The art of communicating correctly is a subtle one. Just one word in the wrong place can ruin your message. There is an anecdote of a man who tried to introduce himself using his knowledge of Chinese, but instead of saying his name, he said something that sounded a lot like “I am stupid”. You can imagine the reaction from the other side. And although these types of anecdotes may seem funny after a while, the truth is that a miscommunication such as this can ruin a great business agreement, or discourage potential clients.
Based on our experience -and the mistakes we have made along the way-, we would like to give you some tips on how to prevent and overcome communication barriers.
- Encourage the use of simple language: a trend that has been going on for a couple of years, even at the government level, is the use of plain language: say just what you must, without ambiguities or metaphors. Use simple and easy-to-understand vocabulary, rather than complex structures and words, to make your expressions sound “more formal”.
- Train your staff to listen actively: the receiver, as well as the sender, should invest time and energy in trying to decode the full message. Consider offering active listening training regularly, giving your people the right tools to know what to look for in a message, and how to check that you are understanding correctly. This is even more important during remote calls when it is difficult -or sometimes impossible- to rely on body language to get extra information on the tone or intention of the speaker.
- Choose the communication media wisely: if the pandemic has left us something handy, it is the realization that there are hundreds of tools for setting up meetings, sending internal messages, making surveys, and more. So, whenever it is time to deliver a message, consider the medium you are going to use as part of your strategy.
- Be flexible: sometimes things will not go as planned. Miscommunications WILL occur. But when they do, you have two options: get upset and find someone to blame, or try to learn from what happened and get it better the next time. Sometimes you will have to make unexpected changes to your strategy, and that is ok. It is much better to realize that you need to make adjustments and do them timely than to stick to a plan that no longer works.
Human communication is no easy task. But when your work depends on it, you’d better try hard to master it, bringing barriers to the ground. We can assure you that every minute spent on learning to be a better communicator will certainly pay off in the end: your work will be much more efficient, with fewer bumps in the road, and your business results will surely reflect that.