The world today is a very different place than it was 20 years ago. Technology has made an abundance of information, voices, and services available to us at any time we choose to seek it out.
In fact, many of us use technology in such a way that we do not have to seek information as much as just let it come to us – in our news feeds, our inboxes, our ears and minds.
For an entrepreneur, listening earnestly and communicating clearly and effectively among all the static can be a real challenge. Several studies have looked at the ways entrepreneurs’ communication skills – or lack thereof – correlate with their success and the quality of their leadership.
What they’ve found is no surprise: The most successful entrepreneurs are expert communicators who heavily invest in social capital. But in an interesting twist, research has found that these communication skills don’t have to be inherent to be effective. They can be learned.
Based on research figures, we spend 75% of our time actively communicating – speaking and listening – compared to the 25% of time we spend passively communicating through writing and reading. Both active and passive communication methods are important for entrepreneurs to master because they hang in careful balance. What we write may affect what we say; what we read may affect how we listen.
What if you’re an entrepreneur who isn’t inherently skilled in communication? How can you improve your skills and methods to give yourself the best chance for success? I searched for effective solutions and found three ways to make yourself a better communicator.
1. Educate yourself
The best way to begin communicating better is by educating yourself. Let go of your existing ideas about communication and start from the beginning. Learn about your own preferred communication styles and the ways those methods might clash or mesh well with others’.
You don’t have to enroll in a course or go to a seminar to learn about effective communication strategies that will benefit you professionally. Google searches will return an abundance of information, so sift through and take notes as you go. Begin paying more attention to the way you communicate with others and study their reactions. Focus on listening actively rather than simply hearing what another has to say.
2. Enlist help
The internet is full of programs and webinars that promise to make you a master communicator. But I haven’t seen anything quite like Crystal, the Nashville-based tech startup that uses complex algorithms and public online information to determine the communication preferences of any person with a LinkedIn profile, down to whether or not you should use an emoji when you email them.
Crystal’s email extension makes it possible to write emails in a way that is proven to appeal to the receiver, based on the information they’ve posted or made available online. For example, Crystal knows that the client I’m working with tends to write in short, to-the-point sentences and prefers to avoid ‘small talk.’ Crystal can then suggest relevant changes while I draft an email to this client (“Consider removing the friendly but unnecessary phrase ‘How’s it going?’ from your email”).
Crystal has attracted a lot of attention so far, and is already used by employees at Hubspot, Google, Accenture, and Thomson-Reuters. In any case, it certainly takes some of the guesswork out of professional communication.
3. Begin studying mindfulness
The study of mindfulness and meditation is a process that helps people learn to be more present and acknowledge circumstances, feelings and emotions without feeling powerless to them or identified by them.
Communicating mindlessly can take several forms, including responding too quickly with anger, making assumptions, and identifying ourselves and others by the emotions experienced. These tactics can unintentionally steer an entrepreneur away from success.
By being mindful in communication, we can ensure that we don’t do ourselves or our colleagues a disservice by communicating mindlessly. Entrepreneurs can benefit from studying mindfulness in a variety of ways, including:
- Tapping into creativity
- Gaining clarity and insight
- Responding appropriately to stress
- Quelling insecurities
- Inspiring innovation
- Encouraging self-care
Entrepreneurs have the best chance of reaching success when they can clearly and efficiently communicate their company’s goals, vision, and mission to stakeholders. Improving interpersonal communication skills will have far-reaching benefits in an entrepreneur’s professional and personal life as well. The methods listed above can help you begin to communicate more effectively. Which will you try first?
Note: This post was originally published on Startup Grind.