Communication . . . it's essential in a marriage, a friendship, and a business. In fact, it's safe to say you can't get far in any of these three areas without learning how to master the basics of communication.
But becoming adept at listening and being understood in the business arena involves nuances and challenges that are different from those in our personal lives.
The Path Toward Better Communication
It's nearly impossible to pursue a successful career without becoming a good communicator. There may be exceptions, but you'd be hard pressed to find them.
In almost every case, the most successful achievers also tend to be good communicators. This communication is a key skill in leadership, innovation, teamwork, sales, relatability, trust, and other factors that are necessary for launching a business and moving up the corporate ladder.
Fortunately, communication skills aren't frozen in concrete. Even if you don't have innate communication skills or an extroverted personality, you can improve over time. Here are a few specific things you can do.
1. Have a Purpose
When you're going into a situation where you know you'll need to listen and be heard—for example, a meeting, a presentation, an interview, or a sales call—it's helpful if you know your purpose in advance.
"Make it your goal to have an objective or outcome in mind in your key conversations," entrepreneur Caren Merrick suggests
. "One simple and quick way to gain clarity is to ask yourself one simple question: Is your objective to inform or to empower?"
When you know your place in a conversation and have a distinct purpose, it guides your manner of speaking. As a result, you're better able to focus on the idea you hope to convey, rather than how you could be conveying it.
2. Tell Stories
If you want to communicate a critical idea and leave a strong impression on the people you're speaking to, minimize your dependence on facts, figures, and technical definitions. What you need to do is tell a story.
"Stories are simply more compelling," Heather Muir writes
for Mandel Communications
. "It's a function of how our brains are wired. Stories evoke an emotional response. And that emotional response helps listeners empathize with you in ways facts never could."
3. Listen More
There is immense power in listening to people. In fact, listening is a way of communicating.
It conveys to the other people that you care about what they're saying. It tells them they have value, and you're hearing them out.
Body language is critical when you're listening. You have to make eye contact, offer facial clues that show you're listening, and employ nods, shrugs, and other feedback to communicate your receptiveness.
As you learn to listen to people, you'll notice they usually listen back. Listening earns you credibility and gives you a better chance to engage in meaningful, constructive exchanges.
4. Perfect Virtual Communication
While face-to-face communication will always be worthwhile, it's impossible to deny the increasing significance of virtual communication. Despite the fact that most younger employees have been raised as digital natives, most virtual communication is admittedly poor in today's business world.
An easy way to set yourself apart is to master this component . . . specifically with email. "There are certainly email etiquette rules that every professional should follow," entrepreneur Deep Patel notes
"But to position yourself as an effective communicator and strong leader, you should pay special attention to responding in a timely manner, using proper grammar and concise language, and copying all parties relevant to the conversation."
Communication Matters—Take it Seriously
"If you want to succeed in your career, you need to know what you want and how to go after it. And you can't do that without good communication skills," CareerQuest explains
"Being an excellent communicator can help you land that first job in your new career and ensure a positive future. It can separate you from other applicants, help you be a more effective employee, and serve as a stepping stone to leadership responsibilities and career advancement."
No matter how much effort you pour into touching up your resume—adding certifications and learning new technical skills—you should also invest at least as much effort into enhancing your soft skills, especially communication. This article has provided some practical advice on how to go about doing that.
Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.