BPW International Blog
Essential Communication Skills Businesswomen Should Learn
We talk a lot in an average workday. In fact, recent studies show that most leaders will spend between 50-80% of their business day communicating. Hence, it seems pretty obvious that strong communication skills is essential if one is to become a successful businesswoman.
But sometimes it just feels like we are speaking a completely different language! We say something, but our colleagues just don’t seem to get it. Or perhaps they even seem to have not heard it at all.
It is true that men and women communicate differently. Unfortunately, some of the ways women communicate may actually have negative effects when it comes to building strong professional business relationships and improving business as a whole.
As such, below are several key communication skills that can help businesswomen attain success.
Brevity First, Expand Later
The old stereotype of women being chatterboxes turns out to be true. Studies have revealed that women use an average of twenty thousand words daily. In contrast, men use a mere seven thousand. That means women use almost three times as many words!
And with the greater amount of words comes the bigger risk of confusion in what you actually want to say. To avoid this and to help ensure you’ll get your point across easier, ask yourself if you really need to say as much as you are thinking. See if there is a way to be more concise. Start with the most impactful information and then expand if necessary. Doing so allows you to make the person you’re talking to understand while keeping him or her interested in knowing more about the subject, may it be a potential strategic partnership or just how good your products or services are.
Facts and Logic over Emotion
Many women tend to be more emotional when it comes to communicating ideas. In a business setting, however, it is logic that will take you further. It would be wise to refrain from using excessive storytelling or too much reliance on emotional appeal in your communication. Instead, make sure to supply facts to support your arguments. Present logical analysis to support the points you’re trying to make. This is especially important in business where strategy and information are both essential.
However, we’re not saying you should speak like an emotionless robot. That would be wrong, too—doing so gives off the impression that you’re not sincere in your words. As they say, too much or too little of something is bad, right? It would be better to combine both facts/logic with a bit of emotion when you’re speaking. This way, you’ll sound more relatable and show people that you actually know what you’re talking about.
Be Assertive and Confident
Many women have been taught that it’s best to be sweet. A proper lady keeps her opinions to herself, right? Well, not anymore, ladies!
Speak your mind! Share your ideas and be proud of them. Women are instinctively nurturers and we may feel a tendency to put ourselves and our needs last. But the successful businesswoman will use a bit of assertiveness in her communication and get things done.
Now, this doesn’t mean be aggressive. There is no need to be rude, degrading, or condescending to make your point. This just means that you should take pride in your opinions and present them with confidence.
Don’t be Timid—Check Your Body Language
Similarly, successful businesswomen should be aware of their body language. Trends show that many women have a tendency to diminish their physical presence in business settings. This means that in meetings some women tend to be wallflowers.
In one-to-one business communication, some women are more likely to show “submissive” body stances. Take note of your physical presence and make sure that you are not unintentionally giving off the impression that you don’t matter. Even just a few minor adjustments in your body language can make major differences in how you're perceived and will show your colleagues that they should take you and what you’re saying seriously.
This is essential in running a business. Having confidence makes it easier for you not just to speak but also to communicate in such a way that you not only make others understand, you also convince them as well. Whether you’re negotiating or settling business disputes, having the right amount of confidence will do wonders.
Flexibility: Know Your Audience
For any successful business person, the key to good communication is knowing and connecting with your audience. An excellent example of this is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg consistently makes lists of the best communicators in the world. One of the keys to her success is her ability to connect with her audience.
Sandberg is skilled in taking complicated ideas and presenting them to unique audiences in ways they personally can understand. She knows her audience and adjusts her communication to fit the event and the people in it. Here we see another communication trait often underrated: flexibility in communicating with different audiences. The more flexible you are, the better the chance of you reaching and making more people understand what you or your business stands for—always a plus in terms of marketing and building networks.
Keep It Professional
These days we can communicate in so many ways. Verbally. By phone. By email. Through Facebook and Twitter. Even apps like Snapchat let us speak virtually with the added bonus of having quirky animations. But let’s remember that there is a time and a place for each kind of communication.
Keep business matters within professional methods of communication. In person, by phone or via email are the three most appropriate ways to conduct business transactions. Social media is rarely appropriate for the workplace. And don’t Snapchat potential partners. Just don’t.
Similarly, keep the content of your communication professional as well. Communication with your colleagues should mostly focus on business. It may also involve polite communication and small talk about personal lives. But it should generally avoid truly personal subjects. And gossiping about your colleagues is never a good idea.
Keeping it professional tells others you are a professional, and you conduct your business with professionalism. You gain more respect as a businesswoman in the process.
Considering how important strong communication skills can be to a businesswoman’s successful career, the idea of honing them can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are several ways to gain or improve them. Attending training sessions and seminars is one and practice always makes perfect sense. Being part of networks such as BPW also gives you the right resources to improve your communication skills as well as the tools to achieve success as a true businesswoman.