What is effective communication?
The original working title for this post was “The importance of verbal communication in the era of digital.” When I first sat down to write it, I was simply going to break down when it’s important to use verbal communication since digital (a.k.a. written) communication has become the go-to method for most of us these days. But as I started writing, I realized it’s so much more than just knowing when to use verbal communication. It’s about learning how to be an effective communicator. As a leader—for your business, team, community, family—understanding how to communicate effectively can have a powerful impact on your relationships.
When your time is limited and you’re trying to streamline your to-do list, shooting an email or text just seems so much faster. And for a lot of things it 100% is the best option. The problem is it’s so easy to fall into this pattern and let it become the norm for how you handle most situations—which can be harmful to your business if not kept in check. Written communication can leave so much room for misunderstanding when not used appropriately and those unresolved misunderstandings inevitably lead to a block or breakdown of the relationship.
This may sound extreme, but consider a time when you sent a text message to a friend that somehow was totally misread and they got upset—or maybe you were on the receiving end of such a misunderstanding. Either way it most likely led to some tension in the relationship, even if just for a short period of time. But what if you never realized it was a misunderstanding? Or what if you were aware and chose not to resolve it because it would be a tough conversation? That tension could grow and possibly destroy the relationship.
Now what if that happened with one of your employees? They may share their concerns with a teammate or even decide to quit if the issue goes unresolved for too long. As a shop owner, relationships truly are the heart of your business—relationships with your team, customers, vendors, etc—and it’s your responsibility to communicate to the best of your ability. How you choose to navigate these interactions can have an extremely powerful effect on your business.
So, let’s break these words down.
Communication = “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information.” Alone, this is simply the act of giving or sharing information. It’s almost transactional.
Effective = “to accomplish a purpose, to produce an intended result, to cause a deep or vivid impression.” This word has meaning. It’s intentional and leaves a mark in some way.
Effective Communication = sharing information with purpose and intention while considering the impact it will have on another.
What it looks like to communicate effectively:
Using your full attention to actively listen while the other person is speaking and being thoughtful of how and when you choose to respond
Considering the effect your words (verbal or written) will have on the other person
Not allowing your emotions to speak for you and checking in with yourself to ensure you’re responding from a calm mind
Not jumping to conclusions or making assumptions about the other person
A desire to understand the other person’s perspective and concerns
Having the courage to start the conversation
Being an effective communicator takes courage. This kind of communication isn’t easy. It forces you out of your comfort zone and requires you to be vulnerable. I remember one of my leadership coaches used to say, “Morgan, you’re going to have to have some managerial courage with this one.” My stomach would be in knots and I would get so nervous about having to sit down and have a serious conversation with someone. The thing I learned though: it always had a more positive effect than taking the easy way out. And it did get easier.
The day will come when you have to turn away an applicant, have a difficult conversation with a team member, or let an employee go. It’s just part of running a shop. The more you challenge yourself and your staff to communicate in a courageous and healthy way, the stronger your team and business will become.
My quick go-to checklist for written vs. verbal communication when working with your team:
When verbal communication is your answer:
If there is ever a miscommunication or misunderstanding
Any question that requires more than a simple, direct response
If you are teaching or training someone how to do something
Any discussion regarding employee performance or feedback
Any time feelings or emotions are involved
When email or text is great:
When the subject only requires a direct response or simple yes/no answer
To relay quick information or facts — meeting reminders, schedule updates, etc
When the message is concise (No paragraph texts!!!)
I know this subject can be triggering for people. It definitely used to be for me. I challenge you to observe when you’re using verbal communication in your relationships. Notice when you want to default to text. Your gut normally speaks up and is telling you what you should do. And next time it does, fight the fear and talk it out!