All companies/organizations have two fundamental realities in common, regardless of size, business sector, geography, or financial stability. The first of these is customers. While customers are different for board members and front-line associates, without these customers, there is no business. The second is effective communication. Whether it is the Board room, the C-suite, or front-line associates, ineffective communications strategically and tactically undermine growth and sustainability.
Marry customers and communications, and you arrive at the customer experience. Positive customer experience enhances your Brand, while negative customer experience damages your Brand.
Words create pictures in our minds of the past, present, and future, sometimes melded together. They convey emotions, attitudes, and the speaker’s level of understanding and ability to communicate, in addition to their objective meaning. So the next time someone speaks with you, take note of the pictures created in your mind. Are they helping you communicate your thoughts or getting in the way?
Approximately 80% of communication is nonverbal, but the words we choose still significantly impact setting ourselves up for success or failure. Often, the message you intend to send is not the message received, causing compromised communication and leading to suboptimal or poor results.
Some signs you are not effectively conveying your intended message:
- Someone says, “I don’t know what you said, but what I heard was.”
- People appear not to be focusing on the conversation.
- You feel negative emotional energy in the room (if the other person feels misunderstood, they may perceive it as an attack and respond in fight mode).
- You get smiles and nods when speaking with someone but never see them follow through with your discussion.
It’s unfortunate, but many people today tend to overcomplicate the message. Several reasons:
- The speaker wants to demonstrate how much they know.
- The speaker tries to get to the bottom line quickly to save time.
- The speaker feels an over-the-top enthusiasm about the topic and wants everyone to share that enthusiasm.
- The speaker lacks self-confidence or self-esteem and resorts to industry jargon to hide this fact.
- There’s a lack of connection between the speaker and the audience.
Consider the following actions/attitudes you can adopt to increase communication effectiveness:
- Maintain an internal attitude of respect for yourself and the people with whom you speak. If you lose that respect for anyone (including yourself), it will project and degrade your communication.
- Maintain an attitude that you want others’ participation, thoughts, and ideas. Communication is a two-way street.
- Take time to understand the people with whom you are speaking. Reflect on their level of understanding during the conversation. Tailor your communications to their perspective.
- Share successes with the group with whom you communicate. Stress through your behavior that success is a team sport.
- Choose your words wisely. Speak directly. Using unnecessarily complex language, industry jargon, or “business-speak” isn’t productive.
- If you find it necessary to use esoteric (understood by those who have special knowledge or interest in a subject) words, define them first so people can follow the conversation at the moment.
- Whether you’re speaking or writing, you have only five seconds to capture a person’s attention. Furthermore, people process information through multiple lenses. Therefore, take the time to ask yourself what you need to do to capture their attention.
Effective communication requires you to fully understand your objective (what is essential to convey) and both parties’ perspectives. Remember that failing to choose your words wisely may enable these over/undertones to get in the way, taking you to a place you never intended to go. And once there, you may not easily be able to navigate a return path.