26 Mar Characteristics of Impactful Business Communication
Communicating effectively at work has never been more important. With competition in many sectors growing, globalization impacting the complexity of business success, and expanded communication channels that support real-time, on-demand information flow, the importance of communicating effectively every time is a business necessity. We recognize that communication is a key skill for success and the driver for getting what we want and need, yet we often fail to recognize the most effective method of communication, the method of communication that supports shared understanding and purpose.
Consider the most successful conversations that you have been involved in at work. What conditions led to a favorable interaction? Whether you initiated the conversation or took the role of receiver or listener, I suspect that the message had one, two, three, or all four of the following characteristics.
1. The message is relevant and impactful.
2. The message is two-way and shared.
3. It is clear and easy to understand.
4. It sticks.
Let me clarify these points.
1. The message is relevant and impactful: People respond to stimulus on an emotional level first, with critical or higher level thinking coming second. We interpret the information and decide on the relevance and significance of the message based on our individual values, beliefs, and ideas. Impactful messages are compelling to your audience when you make it personal, and bring it to life.
Clearly articulating the “what’s in it for me” for your audience, tying benefits to experiences and expectations supports the call to action. Tailoring your communication to your audience by making it more personally relevant adds a significance and impact. For example, if you are sharing your corporate vision and mission as a method of building customer commitment, include examples and stories that relate the impact of your vision to the organization and the customer.
2. The message is two-way and shared: The goal of communication is to better understand one another, create shared meaning, and build connections. These outcomes require that the communication process be dynamic, involving open, two-way communication. Business communication tends to rely on two separate processes where one individual delivers a message, expecting that the other individual will listen, understand, and act on the call to action. We often fail to include a feedback loop, or opportunity to drive shared meaning through open, two-way communication.
Communication has an important element of socialization that satisfies our inherent need to interact and belong. Whether studying the works of Abraham Maslow, Roy Baumeister, or Mark Leary, who bring attention to our need to belong, you can draw connections to the role that communication has to support this psychological and physiological need.
3. It is clear and easy to understand: Effective communication is clear and easy to understand, leaving little room for misunderstanding or ambiguity. Though our brain is an incredibly adept tool for high level thinking, it prefers messages that are simple and straight to the point. Effective communicators design and deliver messages that the receiver can clearly understand and action. They use easy to understand language, short sentences, and structure that clearly identify the most important parts of the message.
Effective communicators answer the basic questions of who, what, where, when, why, and how to ensure that the message is complete and clear. They consider their audience’s questions beforehand to ensure a complete and clear message. In addition, they are careful not to add unnecessary information that confuses the message or drowns the important information in unnecessary technical jargon. Clear and understandable vocabulary decreases the opportunity to misunderstand even when the message is complicated by language or cultural differences.
In addition to using clear language and manageable structure, effective communicators use repetition to support their message.
- They tell the recipient what they are going to tell them
- They tell them
- Then they tell them what they told them.
Each of these actions includes a feedback loop that supports understanding.
4. It sticks: An effective message is one that is easily remembered and recalled. This is best accomplished by ensuring your message resonates with the audience, inciting an emotional reaction, encouraging action. Adults tend to link new information to existing understanding and experience. By delivering your message in a way that can be easily integrated with current thought, you support connection and retention.
Consider your own retrieval process. Think about your most memorable vacation. I suspect that you recalled the memory in terms of pictures, snapshots of moments in time that left an impression. Painting a picture in your audience’s mind will support recall and help your message stick. You may choose to share your message by telling a story, including visuals, or inviting your audience to become invested by drawing connections to their own experience. Each of these techniques allows your audience to capture your message in a way that is meaningful and impactful to them.
Integrate these four simple tips and deliver your next message effectively! Learn their language now and communicate successfully.