George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” It does not take a wise person to explain that there is something wrong in the way people communicate and connect with one another. Communication is an art that has to be perfected in order for it to be used to your advantage. Just take a look at these few pointers and you are well on your way to improved communication.
Step 1: Take Interest
Having a conversation is very much like trying to make a sale. Now please remember I am not talking about personality here. I am simply looking at the process that is taken from the moment you pick up the product that you are trying to sell, up until the buyer has accepted terms and conditions and has purchased the product. When we communicate, we need to remember to be calm, believe in yourself and what you are saying. Facial expression is very important! Think of what it is you want to say before you say it. This may help reduce nervous and self confidence trouble. Relax and just be yourself. Do not be pretentious and do not over-communicate and offer too much information.
The first step of starting up the conversation with others, means you need to take a genuine interest in the other person and in what he or she is telling you about. Imagine you find yourself at a party. You are standing alone by the drinks table and you see someone walking to the table to pour him/herself a drink. Do not be scared to strike up a conversation. Say hello and introduce yourself. Relax and let the conversation flow naturally. Once the introductions are out of the way and depending on how well the initial part of the conversation went, you may now proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Share
This stage allows you to talk about what you do for a living. Always be direct and confident about what you do because any uncertainty, shifty behaviour or shuffling will result in the conversation coming to an abrupt and immediate halt. If this happens, do not try to push and prod to make the conversation continue. No matter how hard you try, the other person will now unfortunately have someone better to speak with. Just let nature take its course and you never know, there may be an opportunity in the future to have a brand new and improved conversation with the same person. Allow the person to forget the previous conversation. Get up dust yourself off and have the confidence to try again and this time you will succeed.
Step 3: Create Interest
Step three allows you to now get creative and build a story for the listener. Each one of us is interesting in different ways. Find your common ground by asking questions. Do not ask too many questions and do not offer information that is not relevant to the current conversation. As an example, if the common ground has been established as loving sport, do not all of a sudden begin speaking about theatrical shows and musicals. Rather show your genuine interest in what the person is saying and try to learn from the person. Over-communication can cause the person to run for the hills and to possibly never want to speak with you again.
Just like any well rounded story, your sales pitch or conversation needs to be well-rounded and well-developed. It must have a beginning, middle and ending. Always use a positive spin. Do not be negative when speaking as the person will feel drained and disinterested, causing the conversation to taper off.
Step 4: Closing
Now that you have managed to get through the first three stages of a conversation, the rest becomes easy. You have been able to keep the person speaking till now and this is where you decide if you would like to meet the person again or if you would like to keep it to just this one conversation. Assuming you choose to see the person again, it may be a good idea to exchange contact details. Let the person know when you will be contacting him or her. Say goodbye for the evening and thank the person for taking the time to speak with you. Manners, politeness and consideration are important aspects to remember when communicating with others. If you are polite, it is more likely that the person will want to continue communicating with you and get to know you better.
These four points are basic stepping stones to beginning and maintaining any conversation. Believe in yourself, do not over-communicate and remember that there is always a necessity for politeness and manners. Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to having more effective and meaningful conversations and business relationships.
I recently attended a business lunch at a restaurant that I had not visited in several months. On arrival, I was greeted by the waiters and manager at the door and was then shown to my table. Once I was seated, the waiter handed me a menu and immediately asked me what I would like to drink. Seeing that I had just sat down, I decided to take a few minutes to make the decision. General greetings and exchanging of handshakes took place and within two minutes of having been seated, I was asked once again what it was that I wanted to drink.
The topic I would like to discuss concentrates on the communication norms and blunders that are often experienced within the restaurant industry.
The general etiquette and level of communication that I have experienced in certain restaurants is not of a commendable, or even acceptable, level from a customer service and communication perspective. Of course, it is silly of anyone to expect perfection because nothing and no-one is ever perfect. However, when a restaurant is not exceedingly busy; there are waiters standing, gnawing on their fingernails and staring into space; and a manager is having a lengthy chat with a customer, this creates cause for customers to complain.
Once receiving my beverage, within roughly two to five minutes of making the order, I was immediately asked what it was that I wanted to order for lunch rather than the waiter asking politely if I was ready to order and if i would like to have heard the specials for the day. The waiter also did not grasp the fact that a discussion had begun and that it should not have been interrupted. Nevertheless, we all placed our orders with the waiter and the discussion and meeting continued, thinking that we would be free from interruptions for at least 10 minutes until the food arrived. This was not the case. The waiter returned to our table five minutes later explaining that one of the orders was not available today and a different choice of food should be made. The new order was placed and the waiter finally allowed the meeting to continue.
I find it hard to believe that the chef did not know that there was a problem with the food before we made the order. This is one area where, from a communication perspective, a problem could have been avoided. What should have taken place was, once the chef knew that there was a problem with the food or that there was a shortage of the food, the waiter should have been notified. This would minimize the probability of customers getting annoyed, calling the manager, complaining about service and going so far as causing the restaurant to lose business.
General etiquette and people skills must always be improved on! Of course, if a business deal is being done around a restaurant table, there will be interruptions. However, the amount of interruptions and annoyances should be reduced to a minimum. This can only take place if the manager makes an effort to provide the waiters with the correct training. It is critical that the manager fosters exemplary teamwork between the "front-of-house" and kitchen staff.
Communication is a two way street. It does not work when both listen and when both speak at the same time. The idea is to have a listener, a speaker and the the final message should be reinforced. In a restaurant, communication, both verbal and non-verbal is vital. These skills have to be mastered and this can only be achieved through effective training and active participation of ALL restaurant staff.
Attending a job interview can be quite nerve wracking. This process can either make or break the person involved. The process can sometimes be long and frustrating and you really have to have a very thick skin in order to withstand all the personal and uncomfortable questions that you will be asked. Self preparation is very important and often many people who find themselves working through this process find it tough to prepare themselves correctly and as much as possible. Many times you hear of an interviewee attending the meeting and they may arrive late or behave inappropriately. For example, the person may constantly play with pimples on their face or even answer a phone call during the meeting. Here are a few easy tips on how to behave and communicate correctly during an interview.
Firstly, it is very important to remember that you are attending a job interview. You are the person who is looking for the job and therefore it is important that you act accordingly. Do not beg for a job and make sure that you behave in a manner that is appropriate and adequate for the purpose of the interview. This means that under no circumstance is it appropriate or acceptable for you to arrive late for an interview unless you make contact with the interviewer, at least 3 hours or even a day prior to your job interview. Once arriving at the premises, be seated and look relaxed and confident. Make sure you have the required information with you, if there is any and always carry a piece of paper or notebook and a pen with you. Do not leave the pen in your shirt pocket in case the pen leaks through your shirt. Make certain you turn your cellular phone off completely and make sure this is done prior to entering the interview room! On being called by the interviewer, stand up straight and tall. Look proud and confident and in a normal pace move toward the interviewer. Shake the persons hand and when doing this make sure you look into the persons eyes and say thank you to the person for agreeing to see you.
A second point to remember is that it is imperative that when you arrive at the premises, you are dressed appropriately. If the company wears overalls then it is acceptable for you to attend the interview in casual to smart clothing. If you are allowed to wear jeans to the interview, then make sure they are smart and not broken. It is always better to arrive for an interview in smart clothing. This shows pride in oneself and good breeding. Do not arrive wearing shorts, flops, very short skirts, dirty or broken clothing, or underwear showing.
The third point that should be considered is for you to enjoy the interview. If you are offered a drink, do not be shy to accept. If you truly do not want a drink then very politely say no thank you. It is essential that politeness and manners are always remembered! This aspect I find is the most important thing that must be included into every conversation. It makes no difference who you meet and speak to, but always remember to show respect and be polite. Manners shows good upbringing, it it shows that you have respect and you know how to treat another person in a caring and decent manner. This is obviously very important in the working world and will help you go very far in life. A please and thank you goes a long way in every situation.
On being seated, do not slouch or lie all over the chair or couch. Sit upright and make sure you always smile, as this makes the interviewer more relaxed and he or she can see that you are enjoying being in the environment and that you are confident with yourself. Slouching implies that you are lazy and respect for people and situations is not quite there. You need to outwardly appear calm, cool, collected, happy, confident, proud and of course ready to take the proverbial "bull by the horns" and begin working!
Body language is just as important as what we say during interviews, if not more so. Be sure to remember to not fold your arms or legs. This shows the interviewer that you are closing yourself off. Always look the interviewer in the eyes and not down or around the room. Concentrate on the person and show your confidence. Do not make funny noises or animal sounds; Do not play with your face or pick your nose and do not fidget. Remain composed throughout the entire meeting.
During the interview, remember to answer questions honestly, to the best of your ability and give short, concise answers. Do not waffle! Be clear, concise and to the point. Try not to answer too many questions with yes or no answers and at the same time do not volunteer too much information. Again, it is very important that you remain calm and allow yourself sufficient time to think of an appropriate answer to questions. Of course pre-interview preparation is needed, but there may be a few questions that you did not think of so when this takes place during the interview, listen, think carefully about the question and only then deliver a suitable answer.
On ending the job interview, thank the person again, however, this time it will be for taking the time to meet with you. Do not be nervous to ask when you can expect a telephone call regarding moving forward or an idea of "where to from here". Shake the interviewers hand again and extend your warm wishes for them to have a wonderful day. Sometimes, the interviewer will kindly walk out with you and see you to the exit. This can assist you in creating an additional and lasting impression on the interviewer. However, if the interviewer does not see you to the front door, calmly and confidently leave the room in a composed manner.
All that has been discussed above are recommendations for a better job interview to take place. It is important to be yourself and remember that if you are meant to get the job, then you will. It does not mean though that you must not try your best and that you must do nothing to motivate for you to get the job there and then. Make the effort and positive results will come out of the hard work that you put in.
I am certain that at some stage you have received one of "those" calls. The question is, in what manner are we dealing with them?
When training and exercising one's voice, I always encourage my clients to not scream, shout or strain their vocal chords in any way. Obviously, it is easier to remember this aspect during the voice training session. However, to remember this aspect and many others at all times, becomes tough especially when you are new at voice training.
Usually, when receiving these unwanted calls, it becomes difficult to put yourself in the shoes of the caller. We usually scream, slam the phone down, verbally abuse, lie or use any other negative phrases in order to discontinue the conversation. However, what is actually taking place is not just creating and developing extra unnecessary negativity - we are not communicating effectively. There are a few basic, though important rules and guidelines of communicating effectively with another.
Firstly and most importantly, always be true to yourself and do not speak with ego. In other words, do not get yourself unnecessarily angry or worked up. The more tense and worked up the body and mind is, the more difficult it becomes to find the correct words to use and for the words to exit your mouth without hurting yourself. This aspect therefore leads me to my next point that fire always fuels the fire. If you are angry or answer the caller in an angry tone, this just creates more anger, abuse and negativity, which then leads to a battle of egos and an even greater fight. If one is controlled and relaxed, it becomes easier to say a simple "Thank you for calling but I do not require this service". These are the words that should be on your lips each time you receive an unwanted call. Another important aspect to remember is BREATHE! concentrate on what the caller is saying and trying to sell, breathe during the process and forget about your anger and how nasty you can possibly be. Instead of answering in the worst possible way, allow yourself a moment to breathe, relax, listen to what the person is saying to you, think of a decent response that serves both of you and then deliver the answer and lastly do not shout or strain your voice!
I realise that this is easier said than done. It takes practice and most of all self control. Imagine you have a continuum where the middle is zero or a neutral position. On either side of the zero you have a minus ten being very relaxed and ten refers to an irate or a very excited person. You need to always be on the zero or neutral mark. This shows your ability to control your thoughts, verbal and non-verbal communication and your ability to sway the caller in a calmer and more neutral position. It may seem more fun to rant and rave so that the person puts the phone down on you. Just remember that the person is just doing his or her job and does not deserve to be spoken to badly or in a negative tone. Not only are you developing a negative impression of yourself, but you are also potentially straining and damaging your voice.
Your pitch, instead of being to high or low, needs to be at a middle level. The power within your voice should not be exerted, although your voice needs to sound firm, fair and always decent. Pause at times in order to create an effect. Remember that the person also needs to have time to understand what you are telling him or her. The rate at which you speak can also positively or negatively affect a person's view of you. For example, imagine you receive a phone call from a person selling a cellular phone package. The pace at which the person speaks to you is so quick that you can hardly understand what is being said. Usually, you would ask the person to repeat the phrase, put the phone down or immediately tell the person in a very abrupt tone that you are not interested and to never call you again. You are therefore bombarded by these quick words and sentences and the fact that someone is trying to sell you something that you become very overwhelmed and just burst. Instead of doing this, which is counter productive, decently ask the person to either repeat what the person said or make a joke about the fast paced speech. This then relaxes the situation and the person will probably repeat what he or she said, but with a slower pace. The last section we will analyse is inflection. This focuses on the gentle rise and fall of the voice within the pitch. I like to compare this to the vibrato often used by singers. Be sure to add some inflection into your voice, but once you over-inflect your voice, it becomes unbearable for a person to listen to.
In short, relax, breathe, be yourself. Remember that you are your own brand and image and through your actions and the manner in which you speak and address others, you can either positively or negatively impact this image. Always speak clearly and be kind to others as you will always be rewarded in return in one way or another.
As a follow up from my recent post, today's blog will deal with how we change our communication in terms of what we say and how, in order to fit in with the culture of a company and to suit the client's needs and requirements. According to George Bernard Shaw, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." Communication is the manner in which we create a true connection with each other and it assists us in relaying messages to each other on a constant basis. However, communication must be kept pure and genuine in order for others to understand and follow through with the messages and conversation.
In this fast paced life that we all currently live in, filled with different forms of communication, genuine or face to face communication tends to take the back seat. As an example, Twitter is one of the main social media platforms used today. Some may use this application in order to create friendships, gain information regarding world events, dating and business. Obviously the application has many advantages, however, the downside is that communication is lost in translation. The true essence of a person and what the person is feeling and trying to express is lost and masked by shorthand and abbreviated gobbledygook.
Teachers constantly complain about the fact that pupils are unable to spell, communicate correctly, misuse certain words etc. and these problems are usually blamed on social media - Twitter, MXiT, other chat lines, Facebook, SMS and much more. It should rather be encouraged that teachers learn how to utilize the above mentioned social sites properly and be creative in the way that the problems are incorporated into the school curriculum. In other words they should research these sites properly in order to create a lesson based on factual knowledge and then apply the different problems so that children understand where mistakes are made, how to correct themselves and the difference in the way the words are written on the various sites.
In the working and business world, each person is required to be equipped with the correct communication tools in addition to having a knowledge of various social media sites. Equip the children from a very young age and when they reach the working world they will be able to apply this knowledge. Communication is an essential tool in every fact of life. Without having the basis of correct communication, it becomes challenging to not only assist a person in improving this, but it becomes frustrating to communicate with these people.
Tarzan the ape-man was only able to communicate with wild animals that lived in the jungle and it was only once he met and was taught English and correct etiquette by Jane that he was able to enter into civilization for a while, although he largely rejected it and returned to the wild to experience its adventures. Those who have not been provided with the correct tools and taught how to communicate correctly are at an obvious disadvantage and although they are not literally referred to as apes and wild animals, they will unfortunately remain as an inferior group and will struggle to fit into society just as Tarzan did.
Once the basic level has been covered correctly and mastered, this group will be able to feel more integrated in society. Providing someone with the correct tools and education is a lifelong privilege. However, the manner in which this education is then applied by the student can either be a curse or gift. Do not be concerned about the manner in which the student applies the knowledge. What remains important and as quoted by Anthony Robbins "The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives."
Often we find that internal communication between employees; whether senior managerial staff or lower level staff; is not where it should be. Once an employee feels welcomed, relaxed and at home within the company and co-workers become friendly, the communication tends to be blase', very relaxed and unprofessional.
Each company has its own culture, which could be based on a mission statement, possibly a company motto, but mostly from the manner in which the executive and managerial staff conduct themselves and the manner in which the rest of the staff is treated by these particular staff members. So, internal communication is constructed as an upside down triangle and works itself from the head of a company down to its cleaning staff. If a CEO communicates well with his employees and he treats his employees with respect, then the rest of the company should be able to apply the methods and interactions appropriately.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case as individuals are initially taught how to communicate by parents and schools. So essentially, communication is a learnt behavior, which means that you are provided with a strong basis of how to communicate, although you are able to change and learn a new way of communicating and improving on this previous knowledge. This act should however, be acknowledged and accepted by the person learning this adjusted and new way of communicating in order for the transition to be smooth and successful.
Assuming that the internal communication is professional and acceptable, this will attract more clients to the company, customer service will improve and the employees will be happy within their current positions. However, this is not the case in many companies.
Currently, companies are experiencing certain issues within human resources departments, employees do not address one another with respect and an understanding that is required. There are constant problems where employees talk behind each others backs, either to vindictively take over that individual's position or alternatively because the individual is simply not performing adequately within the position.
Either way a company's employees needs to work together as a team all the time! Each person, no matter their job description, serves a purpose within the company and without that person the company is not the same. In the theatrical industry, Konstantin Stanislavsky said that, "There are no small parts only small actors." From the stage manager, stage and set designer to the tea lady, cleaner, actor and prompter, each person involved in the culmination of the final production must put all their effort into the final goal. Without this, the end result is at best mediocre and at worst a dismal failure.
Our business at Talkwell revolves around the way individuals enhance their professionalism in the work area, from a communication perspective. Being in an industry where customer service, interpersonal skills and personal refinement is of utmost importance, it becomes second nature when having to notice and pinpoint when another person in passing is lacking in these areas. I therefore would like to draw your attention to an aspect that I find rather troubling and I am well aware that it is something we are all very acquainted with- super market staff or rather the tellers and the floor staff.
The following scenario is one, which unfortunately takes place on a constant basis and I feel is a majour reason as to why certain large companies have trouble retaining their clients. In addition to this, companies have trouble retaining a great reputation for their customer service as well as the quality of products offered within their stores. Often, is the case where a customer is standing at the cashier ready to pay for the weekly groceries and the cashier dismally fails to keep eye contact with the customer and even to utter a few more sentences over and above a mere "do you need bags ?". The following question that is usually asked by the cashier is "do you want your coldrinks in the packets?". A customer then provides an answer and that becomes the end of the conversation between the customer and the cashier. The cashier, while ringing up the groceries, continues talking to the packer and entirely ignores the customer. I find it rather rude and it angers me, when I find myself at a supermarket and a cashier refuses to smile, adequately greet or take notice of the customer, who is about to purchase goods.
From this scenario, it is plain to see that further attention to conversation skills and interpersonal skills is of utmost importance and would certainly aid in customer satisfaction. As a customer, I do not feel that it is always essential that the cashier has a lengthy conversation with the paying customer. However, it is common decency and respect to not ignore the customer and act as if the customer is "disrupting a very joyous tea party" during work. Constantly, I witness customers making faces or commenting on the negativity and lack of decency experienced in these stores. This should not be the case! and it is not difficult to almost and entirely repair. This will however, require that certain people and certain aspects of the business are changed drastically and it is unfortunate that if these aspects are not dealt with then it is not likely that these sorts of companies will find it increasingly difficult to "fix" their problems.
It is easy for some to dress accordingly and to fake a greeting. However, the professionalism and the customer service of a company does not only stem from the requirement that an employee dress appropriately or follow the companies protocols. I believe that professionalism and customer service comes as an entire package and therefore it must begin and stem strongly from management and work its way down the ranks of the company. The professionalism of a company must even flow into the ethos and mannerisnms of its cleaning staff, whether employed or outsourced. Customer service is not just about extending a greeting or a mere "thank you for shopping with us". Customer service encompasses one human being caring for another, one taking an interest in the customers, but most of all professionalism and customer service, I believe, is about the way a company remains loyal to its customers, rather than the other way around. In the true sense of the word, customer service is the life blood of the business and it does not matter how good a product is, but it is about getting the customer to return to your store on a constant basis because he or she has left happy. So, it is imperative that the owner and employees within a store are always mindful of what one does, and some may not agree with this next statement, but I also believe that it also has to do with what one says and how one speaks to customers.
Assuming that the customer service, interpersonal skills and professionalism is perfect in a particular company, it becomes easy to say that the relationships within that company are very positive. However, when the ethos of the company and the relationships within the business are stressed and not adequately formed and developed, then the productivity will be lacking in some way. I believe that this is the reason as to why companies have become more open to training their staff and to organising team building events. However, these companies also need to realise that a quick fix will never solve an issue entirely with long lasting effects. Most companies today are willing and open to looking at different services for their employees. However, the companies refuse to have a service continue for a lengthy period of time, such as three or six months. Trainers and providers are then required to alter and organise their businesses and material in order to cater to this sort of request. I do not think that this is the answer to the problems that companies are looking for. The reality is that trainers, providers and salespeople, also need to make a living. If companies are not prepared to come to the party and assist the small guy then what is the point of doing business at all? Y,es a fact of life is that people want to know that they will be getting a cheaper price for what they are buying, however it is very difficult to put a correct number on certain services.
Coming from a dramatic and theatrical background, I recall always being told that acting is reacting. So, when referring to a company and its employees, how do the employees and management relate to each another? As seen in the scenario above, if a company and its employees do not provide customers with common decency and courteous behaviour, then there is an obvious glitch within the employment and interactive system within that company. This can be addressed through training. It is somewhat of a concern though, when attempting to assist the company in need of the training and then finding out that the company either does not have budget or you are shoved from pillar to post and eventually must give up as the company is obviously disinterrested and not willing to take charge of the situation. By this I mean, put the necessary systems in place, in order for the training to take place so that the customers do not leave the shop dissatisfied and most of all angry.
Michelle is a speech and communication specialist working with companies and individuals in South Africa and internationally.