How Important Are Communication Skills

We took the grandchildren to see the Battleship Iowa in San Pedro a few weeks ago. We unfortunately got lost, thanks MapQuest! Roaming around the harbor in Long Beach, we could not find our way. Reese, age 8, sat listening to us and he became very upset. He said he wanted to go home. I chastised him and told him we were going to find the Battleship. We found it and we had a great time.

A few days later, I was talking to Reese and discovered when we said we were lost; he thought we could not find our way home! He thought we would be roaming the harbor in Long Beach forever. That is why he got so upset.

This incident brought to mind how I should have been a better communicator and/or listener. The incident could have been avoided. As business owners, we might find our employees have different opinions, values, beliefs and needs than our own. Our ability to understand others’ perspectives and solve problems depends on how effectively we are able to communicate.

Jamie Walters, author of Big Vision, Small Business states, “Talking is easy; communication requires a greater skill. An exchange demands that we listen and speak skillfully, not just talk mindlessly.”

Communication involves three components:

Verbal messages – the words we use,

Paraverbal messages – how we say the words, and

Nonverbal messages – our body language.

Verbal and paraverbal messages are so important. Choose your words making your message as clear as possible. You need to get your employee to understand YOUR point of view. Be brief. Try not to create resistance in the listener, your employee.

Professor Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, says messages we send through our posture, gestures, and facial expression accounts for 55% of what is perceived and understood by others. Facial expressions are the most important indication of emotional feeling. The face can light up with enthusiasm, energy and approval as well as express confusion, boredom or displeasure. The eyes are particularly expressive in showing joy, sadness, or anger.

Body postures can also create a feeling of warm openness or cold rejection. Arms crossed on the chest indicate a feeling of inflexibility. Other signs of someone not listening – rolling eyes, gestures made with exasperation, slouching, hunching over, doodling, staring at you or avoiding eye contact, excessive fidgeting. Remember, you need to look for these signs in your employees, but also be aware that you are not exhibiting the same behavior.

Also, watch your language. Speak in terms that your employees will understand. Don’t use metaphors they will not understand. You need to foster the team approach, but they need to understand what you are saying!

You need to deal with uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to talk about failures or certain problems that your business needs to work through. They need to understand that this is part of business. Discuss the problem and solutions. Emphasize it is a learning experience and explain why decisions were made.

It is important for you to hold employee meetings. Encourage everyone to participate. Show that you are open to ideas. This should also consider their concerns. What better way to foster the team spirit? This will also enable you to connect with your employees no matter how large or small your business is.

Most importantly, be an active listener. I believe this is the most important part of communication. You need to concentrate on the speaker’s message. Don’t be distracted. If they are saying something you disagree with, keep an open mind. Make sure you understand what they are saying. And frankly, if it is a good idea, implement it.

Studies indicate that the most successful business owners know their shortcomings and work to overcome them. I know you are one of those.

My son Robb and his lovely Gill are engaged. I see a London wedding by the end of the year. So happy for them!

About Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith has been in the dry-cleaning industry for over 40 years. Her experience spans from owning a drycleaning business to working for Henderson Insurance Agency who specializes in the fabricare industry. She currently serves on the CCA Board as well as the board for So Cal Cleaners Association. She can be reached at

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