Effective communication is at the heart of any successful business, regardless of size or industry.
In fact, everything in your business revolves around good communication, both internally (with your employees, collaborators, colleagues or team members) and externally (with your clients and customers).
Poor or lack of communication inevitably leads to misunderstandings, confusion and conflicts that affect productivity and professional relationships.
In today's diverse global business environment, effective communication skills will definitely set you apart from your peers and competitors.
Why is effective communication so important in business?
"Communication is your ticket to success if you pay attention and learn to do it effectively." - Theo Gold, Communication: The Communication Bible: Social Skills, Body Language, Influence, and Persuasion
According to the Towers Watson study, companies that are highly effective in change management and communications are three and a half times more likely to significantly outperform their competitors than companies that are not effective in these areas.
So why is effective communication so important in business? Consider the following factors:
It helps create an effective brand message
communication is forcreate an effective brandmessaging.The way your company communicates with customers(via your website, blog, social media, marketing emails, ads, or customer support channels) ultimately determines how they perceive your brand.
A clear, authentic, and consistent brand voice not only helps your audience better understand what you're selling and how they can benefit from it, but also allows you to build trust with customers.
Customer service depends on good communication
The quality of your customer service is directly related to how good your frontline employees are at communicating with customers, both verbally and non-verbally.
According to Microsoft's 2016 Global State of Customer Service Report60% of consumers have stopped doing business with a brand because of a poor customer service experience.
Effective communication is the foundation – without it, few other aspects of the customer experience will really matter.
It enables positive team relationships
Effective communication helps unite teams, build a positive workplace atmosphere, and encourage collaboration, leading to improved employee engagement, efficiency, and productivity.
When team leaders are truly effective communicators, they are able to have an open dialogue with other team members and create a safe environment in which to voice their concerns, opinions, and ideas without being closed off.
It helps to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts
Bad communication always leads to misunderstandings and conflicts. Unresolved or poorly navigated conflicts can damage or even destroy relationships with customers, employees or colleagues.
Although conflicts cannot always be avoided, they can be effectively managed and resolved without negative consequences.
In fact, efficient communication plays a key role in conflict management — it can help defuse a potentially explosive argument, while poor communication can set it off.
The 7 worst communication mistakes you can make and how to avoid them
TheCorporate Communications Survey 2016by Nextiva found that 63% of business professionals experience at least weekly communication issues with their clients, colleagues, or team that are preventing them from achieving their business goals.
A full quarter of respondents said communication issues have resulted in lost customers, and 13% of respondents said they lost colleagues as a result of these issues.
As these statistics show, communication problems within organizations can be costly when they lead to the loss of employees and customers.
Below are the 7 most dangerous "killers" to look out for when communicating with your customers, employees and colleagues, along with some proactive strategies to prevent them.
1. Using a one-size-fits-all communication approach
"To communicate effectively, we must recognize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use that understanding as a guide for our communication with others." - Toni Robbins
Communication is all aboutperception, i.e. the processing, interpretation, selection and ordering of information.
What you say is not necessarily what someone else hears, as the same message can be interpreted differently by different people.
How someone perceives your message depends on many factors such as culture, knowledge, past experiences, stereotypes, personality, communication style, preferences, emotional intelligence, mindset and more.
The fact is, no one thinks and perceives the world the same way you do. When it comes to communicating your brand to your audience, a one-size-fits-all approach definitely doesn't work anymore.
According to researchers from the London School of Economics and ESCP Europe Business School, some of the world's best-known brands fall into the trap of marketing their products globally while ignoring cross-cultural differences in consumer psychology.
As a result, they run the risk of not acquiring new customers from Eastern countries, since consumer psychology in the East is often very different from that in the West.
In workplace communication, this approach no longer fits so well. This is especially true for a multi-generational workforce, which is currently a major challenge for internal management communication.
Obviously, a seasoned professional in his 60's is unlikely to consume communications in the same way as a recent college graduate.
As a matter of fact,a study by Robert Half Management Resourcesrevealed that many managers still have work to do when it comes to communication, with 35% of workers saying that communication and diplomacy are the areas where managers need to improve the most.
In order to achieve better communication with employees, managers and leaders need to adapt their communication style to each age group.
Another study by Robert Half and Enactus found that baby boomers tend to be more reserved, while Gen Xers prefer a controlling and commanding style.
Conversely, Gen Y workers prefer a more collaborative approach to communication, and the youngest workers, Gen Z, prefer face-to-face interactions.
2. Talk more and listen less
"Talking more than necessary is a barrier to effective communication and effective listening." - Clodagh Swanson
Balanced speaking and listening is the foundation of effective communication.
However, most people tend to treat conversation like a competitive sport where the person who talks the most is the winner. But in reality, the person who talks the least benefits the most and the person who talks the most benefits the least.
Why this? Take a look at some of the benefits of speaking less and listening more:
- You will think more before you speak
- You can better process what the other is talking about
- They only say what is important
- You won't say anything you'll regret later
- You have all the facts before you make a decision
- You can get to know others better
- Your customers/employees/colleagues will appreciate being heard and understood
According to theHarvard Business Review, there are 3 levels of listening:
- inner listening(focused on own thoughts, concerns and priorities)
- focused listening(You can focus on the other person, but you still can't fully connect with them) and
- 360 listening.
The latter is what every business leader should strive for. With 360 Listening, you don't just listenWassomeone says, but alsoHowthey say it and above all what they arenotSaying.
Listening can be a challenging skill to master.
Below are some helpful tips to develop your listening skills and improve your business communication:
- Face the speaker and maintain eye contact
- Listen without distractions and interruptions
- Remember to listen actively
- Pay attention to what is not being said - to non-verbal cues
- Listen with the intention of really understanding
- Try to put yourself in their shoes
- Listen without judging or mentally criticizing the other person
- Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions
- Don't try to offer an immediate solution
- Give the speaker consistent responses to show you're paying attention
3. Assumptions instead of asking further questions
"The most important thing in communication is to hear what is not said." - Peter Drucker
Effective communication depends heavily on the ability to receive the messages sent to you. Making quick assumptions instead of asking more questions is a big communication mistake in business.
If you need clarification for a better understanding – just ask for it. People are usually happy to enlighten when they see you making the effort to fully listen.
On the other hand, don't assume that everyone perfectly understood the message YOU wanted to convey - always take the time to follow up and confirm understanding.
Some of the most successful companies and brands are those that have a deep understanding of their customers and their needs, not just through "big data" analysis, but by asking questions through surveys or focus groups, speaking to them in person, over the phone , email or social media channels.
When you engage with your customers, whether in person or through your marketing communications, ask them what they expect from you, how you can improve your product or service, and enrich their experience.
Likewise, corporate communications executives and managers often steer their teams on autopilot, assuming they know what their people are doing and what they are thinking. Here are some of thegreat examples of questions to ask your employeesto get to know and understand them better and to improve engagement:
- Do you know what exactly you should do to help the company achieve its goals?
- Do you have enough information to make the right decisions about your work?
- How can I help you to do your job better?
- What bothers you about your job?
- If there's one thing you would change at work, what would it be?
- What is holding you or the team back?
- Why did this error happen and what can be done differently next time?
4. Use of negative tone
“10% of conflicts are due to disagreements. 90% wrong tone of voice.” - Unknown.
Sound is naturally present in every form of communication. It is reflected in the way you phrase your message and the words you use.
Paying attention to your tone is especially important when it comes to written communication, where there is no voice, facial expression, or body language to convey intent or emotion behind a message.
Words alone can carry a certain tone, and by choosing your words more carefully, you eliminate negative reactions.
Check out these 10 tips to avoid negative tones in your business communications:
- Be friendly but maintain an appropriate level of professionalism
- Avoid negative words as much as possible
- Use positive language to convey negative messages
- Use antonyms to remove the word "not".
- Use Passive instead of Active to soften the tone
- Use non-discriminatory language
- Don't break the negative news right at the beginning or end of the conversation
- Focus on what can be done instead of what can't be done
- Avoid lengthy explanations and focus on the solution
- For written communications, always read before clicking send
In the work environment, avoiding negative tones when communicating with employees/colleagues can help leaders and managers avoid conflict and improve engagement.
Look at the following statement:
“The project deadline ends in two days. There is still a lot to do and we don't have much time left. You have to put in more effort and put in extra hours from now on.”
Now consider this:
“Our project deadline is Wednesday. I know how hard you worked on this. I hope you will continue to do your best to make this project a success.”
While the meaning is the same, the tone makes a big difference.
5. Avoid difficult conversations
"Be brave enough to start an important conversation." - Margaret Wheatley
Nobody likes to have difficult conversations that could lead to conflict, and it might be tempting to avoid them.
Whether itDealing with angry customers, firing someone, giving negative feedback, apologizing for a mistake, or delivering bad news, many people choose avoidance as often as possible.
However, it is far worse to allow a problem to fester as it could potentially cause further damage. When you learn to deal directly with your emotions, you can minimize anxiety and handle difficult conversations more easily.
How to Stop Avoiding Difficult Conversations?
Here are some steps you can take:
- Ask yourself what does it cost if you don't have the conversation?
- Ask yourself what are you really trying to avoid? The other person's reaction or your own emotional work?
- Practice managing your emotions and being patient.
- Look at a difficult conversation as an opportunity to do business better or be a more effective manager/leader.
- Don't assume the worst and focus on a positive outcome.
How to master difficult conversations with customers:
- Be well prepared and stick to the facts, take responsibility.
- Choose the right place/customer service channel to have the conversation.
- Let your customer know right away that you've identified the problem and are working to fix it.
- Look at the situation from the customer's point of view, show empathy and understanding.
- If necessary, apologize sincerely and without beating about the bush.
- Maintain a calm and professional tone while remaining assertive.
- Don't give up honesty hoping to meet customer's requests.
How to master difficult conversations with employees:
- Don't hesitate—especially if the issue is negatively impacting the team or the organization.
- Do your homework - the more prepared you are, the better the interview should go.
- Arrange a private meeting and think about the most suitable place in a relaxed environment.
- Watch your attitude and language - be positive, respectful and non-confrontational.
- Leave your emotions at the door so they don't take over and block your rational side.
- Make sure your criticism is always constructive and very specific.
- End the conversation by agreeing on clear goals with a co-worker.
6. React, don't react
“When you react, you let others control you. When you react, you are in control.” — Bohdi Sanders
Reacting instead of reacting is a big mistake in business communication, especially when dealing with angry and disappointed customers, colleagues or employees.
A reaction doesn't consider the long-term effects of what you say or do, and very often it's something you'll regret later. Answering, on the other hand, is more thoughtful and is predominantly guided by logic and reasoning.
It is extremely important for customer service representatives to be able to control impulsive reactions when dealing with frustrated customers and to know how to respond appropriately.
What is the difference between reacting and responding?
- The reaction is immediate - the reaction takes time.
- The response is driven by the beliefs, inclinations, and biases of the subconscious—the response is based on information from both the conscious and subconscious.
- The reaction is emotionally charged - the reaction is the result of thoughtfulness, reflection and deliberation.
- The response is often aggressive - the response allows for assertiveness without aggression.
- A reaction usually provokes further reactions - a reaction usually provokes a discussion that leads to conflict resolution.
Learning how to shift from reaction to reaction in conflict situations will greatly improve your business communication skills and help you better manage conflict.
The key is to practice mindfulness, which allows you to monitor your automatic reactions so you can stop them before they become distracting. Most people have probably heard of the old trick of counting to 10 before speaking.
While this is a pretty clichéd example, the basic concept is right – instead of reacting immediately, pay attention, pause, take a deep breath, recognize the damage your reaction could do, and then begin to consciously craft a thoughtful response.
7. Don't stay open
"You can never be a great success without an open mind." - Martha Stewart
After all, narrow-mindedness can negatively affect business communications and even ruin your relationships with customers or employees.
Narrow-minded people tend to spend more time talking than listening, tend to ignore opposing viewpoints and beliefs, are quick to jump to judgments and conclusions, and are generally unwilling to consider new ideas and opinions.
On the other hand, those who are open-minded easily accept people from different backgrounds and respect their differences, understand others better, listen without judgment, and consider all sides when an issue is raised before jumping to conclusions.
Benefits of open-mindedness in business communication
- Open-minded people are better leaders, more effective communicators and collaborators.
- They are good listeners, have a higher tolerance and are more patient when communicating with others.
- You can easily build trust and engagement with employees, team members, and customers, regardless of their diversity.
- Because they can easily see things from different perspectives, they are better problem solvers and decision makers in conflict situations.
How to become an open minded person
Tokeep an open mindIn your business communication, you need to work on it strategically because it is not a coincidence. Here are some tips to help you achieve that:
- Practice being an active and engaged listener without interrupting or delving into your own thoughts.
- Challenge your thinking by adopting different viewpoints, perspectives and beliefs.
- If you come to a conclusion quickly, ask yourself if it's 100% true, don't limit yourself to the fact that this one thought is the only right one.
- Evaluate your options from every angle, rather than being biased towards a particular way of looking at things.
- Generate several good choices to choose from instead of settling for the first answer that comes to mind.
- Broaden your horizons by continuing your education and constantly expanding your knowledge.
over to you
Communication errors can obviously have many serious negative consequences for a company. They can damage your reputation, destroy relationships with employees, colleagues or customers, and result in missed opportunities and lost revenue.
Luckily, as Brian Tracy says“Communication is a skill that can be learned. It's like riding a bike or typing. If you are willing to work at it, you can quickly improve the quality of all areas of your life.”
Is YOUR company guilty of any of these communication errors? What other obstacles can stand in the way of effective business communication? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
About the author:
Mary Shulzhenko is a digital marketer, content strategist, and copywriter. She is passionate about writing about customer service, customer experience, small business, marketing and a variety of other business topics. It provides the original content forLiveAgent, an award-winning and 2018 top-rated helpdesk software for SMBs. You can find them underLinkedIn.
The seven C's of communication is a list of principles that you should ensure all of your communications adhere to. Their purpose is to help ensure that the person you're communicating with hears what you're trying to say. The seven C's are: clear, correct, complete, concrete, concise, considered and courteous.What are the 7 barriers to effective communication? ›
- Semantic barriers.
- Psychological barriers.
- Organisational barriers.
- Cultural barriers.
- Physical barriers.
- Physiological barriers.
- Crossing our arms and leaning back. ...
- Speaking loudly and quickly. ...
- Bringing up the past. ...
- Defending our feelings. ...
- Judging another's feelings. ...
- Interrupting the other person. ...
- Ignoring the other person. ...
- Blaming someone for our feelings.
To ensure that you communicate most efficiently and engagingly as possible and thereby enhance your productivity at work, you need to follow the 7 Cs of effective communication: Clear, Correct, Complete, Concise, Concrete, Coherent, and Courteous.What are the 7 components of communication? ›
- Sender. The sender is the person who is trying to communicate a message. ...
- Receiver. ...
- Message. ...
- Channel. ...
- Noise. ...
- Feedback. ...
- Linguistic Barriers.
- Psychological Barriers.
- Emotional Barriers.
- Physical Barriers.
- Cultural Barriers.
- Organisational Structure Barriers.
- Attitude Barriers.
- Perception Barriers.
- Work environment.
- People's attitudes and emotional state.
- Time zone and geography.
- Distractions and other priorities.
- Cultures and languages.
Co-ordination in work is not one of the seven C's of effective communication. The seven C's of communication involves: clarity, completeness, conciseness, concreteness, courtesy, correctness and consider.What is bad business communication? ›
Poor communication often creates a tense environment where people are not motivated to be productive and not inspired to collaborate. This lack of motivation then affects how employees relate to clients and potential customers, negatively affecting the bottom line.What are the 5 do's and don'ts in communication according to communication strategies? ›
- Do: Have a strong communication plan. ...
- Don't: Depend on technology for communication. ...
- Do: Understand your audience. ...
- Don't: Use negative body language. ...
- Do: Be consistent. ...
- Don't: Overshare. ...
- Do: Listen actively. ...
- Don't: Be afraid to ask questions.
- We assume that others should know. ...
- We panic. ...
- We seek attention in regrettable ways. ...
- We sulk.
Jim Stull came up with what they call the 7 C's of Communication. While they were originally designed for the written word, they can be adapted for all types of communication.How important are the 7 C's in effective communication? ›
The purpose of the 7Cs is to provide a simple framework for people to follow when they're wanting to improve or maintain good communication skills. Having seven words beginning with the same letter makes the concepts much easier to remember.Why are the 7 C's of communication so important? ›
The 7 C's of communication is a checklist that helps to improve your professional communication skills and increases the chance that your message/what you are trying to say will be understood in exactly the same way as it was intended.What are the 7 steps of the communication process? ›
- Developing the Message.
- Encoding the Message.
- Selecting the Channel.
- Message Transmission.
- Decoding the Message.
- Learning Effective Communication.
1) Sender; 2) Objective; 3) Message; 4) Dispatching; 5) Time-Place Factor; 6) Medium; 7) Reception; 8) Receiver; 9) Understanding; and 10) Response.What are the 4 main communication barriers? ›
Let's explore four categories of barriers to effective communication in the workplace (language barriers, inclusion barriers, cultural barriers, and environmental barriers).What are the 12 barriers to communication? ›
These include filtering, selective perception, information overload, emotional disconnects, lack of source familiarity or credibility, workplace gossip, semantics, gender differences, differences in meaning between Sender and Receiver, and biased language. Let's examine each of these barriers.What causes communication problems in the workplace? ›
- Lack of a clear objective.
- Bad grammar.
- Failing to ensure comprehension.
- Poor workplace morale.
- A stressful work environment.
- Misunderstandings and conflicts.
- Active listening.
- Establish clear expectations.
- checking whether it is a good time and place to communicate with the person.
- being clear and using language that the person understands.
- communicating one thing at a time.
- respecting a person's desire to not communicate.
- checking that the person has understood you correctly.
Typical communication stoppers include criticizing, blaming, ordering, judging, or shaming the other person. Some examples of things to avoid saying include the following: Telling the other person what to do: “You must…”What are 3 barriers to effective communication in the workplace? ›
Lack of attention, interest and distractions to the person listening. Differences in perception and viewpoint. Physical disabilities such as hearing problems or speech difficulties. Differences in language and unfamiliar accents.What are the ABCs of communication? ›
The ABCs of effective and clear communication are accuracy, brevity, and clarity. When you focus on these three elements, you'll be able to emphasize one specific message at a time, making it easier to understand and elicit a clear response.What are the 9 elements of communication? ›
The elements of communication include 9 essential elements: sender, encoding, message, channel, receiver, decoding, response, feedback, and noise.What is an example of poor communication at workplace? ›
Intentionally using email and memos to communicate exclusively without ever speaking face to face with someone in the office is a form of the problem. Purposely avoiding a project or working with someone on a specific task without providing reasoning is also a form of passive-aggressive behavior in the workplace.What are 4 consequences of poor communication? ›
Stress, missed expectations, breakdowns in relationships, and unsatisfied clients are all effects of poor communication and indicate a problem in the workplace that needs to be addressed.What are two examples of poor communications? ›
- Avoiding Eye Contact. ...
- Not Listening. ...
- Interrupting. ...
- Using Verbal Placeholders. ...
- Negativity. ...
- Gossiping. ...
- Not Responding to Email. ...
- Lacking Contact Info in Signature Line.
We recommend treating the 5 Cs of communication as a checklist. Remembering to be clear, cohesive, complete, concise, and concrete when communicating will help improve your writing.What are the 7 types of communication strategies? ›
- Understand the Full Spectrum of Communication Skills. ...
- Talk in Person. ...
- Encourage Participation in Speaking-Focused Organizations. ...
- Focus on Listening. ...
- Ask Open-Ended Questions. ...
- Pay Attention to Body Language and Tone of Voice.
There are five key barriers that can occur within a company: language, cultural diversity, gender differences, status differences and physical separation. These barriers to communication are specific items that can distort or prevent communication within an organization.
Cultural, physical, emotional and personality barriers are among the key factors that can hinder effective communication.What are the 5 communication situation? ›
The five types of communication you need to know about are verbal communication, nonverbal communication, written communication, visual communication, and listening.What are 10 mistakes managers can make? ›
- Not Providing Feedback. ...
- Not Making Time for Your Team. ...
- Being Too "Hands-Off" ...
- Being Too Friendly. ...
- Failing to Define Goals. ...
- Misunderstanding Motivation. ...
- Hurrying Recruitment. ...
- Not "Walking the Walk"
- Mistake #1: Failing to Keep a To-Do List. ...
- Mistake #2: Not Setting Personal Goals. ...
- Mistake #3: Not Prioritizing. ...
- Mistake #4: Failing to Manage Distractions. ...
- Mistake #5: Procrastination. ...
- Mistake #6: Taking on Too Much. ...
- Mistake #7: Thriving on “Busy” ...
- Mistake #8: Multitasking.
- Lack of communication. ...
- Performance issues. ...
- Lack of employee recognition. ...
- Lack of transparency in leadership. ...
- Motivation and engagement levels. ...
- Conflict management.
- Dissatisfaction or Disinterest With One's Job. ...
- Inability to Listen to Others. ...
- Lack of Transparency & Trust. ...
- Communication Styles (when they differ) ...
- Conflicts in the Workplace. ...
- Cultural Differences & Language.
There are some common barriers of communication including irrelevance to the receiver, lack of attention and interest, distractions, physical disabilities such as speech difficulties or hearing problems, differences in perception and viewpoint, and physical barriers to non-verbal communication.What are the 9 ways to overcome the barriers to effective communication? ›
- checking whether it is a good time and place to communicate with the person.
- being clear and using language that the person understands.
- communicating one thing at a time.
- respecting a person's desire to not communicate.
- checking that the person has understood you correctly.
1 Beyond the outdated psychological contract, the nine barriers to conversations are inattention during conversations, restricted information channels, lack of feedback, a culture of not asking questions, too much formality, overreliance on email, lack of role models, a fear of emotion, and physical office lay-out.What are the 4 barriers to communication? ›
Let's explore four categories of barriers to effective communication in the workplace (language barriers, inclusion barriers, cultural barriers, and environmental barriers).
Communication barriers are anything within your organization that prevents people from receiving or understanding messages, ideas, and information. These barriers can also prevent messages from being sent effectively, causing a disconnect within the company.