Verbal communication

Verbal communication can bring great rewards to your organisation when carried out successfully, but it can also be hazardous to your business when approached the wrong way. The words you use are important, but equally important is the way you express them.

Using positive language

You are more likely to achieve positive outcomes when you use positive, rather than negative, language.

Positive language is helpful and encouraging; it suggests alternatives and offers solutions to problems. It is language that stresses positive actions and consequences.

For example, if you are negotiating with a supplier who is not willing to budge on price, your language should convey the desire for a 'win-win' scenario (i.e. a situation that both parties can be happy with). This is likely to make your supplier more willing to negotiate (perhaps on issues other than price, such as delivery costs or payment terms), than if you also refuse to budge and accuse them of being inflexible.

Using 'I' statements

'I' statements, rather than 'you' statements, often yield better results in verbal exchanges.

For example, 'I need more information to make a decision' sounds much better than, 'You need to give me more information before I can make a decision'. The reason the 'I' statement sounds better is that you are saying what you need rather telling someone what they should do.

Assertiveness versus aggression

Assertiveness (often through the use of 'I' statements) is stating what you plan to do. Instead of coming across as hostile, you are making a statement about something you feel or perceive.

Aggression is completely different and is usually perceived as hostile or unfriendly behaviour. It often uses the word 'you'. People can become unhappy when you tell them what to do. Even when talking to employees it is wise to soften language when asking them to perform tasks, as they are likely to respond better to requests than orders.

Consistent assertiveness shows others that you're confident and open to suggestion, but won't be taken advantage of, leading to a mutually acceptable outcome.

Speaking style

Speaking style means the tone, pitch, accent, volume and pace of your voice.

The same sentence can be conveyed, and understood, in entirely different ways based on the way in which it is said. People you speak to can be motivated by a positive speaking style, just as they can be put off by a negative style.

You should always try to speak with a positive voice – avoid monotone responses, or talking too quickly or slowly. Be as clear as possible, and try to engage the listener, as this is far more likely to promote the response you are after than if they leave the conversation deflated.

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