In business, how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate—and the method you use can go a long way in increasing the effectiveness of your professional communication.
Communication is one of the most important parts of growing a business. In order to grow and scale a business, you need to be able to effectively communicate with your team, your customers and your community.
But not all communication is created equal. There are plenty of different methods of communication in business—and if you want your business to thrive, you need to be able to effectively communicate through each of those methods (and know where and when to leverage each).
Having an effective communication style has always been an important part of running a successful business. But it’s been especially important this past year when, due to COVID-19, many of the ways we’re used to communicating (like in-person meetings or conversations) haven’t been an option—and business owners have had to rely on other forms of communication (like Zoom) to connect with their team and customers.
The more methods of communication you can master in your business, the more successfully you and your team will be able to connect and communicate with each other, clients and customers—even when a curveball like COVID-19 makes communication more difficult.
So the question is, what methods of communications are available for your business—and how can you leverage each for maximum impact in 2021 and beyond?
Verbal Communication Methods
You can’t talk communication without…well, talking.
Verbal communication is one of the most commonly used forms of communication in business—and it makes sense. Talking (whether that’s in a face-to-face interaction; a “face-to-face” interaction, like a video chat; or a phone call) is one of the most natural and comfortable forms of communication for many people—and can feel more personal, collaborative and engaging than other methods of business communication.
Some of the different types of verbal communication you may use in your business include:
- In-person meetings
- Virtual meetings
- Phone calls
- Verbal presentations
- Trainings (virtual, in-person or video)
- Brainstorming sessions
- Feedback meetings
- Performance reviews
One of the main benefits of verbal communication is that, again, it’s a method of communication that a lot of people are familiar and comfortable with. And because so many people are comfortable both expressing themselves verbally and listening to other people’s verbal expressions, it can make for easier communication.
It can also be easier to get your message across accurately through verbal communication. When you’re speaking to someone, they can hear your tone of voice, which can help them better interpret your message.
That same interpretation isn’t available in written forms of communication, like an email, text or Slack message—which can increase the chance that people might miss the context or intention of what you’re saying.
Verbal communication is the ideal method of communication for a variety of situations in business, including:
- When delivering feedback. If you have to give someone feedback—particularly if it’s negative or challenging feedback—it’s always better to do it in a verbal conversation (and, if possible, face-to-face over video chat or, when it’s safe to do so, in person). When you have an actual feedback conversation—instead of sending a feedback email or message—it’s easier to convey empathy and understanding, which can keep the recipient from going on the defensive, and help you more effectively deliver your message.
- When clarity is important. As mentioned, because it’s hard to capture tone and context in written communication, sometimes things get lost in translation in an email, message or text—so if you need to communicate something with absolute clarity, it’s generally better to do so verbally. (Having a conversation also allows people to ask questions in real-time—which can also increase their understanding of your message.)
- When building connections. Connecting with someone verbally—whether that’s meeting with them in person (post-pandemic, of course), chatting on the phone or having a Zoom call—typically feels more personal than written communication. So if you’re really looking to forge or strengthen a connection with your team, clients or customers, verbal communication is typically your best bet.
Written Communication Methods
Sometimes, it’s best to say what you need to say in your business—and other times, it’s better to write what you need to say.
Written communication is just as common as verbal communication in business—particularly when you’re dealing with team members, colleagues, customers or clients that are in a different location (which, during COVID-19, rings true for almost every business).
Some of the different types of written communication you may use in your business include:
- Text messages
- Digital messages (like Slack or Microsoft Teams)
- Training manuals
Written communication has a host of benefits in a business setting. Writing things down can help you organize your thoughts and ensure that your message is clear, complete and thorough—which, for many people, can prove challenging during verbal communication.
Using written communication in your business also creates a record of your exchanges; for example, if you’re having a conversation with a client and you say you’ll deliver the project in 30 days—but they later claim you said 14 days—there’s no real way to gain clarity on the conversation.
On the other hand, if you set the project deadline in an email, you would have a written record of your agreed upon deadline—and could easily reference that written record if there was a dispute over timelines with the client.
Written communication can also, in many situations, be easier than verbal communication. For example, let’s say you need to share a quick data point with your marketing manager. You can send that data point pretty much instantly through an email or digital message—while it would typically require a lot more time and energy to track down your marketing manager (whether in your office, on the phone or via Zoom) and relay that information verbally.
Written communication can be an extremely effective form of communication in a variety of business situations, including:
- When you need the person to be able to reference your communication at a later time. Sometimes, you want or need a record of your business communications; for example, maybe you and a client are setting project rates and want to have your agreed upon rate on file for legal reasons, or you have to give detailed project instructions to one of your employees and want them to be able to reference those instructions throughout the course of the project. In those situations, writing things down is the way to go.
- When you’re communicating with someone in a different location. If you’re communicating with someone in a different location, sending an email or Slack message can be a much easier and more effective form of communication—particularly if that person is in another time zone, and finding a mutually convenient time to connect on a phone or video call proves challenging.
- When you’re communicating with your team during off-hours. Sometimes, you’ll have something you want to share with your team on an evening or weekend. But calling or video chatting them can feel intrusive—and can impede on their ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sending an email or written message—with explicit instructions that they don’t need to respond immediately—allows them to respond on their own time, which can feel less intrusive to their personal time.
Nonverbal Communication Methods
What you say is important. But the truth is, the majority of communication is nonverbal—and everything from your facial expressions to your body language and the gestures you make while speaking can actually send a stronger message than what you’re actually saying.
For example, let’s say you’re talking to one of your employees and say, “You’re doing a great job handling the XYZ project.” While you might say they’re doing a great job, if your brow is furrowed, you’re frowning and your arms are crossed, your nonverbal communication is sending a different message—and, chances are, that employee is going to question how well you think they’re actually doing.
Some nonverbal cues that tend to communicate strongly (regardless of what verbal words they’re paired with) include:
- Crossed arms: When your arms are crossed, it can appear like you’re closed off or defensive—even if you’re saying you’re open.
- Furrowed brow and/or frown: It doesn’t matter how positive your verbal message is—if you have an angry expression on your face, it’s not going to come across as positive.
- Eye contact: When you maintain consistent eye contact when in conversation with someone, you tend to come across as engaged, authentic and honest. When you avoid eye contact or constantly shift your gaze, those nonverbal cues may send the message that you’re uncomfortable, nervous or being dishonest.
The point is, your nonverbal communication is speaking just as loudly as your words. So if you want to foster effective communication in your business, it’s important to stay aware of what kind of message those nonverbal cues are sending.
Tips for Effective Communication—and Knowing Which Method of Communication to Use
If you want to foster effective communication in your business, it’s important to understand all three methods of communication—and how and when to use each.
But how do you do that? Here are a few tips to more effectively leverage all three methods of communication in your business:
- Use a mirror to familiarize yourself with your nonverbal communication cues. Nonverbal cues communicate just as strongly as spoken words. So if you want to be a more effective communicator in your business, you need to gain awareness of your nonverbal cues—and the best way to do that? A mirror. Next time you have to communicate something important at work, practice what you’re going to say in front of a mirror beforehand and pay attention to your nonverbal cues, like your facial expressions and body language. By bringing awareness to your nonverbal cues, you can ensure they’re aligned with what you’re saying—and, if they’re not, work to change them before you verbally deliver your message.
- Ask for feedback. There’s no one-size-fits-all definition of effective communication. So, if you want to foster more effective communication in your business, ask the people who matter—the people you’re communicating with. Asking for feedback on your communication style and methods can give you valuable insights into how to improve communication within your business. For example, you might ask your employees for feedback on your training modules—and find out they prefer video training over written manuals. Or you might send a feedback form to your customers—and realize they find your customer service digital chat impersonal and would prefer to have a phone conversation with a representative. The point is, effective communication varies based on who you’re communicating with—so if you want your business communication to be more effective, ask the people you’re communicating with directly how you can make it more effective.
- Ask yourself, “How would I want to receive this communication?” If you’re not sure what method of communication you should use to send a message—whether that’s to your team, your customers or your clients—asking yourself how you’d like to receive that message can help you gain clarity on what the most appropriate method might be in that situation. For example, let’s say you’re gearing up to deliver challenging news to an employee. If you dig into how you’d want to receive the communication and realize that you’d find it impersonal in an email, chances are, your employee will, too—and it’s better to deliver the news in a verbal conversation.
Use These Methods of Communication to Increase Efficiency in Your Business
Effective communication is an integral part of running a successful business. And now that you know the different methods of communication (and how they might play out in your business) you have everything you need to foster better, more effective communication at work—and watch your business thrive as a result.