There are two types of business relationships: internal (employees, colleagues and vendors) and external (customers and clients). What would you say if I told you that you could amp up your communication skills with both these audiences by taking just a few ideas into consideration? No, I'm not selling you a magic course to fix all your communication woes. But some simple steps can take you toward better communication skills and in turn, bring new life to your business relationships.
Let's have a look at three communication skills and their potential impact on your business relationships: curiosity, mobile workforce considerations and the power of story.
The Power of Curiosity
When Harvard Business Review recently interviewed M*A*S*H actor turned communication expert Alan Alda, he credited curiosity as one of the great tools of his long and legendary career. Alda, who narrated PBS' Scientific American Frontiers, spoke to having scientific authorities explain things to him in a way he could understand. This way, he could explain it to audiences in terms they could understand.
Your curiosity is a powerful tool—and one you already have—that can instantly go to work to improve your business relationships. Ask your internal and external colleagues to explain things to you in a way you understand.
When sitting down with colleagues and clients alike, consider using the power of the question to get a better understanding of someone else's pains, frustrations and needs. Try to be truly curious about why they feel the way they do, what they feel could be improved and how the improvements they want would add benefit even beyond their current challenges.
Humans are inherently curious beings. By leveraging curiosity, you can improve both your personal and business relationships with the people who matter most to our business.
Consider How and Where People Work
In June of 2016, cloud phone system company Dialpad conducted a survey of 1,014 professionals to uncover trends in business communication. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that their companies had mobile workforces. This changes both where and how people work.
With more employees operating outside the confines of a typical office space, the ways people can and want to be reached to sort out any number of business matters is changing. You can use your curiosity to explore how and when the people you communicate with most—and the people you need to learn how to communicate with better—prefer to be contacted.
The same study indicated that both internal and external business relationships consider phone, email and in-person meetings to be the three most preferred methods of communication. Yet instant messaging applications (like Slack, Google Hangout or other collaborative tools), texting, video and online meetings are also seen as valuable tools for connecting when matters need discussing.
And remember: While you may be in an office, you could be catching the person you most need to speak with just when school lets out and they're picking up their kids. Coupling curiosity with considerations on how people work now can go miles to building better relationships because you understand how, when and where others work.
The Power of Story
Kathy Klotz-Guest, author of Keeping It Human, advises businesses to invest in the power of story and know who its best storytellers are. Who are the best storytellers in your business?
Let's be honest: We each have our strengths and it's A-OK if spinning a yarn isn't one of yours. But if you do a mental inventory of your team and clients, I'm fairly sure a few people who can tell a fine story will come to mind. These folks—the storytellers—are the ones who can make your brand story accessible to a tough crowd. They can also do you an incredible service if you're trying to get internal buy-in for an external source you're keen to introduce.
By finding the people who are best equipped to tell the story that needs telling, you can help improve your business relationships by letting the best people head-up the job at hand. It feels great to have an audience eat out of your hand—whether colleague or client. So seeking out those with the storytelling gift and empowering them can help make that connection happen.
What all three of these tips have in common, however, is the "human" side of business relationships. Because when it's all said and done, what you're saying is being said to people. People who have good days and bad, needs and wants. And when you can leverage the power of curiosity, understanding how people work and knowing who's best equipped to tell the story you need telling, you can increase the empathy factor in everything you do and say.
And empathy is a great tool for improving business relationships. Because when we feel for the people we most need and most want to help succeed, we can win.
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