We communicate with each other every day. You may have heard the adage that “90% of communication is nonverbal, but is this really true? As reported in an article by ACM, this saying, while not completely false, is misleading at best. We cannot discount the importance of effective verbal language in combination with effective body language when it comes to business communication.
The importance of body language cannot be discounted, though it’s easy to miss. In a brilliant TED Talk from Amy Cuddy (watch the video on the end of this post), she discusses the influence body language has on our communication in the business world. She was one of the researchers responsible for the body language concept known as “power posing.” The study found that consciously changing your body posture for as little as two minutes can change your brain chemistry and your communication for better or worse. By taking on a pose that conveys power and dominance you will feel – and, by extension, be – more confident. This effect has immense applicability in the workplace, where high stakes, high stress conversations take place on a daily basis for some. (Here we give you other pieces of carreer advice)
So how do you become an effective business communicator? There are several common ways to take charge of your communication skills in the workplace, both verbally and nonverbally.
3 Steps of the Business Communication (and why not of life?)
1. Listen First
This is the very first business communication skill you should learn. Effective listening has several valuable effects on your skills, discussed more thoroughly in this article by Dianne Schilling in Forbes. Probably one of the biggest struggles to listening effectively in today’s business world is trying to remain focused on the person you’re communicating with. We are so attached to our phones and all the various avenues where people are trying to get ahold of us, that it can be difficult to maintain eye contact, listen and picture the words, and ask clarifying questions.
When people feel listened to, it creates a safe environment for expression. Others feel free to discuss new ideas and contribute to conversations if they feel heard and understood. We listen easily with people we are genuinely interested in, but often we have to have conversations with people who matter, but who we do not care to listen to. Practice open nonverbal communication and make eye contact while trying to picture their words. Like power posing, pretending to listen can actually make you a more effective listener.
2. Posture Second
Effective business communication takes place between two parties when both are conveying openness and honesty, as discussed by Jimmy Lee over at LinkedIn. A large part of giving this impression is linked to nonverbal cues related to our posture. Arms and shoulders hunched over, crossing arms like a barrier between you and the speaker, these are easy cues to be aware of and work to overcome. Try standing with your hands loosely in your pockets. If you are seated, lean back and rest your elbows on the elbow rests. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but as your body languages changes your brain chemistry, you’ll find you feel more comfortable, and like the conversation is going better. This creates an upward spiral of communication that generates positive vibes from both parties.
3. Speak Last
Now that you know how to improve communication by listening and projecting openness, now comes the most nerve-wracking part. What do you say? How do you say it? In an amazing article by Amy Rees Anderson on Forbes.com she gets to the heart of what we really need to be practicing in corporate communication. To drive a conversation well, you need to set up and fulfill expectations. She reports that the 3 main things people want to know before they are willing to enter a conversation are:
- Is this conversation going to be uncomfortable?
- How long will it take?
- What is expected of me by the end?
Knowing this immediately shapes how we should approach business communication. If you can work the answers to these three questions into the beginning of the conversation, you will likely relax the other person and immediately establish the openness that is required for effective communication in the business world.
Learning to speak clearly and with authority is also a major part of effective conversational ability. In order to become an effective communicator, you need to establish a reputation of being a problem-solver rather than problem-generator. To that end, Martin Zwillig advises aiming to simplify and be specific rather than wax eloquent on conceptual, theoretical ideas. When you demonstrate that you are the person who can take a conversation with a lot of spillover and guide it towards viable solutions, you become the most powerful communicator in the room. And if you aren’t, at least you can hold your own.
With entirely too many channels for communication coming in, it’s important to practice healthy, effective face-to-face communication going out. The better we become at communicating, the more favorably our coworkers, bosses, and employees look at us, and the more we can accomplish together in the global marketplace.
Watch the Amy Cuddy video:
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