By communication, people exchange. Communication is an essential attribute of human life, which is why we all spend most of our time either receiving or requesting for information. Lack of communication creates tensions and destroys personal and business relationships. The ability to exchange information or conversation with others is crucial to the success of the individual, family or business organization. It should be noted, however, that it is one thing to communicate but quite another thing to communicate effectively.
Ineffective communication usually results in failure, as it doesn’t elicit the desired response in form of feedback from the receiver. This is the bane of many business organizations. Many managers do communicate, but often not very effectively. Lack of capacity to communicate effectively on the part of managers is the reason for the failure of many businesses. Every firm or business organization needs an effective communication network in order to function properly and achieve its set objectives. In this article, the focus will be on the indispensable role which effective communication plays in the daily functioning of a business organization. We shall start by looking at the meaning of effective communication from different angles and go on to examine its importance as well as how it can be achieved in business.
Looking at the Meaning of Effective Communication from Different Angles
The ultimate goal of every form of communication – face-to-face meeting, telephone discourse, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, interview, email, letter or memo – is to get an expected response in form of feedback from the receiver to the sender. This is what effective communication is about. It is about ensuring that the information is well-packaged and properly transmitted, so that the recipient understands the message and responds positively. In other words, effective communication is the one that achieves the results for which it is intended.
Communication can be looked at from different angles, such as the mode of expression (oral or written, or even non-verbal communication), the purpose of communication, the audience, the information flow (vertical, horizontal or diagonal), etc. Communication can be internal (within the organization) or external (with outsiders). It can also be interpersonal or group communication; interpersonal when it involves two people and group when it takes the forms of meetings, discussions, symposia, conferences and workshops. There is also mass communication which has to do with communicating with the masses by the means of the radio, the television, the newspaper, the internet, etc.). From whichever angle it is looked at, communication can only be considered to be effective when it results in the desired feedback.
Oral communication involves the use of spoken words and could take the form of face-to-face conversation, interview, telephone discourse, voice mail, meetings, group discussions, oral instructions, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, etc. Oral communication is quick and permits immediate feedback as well as immediate response to feedback. Participants can ask questions and get immediate clarification. Moreover, gesture and facial expression can be used to reinforce the intended message. The limitations of oral communication include susceptibility to errors and misinterpretation and lack of permanence.
Written communication, as the name implies, involves the use of written words. It can come in the forms of business letters, memoranda, reports, minutes of meetings, written speeches, etc. Written communication has the advantages of revision before transmission, permanence and accessibility for reference purposes. It also reduces the risk of distortion in meaning; thus, it can be considered as an ideal medium for long and complex messages which, if relayed orally across many intermediaries, can easily be distorted or misinterpreted. Another advantage of the written medium is that it can easily be reproduced in many ways (e.g. photocopying) and distributed to many recipients. One of its major limitations is delayed feedback; the reading of long documents may be boring and the writing of a reply could also be delayed by a number of other factors. Written communication also lacks the presence of gesture, facial expression and other forms of body language capable of reinforcing meaning in communication.
The choice of medium of communication depends on the nature of the message to be transmitted. As earlier observed, while the written medium is the perfect medium for transactions that require permanent documentation, the oral medium is ideal for messages that require immediate feedback. One has to consider the circumstances in order to determine whether to use a telephone call, a face-to-face meeting, an email, a typed and signed document, etc. The factors to be considered when choosing the medium of communication include: urgency, formality, risk of misinterpretation, confidentiality, legal implications or the need for future reference, the nature and size of the audience, etc.
Communication in business is usually intended to achieve specific purposes, such as giving information, making inquiries, providing explanation, persuasion, reassurance, making transactions, etc. Communicating to inform is frequently an act of introducing, notifying, announcing or reporting; it is usually aimed at informing people about new product lines, prices, names, addresses, etc. If the purpose of communication is to persuade, the message has to be packaged with a view to moving the audience to action by the use of words. This type of communication is ideal for advertising a product or motivating employees.
When communication is purely for business transactions, such as contracts, agreements, receipts, etc., the message has to be packaged in a way that gives no room for misinterpretation or legal actions. In this type of communication, the emphasis is on the accuracy and appropriateness of given information, such as the date of transaction, the agreed terms and conditions, the agreed prices, the total sum and currency, names, addresses and signatures of parties to the agreement, etc. The point being made here is that, in order to achieve effective communication, the message must be packaged to serve the specific purpose as well as the particular occasion of communication.
How to Ensure Effective Communication in Business
It is important to note that poor or ineffective communication is responsible for a situation where the receiver doesn’t understand what he or she has read or heard and thus cannot give any positive feedback. This implies that the hallmark of effective communication is a well-packaged and properly transmitted message – that is, a message that is capable of attracting the receiver’s response in form of positive feedback.
Language should be seen as the most important form of effective communication. The communicator must ensure that the language he or she uses is clear, accurate and appropriate to the audience, purpose and occasion for which the message is intended. The use of informal language where a polite and formal register is required, for instance, can render the message ineffective. Wordiness or the use of unnecessarily complex constructions can only create room for misinterpretation; hence the acronym ‘KISS’: Keep it short and simple.
Also, the use of expressions, jargons and buzz-words that the audience is unfamiliar with can present barriers to them and thus hinder communication. Where technical language and terms are used, they must be defined and explained in accordance with the knowledge of the audience. Whatever is the purpose of the communication, the communicator must connect with the audience by using clear and precise language and removing every form of ambiguity or barrier so the audience can have a full understanding of the message.
Effective communication is best achieved when the purpose or central idea of the message is stated clearly and the subordinate ideas effectively identified and related to the main purpose in a naturally convincing manner. It is important to ensure that the material is arranged in a logical and coherent order, with each paragraph containing only one main idea that is clearly stated and supported with relevant, sufficient and persuasive points. To achieve coherence, new information must be linked to previously discussed information in a way that engages the reader and reinforces the main points. The conclusion of the message must restate the main purpose and specify the action to be taken.
Ensuring correctness or grammatically is also a vital aspect of effective communication, because ungrammaticality is capable of distorting meaning or undermining credibility, thereby hindering communication. It is very important to ensure that rules of grammar and syntax are followed, that correct words are used to convey the intended meaning and that punctuation reflects standard usage. Finally, the entire work must be proofread to ensure that the final copy is free of mechanical errors.
Above all, it should be noted that the purpose of business communication is, in broad terms, buying and selling. Business communication is usually about practical matters, such as products, prices, discounts, sales, delivery, payments and so forth. The successful businessman is one who achieves his goals, and to achieve his goals, he must communicate effectively through clearness of expression. He has to present his messages to his audiences in the clearest and most straightforward manner.
Every business communication aims to invoke some material and immediate response or action. Whether it is a face-to-face meeting, a telephone discourse, a sales letter, a letter of inquiry, a memo or a report, the aim is to get something done. Therefore, every business communication has to use clear and persuasive language in conjunction with appropriate action in order to connect with the audience and invoke the desired response.