August 14, 2017
I have always found articles, seminars, books, and courses that talked about how people communicate very interesting…but not enough to major in it in college. We all communicate every day in multiple ways. It may start with a grunt the first thing in the morning when our spouse enters the room before we have had our coffee. It may be “that look” we get when we have done something warrant the ire of a spouse, friend, or co-worker. It includes all of our verbal messages as well as our non-verbal messages.
We communicate in either form because we have something to say. We want to be heard. Some are better at others at being heard. Maybe they are loud. Maybe they are aggressive in speaking first. Sometimes, they are considered the authority on the subject, and deference is given to them. For most of us, we are one voice in a sea of voices struggling to be heard.
We work hard on learning ways to be heard. In business, we are no different. We want consumers to hear our message. We want to reach our target audience with a message that is louder and more appealing to our customers than our competition. We sound out message after message.
We are no different with our employees. We communicate policy and procedure until our employees can quote it in their sleep. We issue instruction and direction expecting compliance. We inform and educate to empower them and set them up for success.
Sometimes we forget that communication should move in more than one direction. We should not just be a sender of the communication, but a receiver as well. I am by no means a science fiction expert. I have seen two science fiction movies that sort of illustrate my point. Contact and Battleship both deal with sending messages out into space in hopes of learning about alien life. The key to making that work is that when we send a message out, we have to listen for a response.
As business owners/managers, it is important to listen to customers, employees, venders, and other stakeholders. Messages, mentioned above, are not always verbal or audible. Customers sometimes speak with their money. Are they spending it with you, or someone else?
How we listen is just as important. Are we listening to respond, or to understand? When we get into disagreements with family or friends, often we listen to respond, that is we already know what we are going to say and we are just trying to reassert our position. We need to learn that it is important to listen to understand, especially from our customers and employees. They need to know that not only did we hear their message, but we understand it.
Learn to listen what your customers and your employees are saying with the goal of understanding their position. You may be surprised by the outcome!
“Business Tips” was written by James Leavelle, Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Advisor of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. For more information on the topic of this article or the services of the ASU · SBDC, contact him at James.Leavelle@angelo.edu.