--Communication begins before conversation. As the program’s authors note, studies show that some 40% of what’s communicated comes through body language and tone of voice. Both must match the message being imparted. When you tell a subordinate that a mistake he or she has made is “no big deal,” don’t roll your eyes and wince. On the phone, voice tone is paramount; never compete with the conversation by eating or allowing loud background noise as you talk.
--Name your counterpart. Nothing establishes rapport better than acknowledging others by name. But in today’s transient world, names are easy to forget or confuse. “Connect the person’s name with someone famous,” the program advises. “If you meet George, mentally connect him to George Washington.”
--Start with small talk. Chatting amiably opens the door to more substantial messages but, advises the author, gauge your counterpart’s reaction so as to not go on too long … and never chat about workplace confidences or gossip.
--Tailor your conversation to your audience. Talks with a boss, co-worker, or customer each require a different style. With bosses, pick the right time and ask honestly for what you need and what they can reasonably deliver. For colleagues, be humble, reliable, and discreet. And if customers call with problems, listen, apologize, and offer a solution. However, a natural smile when it’s appropriate, and even on the phone, applies in all cases.
--In writing, match your format to your audience. A short e-mail is fine for inviting a colleague to lunch, but use a more formal letter to ask an important customer to dinner. Also, remember that others beyond your intended recipient and far into the future may read written words. Never write what you wouldn’t want openly read.
--Meet when it makes sense to meet. Nothing irritates colleagues so much as useless meetings, the authors say. Their advice: Meet only when you need to, with only who you need, and always with a formal agenda. End the meeting by praising participants for something done previous to the meeting. That sends everyone off on a positive note.
The program goes on to address the communications aspects of negotiation, reporting bad news and resolving conflicts, all of which build on the strategies above, and all of which are evidence that good communication skills can be learned when the training program is right.