Effective business communication skills are vital to successful co-worker and customer interactions. Both the speaker and the listener share responsibility of making the message clear, but effective communication goes far beyond simple speech and hearing. Body language, tone of voice, word choice, message clarification and communication style all come into play, and can make the difference between success and failure in interpersonal transactions and interactions.
Speakers must learn to articulate their message in a way the listener can understand, delivering it in a manner that is consistent with the message itself. Serious issues are best delivered in a serious tone, but with regard to the known or potential reaction of the listener. The reaction of the listener to both good or bad news can be directly controlled by the speaker, as long as the word choice and delivery are carefully considered. One part of effective speaking is knowing your listeners and how they may react, or delivering your message in a generic fashion if the listeners are not known.
Active listening is practiced by both the speaker and listener in effective communication. Active listening on the listener’s part involves eye contact, nods, gestures and brief comments to show understanding. On the speaker’s part, these gestures and comments are clues to the listener’s reaction and comprehension. If the listener seems confused, the speaker may re-evaluate the wording or delivery of the message, and listeners must take it upon themselves to ask questions, validate what is being said and provide input if necessary.
Questions asked by both the speaker and listener must be of the open-ended type — those that cannot be answered by a yes or no. Open-ended questions encourage further communication, dialogue and understanding, and can help all involved in the conversation to further investigate and clarify the message.
Recognizing and deciphering body language is both an art and a science. Eye movement and contact, stance, posture, facial expressions, fidgeting and other body language can sometimes give clues to the speaker and listener alike. If the tone of a speaker’s voice is calm but his facial expression or posture is tense, the message can be confusing to the listener. Conversely, a listener who fidgets or does not make eye contact can give the speaker the impression that the listener is bored or not paying attention.
In the modern business world, people communicate by text, phone, email, written correspondence and verbal communication. In effective communication, you must choose the communication method best suited for the message. Business people who are articulate speakers may not be articulate writers, so the message in email and and written correspondence can sometimes be misconstrued. The same goes for writers who can craft detailed communications in written form, but choke when it comes to verbalizing. Learning to be eloquent with all forms of communication methods may not be the easiest task, but the effective communicator knows her limitations and chooses the medium to match the message.
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