An Introduction To Professional Communication
Communication skills in the business world can make or break someone’s career. Many companies, colleges, and websites for jobseekers offer some training and articles on soft skills, especially communication. We all communicate every day, all the time, whether we realize it or not. Effective communication includes not only the spoken world but also nonverbal communication, such as body language. Business communication also includes writing, such as emails and memos, and visual communication, including charts and graphs. An excellent communicator should be able to communicate on an individual level, to a small group, and with the public.
Verbal communication involves varied factors such as tone of voice, choice of verbiage, and projection. On an interpersonal level, one may speak in a normal tone of voice. In a professional setting, it is important to remove slang and jargon from your vocabulary. Specialize jargon should only be used with others who are in the same field and only when necessary. It is also necessary to avoid talking in a condescending tone and to not respond with emotion if the person you are speaking to becomes emotional, especially if they are angry. Quite often, someone who is angry simply wants to be heard, and a solution can often be found. Responding with anger only makes the situation worse and then the problem may never be solved.
It may be necessary to speak to a group or have group members communicate with each other; many professionals also deal with members of the public in some form. With group communication, it is often a good idea to have a facilitator or leader; for some emotionally charged situations, a moderator may be necessary. There are several different types of leadership, ranging from the leader who takes complete control to the leader who takes into consideration all of the opinions of the group members. For work teams, this type of democratic leadership is often the preferred method. The leader should also be able to communicate well with group members who may not be able to stay on task or are always late with their contribution to the project. Any good leader knows that the group is only as strong as its weakest link; this weak link will need a bit more guidance than the stronger members of the group.
Professionals who deal with the public must have excellent problem-solving skills and a level head. Communication must be clear and concise, and it is necessary to be able to understand what the customer or client is communicating. It may be important to repeat back what the customer said to ensure clear understanding.
Giving presentations is often another facet of professional communication. Great public speaking takes practice. One way to improve public speaking skill is to record your presentations. You can quickly see what needs improvement. It takes work to remove filler words from your speech, such as um or uh. One should also make eye contact or appear to do so with members of the group; you have to learn to scan the crowd and not focus on just one person.
Part of professional communication is body language. Body language can communicate a defensive or closed-off manner, so it is important to study the basics of body language and how to arrange your body to send the right message to your listeners. Crossing your arms indicates defense, and putting your hands together in a steeple or tent can be considered condescending. Practice proper body language at home, until you are comfortable with holding your arms and hands a certain way.
Professional Writing, Presentations, and Visuals
Professional writing and presentations are often overlooked skills. Someone knowledgeable who cannot communicate via email or memo is largely ineffective. Almost anyone can throw together a PowerPoint presentation, but a true communicator uses presentation software as a tool; they do not expect the slides to carry the presentation. A good presenter also creates interesting and useful handouts that the participants can carry back to their desks or external place of business to refer to as needed.
Professional emails should use formal language, have a salutation, a descriptive subject line, and be brief. They should also carry a signature of the sender that includes their contact information. Senders should also be familiar with how to use the cc and bcc fields in their email programs. Long emails and sensitive conversations are usually better conducted over the phone or in person.
Charts and graphs make any presentation or report easier to comprehend and visually appealing. There are many tools available for the creation of charts. Take the time to learn how to use these tools. No one wants to read large bodies of unbroken text. A chart or graph helps those in your audience retain the information, as the majority of the population is composed of visual learners.
One final note about communication is the importance of active listening. Many of us listen just to interrupt and give our opinion, not with the goal of understanding the speaker. Be actively engaged in listening: turn off the cell phone, close the lid to the laptop, and really listen to what the person has to say. Contemplate for a few seconds before answering. Get comfortable with moments of silence. Active listening is one more thing you can add to your list of soft skills that will show that you are a true professional, regardless of the communication method being used.
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