The ability to communicate well can greatly influence the success of your small business. Communication skills are needed to attract new customers, keep existing ones, convince investors to commit, and negotiate contracts and deals.
Experts assert that 85 percent of career success is directly related to the ability to communicate, which the Harvard Business Review calls a “must-have leadership skill.” And doing it well involves using more than words: Psychologist Albert Mehrabian concluded in his book Silent Messages that body language accounts for 55 percent of communication.
So, if you’re talking with clients, employees, or vendors and your non-verbal communication isn’t in line with your words, you will make less of an impact, says Christine Corelli, president and chief creative officer of Christine Corelli & Associates. What’s worse, you may be perceived as merely giving lip service to an issue, she says.
How can you communicate more effectively? Here are five tips:
1. Maintain eye contact. According to Corelli, by simply maintaining eye contact with your listener, you’ll convey trustworthiness, confidence, and likability. On the other hand, when you avoid it, your listener may think you’re lying. Experts say it’s important to avoid staring and to make eye contact with your listener at the end of your statements in order to reinforce your message.
2. Gesture freely. When you use your hands to gesture on important points, you give those words more emphasis. But your hand and arm movements can also betray feelings you’re trying to hide. Touching your face, putting your hand over your mouth, or fiddling with objects expresses a denial of the words you’re saying.
3. Mirror the listener’s actions. According to the Westside Toastmaster’s website, mirroring someone’s body movements is one of the most powerful ways to build rapport quickly. It will make them feel comfortable with you and understood. Sit in the same position and mimic their gestures and facial expressions from time to time. Unconsciously, they’ll begin to think that you’re easy to be with and likable, because they’ll see themselves in you.
4. Don’t invade anyone’s space. Toastmasters says that you should maintain between 18 and 48 inches of distance during a friendly social interaction, and between 4 and 12 feet with strangers. Stepping into someone’s intimate zone (6 to 18 inches), which is reserved for loved ones, will cause physiological reactions in your listener and could cause them to have negative feelings toward you. If your listener steps back as you approach, don’t move forward again, because it means that they’re uncomfortable.
5. Speak clearly. The tone and speed of your words can also impact the effectiveness of your communication. Experts say that you should match the pace of the speech of the person you’re talking with — or even speak more slowly. When you talk rapidly, it can make the listener feel pressured. In addition, it’s important that you speak clearly and confidently. Many successful people have taken elocution lessons to improve their voice and speaking abilities. You can get a free mini lesson here.
Corelli says that if you have the ability to express yourself, along with other key business attributes, you’ll be in a much better position to achieve success in your business. A large part of your ability to influence others comes from the subtle communication messages that you send. Are you sending the right message?