Have you ever sat in a meeting with a person and had no idea what they were trying to tell you? Maybe you have met with someone who had the ability to make an important decision, and you found yourself talking around in circles or arguing both sides of the point?
Clear, concise communication is a challenge for many people. It can be difficult to frame conversations to influence without appearing too forceful, just as it can be difficult to convince without sounding authoritative or demanding.
Learning a few simple techniques can help anyone to become more effective in their communication to influence, create buy-in and to ensure your message has been received the way it was intended. To help you to get started, here are some simple but very effective strategies to improve your communication:
- Have a clear message – one of the biggest sources of ineffective messages is simply not knowing what you needed to say. In business communication, having a general conversation and seeing what comes up is not going to provide the information needed for the other person to gather facts and to make a decision. By having a clear picture in your head about what you want to say, why you need to say it and what you want the other person to do helps to frame the communication and keep it on track.
- Listen first – one of the major problems in business conversations is making assumptions about what the other person is thinking. Before having a meaningful and clear conversation, it is essential to understand the issue. Asking questions and allowing the other person to provide information is critical to being able to continue the conversation and create meaningful exchanges of ideas.
- Keep it simple (KISS principle) – do not complicate a statement with a lot of unnecessary facts, details, examples or explanations. Boil down the essence of what you want to say into one sentence or a couple of short sentences. Think of this as a headline – it has to provide context and meaning, but it is not meant to tell the whole story.
- Read the other person – recognizing the signs of frustration, defensiveness, overwhelm or disconnect in the other person is essential. A statement that identifies this state without being judgmental or harsh can allow you to set up a more productive time to have the conversation where you are both 100% available. The same is true for you. It is better (when possible) to put off an important conversation if you are frustrated, upset, angry or exhausted rather than set a negative tone. If you cannot put it off, taking a few minutes to relax, focus and disengage from those negative emotions can help.
The art of communication is not easy, but once it is mastered, it has the power to create a shared understanding and to build on relationships in ways not possible without effective dialogue.