Communicating is like breathing for businesses. If communication stops, business halts. While different relationships may require different ways of communicating—for example you communicate with your team members differently than you would your customers—there are some basic strategies that can improve your business communications overall:
Listen more actively. As our world becomes more digital, we are gradually losing the ability to actively listen. Listening is not just a way to gain information, but also a way to “be more empathetic, cultivate trust, build relationships, manage conflicts, and come up with creative solutions to problems,” according to Larry Ferlazzo in the New York Times. To listen more actively, make a mental note of the information being communicated. Then, check to make sure you understand by relaying what you heard. Phrases like, “So, if I am understanding you correctly . . .” and “It seems like you are saying . . .” can be useful in those situations.
Use specifics. When ideas or goals are shared in general terms rather than specifics, it can lead to extra work or rework. When discussing a plan, don’t be afraid to use a “for example” statement to clarify what you mean. When providing feedback to a team member, specific details are essential and should be used for both positive and constructive feedback. Positive reinforcement can help prevent future negative results. For example, if a daily task such as cleaning is done well, make a point to recognize the work at least periodically. If it is done incorrectly, or if thoroughness is lacking, make sure you are specific about what needs to be improved next time.
Step outside your circle. Familiarity is comforting. However, it can sometimes be a hindrance and stop you from doing something new or better. Small business networking can be as simple as interacting with other business owners in your building, on your block, or in your neighborhood. Talking to someone who does not know your business as well as you, your family, or your employees can lead to new ideas or improved processes.
Push yourself to be more open. Have you ever wondered what someone was thinking when they suggested an idea or solution to you? Well, next time that happens, ask questions to figure out what they were thinking. When you better understand the idea, it may not seem as off the wall. Asking questions and trusting someone else’s crazy idea could lead to something new and innovative. Being open to suggestions can also lead to more ideas from your team or customers. People are more willing to make suggestions if they feel their ideas will be positively received and considered.
Communication is essential to getting things done for your business, so taking the time and effort to strengthen communication within your business will improve not only your overall operations, but your sales as well.