14 November, 2014, by Kelly Cookson
Effective Business Communication
Speakers: Dr Louise Mullany, Associate Professor in Sociolinguistics, Faculty of Arts and Jane Box, Managing Director of Interactive People Development.
Becoming reflective language users
Louise explained that today’s breakfast session will ask the audience to reflect on their current communicative styles and assess the ways in which their interaction with people can be enhanced. The aim of this exercise is to open up brand new possibilities for effective leadership performance.
The first topic of focus was the linguistic profiling method which is a means of identifying your own communicative style. The unique feature of the linguistic profiling model that Louise has been developing is it is based on real life interactions between business people.
Louise explained that this model involves work in the following areas:
• Establishing the ideal self/team – how do you want to project yourself to others?
• Understanding identities e.g. gender, age, ethnicity
• Rapport management – maintaining harmony in the workplace
• Creating a broad organisation culture – includes non-verbal communication e.g. body language
Louise went on to identify the key areas for possible improvement to encourage productive communication in business. These are as follows:
• Face-to-face communication
• Business meeting effectiveness
• Customer-client interaction
• Non-verbal communication
Remember, communication is not limited to the words we say, but also the way that we say it. Consider the use of tone, pitch and intonation. Also think about how quickly and how loud you talk.
Louise spoke about the importance of non-verbal communication and that there is much to be gained from body language analysis. Within the linguistic profiling model, there are a set of toolkits including non-verbal tools.
• Facial expression – there’s a huge amount of information that we take in from facial expressions.
• Eye gaze – Do people give you enough eye contact? Or perhaps not enough? Getting the balance right is important.
• Haptics – Refers to touch. Do people touch you when talking to you? It can sometime be inappropriate!
• Proxemics – how close are people standing/sitting to each other?
• Kinesics – body language and gestures in the broader sense.
Studies show that getting the right balance of eye contact, not invading personal space and body language and gesture all attribute to giving the right impression and being understood correctly.
See the book Lend Me Your Ears by Max Atkinson for some top tips on body language including how certain positions and gestures are interpreted in different cultures, which may lead to misunderstandings.
Louise demonstrated the difference that these factors could make in understanding with a video via her MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), How to read your boss.
Digital communications and social media – fantastic communication opportunity but a potential curse
The continued expansion of digital technologies has completely transformed the ways in which we communicate at work on a daily basis with colleagues, customers and clients. Using the right combination of public and private communication with the consumer is vital in successfully communicating via the digital medium.
Possible improvements in digital communication at work can be found in the use of:
• Video conferencing
• Social Media – Twitter has an account dedicated to tips and training for UK SMEs
• Website language and layout
Building relationships online
Before you start using digital communications and especially social media, consider what kind of relationships you want to create online and how you are going to reach out in a way that the consumer will respond favourably to.
Here are a set of linguistic strategies that can be used to bring about relationship building online:
• Typographical emphasis (e.g font – make your written language come alive!
• Emoticons – smiley faces etc
• Use of positive expression
• Hashtags and searchable talk
We must always be aware that online there is a shift away from ‘one-way’ publicity and that the best way to build brand loyalty is to respond to customers and involve them in the relationship building process.
Wrapping up with some general recommendations from Louise on using digital communication:
• Think about why you are using this form of communication
• Post regularly
• Make updates searchable (use Hashtags to achieve this on Twitter)
• Use a friendly and conversational tone
• Respond to people that contact you
Communication for business success
Next to take the floor is Jane Box with a practitioner’s view on communication for business with a focus on improving business results. What is communication? Why do we often get it wrong? She asks the audience to address the fundamentals and go back to basics.
Jane believes that when defining communication we forget about including our physical behaviour which, as Louise mentioned, counts for as much as what we say.
But mainly, getting feedback on our communicative performance or feedback in general at work is what we fear most. Yet feedback is important and must be listened to to effectively understand how to improve.
Rules of engagement
There are multiple communication channels and different personality types to deal with at work. We tend to like people that are similar to ourselves but this isn’t always the best way to recruit a team. It takes a variety of personalities to form an effective team.
Jane’s methods focus on using more conventional methods first and improving the basics before moving elsewhere. Think about the medium of communication that you are using. Consider your telephone manner – think about how you say things, consider your tone as well as the words that you speak. Think about the impact of sending an email – is it appropriate for the situation? For example, do your sales team read emails? Chances are they don’t.
Three areas to look at to improve performance at work
• Climate – also known as culture
What does it feel like to work here?
Do we understand what excellence looks like?
How do you transfer responsibility so that people want to do things for themselves?
Does the team have values and goals? These need to be defined. Establishing an acknowledged team identity will help to instil core values throughout the organisation. Do people in Sales have empathy for customers? We must process employees’ capabilities and take into account whole team behaviour.
Jane had these final thoughts for improved communication in business:
• Is it clear what you are trying to communicate?
• Does it add value to the person you are communicating with?
• Is it relevant to them?
• Is it accurate?
Copies of the two presentations are available for download:
Louise Mullany’s presentation.
Jane Box’s presentation.
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