Why is it so hard to be understood by employees and co-workers? We have so many tools to help us communicate more effectively, yet workplace misunderstandings are costing American businesses $1.2 trillion in lost time each year.
In a survey conducted by Grammarly and The Harris Poll (“State of Business Communication”), 72% of business leaders surveyed estimated their teams lose the equivalent of nearly an entire workday each week due to poor communication issues, including resolving unclear communications and following up on requests. Poor communication can cost employees their jobs and companies can lose business.
It is surprising that communication is such a costly business issue given the technology available to communicate with almost anyone anywhere and at any time. We have teams of communications professionals to guide us, and sophisticated tools to help simplify our message so that it can be easily understand by all.
Anyone Can Become a Better Communicator
While the costs of poor communication are staggering, the solutions are uncomplicated and require minimal financial investment. Anyone can become a more effective communicator by using these simple techniques.
Choose the best method. Human beings communicate best in person. We use all of our senses to express thoughts and ideas, and this can aid all parties involved. If face-to-face is impossible or impractical, turn the cameras on and all other distractions off, and have the conversation. The trend of mass firings by email or in virtual meetings is one that should disappear forever.
Be concise. Be brief and include all important information. That doesn’t mean every detail, but sufficient information so that the recipient can understand the message. Sometimes details are unable to be provided for legal, privacy, or other reasons. If there is a gaping hole in the information, employees will seek to fill it on their own. Use a reassuring tone and avoid business jargon in these situations.
Get to the point. Business communications are not mystery novels. Be succinct. Summarize the most important information and provide pertinent details. This is particularly true with written communcations. Don’t count on the reader to read every word. Start with the facts first, then provide the context.
Written communication in theory should be reliable, but this requires the sender to be a good writer and the recipient to be a good reader. This is where the breakdown often occurs.
Be accurate and precise. Avoid business jargon and phrases that can be left to interpretation. For example, phrases like as soon as possible are often misunderstood. To me, that means within the hour or sooner. To others it means whenever I get to it. Providing a specific yime period makes it clear. Be honest. Don’t make a promise that can’t be kept. This kind of communication choice gets most of us in trouble.
Seek to understand and to be understood. Effective communication is a mutual responsibility. Don’t jump to a conclusion or assume without first seeking clarity. For example, there are many time-saving, auto-generated emails within accounting software. Sometimes a friendly reminder of a missed payment is generated when in fact payment had been made but was not properly recorded. Instead of firing off an indignant email, a quick call or chat could clear up the confusion.
Despite all of this there is one thing you can count on. No matter what you say or do to create clarity, there will always be some who misunderstands you.
Don’t let poor communication ruin your business or your relationships. Like most things in business and in life, there is always a way if we are truly committed. Communication clarity, brevity, and mutually understanding can help you reduce costs and grow your business.
If you need help with communicating more effectively, let’s talk.