At best, business communication errors can make you look bad among your coworkers and clients. At their worst, communication mistakes made during the course of doing business can waste heaps of time and money, cause unnecessary disagreements, and definitely make clients lose faith in your abilities.
Here are 5 business communication errors you might be making that need to be corrected ASAP:
1. Being passive.
Some people seem to emerge from the womb being assertive from day one, stating their own needs and wants, and (hopefully) being open to the needs and wants of others. Many others, which we’ve all met, lean to the side of thinking assertiveness equals aggressive behavior, rudeness, selfishness — or an incessant need to always be heard. So many problems can erupt in our personal and professional lives when we’re passive.
Most of us understand the value of standing our ground when confronted or challenged, but there’s too much nicey-nice and shyness when it comes to general communication.
When folks are not assertive about an expectation they have, or answering requests firmly and honestly, people will always get angry with each other. If you want or need to say no to a request, do it — don’t beat around the bush either. If there’s something you need or want from someone, punch it out there so they can hear it — better to get a “no” than feeling the disappointment that comes from not getting what you want because you never asked for it in the first place.
2. Assuming people understand what you’re saying.
Most of the problems associated with assuming people “get you” come when you don’t bother to ask for feedback. Feedback from both participants in a conversation is essential to flawless communication. Make it easy for people to ask for feedback by always being open to questions.
3. Avoiding difficult face-to-face talks (ie., bad news, confronting people about their mistakes, etc).
You know who you are! Sending an email to tell someone they’re laid off, or getting demoted. Sending a client a letter or text message telling them you can’t deliver on time, or royally screwed something up on their social media accounts. There’s no way to gauge how that bad news will be taken, and worse, you have no way to soften the news, or provide clarification if the message is taken the wrong way.
It also shows a definite lack of respect, regardless if you’re just choosing the easy route because you don’t handle negative situations very well. Most times, the recipient won’t care why you couldn’t be bothered to set a meeting with them, or pick up the phone. You just end up being a bad memory etched in their mind, and, even if the situation was their fault or someone elses entirely, you’ll be the bad one in their mind.
4. Not proofreading communications before sending them out.
If something isn’t said face-to-face or over the phone, it’s usually in the form of an email, text, or letter. It’s so easy to send these out willy-nilly when you’re in a hurry, or just can’t be bothered with a quick proofreading. The problem here, aside from just being outright lazy, is that big errors can lead to misunderstandings and/or make you look stupid to coworkers and subordinates. Not good.
Then there’s the issue of letting text-speak creep into your professional communications if you “don’t know” the answer to something say that, don’t “idk” people in professional settings. Emojis are okay, provided they aren’t inappropriate or obscene. Everyone who has contributed to developing our language over the last thousand years are so have done so to make language as easy as possible to understand. Your oldish client or coworker may not be as fluent as you in modern acronyms beyond a simple “LOL”.
5. Treating everyone the same with your communication approach.
Some people learn better by reading, some by listening — others love graphics like flow charts, infographics, etc. It’s important to have a firm understanding of these differences when dealing with coworkers and clients. Ask people what they prefer right on the job application for employees. This will allow you to tweak correspondences and informative materials (such as those used in meetings and presentations) so that everyone can absorb your message.
Give your clients options as to what forms of communications they prefer when you’re asking for feedback or delivering news. Some people still prefer a phone call — crazy right? Probably because they don’t absorb emails as well as verbal communication. Some will want email or texts only, so they can mull things over and absorb what’s being said/asked of them at their own pace.
We’re all different. That’s what makes this world so darned interesting. However, while differences in communication will always exist, it’s really important to follow certain accepted rules:
- Saying what you mean and meaning what you say (not being passive).
- Taking it for granted that your message is easy to understand (assuming).
- Taking the easy way when you know things might get uncomfortable (avoiding).
- Refusing to take a second look before sending out communications (no proofreading).
- Not recognising that you’re dealing with a diverse set of human beings (treating everyone the same).
Following the 5 business communication tips found above will definitely make you a crisper, more fluent communicator in professional environments. Never take communication for granted, and never stop learning how to do it better.
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