By Chip Campbell
Assistant Professor of Marketing
School of Business
Western New Mexico University
What are the essential tools for effective business communications? I remember back when my son had friends over to hang out years ago, and how nervous I got as a parent because it was so quiet. So when I decided to investigate by pretending to get some water, I was amazed that they were all sitting around playing multiple video games and texting each other at the same time without saying a word? I just could not imagine how they shared information without any kind of verbal or non-verbal communication being offered.
Scientists tell us that human beings are social animals and use communication to share information with each other in seeking out and obtaining the things needed for life. Abraham Maslow noted that the first three foundational human needs include air, food, water, shelter, safety and belonging to survive. Research indicates that communication is a two-way process involving disclosure and listening to send out and receive information (respectively), and that to prevent miscommunication from occurring, the verbal and non-verbal have to be aligned so that meaning is understood by the receiver the way it was meant by the sender.
Some literature shows that on average, 80-90% of all human communication was non-verbal before the explosion of technology. The non-verbal cues like the eyes, the face, tone, emphasis on words, the way we dress, the things we own, and much more send out meaning to others, whether we realize it or not. We also use words via the spoken language to send and receive meaning, which includes electronic communication like texting and email. This means that most of the emailing and texting that is going on in the current high-tech world does not include any non-verbal information that humans have been using to work in conjunction with the spoken language for thousands of years.
So to effectively communicate with others, especially in business, there are some highly recommended suggestions including active listening, empathy and critical thinking. Active listening is where the receiver provides total attention to the sender, without distractions or pre-conceived notions/agendas, in an attempt to fully understand the meaning of all the information being offered. This does not mean that you have to agree with others all the time, but studies have shown that the amount of information missed due to internal or external “noise” (anything that blocks common meaning between sender and receiver) can have serious negative consequences on human communication.
Empathy is the ability to try very hard to understand the meaning of someone else from their point of view or perspective. Again, this does not mean you have to agree or like what you hear, but people need to realize that differences are good, that each person is a unique individual in the universe, and each person has the right to their own perceptions and choices. The old saying is that you never know what someone else has/is/will experience until you take a walk in their shoes.
Critical thinking is where individuals keep a very open mind to change and the possible options available in any given situation. This is sometimes very difficult because it takes time to employ into the communication process. However, the benefits can be enormous when considering how much information is contained in the human mind and readily available via technological communications. The experts agree that it is best to challenge what you hear, see or even think – and find the best valid evidence when making decisions.
All of these essential communication tools take time and care to learn and practice, but if employed regularly, communication between people can get better, which can be very beneficial to businesses and other relationships in life.