A business leader who can’t communicate is like a car without an engine. Neither will go very far. Clear, concise communication is a priority for business. While communication won’t, by itself, grow your business. Poor communication will sabotage every good effort. What does it take to communicate clearly? Consider these principles.
1. Simplify communication by using fewer words.
You have probably been around people whose words confuse more than clarify. When people use too many words, it is easy to be misunderstood. King Solomon observed, “A truly wise person uses few words.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV) Business leaders need to heed this wisdom, especially when a subject is complex. If people do not understand you, your effort to communicate is wasted.
2. Understand your subject completely before talking about it.
When you do not fully grasp the details of your subject, you have a tendency to use too many words to cover up what you don’t understand. Besides, you will have trouble translating your concept into something a novice can understand. Do your research. Make sure you have a clear understanding before trying to share it with others.
For example, I insist that my clients state their mission in one or two sentences. A mission statement summarizes why a business exists. If they cannot articulate what they want to accomplish, how can they accomplish it? Even the most complex business can be reduced to a few words. If you can’t do this, customers won’t understand what you do. If customers don’t know what you do, why should they buy anything from you?
3. Focus on a communication goal.
What is your goal for the communication interchange before you? Are you trying to get a customer to buy? Do you want to help an employee improve performance? Do you want to entice people to invest? Your communication needs to have an end goal known as an action step that you want someone to take. Otherwise, you might as well be reciting the alphabet for all the good your words will do.
Think about the way pastors communicate. Effective pastors expose God’s word scripture by scripture in a way people can understand. Then, they encourage them to take an action step. If a pastor speaks over everybody’s head, no one understands and won’t know how to act on the message.
God values clear communication. He spoke to Moses and said, “And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up.” (Deuteronomy 27:8, NIV)
Lofty words and great-sounding jargon may impress a novice, but they don’t help people understand your message. When people fail to understand, they are not motivated to take an action step. However, when they understand why something is important; they grow the motivation to change. If your goal is just to impress others, use the most complex words possible. However, if you want to influence others to action; be clear.
4. Communicate your reasoning to get agreement.
In the same way you don’t accept a conclusion or agree to an action step until you understand the reasoning for the position, you must include the same explanation in your communication.
Don’t you get frustrated if you want your boss, co-worker, or spouse to agree with you and they don’t? Consider whether or not you communicated all factors in a way they would understand. I have found that when I don’t understand an issue fully, I can’t be clear and concise. My own muddled communication prevents other people from understanding me.
5. Say it in your own words.
I was shopping for a car with my wife. The salesman was going over some of the mechanical features, spewing a lot of gibberish we failed to understand. The salesmen looked at me and said, “You understand these points, right?” Not overly impressed I responded by saying, “No, would you be able to explain each feature and its benefit to the customer?” He could not.
If you cannot put a proposal, argument or idea into your own words; go back, rethink the position, and develop a better way to communicate it. Your listeners develop confidence in what you say when they believe you are using your own words from your clear understanding.
Everybody forms their own ideas and opinions. Most people don’t like it when someone questions their ideas. It creates unwelcome pressure. Using plain words will enable you to share your thoughts effectively.
After many long discourses between Job and his friends, the Lord asked this question: "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2, NIV) Make sure you have the knowledge to back up your words.
Just because you can fill empty space with your words, doesn’t mean you know how to communicate. Learn to choose simple words, the fewer the better. Understand your subject completely. Identify a goal and speak directly to it. Above all, use your own words. You don’t have to be a communication expert. You just have to use the words you know and make sure someone else understands them.
Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach
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