by Janet Hunt, Demand Media
You can grow better business relationships by developing more effective business communication skills. As a small business owner, you are in the public eye and need to communicate well with business associates, employees and customers. Learning to communicate effectively will help you widen your circle of business relationships and make your existing relationships stronger.
If engaged in conversation with a business associate or listening to a business presentation, you should be actively listening to the conversation. This means that your mind should not be wandering to things you will be dealing with once this conversation has ended. You should be listening attentively, making mental notes and searching for the meaning in the message. Ask questions when engaged in conversation. This keeps the rapport going and builds better understanding between both the speaker and the listener.
Giving and Receiving Criticism
Criticism is not always a negative thing. There can be positive and negative criticism. If you find yourself in the position of giving criticism to a co-worker, business associate or employee, you should present any feedback with tact. Remember, you are not critiquing the person, rather their idea or perhaps their performance. If there are any positive aspects, begin with these and then work your way gently to the areas that need improvement. If you need to critique an employee, do this privately away from other co-workers to avoid any embarrassment. Do not be afraid to give good criticisms as well. Telling your employee he performed his job well will encourage him to continue to give his best efforts to his job. On the other hand, there may be times where you are on the receiving end of criticisms. If you receive negative feedback, do not become defensive. If you understand where improvements can be made, this will help your business endeavors be more successful. Listen attentively and ask for clarification for any points you do not understand. Finally, take the time to thank the person for sharing his thoughts with you.
People tend to do business with others that they like. To develop this type of relationship with a business associate, you have to work on making a connection with the person. Make the person feel comfortable so that he can open up to you and communicate freely. While this may sound difficult, it really is not. The idea is to make yourself approachable. It is always good to smile. It is surprising how much just a warm smile can put someone at ease. Humor, when used tactfully, can also help break the ice and relieve any tension the other person may be feeling.
Becoming a Good Conversationalist
In initiating a dialogue with a business associate, it is a good idea to smile and introduce yourself with a handshake. If it is a business meeting, do not jump right into business topics. Lighten the mood with a little small talk to help everyone relax. Also, you should remember to call the other person by his name. Everyone loves hearing their own name and it makes the other person feel valued. Be polite, interested, engaged, and make eye contact with the other person. An occasional nod to indicate a point of agreement lets the other person know you are listening to the conversation. Finally, do not be a conversation hog. You should not be the one doing all the talking. Remember, a conversation has a dialogue that flows both ways.