Treat Email Like Real Mail – It’s okay to skimp on the text when you’re sending a grocery list to your spouse or an invite to an old college friend, but when dealing with business associates, partners and clients, it’s always better to err on the side of formality. Treat your email communications as if they were real letters – not just digital missives.
Edit for Clarity – It’s tempting to just jot down a note and send it without a second thought, but you should always go back and edit for clarity. What you think sounds perfect in your head could be confusing to whoever receives your memo.
Archive Communications – Create folders in which to save old emails that you may need again in the future. Having a “lost” email conveniently backed up in an archive can save you a ton of time when that email suddenly becomes relevant again.
Check your Facts – You don’t ever want to have the wrong information, as this makes you look like you haven’t done your homework! For this reason, it’s important to always check your facts before you hit that “Send” button.
Stay Away from Emoticons, Slang and Colloquialisms – Business communications should be direct and to the point. They should also be written so that a person on the other side of the country could instantly understand what you’re talking about. If you have even the slightest suspicion that something you’ve written could be lost in translation, skip it.
Always Use the Subject Line – The subject line is not only your recipient’s first introduction to the content of your message, it’s also one key to keeping your message out of the spam box. Always fill out this crucial field – even if it’s with something as simple as “Hello.”
Avoid the Spam Box – If your messages aren’t getting through to your intended recipient, it could be that they’re being marked as spam. To prevent this, be sure that the person on the other end of the line is looking for your email and has your email address and domain in their list of “safe” senders.
Meet in Person – Sometimes, an email or a text just isn’t enough. Putting a face to a name and a palm to a palm is still the best way to communicate complex ideas and make a good impression, so don’t shy away from person-to-person meetings.
Listen Attentively – Good communication begins with an understanding of what the other party is talking about. Always listen and give your undivided attention, instead of trying to interject too quickly with your own thoughts.
Focus Your Speech – Think before you open your mouth. When your speech patterns are cluttered with “umms” and “ahhs,” you defeat the purpose of meeting face-to-face.
Stay on Target – Don’t get distracted by topics that are irrelevant to why you chose to meet in the first place. It’s easy for your train of thought to derail, but business communication is different than interpersonal communication. There’s always a point you’re trying to get across, so stick to it!
Avoid Making Communications too Personal – Keeping professional boundaries sacred is important in business communication. It’s good to become friendly with the people with whom you’re working, but you don’t necessarily have to become friends. Be polite and engaging, but avoid too much personal drama.
Thank People for Their Input – People always want to feel that their opinions are important – even if you don’t agree with them. It’s your job to keep the conversation on track. If the person you’re talking with expresses a contrary opinion or offers an alternative you feel won’t be beneficial, thank them and then explain why you’re not going to use what they’ve suggested.
Tell ‘em, Tell ‘em, Tell ‘em Again – Tell people what you’re going to say, say it and tell them what you’ve told them. This age old adage about good communication is based on human psychology. The brain is set up to remember things in a specific order. Items with primacy (the first in a list) and items with recency (the newest items) will always be remembered above anything else. So by introducing your “big ideas” in the beginning of your talk and at the end, you’re doubling your chances that your recipient will remember what you’ve told them.
Ask Questions – It’s not all about engaging your listener’s pride. Questions generate ideas and helpful tangents in discussions that allow you to bring out aspects of a topic that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, so make it a habit to pose at least 1-2 probing questions in every business conversation.
Follow Up – Whether in-person or in writing, always follow up a day or two after you’ve discussed an issue to ensure that the person on the other end of the conversation understood your points and is able to undertake any further tasks that your communication necessitated.
A Sense of Humor is Good, but Not Essential – Humor is often touted in speech books and communications manuals as an important conversational tool, but it’s not essential. If you’re stressed about being seen as the “funny guy,” keep in mind that clarity of thought and simplicity of presentation are far more important than opening with a joke.
Obviously, these are just a few suggestions on how to improve your business communication skills. If you have any other ideas that you’d like to share, leave a comment on the subject below!