communication skills in the workplace or in personal relationships, taking a class can give you the tools and knowledge you need to communicate effectively.
Some communication classes focus on specific topics, such as public speaking or conflict resolution. Others may provide a more general overview of communication principles.
There are even some communication certification programs available if you’re interested in pursuing a more advanced level of study.
Regardless of your class, you’ll likely come away with a better understanding of communicating effectively. And that can make a difference in your personal and professional life. You can also participate in networking events or launch a business podcast to put your new skills into practice!
If you’re serious about improving your business communication skills, you may consider hiring a communication coach. A communication coach can help you:
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
- Develop a plan to improve your communication skills.
- Provide you with feedback and support as you work to improve your communication skills.
- Help you practice specific skills, such as public speaking or giving presentations.
- Assist you in becoming a top niche influencer on Instagram or any other social platform that matters for your business.
- Offer guidance on how to handle difficult conversations or challenging situations.
Effective communication skill is essential in both our personal and professional lives in business.
Improving your communication skills helps you build better relationships, boost your career, and positively impact those around you.
This article discussed seven ways to improve your communication skills depending on the matter you need to work on.
Regardless of your sore spots, remember that practice makes perfect. The more you communicate, the better you’ll become at it. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and start practising today.