Communication Skills

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Entrepreneurs Face Serious Communication Barriers

University of Manchester, home of Emeritus Professor of Management, Derek Torrington (photo: Wikipedia)

Most startup mentors tell me that the single biggest problem they have to deal with in small companies is the lack of open, honest, and effective communication, both from the top down and from the bottom up. Some entrepreneurs forget that talking is not communicating. Fortunately these skills can be learned, and the barriers to communication can be overcome one by one.

Founders have to communicate their ideas and products to investors, business partners, and the rest of the team. Then, hopefully, come customers, distribution channels, and going public or merging with an attractive buy-out candidate. Communication is not just talking, but also listening, writing, body language, and “actions speak louder than words.”

According to a new management guide by Professor Derek Torrington, “Managing to Manage: The Essential Guide to People Management,” it is the listener who determines the extent to which a message is understood, and that is shaped largely by their own experience and background. From an entrepreneur perspective, here are the understanding barrier categories:

Unclear frame of reference. Whenever you discuss any startup matter, the receivers will view it from their particular frame of reference, including their values, their priorities, and their background. The responsibility is on you the entrepreneur to decipher the receiver reference, and do the “translation” of your message to them.
Stereotyping and biases. This is the other end of the spectrum, where the entrepreneur defaults to an extreme extrapolation of the listener reference base. Common problem stereotypes relate to age constraints, gender roles, and cultural performance implications. Effective communication requires compensating for language barriers, no stereotyping, and first focus on performance here and now.
Cognitive dissonance. Psychologists use this term to describe the genuine difficulty the people have in understanding, remembering, and taking action on inputs that they find irreconcilable with the current reality, or with strong existing beliefs. The message heard may be unintentionally distorted, and you must repeat and rephrase often to be effective.
Failure to build relationships. When people are listening to someone with confidence and trust, there is a predisposition to hear the message and agree. On the other hand, if the source is unknown or un-trusted, the message may be ignored or minimized. The solution is to work on relationships first, before attempting persuasive communication.
Technical semantics and jargon. Jargon only has meaning if the symbols are already understood. If an abbreviation or phrase is not commonly used outside a specific group, or experts, it becomes negative communication, with people reading it as presumptive, insulting, or an attempt to deceive. The remedy is to use clear and concise language.
Not paying attention and forgetting. We all have the human predilection to be selective in attention. Attention spans seem to be getting steadily shorter. Add the problem of noise, external and internal, which can blank out whole messages. Pick the right time and place for each message type, to maximize attention and retention.
Information withheld. Sometimes an entrepreneur or executive tries to communicate without full disclosure, perhaps to minimize impact, or due to company policy. This is readily recognized by most constituents, negates the message, and erodes trust. In startups, the best policy is transparent honest disclosure across all levels of the team.
It’s important to remember that communication only happens when the other person really hears what you mean to say. It’s not a one-way street, and there are often barriers on both sides. To be successful, the entrepreneur has the responsibility of overcoming all of these barriers to make the interaction effective. The alternative is a lose-lose situation for both sides.

A climate of open, two-way communication is also the only way to ensure that those who do not understand feel free to ask for clarification. No questions does not always mean that everyone heard the message. How often do you ask for feedback to make sure your communication has been effective?
http://www.forbes.com/sites/martinzwilling/2013/07/07/entrepreneurs-face-serious-communication-barriers/

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The 10 Worst Communication Mistakes For Your Career

 

“How do you signal to the world you’re leadership material?” asks Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) in New York. “You don’t get a shot at being a leader unless you signal right.”

According to a new year-long study of over 4,000 college-educated professionals and 268 senior executives, conducted by CTI and in partnership with Marie Claire magazine, you must be viewed as a leader in order to get promoted into top jobs. That takes “executive presence,” which is defined as having gravitas, excellent communication skills and a polished appearance.

These skills are required, but that doesn’t mean you rack up bonus points for having them. Instead, you get demerits for your mistakes, as superiors silently cross you off their good lists. So what are the pitfalls to avoid? The study uncovered the 10 worst communication mistakes that will instantly derail your promotion hopes.

No. 1: Racially Biased Comments

Of executives surveyed, 72% said racially biased comments are a major blunder for men and 70% said the same for women. This is the top offense for good reason. These remarks easily offend or insult, reflect poor judgment and reveal low emotional intelligence, according to the researchers.

No. 2: Off-Color Jokes

This second worst communication mistake is similar to the first. Telling inappropriate jokes makes people uncomfortable, revealing an inability to properly read the audience and environment. On the flip side, 61% of executives believe being able to sense the mood of others and effectively adjust your language, tone and content is one of the top skills required to advance.

See Also: Top 6 Communication Skills That Will Get You Promoted

No. 3: Crying

Rightly or wrongly, workplace tears do not communicate leadership potential—especially if you’re a man. While 59% of executives say crying makes a woman look bad, 63% believe it’s a top mistake for men. “You have to be able to control your emotions,” a male banking executive told researchers.

No. 4: Sounding Uneducated

Executives say it’s important for leaders to portray gravitas, worldliness and intellectual horsepower. Thus, sounding uneducated will immediately undermine your chances of ascension. One IT manager told the researchers, “I’ve been with bosses who look like they would be competent, and then they blow it when they open their mouths and sound like complete buffoons.”

No. 5: Swearing

Cursing is a gender-neutral faux pas. It’s generally considered unprofessional and unfitting of a leader. Interestingly, it’s also a major mistake online, which in itself is a communication minefield. Those polled said the top three online communications blunders are posting unflattering messages about colleagues, posting unprofessional photos and being too personal.


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How to Develop Good Communication Skills

The ability to communicate effectively is important in relationships, education and work. Here are some steps and tips to help you develop good communication skills.

Steps

Understanding the Basics of Communication Skills

  1. 1

Know what communication really isCommunication is the process of transferring signals/messages between a sender and a receiver through various methods (written words, nonverbal cues, spoken words). It is also the mechanism we use to establish and modify relationships.

  1. 2

Have courage to say what you thinkBe confident in knowing that you can make worthwhile contributions to conversation. Take time each day to be aware of your opinions and feelings so you can adequately convey them to others. Individuals who are hesitant to speak because they do not feel their input would be worthwhile need not fear. What is important or worthwhile to one person may not be to another and may be more so to someone else.

  1. 3

Practice. Developing advanced communication skills begins with simple interactions. Communication skills can be practiced every day in settings that range from the social to the professional. New skills take time to refine, but each time you use your communication skills, you open yourself to opportunities and future partnerships.

Engage Your Audience

  1. 1

Make eye contact. Whether you are speaking or listening, looking into the eyes of the person with whom you are conversing can make the interaction more successful. Eye contact conveys interest and encourages your partner to be interested in you in return.

  • One technique to help with this is to consciously look into one of the listener’s eyes and then move to the other eye. Going back and forth between the two makes your eyes appear to sparkle. Another trick is to imagine a letter “T” on the listener’s face ,with the cross bar being an imaginary line across the eye brows and the vertical line coming down the center of the nose. Keep your eyes scanning that “T” zone.
  1. 2

Use gestures. These include gestures with your hands and face. Make your whole body talk. Use smaller gestures for individuals and small groups. The gestures should get larger as the group that one is addressing increases in size.

  1. 3

Don’t send mixed messages. Make your words, gestures, facial expressions and tone match. Disciplining someone while smiling sends a mixed message and is therefore ineffective. If you have to deliver a negative message, make your words, facial expressions, and tone match the message.

  1. 4

Be aware of what your body is sayingBody language can say so much more than a mouthful of words. An open stance with arms relaxed at your sides tells anyone around you that you are approachable and open to hearing what they have to say.

  • Arms crossed and shoulders hunched, on the other hand, suggest disinterest in conversation or unwillingness to communicate. Often, communication can be stopped before it starts by body language that tells people you don’t want to talk.
  • Appropriate posture and an approachable stance can make even difficult conversations flow more smoothly.
  1. 5

Manifest constructive attitudes and beliefs. The attitudes you bring to communication will have a huge impact on the way you compose yourself and interact with others. Choose to be honestpatientoptimisticsincere, respectful, and accepting of others. Be sensitive to other people’s feelings, and believe in others’ competence.

  1. 6

Develop effective listening skills: Not only should one be able to speak effectively, one must listen to the other person’s words and engage in communication on what the other person is speaking about. Avoid the impulse to listen only for the end of their sentence so that you can blurt out the ideas or memories your mind while the other person is speaking.

Use Your Words

  1. 1

Enunciate your words. Speak clearly and don’t mumble. If people are always asking you to repeat yourself, try to do a better job of articulating yourself in a better manner.

  1. 2

Pronounce your words correctly. People will judge your competency through your vocabulary. If you aren’t sure of how to say a word, don’t use it.

  1. 3

Use the right words. If you’re not sure of the meaning of a word, don’t use it. Grab a dictionary and start a daily habit of learning one new word per day. Use it sometime in your conversations during the day.

  1. 4

Slow your speech down. People will perceive you as nervous and unsure of yourself if you talk fast. However, be careful not to slow down to the point where people begin to finish your sentences just to help you finish.

Use Your Voice

  1. 1

Develop your voice – A high or whiny voice is not perceived to be one of authority. In fact, a high and soft voice can make you sound like prey to an aggressive co-worker or make others not take you seriously. Begin doing exercises to lower the pitch of your voice. Try singing, but do it an octave lower on all your favorite songs. Practice this and, after a period of time, your voice will begin to lower.

  1. 2

Animate your voice. Avoid a monotone and use dynamics. Your pitch should raise and lower periodically. Radio DJ’s are usually a good example of this.

  1. 3

Use appropriate volume. Use a volume that is appropriate for the setting. Speak more softly when you are alone and close. Speak louder when you are speaking to larger groups or across larger spaces.

EditTips

  • Try to speak fluently and try to make sure people can hear you when you speak.
  • Have confidence when talking, it doesn’t matter what other people think.
  • Make sure you’re using proper grammar.
  • Do not interrupt or talk over the other person–it breaks the flow of conversation. Timing is important.
  • Get feedback from your receiver to ensure you were properly understood during your conversation.
  • Don’t over-praise yourself in front of your audience.

Edited by Brandywine, Ben Rubenstein, Katie R., Maluniu and 78 others