In today’s small business world, communication is paramount to success. Too much depends on how small business owners are perceived by their clients and customers, not to take it seriously. This article defines the three main communication styles in business, a modified active listening dialogue, and seven tips for communication success.
What a great title for an article on communication, don’t you think? LoBo recorded this song in the 70s about hanging out and traveling around the country in a car, just going wherever and however the spirit moved.
That pretty much sums up the free-flowing way most of us communicate. We stay with topics for as long as they interest us, and we move on when they don’t. Communicating effectively can be one of your greatest assets when you’re running a small business. Ineffective communication, conversely, can be your greatest liability.
3 Main Styles of CommunicationThere are three main “voices” or styles of communication: one-under, one-up, and equal.
1. One-under communication is a style that is typified by minimizing what you are saying, or putting yourself or your words “one-under” in importance to another person’s. The intent here is to focus on the other person in order to gain greater clarity about what he or she is saying. “Seek first to understand than to be heard” is an axiom that would apply here.
2. One-up communication is an aggressive style that is often accompanied with raised voices and excessive reinforcements, absolutes, and “you” statements. Boundary-busting is what this type of communication is often considered. This is because the person speaking thinks that what he or she is saying is more important than what anyone else is saying. This style of delivery will automatically shut down the avenues of communication or incite angry retorts.
3. Equal communication is a style that is epitomized by direct and respectful communication and the use of “I” statements and reflective listening skills. Its purpose is to open up the avenues of communication and encourage dialogue. At its core is the understanding that each person matters and what he or she has to say is valuable. “Two heads are better than one” is the adage at the heart of this communication style.
The DialogueThe next step to becoming a more effective communicator is to learn to practice “the dialogue.” Good communication consists of three distinct parts: what the speaker says, what the listener hears, and the gray area in-between. Here’s how the dialogue works:
• The first part is for the speaker to articulate directly and clearly what he or she wants to say.
• The second part is for the listener to reflect back to the speaker what he or she heard. Useful phrases that help the listener put what the speaker said into his or her own words include: “What I just heard is. . . .
” and “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying. . . .”
• The third-and probably most important-part is for the listener to check with the speaker by asking, “Is that correct?” That one question will eliminate any misunderstandings or assumptions on the part of the listener. It will also give the speaker the chance to revise and clarify what he or she said.
7 Tips for the TalkFinally, in addition to the dialogue, there are seven other things to consider when it’s me and you and a dog named Boo in a conversation together.
Tip #1: Address issues as they come up. Don’t piggy-back unresolved issues from the past onto the present topic of discussion. Stay on point.
Tip #2: Use “I” statements, and speak only from your perspective. Don’t overload your speech with absolutes such as: “You never . . . “or “You always . . . . ” Stick with “I.”
Tip #3: Focus on the behaviors you are observing, not the opinions of others. Resist the urge to press your point by listing the scores of people who agree with you and your point of view. Stand and speak only for yourself.
Tip #4: Listen, when someone else is speaking. If you’re interrupting or forming your response as the other person is talking, you’re not listening. Your full attention should be on the speaker.
Tip #5: Check in from time to time to make sure everyone is on the same page. Don’t assume that the other person is in agreement with you or what you are saying. Check it out.
Tip #6: Follow the bouncing ball. Don’t change the subject without a nod in the direction of the previous topic of discussion. Mind your segue.
Tip #7: Be open to the possibility of another perspective. There is no absolute truth. Truth is relative.