The way we communicate in today's world is almost unrecognizable from the world of 20 years ago. Technology has made an abundance of information and services available to us at the press of a button: in fact, many of us use technology in such a way that we do not have to seek information as much as just let it come to us--in our news feeds, our inboxes, our ears and minds.
For an entrepreneur, listening earnestly and communicating both clearly and effectively among all the static can be a real challenge. Several studies have looked at the ways entrepreneurs’ communication skills--or lack thereof--correlate with their success.
What they’ve found is no surprise: The most successful entrepreneurs are expert communicators who heavily invest in social capital. But in an interesting twist, research has found that these communication skills don’t have to be inherent to be effective. They can be learned.
Studies from the Academy of Management have shown that our daily communication breakdown looks like this:
Becoming a Better Communicator
Based on these figures, we spend 75% of our time actively communicating--speaking and listening--compared to the 25% of time we spend passively communicating through writing and reading. Both active and passive communication methods are important for entrepreneurs to master because they hang in careful balance. What we write may affect what we say; what we read may affect how we listen.
What if you’re an entrepreneur who isn’t inherently skilled in communication? How can you improve your skills and methods to give yourself the best chance for success? I searched for effective solutions and found 3 ways to make yourself a better communicator.
1. Communication is a Skill, so Study It
The best way to begin communicating better is by educating yourself. Let go of your existing ideas about communication and start from the beginning. Learn about your own preferred communication styles and the ways those methods might clash or mesh well with others’.
You don’t have to enroll in a course or go to a seminar to learn about effective communication strategies that will benefit you professionally.
Pay Greater Attention
Begin paying more attention to the way you communicate with others and study their reactions. Spend more time listening, observing body language, tone, and observe the flow of conversation. Who appears to be leading the direction of the conversation, and how are they doing it? Focus on listening actively rather than simply hearing what another has to say.
Find a Mentor
We all know someone who does a great job of communicating, and there's no better teacher than experience. Try reaching out to someone who already practices some of the communication qualities you want to develop and let them know you're trying to become a better communicator -- then listen to their response.
If you can't reach out, make a note of what makes them a great communicator. What do they do differently? Try to implement changes based on this.
2. Get Technology Involved
The internet is full of programs and webinars that promise to make you a master communicator. But I haven’t seen anything quite like Crystal, the Nashville tech startup that uses complex algorithms and public online information to determine the communication preferences of any person with a LinkedIn profile, down to whether or not you should use an emoji when you email them.
Crystal’s email extension makes it possible to write emails in a way that is proven to appeal to the receiver, based on the information they’ve posted or made available online. For example, Crystal knows that the client I’m working with tends to write in short, to-the-point sentences and prefers to avoid ‘small talk.’ Crystal can then suggest relevant changes while I draft an email to this client (“Consider removing the friendly but unnecessary phrase 'How's it going?' from your email").
Start here to get technology involved:
First, give Crystal a try
3. Bring Mindfulness Into Your Life
The study of mindfulness and meditation is a process that helps people learn to be more present and acknowledge circumstances, feelings and emotions without feeling powerless to them or identified by them.
Communicating mindlessly can take several forms, including responding too quickly with anger, making assumptions, and identifying ourselves and others by the emotions experienced. These tactics can unintentionally steer an entrepreneur away from success.
By being mindful in communication, we can ensure that we don’t do ourselves or our colleagues a disservice by communicating mindlessly. Entrepreneurs can benefit from studying mindfulness in a variety of ways, including:
Tapping into creativity
Gaining clarity and insight
Responding appropriately to stress
Interested in trying some mindfulness exercises? You can start right now!
Do It Yourself
Go to a quiet place where you won't be distracted. Get comfortable and close your eyes. Become conscious of your breath and notice the sensation you feel as it enters your body, fills your lungs, and quietly exits your nose.
Once you are focused on your breath, start to let your muscles relax, one by one, from the top of your head all the way to your toes. You are now anchored in the present moment. If worries, stray thoughts, or fears pop into your mind, just return your focus to your breath for a while.
When you are ready, slowly come back to your surroundings and open your eyes.
Alternatively, you can also attend a workshop or find a Shambhala center near you.
Entrepreneurs have the best chance of reaching success when they can clearly and efficiently communicate their company’s goals, vision, and mission to stakeholders. Improving interpersonal communication skills will have far-reaching benefits in an entrepreneur’s professional and personal life as well. The methods listed above can help you begin to communicate more effectively. Which will you try first?