The following six easy tips will improve your communication skills so that you can demand respect in the business world – despite your youth – and develop a personal brand worthy of remark:
1. Simple is better. Have you ever written a sentence and then said, “What I am really trying to say is: ‘xyz?’” Forget the complicated wording and say what you mean. People don’t want to read a longwinded rant and only find what they needed to know at the very end. Aim for clarity, not complexity.
2. Anticipate questions and provide answers. Business people are busy. To save your time and theirs, anticipate questions that might arise and address them directly. The less Jennifer Co-Worker has to clarify, the more time she can spend doing her own job. So help her by providing more than enough information in case she needs more details. Example: “Jen, I just finishing taking notes on the guerrilla marketing tactics PDF (www.guerrilla.com/pg2.htm) you showed me on Tuesday. The notes I took outline some new tactics we might be able to use. You can find the notes, called ‘New Guerrila Tactics.doc’ here: http://companyx.com/internaldocs”
Notice what I provided Jen:
- The day Jen showed me the PDF, to jog her memory in case she forget what article I was talking about
- The URL of the PDF, in case she wants to reference it
- The content of the notes I took
- The name of the document containing my notes
- The location where I uploaded the notes
I have just saved Jen and myself a lot of time by providing that information up front. I answered any potential questions she could have before they popped up (What article are you talking about? Where did you upload the notes? etc.), eliminating any more back-and-forth emails that would waste both of our time.
3. Spell check. You’ve heard this one before, but I’m repeating it because a surprising number of people still don’t do it. Do not scan the document with your eyes and call it done. Let Microsoft Word’s spell-checker do the initial dirty work. After confirming any changes, re-read for mistakes such as using “too” instead of “to,” “effect” instead of “affect,” or “you’re” instead of “your.” See CopyBlogger’s 5 Common Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb and Weber State Online’s Commonly Misused Words and Phrases.
4. Take a moment before responding to angry emails. One of the true virtues of a professional is the ability to remain calm under pressure. If you receive a nasty email, stop for a minute. Imagine yourself one year in the future, looking back at how you responded. Did you remain poised and professional? Or did you weaken your personal brand by lashing out? Responding to an email in hotheaded haste will make people think you are disrespectful – a label that’s nearly impossible to remove after it’s been given. Also keep in mind how easy it is to misinterpret the emotions of an email. Text can only convey words, not feelings. The person at the other end might not have been angry at all, even if it appeared that way on paper.
5.Communicate frequently. Send thank you emails immediately after meeting new people. Ask your superiors questions. Provide articles your co-workers will find useful (but don’t spam them with pictures of cats). Use frequent and strong communication as a way to progress yourself within your field.
6. Take a breath. When asked a question in person, no one will complain if you take an extra second to pull together your thoughts. You can also rephrase the question to give yourself more time to form an answer. By not immediately jumping in, your response will be much better articulated.
Communication is the most important aspect of your job. It is how you interact with other people, and that’s what business is all about: people talking to people. Make sure when others talk about you, they’re mentioning the aspects of your personal brand you want to be remembered for, like clarity and level-headednes.