Saturday, February 18, 2012


Business Communication

                The goal of Business communication is agreement between various persons. To reach agreement, understanding is necessary. Clarity of position is necessary. If both parties clearly understand and come to an agreement it will be a strong agreement. If the communication is not thorough with understanding the agreement is weak and will lead to future misunderstanding

                 In order to have clarity in a communication, it is necessary to listen with an open mind. You don’t know the perspective of the other communicant unless you listen, if you guess at what perspective they have, you are disabled from the start and your communication is doomed to fail. Perspective is another whole study that will be explored in writing, but for now, you must understand the other party’s perspective, questions are the best method to do this.

                 The most effective means of communication and understanding is to ask questions, ask open questions that allow the other party to express their thoughts. Don’t ask yes/no questions, but questions which allow an opinionated answer. Think of using “how”, and “what”. Steer clear of using “why” questions, many times a “why” question comes across as a challenge and puts a person in a defensive mode. “Why” can be used if necessary, but tone of voice and facial expressions need to remove any sense of challenge from the question. Hence, “why” questions should be used in face-to-face communication.

                Answers are expected. Answers should be given. Occasionally a follow up question should be given to understand what is being asked.  There are those who abuse asking questions under the pretense of understanding. They will ask questions rather than give answers to those questions posed to them. Many Sales people are trained to not give answers, but to use questions to LEAD a prospect to the Sale. This indicates they do not have or do not want to give the answers being requested. This style of communication began in the 80’s by salesmen who endeavored to sell prospects by asking them questions until they were sold, never giving answers. It was called “leading the prospect to the sale”.

In Win-win negotiating, both parties have understanding and reach agreement based on that understanding.

 Perspective, you must understand who you are dealing with, listen to what they say, try to understand their position. Comprehend their goal. Keep the desired end result in the forefront of your mind. The best end result is for both to agree on how to reach your end results… not that you win and they lose… both should achieve their goals. Strive to understand what they need from the communication and work towards a mutually beneficial compromise.

                 The goal of the communication must be understood and visualized so it can be kept in mind. If the goal is to agree on a contract that must be the forethought, by visualizing the end result the minor sparring and discussion that leads to the result are not lost. Intentionally understand what your desired result is before beginning the communication. Always keep the result in mind.

                 There are those who feel the goal of communication is to gain something or to win at any cost. They resort to a competitive mode of communication. If in the course of this communication the other party feels demeaned or put down, they are lost to effective communication the instant they feel demeaned. The communication cannot be rescued; in fact future communications will suffer as a result. Before resorting to this style of communication great thought must be given to the end result. A person who demeans another is poor manager, communicator and will not achieve positive results

                Win- Win is the goal of business communication, both parties need to achieve their goal, if you feel you need to win and they need to lose, then you have lost before the first words come out of your mouth, no-one is going to willingly lose. No-one enters a communication intending to lose.

                 Some feel that a diverse and large vocabulary is impressive. It is and allows for communication with diverse audiences. However if dealing with a person who has a lower vocabulary, communication suffers when vocabulary is used which is not understood. The goal of communication is understanding, if the words are not understood communications suffer. The level of vocabulary must be tailored to the audience.

                Morphing nouns into verbs is the most amusing trick I’ve encountered. The goal of changing nouns to verbs is to camouflage ignorance while impressing others, nothing else. It works like this. A process might be called “x,y,z”, the speaker changes the noun to a verb “x,y,z’ing”. Everyone think she knows about an action they don’t, the fact is the speaker is indicating his lack of knowledge by making up an action. A very arrogant act, the speaker does not consider that there may be those in the audience who know the process and see through the made –up word. What a cheap, lazy method of elevating the perception of the speaker.

Feedback loop

                Communication involves the senses. Vision, Body language, hearing, inflection, touch, possibly smell. The more senses involved, the better the communication potential. Communication relies on perceptions gained through the senses, as different senses are eliminated the communication becomes less effective. The best communication is face- to- face where facial expressions and body language can be processed as part of the communication. Once communication is to the lowest levels the visual and auditory senses are no longer involved and the subtleties of good communication are lost. Hence email is less effective than telephone. Texting is worse than email due to the limited ability to write, texts are short and do not give the means to elaborate that email does. How many times are there misunderstandings through the use of text where the written communication is limited also? These modes of communication are called channels. The different channels are:

Face to face. This is the best channel. Communicants can observe through hearing, vision, body language. The message can be communicated with the addition of subtleties which assist understanding.

When using the telephone inflection can be used to promote understanding. Vision is not possible, so body language cannot be used.

Email/ letters. The impact of the words leaves misinterpretation possibilities. There is nobody language of inflection possible. Emotions cannot be effectively communicated. Email is effective to communicate to groups of people, but topics and words should be carefully selected if there is the chance of misinterpretation

Texting. In texting we have all the drawbacks of the above, but have now added a restriction on the length of the discourse. Texting is typically short and quick, words are not carefully chosen. Many opportunities exist for misunderstanding. Texting should not be used in business communication.

Teachback is a method for insuring your message has been received accurately. It is well used in instructional settings, or when the message is important. It is called Teachback because you are asking the other party to inform you what they understood you said. Imagine giving an employee a review and you ask if they understand what their objectives are for the next year. This allows you to correct any misconceptions and insures both understand the message. Apply teachback to agreements, sum up discussions or reinforce “action items” with a group.

Years ago there was a popular psychotherapy method called transactional analysis. It’s basis was to analyze communications (transactions). It categorized communications as originated from three ego-states, Parent, Adult and Child. Each ego-state had characteristics, Parents were superior, dictatorial, lecturing communicants, Children were subservient. Adults had conversations as equals and shared information. Business communication should be two “Adults” communicating issues and resolving disagreements.