Ask any entrepreneur for the key to his or her success, and you’re bound to hear a wide range of advice. Some think that success boils down to a killer idea. If you have an idea that no one else has thought of, or you can do something in a way that no one else can, you can’t lose. Others say that it comes down to tenacity and confidence, or some other trait that’s impossible to quantify. Some might say it’s who you know, or your ability to position yourself in front of the right people to gain the support you need — or maybe, it all just comes down to hard work.
However, regardless of what any entrepreneur considers the most important factor to a successful business, almost all would agree that communication is a vital skill. No matter how great your idea or how tenacious you are, unless you can communicate effectively, you’re probably not going to get too far. The problem is, not everyone is born with exceptional communication skills and even those who have great skills can often benefit from advanced training.
That being said, entrepreneurs need several key communication skills. Learning them, whether through daily practice or a formal communication degree program, can help your business not only get off the ground, but also succeed beyond your expectations.
1. Know How and When to Use Emotion
Many consider professionalism and emotion to be mutually exclusive. However, humans are naturally emotional creatures, and tapping into emotions when necessary builds better connections and boosts your profits. Effectively arguing your point of view, therefore, involves combining both logic and emotion.
People tend to have emotional responses first, regardless of the logic of the argument, so recognizing and responding to emotion before trying to make a well-reasoned, logical point is often most effective.
2. Be Concise
For better or worse, the world communicates in sound bites now. Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet; most text message screens only allow a few hundred more. Studies indicate that the average person only spends about eight seconds focusing on any single issue.
Does your communication style fit within this new paradigm? Consider how much extraneous information you include in your everyday speech and written communication. Trim the fat, and keep your audience’s attention.
3. Be Specific
Being concise often makes it easier to be specific — when you aren’t focused on “fluffing up” your communication, it’s easier to stick to the facts. Being too general or vague not only opens up the possibility of misinterpretation, it can also lead to distrust. People do not trust what they don’t understand, so be clear, focused, and specific.
4. Be Tactful
Quite simply, no one wants to do business with a jerk. Even when you have to deliver bad news or criticism, doing so tactfully will get you much further with clients, co-workers, and partners than just saying what’s on your mind. This doesn’t mean you have to sugarcoat things or avoid being honest — it just means you need to use language that creates a positive response and is sensitive to the feelings and interests of others.
5. Focus on the Listener
Not only does being a good communicator require being a good listener, but it also requires maintaining a listener-focused perspective. Consider how your audience will interpret your words. One of the fundamentals of communication is that perception is reality, so even if you do not intend for your words to be off-putting or unclear, if the audience perceives them to be so, they are. Put yourself in your listener’s shoes and think about their interpretations and perceptions, and adjust your communication accordingly.
6. Understand Nonverbal Communication
Some claim that almost 95 percent of communication is nonverbal. Studies show that number is a bit high, but that doesn’t mean nonverbal communication isn’t important. From the time we’re babies we can interpret messages based on facial expressions, gestures, tone, and the level of interaction between the speaker and listener.
Learning to temper your own nonverbal cues (which you might not even realize you’re making) and interpret the cues of others allows you to communicate more effectively and adjust your message and delivery.
7. Handle Conflict Effectively
Conflict is inevitable. How you handle it can make a big difference in whether it’s constructive to your business, or whether it costs you opportunities — and damages relationships. Effective conflict resolution focuses on solving the problem and doing so politely and without personal attacks.
Good communication skills are important in every facet of life, but perhaps most importantly in entrepreneurship. If you focus on these seven vital skills, your business will grow and improve — and you’ll have the profits to prove it.