Engaging in a conversation can take on different meanings in different contexts. If you ask a friend, “How are you doing?” you may want to hear her in-depth and honest answer. But, if you greet a colleague in the hallway with this question, both the meaning and the expected response are likely to be quite different.
Of course, there are social niceties to be maintained even in the most focused business discussions. However, in business, conversations are often tailored to one or more specific points or purposes. Side chatter or tangents can weaken both the structure of the conversation itself and its outcome.
Whether you are talking with your supervisor, interviewing a new employee, engaging the voice of the customer in a focus group, leading a meeting or chatting with peers, these tips can help ensure that every conversation you have while at work has the greatest possible chance of a successful outcome.
For Successful Communication, Don’t Forget Nonverbal Cues
Today’s psychological researchers disagree about what percentage of communication is verbal and what percentage is nonverbal. However, what all researchers continue to agree on is that communication always includes both elements. Verbal communication includes the words you speak and what order you speak them in.
Nonverbal communication includes pretty much everything else, from your posture to your gestures to how you establish eye contact. If you are not sure what message your nonverbal communication conveys, practicing in front of a mirror or inviting a colleague to watch you practice an important work conversation can give you valuable feedback and ideas for improvement.
Steps to Successful Communication
Some professionals like to attend speaker groups or take courses to learn more effective business communications techniques. Others prefer to read books or watch videos to learn how to communicate more effectively. Regardless of which path you choose, adopting these conversation basics can support you in communicating effectively in a variety of settings.
1) Set a Goal for Each Conversation
By going into every business conversation with your goal already in mind, you can monitor your choice of words and notice openings to steer the conversation towards that goal. Setting a clear goal keeps the conversation from wandering and ensures that if it does wander, you can quickly bring it back to your goal.
2) Listen Carefully
If you have ever had a conversation (business or otherwise) where you spoke very little and the other person expressed repeatedly how much he or she enjoyed your “conversation,” you already know the value of listening. The more keenly you listen, the more you will learn about what motivates the other person. You can then make sure the words you choose to speak have maximum impact.
3) Maintain Your Focus
It is easy to get distracted by outside noises, nearby conversations, beeping devices and other minor irritants. However, your conversation partner will notice if your attention wavers. By deciding in advance to maintain your conversational focus no matter what, you have a much greater chance of staying on point and achieving your goal.
4) Repeat the Other Person’s Key Points
By repeating the other person’s key points, you ensure that you understand exactly what he or she is trying to say and you show that you are truly listening. People who feel heard and valued are more likely to give a bit more on even important issues, because they believe that their perspective matters.
5) Take Your Time
You can probably think of at least one time when you said something only to think to yourself, “Whoops!” Rather than responding too quickly, it is perfectly okay and respectful to let the other person know you are taking a minute to ponder your response.
6) Express Your Gratitude
The other person is giving you time by engaging with you in conversation. Saying “thank you” for the opportunity to have the discussion is appropriate and gracious and will not go unnoticed. Even if an initial conversation does not produce the exact outcome you desired, if you express sincere gratitude, the door will be open to revisit the discussion again in the future. Equipped with these conversational pointers, you can approach every business conversation strategically and increase the probability of achieving your goals.
What are your tips for successful communication at work?
Today’s post is written by Caroline Lampe, a speech therapist. She is trained to pay attention to subtle conversational nuances most people miss. She leads workshops on conversation etiquette for families and businesses.