Being part of a business is like being one of many important moving parts in a machine. When one-piece stops working, the machine can’t function properly. One of the major criteria affecting the success of modern companies is corporate communication. This is how to speak with those around you both in higher and lower positions.
Having appropriate communication skills involves a variety of sub-skills, such as:
This is not just hearing what a person is saying to you but listening whole-heartedly and trying to understand or empathize with the words as you hear them. Active listening is extremely important in a business setting because of all the minor details that, if missed, could cause big problems. Active listening also allows you to more effectively manage a team, or work with your teammates if you’re on a team.
Active listening can be developed with practice. It involves making eye contact, watching the speaker’s facial expression for nonverbal clues, processing the information received, and responding accordingly. One way to properly hone these skills involves group exercises. To proceed with a team-building exercise focusing on active listening, try the following:
Have everybody on your team split into groups of three. One of the three is a speaker and the other two are listeners. The speaker is given a piece of paper with something very specific to reiterate. They must read the paper over until they have the message memorized and share it with their peers. (It’s important that the speaker doesn’t read from the paper but speaks directly to the group. Otherwise, eye contact and facial expression is lost.)
The two listening members of the group must take in the information provided. Normally this information consists of two or three very specific points such as a date, time, place, person, or event. And then some other random filler information. It’s the listener’s job to focus on the speaker’s face, body language, and listen for the clues in the message.
The speaker asks if the two listeners received the message and have each to write their version of what they heard on a blank sheet of paper. Upon checking it over for information, the speaker points out what was missed, inverted, or wrong. The lesson repeats until each listener has had a turn as the speaker and each speaker has had a turn as the listener.
(Note: The reason there are two listeners is that in a business setting, it’s rarely a one on one conversation being executed. However, you can perform this exercise with only one speaker and one listening if that’s your preference.)
Nonverbal communication is the parts of communication that don’t involve our voices. Making eye contact, the way you stand, where your hands are placed, whether you’re fidgeting or standing still, are all aspects of nonverbal communication.
Some of the ways you can improve your nonverbal communication include being active in the moment, aware of body language, and speaking face to face, rather than from behind a computer screen or across the room. Some tips for positive body language include:
Holding an open stance – Standing with feet shoulder length apart and arms at your sides show your listener you are open to what they are saying. Crossing your arms across your chest or tucking a hand in your pocket might convey a disinterested nonverbal message.
Making eye contact – Keeping steady eye contact allows you to read facial expressions, take in everything being said, and show your speaker you are truly interested.
Avoiding distraction – Modern technology is both a blessing and a curse and one of the most common distractions during any conversation is a mobile phone. Checking your mobile phone (even for just a moment) during a business conversation conveys a message of disinterest, boredom and distraction. It tells the speaker that you’re less interested in what they’re saying than the information on your phone.
Standing still – Fidgeting is often considered a sign of boredom or disinterest. While in an important conversation, standing still tells the speaker that you are present. Of course, this isn’t the military so no need to stand at attention but try to fight the urge to fiddle with the keys in your pocket, click your pen, or play with your hair.
These are just a few of the ways your nonverbal communication makes an impact on the message you’re sending and your overall speaking and listening skills. It takes practice to achieve appropriate body language and eye contact.
TONE OF VOICE
The tone of your voice tells the listener how you feel about the topic on which you are speaking. A firm tone might suggest a serious topic, while a lighter tone is used when discussing a funny story or a positive subject. Tone of voice is used in tandem with facial expression. Even though facial expressions are technically part of your nonverbal communication skills, they tie in closely with the tone you use because both tone and face express emotion.
The tone of voice you use in an office space could peg you as a hothead, flighty, a goofball, a great leader, a hard worker, easy to talk to, or a combination. It’s tough sometimes to monitor the tone of our voice, especially when emotion takes hold. For example, if an employee has missed their target for the month on their sales report, as a manager you might speak tersely, but this won’t help your employees do better. It may have the opposite effect. Speaking calmly and remaining positive is the best way to convey what you want to say without creating a negative work environment.
Practice tone of voice and facial expressions by taking a video clip on your mobile phone or tablet. Watch back the way you look and sound while addressing specific situations and adjust yourself accordingly.
MOVING FORWARD AND FOCUSING ON POSITIVE OUTCOMES
Nothing good ever comes when communicating from a place of negativity. Moving forward as a professional toward a positive outcome is the best way to improve communications with your team members. Enacting plans to overcome the problems in your company, rather than homing in on problems promotes a happy workspace and better communication all around.
One of the skills that take real practice to learn as a member of the corporate world is how to build new goals from past failures and communicate these goals effectively as a team. A great way to develop this professional knowledge is through team-building exercises and practice. Getting together around a conference table and discussing current issues in the office and how to approach them in a positive way, opens doors for appropriate corporate communication and teaches everybody a valuable lesson about positivity in business.
Including something like, “turn every problem into a potential solution” as one of your professional development goals is a great way to start. From here, branch out and have every team member add something to the list. Some goals might be short-term, others long. Whatever the case, the most crucial outcome of the activity is that everybody makes an effort to follow through.
REMOVING EMOTION WITH HIGH EQ
EQ (emotional quotient), also referred to as EI (emotional intelligence), is a description of your emotional maturity and ability to control your emotions in any given situation. As far as professional goals and communication skills go, this is a big one. It affects your everyday life in and out of the office and has the potential to improve your rank at work.
A business is no place for big emotion because emotions have a habit of causing us to make decisions we might not if we were levelheaded. Of course, employees should feel happy to be at work, and it’s all right to get anxious or feel upset about missing a target. However, those emotions should be turned into positive goals for the future.
Short-term goals are a great way to manage emotions in the workplace. By developing smart goals and keeping an open mind, you can change what feels like failure into an opportunity for improvement. Rather than being upset that a target wasn’t met, create a short-term goal for a slightly higher mark next month, and create an ultimate goal for long-term success for the next quarter. Working on your short-term goal will bring you closer to your long-term goals and help turn intense emotion into calm, professional feelings about your performance.
FIND RESOURCES TO HONE GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS
At Sandbox Centre, we offer resources to local businesses here in Ontario. This includes resources and support to meet professional development goals like written communication, listening skills, and more. Becoming a good communicator takes practice, but when you have the right connections and information, it’s easy to perfect yours.
For more information on setting goals and improving communications at work, we invite you to visit us on the 2nd floor at 24 Maple Avenue in Barrie, Ontario, and join the Sandbox community on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.