Communication is essential in running a successful business, a successful relationship, and pretty much anything else you want to be successful. Not just communication, but good communication. Here are eight things to remember when communicating with a potential client, advertiser, boss, co-worker, etc. that will lead to a more productive conversation and clearer outcome.
1. Listen. This is a toughy and the reason why it’s number one. We get so worked up thinking about the next thing we are going to say, we forget to actually listen to what the other person is trying to communicate. Actively listening will ensure clarity and build trust. It's definitely a learned skill, so try to practice active listening and being in the moment in all areas of your life whenever possible.
2. Repeat. Also known as reflective listening. (Listening deserves TWO bullet points) When your employee says she doesn’t think the report will get finished on time because she is waiting for accounting to get her some numbers, it’s good to repeat the statement back to her so you both are clear. “I see. So the report will not get finished by deadline because we are waiting on numbers from accounting.” This will ensure that she feels heard and that you are truly understanding the issue.
3. Be specific. If you feel that there may be some details missing, be sure to either explain the specifics or ask for more specifics. “Did accounting give you any of the numbers requested or have they not given you any information at all?” The answer to this question could determine if you should push the deadline back by hours or days.
4. Offer a solution. Say you are the one coming to your boss or co-worker with a problem. Try and think of a solution before you bring up the topic. “The report is going to be late if we don’t get the numbers in from accounting. I think it would be best to advise the client and see if we can push the deadline back an extra day.” Even if your client or boss doesn't go for your solution, you are demonstrating proactivity.
5. Be in tune with other people's communication styles. One client may respond to a question only when you call him. Another may get you information only when you email her. Be aware of how others respond to different types of communication devices and learn to adopt them and be flexible.
6. Create a communications plan. Develop a system of communication protocol that will be followed for every project. You need to discuss this plan with your client when you start working together. It could start as a phone call with your client brainstorming on a new product they’d like to take to market. After your brainstorming phone call, take the stellar notes you’ve collected and draft a brief that describes what was discussed and the action points that were determined. Send to the client for approval so that you are both on the same page with how the project will be handled. Step 1) Phone call. Step 2) Project brief with action steps. Step 3) Sign off. Step 4) Project begins. It may not need to get this detailed, but having a communications plan ready will save you time later.
7. Beware of TLA’s. Three letter abbreviations. Things like EOD (end of day), THX (thanks), JIT (just in time), etc. These little beauties can wreak havoc in communicating with your team. It takes just a few seconds more to either spell it out or say it.
8. Ask for understanding. If you aren’t 100% clear on what’s just been said or asked of you, ask the other party to be more specific. You won’t look stupid and you’ll avoid costly mistakes.