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Business Communication Skills for Success

If you want to succeed at any job or business you need effective communication skills. Multiple kinds of research over time have found communication skills to be in the Top 3 essential skills for success. Great communicators are highly likely to command great influence and thus lead powerful and fulfilling lives.

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Good communications skills can help in:

  • Making the right first impression
  • Sharing ideas
  • Getting work done
  • Influencing people
  • Negotiating
  • Saying 'No'
  • Collaboration
  • Delivering Presentations

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Given all the great benefits it is important to continuously hone our communication skills. Assess your current communication skills and identify key areas of improvement. Decide on what areas you need to prioritize to work on and start with them. It is also important to have regular dip-sticks - checks for you to be able to assess your progress. This could be done in many ways - asking a friend to review you, reassess yourself after an important meeting or interview, take an online assessment, etc. 

Here are few useful tips for helping you out in strengthening your communication skills:

1. Positive Body Language

Our body starts communicating even before we start speaking from our mouth. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a Stanford professor, deduced that Non-verbals account for 93% of the impact we create when we communicate. Of this, 55% is Body Language, and 38% is Voice. Here are few things to keep in mind to maintain positive and impactful body language:

  • Smile
  • Make Eye contact
  • Keep arms open and avoid crossing them
  • Stand / Sit straight and face towards to person
  • Avoid pointing fingers
  • Lean forward a little
Mirror practice is by far the tried and tested way of increasing your self-awareness and improving your body language. All great actors do it.

2. Voice and its Impact

As quoted in the study above, vocal communication makes 38% of the impact. Some of the most influential and powerful personalities give excellent speeches by modulating their voice in the right ways. How can you increase your vocal communication? Keep these in mind:

  • Volume
  • Rate of Speech
  • Intonation
  • Tone
You can improve your voice by practicing some voice exercises. Try counting 1 to 10 in this way - inhale deeply through your nose, then while exhaling from the mouth count a number, and open your mouth completely, while stretching the jaw. This way of counting is very popular with theatre artists as they need to speak with strong voices in live performances.

3. Active Listening

Whenever communicating with someone, we usually tend to have a lot of things running in our minds. They could distract us from keeping the focus on listening to the other person. Also if the other person could make it out, it also makes a bad impression. People trust people who are good and active listeners, and not just good speakers.

There are 5 stages to Active Listening:

  • Body language
  • Paraphrasing & Asking Questions
  • Meaning & Reflection
  • Empathy
  • Action

I have written in detail about them in this article where I also share ways to improve your active listening skills through the above 5 stages.

4. Practice Empathy

Empathy is when you can feel what the other person feels. It is the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes. However, it is quite different from sympathy and apathy (know the difference here).

Excellent communicators and influencers can empathize. This helps them connect deeply with the other person. Through this connection, the level of understanding between the parties increases exponentially. Thus allowing for clear communication and long-term trust-building.

Empathy is what truly makes us human beings. Pay attention to this ability and you will end up making truly rewarding relationships with people.

5. Ask Questions Effectively

Imagine you are meeting 2 different people one after the other.

Person 1 you meet talks freely and shares a lot about themselves. In around 15 minutes of the conversation, this person ends up speaking 90% of the time.

Person 2 you meet starts by asking about your well-being. Then rather than first state their thoughts, this person asks you about yours. In this conversation, you end up speaking 60% of the time.

Now, which of the person above would you like to communicate with? Here the person 2 comes across as someone who can communicate well.

Asking questions helps one to
  • Get a better understanding
  • Move attention to the other person 
  • Make the other person feel valued
  • Clarify doubts
  • Avoid conversation roadblocks

You can ask both open-ended and closed-ended questions. Open-ended - how, why i.e. more detailed response-seeking questions, and close-ended - a single word or short response questions. And remember, questions should be about moving forward in the conversation, not about interrogating the other person. Unless that is what you intend to do!

6. Praise & Positivity

It is very easy to criticize. You throw a hat and there will be many people around you to tell you what you did wrong. However, a genuine communicator praises and appreciates others more often.

Also in business and the workplace, too much negativity can create a distrustful impression on others. It is important to keep a positive mindset and convey the same during conversations.

Think of different ways to look at people and situations - identify the positive and focus on that. Appreciation and praise uplift people. And who doesn't want to be around a person who uses these two quite often? Enthusiasm, positivity, and praise are more attractive traits than good looks.

7. Write persuasively

Written communication is part of our daily lives now more than ever - emails, texts, social media, chat tools. Often through our written communication, we convey confidence and 

  • Be crisp and concise
  • Write in a positive tone
  • Avoid anger
  • Review often before sending
  • Format and spell check

This skill of writing is often ignored when people think of good communication skills. However, when honed with time, it is one of the most powerful methods to help in getting work done and creating an impact.

8. Choose the right medium

Pinged someone on chat but they haven't responded yet? Wrote a detailed email and still seems the receiving person did not get the message? Network issues were too much during a phone call?

While it seems trivial, choosing the right medium of communication goes a long way in ensuring you convey or receive the message clearly and both parties are in sync.

Before starting to communicate, identify which medium would best serve your purpose. Have a fall-back medium in case the first one doesn't work. Here are my recommendations:

  • Face-to-face: first meetings, negotiations, brainstorming, problem-solving
  • Video call: similar to face-to-face
  • Phone call: courtesy calls, quick confirmations, back-up if f2f not possible
  • Email: Information sharing, documentation, one-to-many communication, time difference
  • Chat tools: casual connect, small queries, 

So let's get on with sharpening the saw of communication skills.

Do leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

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