Courtesy is key to effective business communication

Courtesy is key to effective business communication

Good communication is at the heart of business management.  Effective networking skills, negotiation, presentations, sales, winning business proposals, leadership, and influencing people, all depend upon it.  Two articles caught my attention this month and both show that while the means of communicating may have changed dramatically over recent years the rules about  how to communicate well, have not.

Angela Huth writing for the Daily Mail on the 1st February, 2012, asked why no one replies to messages anymore.  Despite the ever increasing variety of communications methods making access to the right people easier, quicker and cheaper, she says that people are getting no response to their queries more frequently than ever before.  Despite all the new tools, people feel increasingly ignored.

Ms. Huth says that being too busy is just an excuse. She suggests that people don’t want to reply too quickly for fear of not being seen to be important and busy enough. By highlighting the example of job seekers or would-be novelists, waiting in hope for a positive reply, she shows this ‘no response’ practice to be cruel.

Standing-up for common courtesy is more than just a last stand against the slide from good manners.  Communicating in this way is simply ineffective.  By not replying promptly to a message you are telling the sender that you are not interested in them, and that they are not important enough to merit a reply.

A key networking skill for building relationships is listening – nothing shouts: ‘I’m not listening!’ louder than no reply.  Another technique is empathy, putting yourself in others’ shoes.  Would you be happy to be treated in this way, or only when the boot is on the other foot?

Etiquette around sending a ‘thank you’ tweet, email or SMS, is confused and I’d welcome your views: with executives receiving so many emails in a day, is it acceptable to send a simple ‘thank you’, or does it simply clog-up people’s in-boxes?

The Metro on the 2nd February, 2012, reported the findings of a report showing that only around a third of tweets received are found interesting, with the remainder being disliked or instantly forgettable.

The article offered advice on how to improve your tweets, including not re-tweeting old links that have been around for a long time; not tweeting a link without giving readers a reason to click; adding to the story with an opinion instead of simply passing a link along; not whining, and not telling everyone where you are all the time or explaining your daily routine.

Good advice, but also interesting in that it fits within the four point plan for effective communication that The Influence Business frequently uses in our executive training and business coaching courses, namely:

  1. Be authentic: be yourself, add your opinion and don’t re-tweet links just because you think they’ll make you look good.
  2. Deliver your message well: talk to your audience not at them. Don’t just dump a stream of data.
  3. Listen: put yourself into your audience/follower’s shoes and think: ‘what would really interest me?’ The aim is to find out more about them, not tell them more about you.
  4. Use visual aids/content to support what you say, not as a crutch because you have nothing to say.

Whether using social media or communicating face-to-face, the rules remain the same.