So… that title sounds a little rough. But sometimes tough love is what we need to pull ourselves together and stare our blockades in the face. Many, if not most, of the problems we face in business, personal relationships, or even during unpleasant encounters with strangers are due to a breakdown in communication.
Trouble attracting clients? Communication issue.
Getting stuck doing things you don’t want to do? Communication issue.
Failing to network properly? Take a guess at what kind of issue it is.
To top it off, there are about a million opportunities in a single day to miscommunicate something. We are all constantly interacting. Does the following sound familiar? You wake up and answer a text, reply to a couple of emails, FaceTime your best friend, call your mom, comment on a social media post, post an Insta story, and have a face-to-face conversation (…people still do that?). All before 9am. Before even “starting” your day.
Basically… there’s a lot of room to mess up. But, that means there is also a lot of room for us to improve and unleash our conversational genius.
Think of the best communicators you know… words come easy to them, their timing is always perfect, and they seem to win over every crowd. Some people are born with a natural knack for conversation, but they also work on perfecting it. Being a master conversationalist is an art and requires skills. The good news? Skills can be learned!
It’s more than just being boisterous, it’s having the skill to adeptly navigate all types of situations and leave a killer impression on potential business contacts. You want to be the person that people will remember when they need someone in your industry.
You might be thinking “I’ve never been that person. I can’t be that person.” But guess what? You can be. The power to project that version of yourself is within you! All it takes is a little redirection.
As an entrepreneur, the words you say, how you say them, and even when you say them have a huge effect on your business and relationships with employees, customers, and partners.
Here are three common roots of communication issues that you might be overlooking. Try to see if your behavior corresponds with one of these.
You’re using the wrong words and hijacking the conversation.
This one applies to when you find yourself in business meetings or other professional events. You might struggle to explain yourself and find the right words. In today’s saturated world of text messages and emails, the art of conversing in-person is such an important skill that can set you apart from the crowd.
Be honest. How often do you really say “uh” and “um” when you speak? Those pesky filler words have a mind of their own and pop up whenever you’re trying to gather your thoughts. Skilled communicators sound more confident, bright, and charismatic, in part, because they’ve learned how to avoid these words. They still make pauses to think, but use quality filler words – now, you see, however, etc. Try swapping in these words and keep doing so until it becomes a habit.
“I think” and “I believe” have no room in your sentences when speaking about your business. People are more likely to buy into what you are saying when they see that you wholeheartedly believe in it yourself. Be bold and stand behind what you say.
Keep your words simple and relatable. Your industry might have buzzwords that are specific to it, but to others those terms carry no meaning. Keep your vocabulary universal and points concise, especially when speaking to people without your industry knowledge.
And sometimes the best communication tactic is to get the other person talking. It might seem counterintuitive, but a good conversationalist will spend more time listening than talking. Why? It elicits a stronger connection with the other person. Listen for comments you can ask follow-up questions about and steer the convo towards subjects you know they are passionate about.
And on that note…
Your small talk is struggling.
How often have you been in a situation where you can’t think of a small talk topic to save your life?
Small talk gets a bad rep, but mastering it is important in business and goes along with forming a good first impression. If you hate making small talk, you’re not alone! Even some of the most outgoing people can have difficulties making conversation with people they’ve just met.
We all know it’s just the warm-up before the important stuff starts, but it doesn’t have to be shallow or useless. If you frame that chit-chat as an opportunity to really connect to a client or other business contact, it becomes so much more meaningful and doesn’t stagnate at “great weather, right?”
Here are a few quick tips on how to elevate your small talk communication skills.
Not to be creepy but… stalk their social media a little, especially business social profiles and their LinkedIn. There is a wealth of information available that can give you an insight into a person. It’s perfectly ok to ask about an event you saw they attended and any shared interests you may have. Don’t get too personal though, it’s still business!
Before meeting, scan the news for lighthearted stories that might be interesting to who you will be meeting with. Starting a conversation with “I just read today…” is a great way to peak their interest and invite them to share their thoughts. Just avoid anything controversial!
People generally like to be helpful and give advice. Try asking for recommendations in an area you know a person is interested in. For example, if they are a foodie, ask them what new restaurant you should try.
You’re not present.
If this issue is “so” you, it’s probably showing up across all your communications, personal or business. Maybe you’re not really listening to your partner talk about their day or your mind is on your to-do list and not what is being said during your morning meeting.
Luckily, this is also one of the easiest blocks to solve, and it starts with the realization and acceptance that you’re not present in your conversations.
Set an intent to be fully “there.” Put your phone away and make eye contact. Listen with a goal of understanding what the other person is trying to say instead of planning your next words. During business meetings, take notes, if you can, so you’ll really pay attention to each word.
You are in constant communication with the world around you and as an entrepreneur that carries additional weight because your business depends on that exchange.