True communication is a two-way street

As a business owner, how often have you made the following comments to yourself: 

·      "Why didn't they do it the way I told them?" 

·      "Why do I have to tell them again?" 

·      "Why didn't they finish the activities that I assigned in the meeting?" 


Try turning these types of questions around to this one: "How did I communicate to them?"

It is important to recognize that when you get a response you did not expect, the response often reflects how well you communicated in the first place. To know if you truly communicate effectively, consider the reaction you got


Real-life example: Exaggerated, overblown, misleading, and sometimes media-biased communications have dealt a real blow to effective communications, especially with all the political turmoil of recent years. The fact that many politicians' favorability ratings are in the low teens is the public’s true response to the political communication bombarding our lives. And I would suggest this flood of failed communication has produced a negative impact on our business, personal, and community lives at a subconscious level.

Business owners and business leaders need to recognize this communication lesson. The lack of clear communications is a leading, and maybe the most important, reason that relationships between parties develop problems.

At the first sign that responses are inconsistent with expected results, stop and examine the communication that created that response. But be aware that this is not easy for business owners and leaders who frequently fail to realize they know a lot more than the people they are communicating to and don't spend the time sharing their thoughts and requirements fully.

The foundation of effective communications at a leadership level derives from three things: Asking questions, listening, and then responding.

Three valuable question types


There are three types of communication questions:

Open-ended questions: You can’t answer these questions with a simple yes or no. They encourage the other party or parties to open up and provide information from their perspective that enables you to understand their position and ideas more fully. Fair warning: Be prepared for some potentially surprising and useful input that you should incorporate!

Reflective questions: Repeat a particular word or phrase that the other parties used to let them elaborate on a statement they made. For example, you could say: “You said, ‘that might have hidden costs.’ What did you mean?”

Directive questions: These guide the other party toward a desired, specific piece of information to enable you to move quickly to the response you want. But be careful. Avoid using directive questions in a manipulative manner as this can backfire by creating mistrust and turning people against the desired communication result. Remember the judge reprimanding a lawyer in court-room dramas after a leading-the-witness objection? Don’t be that lawyer. Instead, use them to highlight your goal and focus on your target.

In considering these three types of questions, always work to convert any closed-ended questions to open-ended questions by using Rudyard Kipling's six honest serving men: What, Why, When, Where, Who, and How.

Proactive listening


Contrary to common belief, listening is not passive. It is active. As a leading Broadway stage director once said, "Acting is reacting. It's done with the ears, not the mouth." So, how do you get someone's attention to allow you to communicate productively?

Hint: It's not by talking at them, by making clever remarks, or by impressing others about yourself. If you want to open the opportunity for effective communication, ask questions about what's important to the other party.

The biggest mistake in communications is talking about memyself, and I. Is your communication peppered with things like the following phrases?

·      "I want you to …"

·      "What I want to sell is …"

·      "These are my needs …"

Your needs and goals might be critical to the communication at hand, but take time to consciously turn your attention to the other person. Ask, "How can I help you?" and "What are your needs?" Then listen.

Really listen instead of just waiting for them to finish. You can make more friends in 20 minutes by showing interest in the other person than you can by spending 20 weeks showing only how interesting you think you are.

Effective responses


The third element of effective communications is framed by how you respond.

As Mother Teresa once said, "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

How you phrase even a simple response can radically change actions, attitudes, and outcomes.

Consider this:

  • The five most important words a business owner or leader can say are: "I am proud of you."
  • The four most important words are: "What is your opinion?"
  • The three most important words are: "If you please."
  • The two most important words are: "Thank you."
  • And the most important single word is: "You."

In today's business environment, it is critical that business owners and leaders use clear, positive, and uplifting communication to generate the responses they intend to get by asking questions, listening proactively, and using effective responses.


"Only Action gets you closer to your dreams - do something today that your future self will thank you for."


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