Amy Rees Anderson

Successful Communication

“Don’t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.” —John Lund, EdD

Years ago, I attended a seminar on communication by John Lund, EdD, in which he gave some amazing advice on how to better communicate with others. His input was simple and easy to follow, and yet very powerful. Here are some of the notes I took from his presentation.

How to Successfully Begin a Conversation in Business

Dr. Lund shared that men all the time and women (in business settings) want to know three things before they are willing to enter into a conversation with you:

1. Is what you want to talk about going to be painful?

2. How long is it going to take?

3. When you are done talking, what do you want from me?

If they don’t know these three things up front, they will make excuses to avoid talking to you. Dr. Lund shared that your manager or boss will always want to know those three things before agreeing to a conversation as well. The reason he gave was that men and executive women always want to know the exit to the conversation before they feel safe engaging in it.

So, for example, if you are calling a client, the very first thing you may want to say is: “I realize how busy you are, so I will only need one minute of your time to let you know about __________.” This way, the other person knows it will be quick and painless and that you just want to give them a few facts on the call that will only last a minute. Now they can relax and listen to you as you share the requested information. Otherwise, without knowing if the call will be long and painful, they may try to make an excuse that they can’t talk right now.

The same thing goes for a sales team. They call a prospective client, and the first thing out of their mouth needs to be something to the effect of “I realize that your time is very valuable, so I will only need two minutes to schedule a time for a second call where I can do a ten-minute demonstration of our __________.”

The same advice applies when approaching your manager or boss to set up a meeting. Let them know if it will be painful, how long it will take, and the end result you are asking for—they will be much more apt to schedule a time for you.

How to Successfully Conduct a Conversation in Business

Dr. Lund shared some amazing tips on how to better understand the way we interpret communication from others. He also revealed some very interesting statistics on this topic. He said that when someone else communicates with us, the way we interpret their message is based on the following three things:

1) 55 percent is based on their facial expressions and their body language, 2) 37 percent is based on the tone of their voice, and 3) 8 percent is based on the words they say.

Dr. Lund said that these percentages are the averages across men and women together, but that if you looked at women alone, they would give even greater weight to facial expressions and body language and even less weight to the words. This tells us that it is critical that we become aware of what our body language is communicating to others as well as the tone we use. One thing I always recommend to people is to keep a small mirror by your office phone so that you can look in the mirror when you are on the phone, because it makes you more aware of the facial expressions you have, which makes you smile more, which in turn comes through in your tone of voice. It works wonders on how well you come off on a phone call, trust me!

Success in business is greatly impacted for better or worse by the way we communicate. Happiness in our personal lives is also highly dependent on this skill. If you don’t believe me, just ask any married couple! Becoming a good communicator takes practice and consistent attention and effort, and it is a skill that we cannot afford to overlook.

~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )

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