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Solving the Most Difficult Part of Business Communication

The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place’ – George Bernard Shaw

What’s the most difficult part of business communication? Knowing whether the other person has actually understood what you’re trying to tell them. 

This is the foundation of successful communication, and it’s amazing how often this vital step is left out. When it is, it can lead to numerous problems in business. 

One famous communication catastrophe was when Netflix decided to separate out its dvd & streaming services. This resulted in a perceived price hike that caused a customer exodus and share prices tanking. 

Netflix was able to recover, and CEO Reed Hastings’s attempt to fix the damage was a statement that began with: “I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.” Still, millions of dollars in shareholder losses could have been prevented with good communication. 

The False Economy of Poor Communication

Communication has the most significant false economy of any skill on the planet. 

False economy is when you stop spending on something for perceived savings. But that lack of spending has a significant cost in the long term. 

When you ‘save’ on communication, by not checking that you’ve been understood, you’re setting yourself up for costly misunderstandings down the road. 

We communicate all day, and this can give us a false sense of security that we’re good at it. 

However, when you invest in raising your communication skills, you’ll notice the night and day difference between good communication and so-so communication. 

Clients who’ve taken our communication training report that their teams are functioning better, staff are more productive, they have better client relationships, and more support from suppliers. Communication is the superpower that makes all human relationships work better. 

“Mike really can drill down to the heart of what sits at the core of how we communicate and how we come across probably better than anyone else I’ve ever worked with…There’s nothing more important than that.” Peter Robertson Director – W Porteous

Spotting Communication Issues

Communication problems aren’t always easy to spot. Often, you don’t notice the drag they create until you level up your communication skills, and see the difference in workplace productivity, sales numbers and revenue. 

Poor communication can manifest as a host of other problems: frustration in the workplace, people not cooperating well, overly defensive or aggressive conversations. 

In essence, it comes down to answering one simple question: has the message gotten through? (Or not.) 

It can be hard to answer this question because we often assume the person we’re talking to has understood. (After all, we know what we’re trying to say.) 

Fortunately, there are simple techniques you can use to test this assumption.   

How to assess your communication

The easiest way to assess your communication is through observation. 

What happens after you’ve communicated? Do you see proof they’ve understood? Or do you see evidence of confusion and uncertainty? 

For example, if you’ve given direction to a team member, can they follow the instructions you’ve given? 

This one’s often missed because when you give instructions and the person goes off and does the wrong thing, it’s easy to blame them. ‘The task was so simple! Only an idiot could get it wrong!’

The problem is, the idiot is you if you continue to communicate with people and don’t check to ensure they understand. 

If you give instructions to someone, and they aren’t able to follow them, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the problem is your communication. (Nine times out of ten, this is true.) Become a detective, and investigate what the person actually envisions when you tell them what to do. 

Here’s a couple of exercises to try out:

‘In your own words, tell me…’

Ask the person to repeat back to you what you just told them. If they can, and they’ve understood you, it’ll be clear in the way they restate your instructions in their own words. 

If they can’t clearly describe the task, then you know there is a lack of understanding. 

Surface underlying assumptions

Here’s a question to find out if an underlying assumption is preventing the person from understanding you. 

Try: “When I say [x], what does that mean for you?”

Many times, miscommunication happens because you assume you’re on the same page with the other person…and you’re really not. 

Something as simple as: ‘Go and get the company car from out front, and park in our spot out the back,’ can become a minefield if there’s more than one company car, and the person doesn’t know where ‘our spot out back,’ is. 

The other side of this is asking the question: ‘When you say [x] what does that mean for you?’

For example the statement: “We need to buy some proper coffee for the office.” 

What is ‘proper’ coffee? Is it…instant, stovetop espresso, french press, pour over, or something else entirely? 

The whole legal profession is based on clarifying definitions and terms, so it’s not always easy to get these all straight. However it’s crucial for clear business communication. 

Once you’ve cleared up what each of you is trying to convey, you’ll see the light of understanding in the person as they ‘get it.’ You’ll also feel the difference in yourself as you recognise what the other person is trying to tell you. 

It’s a highly rewarding experience, and the better you get at clear communication, the smoother your business will run. (And this is true whether you’re an employee, business owner, manager, or independent contractor.)

Less Obvious Blocks to Communication

Once you have the base level of communication in place, it’s time to go a level deeper. 

To do this, pay attention to how the other person feels when you communicate with them. This is particularly important in stressful situations. 

If you’re giving some difficult feedback, does the person seem to become resistant to you? Do they want to escape from the conversation? Are they having difficulty staying calm? If so, emotions are making clear communication impossible.  

When you have a challenging message to communicate, it’s very important to make sure your tone is neutral. An angry tone or falsely friendly tone will put people on the defensive or make them uneasy. 

There’s no way to guarantee people won’t be upset when you tell them about a problem. However, using a clear, neutral tone will minimise this. When you communicate in this way, you’re making it clear the aim of the conversation is to solve the problem, and this will make it much easier for you and the other party to reach an understanding. 

What Good Communication Can Do for Your Business

Effective communication is one of the most important and underrated skills in business. Our communication training has helped our clients to: 

  • 400% increase in sales revenue – Amanda Kerr 
  • Cash flow tripled – Amy Bliefnick 
  • $1M turnover to $12M turnover in 5 years – Kent Manos

On a slightly different note, a client who’d hired us for business help was headed for divorce, and he was able to save his marriage as a result of improving his communication skills. 

In summary, good communication leads to: 

  • Effortless production
  • Cooperation
  • Great teamwork
  • High morale
  • Lower stress
  • Increased sales 

Communication is the meta-skill to create what you want in life. 

How to Raise Your Business Communication Skills

Our premiere course on communication is a 12 week transformation course. It’s not just theory, it’s experiential, meaning you get to practice and hone your skills as you go through the course.  To get a free sample of how we can help you, click here to book a completely free, no-obligation discovery call.

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