Common Characteristics of Effective Business Communication

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Effective communication is key in the business world. Being able to clearly express yourself can make a crucial difference in achieving a sale, fostering a positive team environment and answering customers' questions. Hiring managers increasingly look for candidates who can communicate well as a primary skill. Whether you're writing, speaking or displaying nonverbal cues, being an effective communicator is about making sure your audience understands your intended message.

Written Communication

Email continues to be the most common way to communicate in the business world, with office workers receiving an average of 84 emails per day, according to The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm. As a result, it’s easy for emails to be overlooked or ignored entirely during the course of a busy workday.

Getting your message to stand out in a crowded inbox begins with making good use of your subject line so the receiver knows exactly what you intend to communicate. Within the body of your email, being brief and direct helps you avoid the vagueness that is all too common in the workplace, says professional communicator and author Karen Friedman. You can achieve this by using bullet points or numbered paragraphs to highlight the most important parts of your email.

Above all else, remember to proofread before hitting the "send" button. An email riddled with typos and grammatical errors reflects poorly on your professionalism and will not help you achieve your desired results.

Verbal Communication

Brevity and directness similarly applies to verbal communication, whether during an informal team meeting or large-group presentation. Strive to make a good impression during the first few minutes of a formal presentation to help capture the group's attention. For example, refrain from reading your materials word-for-word, and look at audience members when you speak. Work to establish yourself as an expert in the eyes of your audience. Invite your audience to ask questions and get involved. For smaller and more informal meetings, consider an icebreaker like “Two Truths and a Lie" to help establish a rapport with the members of your group.

Tip

  • Know what you're going to say and what you want to achieve every time you open your mouth to speak.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication -- such as eye contact, gestures and body movements -- sometimes carries more weight than what you write or say. The tone of your voice is especially important because it affects how people receive and respond to your spoken message. Your posture could convey an attitude of disinterest when you mean to show enthusiasm for a topic.

In addition to making eye contact and smiling when appropriate, be sure you pay attention to your audience’s nonverbal cues. If someone looks as though she's nodding off or is spending a lot of time writing in a notebook, it could mean she's not paying attention or that she doesn’t understand what you’re trying to convey. This is when inviting the audience to ask questions can achieve positive results and help foster a collaborative environment.

Practice Makes Perfect

Being an effective communicator in the business world takes time and practice. If you want to improve your communication skills, consult a trusted colleague or mentor for help. Show him examples of your written communication and deliver a short speech so he can observe your verbal and nonverbal communication in real time. Ask for feedback, and incorporate his tips into your daily work life.

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