Improving Business Communication Skills

Mary Gormandy White

Improving business communication skills can be a key component in career success. No matter what field you are in, effective communication is likely to play a major role in how well you perform in your professional life.

What is Communication?

Many people think that communication is talking. While it is true that talking is a part of communication, there is much more to communicating effectively than simply speaking to other people.

Communication can be defined as a process through which meaning is created and exchanged. It involves sending and receiving both verbal and nonverbal messages. Communication can be intentional or unintentional, which means that it often occurs when we don't plan to send messages.

Communication occurs all the time. People communicate 24 hours per day, seven days per week. No matter what you do, you send messages, and people assign meaning to the things you do and say. Since communication is continuous, when people say that more communication is needed, what they really mean is that better communication is needed.

Types of Communication

Communication can be both verbal and nonverbal. The phrase verbal communication refers to any communication that uses words to convey meaning. Speaking and writing are both forms of verbal communication.

Nonverbal communication takes place without the use of words. It involves sending messages through body language, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other indicators of meaning that don't involve the use of spoken or written language. In other words, verbal communication refers to what you say and nonverbal is how you say it.

Verbal Communication Skills

Learning to use language more effectively is an important part of improving business communication skills.

Word Choice

A great deal of misunderstanding can arise when people don't make the best word selections to convey their meanings to other people. It's important to choose words that precisely convey your meaning, in order to reduce the possibility that the receiver will interpret the message in a manner other than what you intended.

  • Don't: You don't seem to care about your job.
  • Do: I have noticed that you were late three times this week.
  • Don't: Please dress appropriately for the meeting with our new client.
  • Do: Please wear a conservative business suit for the meeting with our new client.

Writing Skills

One of the most important areas to consider when focusing on improving business communication skills is writing. A great deal of business communication takes place via email, letters and memos, purchase agreements, and other forms of documentation.

People who are able to communicate effectively via written communication are often viewed as having more potential than those who cannot do so. Wrong or right, people tend to consider writing skills heavily when making judgments about other people's skills, potential, and intellect.

Important business writing considerations include:

  • Spelling
  • Proofreading
  • Grammar
  • Sentence structure
  • Clarity
  • Many other factors

Nonverbal Communication Skills

The words you use are important in effective communication, but the nonverbal cues you send can be even more important. Not only is it important to pay attention to how you use language to communicate, it is necessary to be aware of the messages that your actions send as well. To understand the full impact of nonverbal communication, it can be important to remind yourself that actions do speak louder than words and that communication is often unintentional. When you communicate with other people, everything you do has an impact on the meaning people assign to your messages.

Tone of Voice

The tone of your voice has a major impact on how your messages are interpreted. When your tone contradicts the words you use, people tend to weight the tone more heavily than the language when assigning meaning to what you are saying. A sarcastic tone of voice that contradicts the words used will usually lead the message's receiver to assign a negative meaning to your words.

Body Language

People interpret messages in light of the body language used. The way you sit, stand, and walk have an impact on your communication. If you verbally express a welcoming message to another person, but your body language indicates that you don't want to be around the individual, the person will not feel welcome.

In the business world, a person's handshake is one of the most important elements of body language. In the American culture, a strong and firm handshake is considered an appropriate business greeting. In many other cultures, the same type of body language may be interpreted as a sign of aggression.

Image and Appearance

Whether or not you think it is appropriate for people to form impressions of other people based on appearance, it is a fact that image and appearance play important roles in business success. If you want to be viewed as a professional, it's important to have a professional image.

Dressing appropriately for your profession is only one component of image and appearance. Grooming and hygiene also play important roles in creating the overall impressions we make.

Key to Improving Business Communication Skills

Communication is a skill that can be improved with proper training and effort. The first step toward improving the manner in which you communicate is to recognize areas in which you need assistance. Ask for honest feedback about your communication ability from people whom you trust. If you don't know how other people interpret your words and actions, you can't take positive steps toward improving your ability to communicate effectively.

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Improving Business Communication Skills