When you’re running a small business, as the leader you need to be adept at working in all sorts of areas, including finance, sales, marketing, customer service, administration, team management, and so on. However, no which industry you’re in or the types of products or your venture sells, you won’t get to achieve the results you’re after if your communication are lacking.

Entrepreneurs must be able to communicate effectively so they can get across their vision and passion to employees, investors, journalists, suppliers, lenders, and customers. They also need to be able to convey instructions clearly to workers, speak eloquently in presentations and at events, pick up on potential employee issues before they become large, communicate ideas to designers and others, negotiate with vendors, and continually look at methods of improving the company’s communications so employees become more engaged, committed, and productive.

If you’re keen to increase your communication skills ASAP and your startup this year, read on for some key areas you should be working on.

Know how to read and utilize body language

For starters, always remember how important body language is in person-to-person communication. As you’ve probably heard, a big part of all communication is nonverbal, which means how you and others move, use your hands, provide eye contact, and otherwise send and receive bodily signals has a large impact. During your days at work though, do you stop to think much about whether you’re sending the messages you want to through your body?

Entrepreneurs need to learn to become a master of this nonverbal form of communication. Doing so will ensure you’re able to better convey meaning when you speak (whether one-one-one or in larger groups, for presentations and the like); that you command attention; can more effectively persuade others; and that you clearly demonstrate feelings such as enthusiasm, respect, interest, empathy, pride, displeasure, and concern.

While there are courses, books, blogs, and other teaching aids available to help you learn about and practice your body language movements (and discover how to best interpret that of others), start by remembering to look people in the eye when you them, and chat, as this shows you’re engaged.

You should also stand and sit straight to show interest and confidence, and refrain from fidgeting, as this conveys the impression you’re bored or just not listening. Likewise, keep your hands off your hips and out of your pockets as you converse, so you don’t appear blasé, annoyed, or otherwise reacting negatively.

Learn to really listen and empathize when others speak

Next, be aware that good communication isn’t just about speaking. As a business leader, you must also be able to listen attentively and to empathize with people as they talk. Getting better at active listening, where you really try to understand what another person is meaning, and where they’re coming from, will help you in numerous ways and in all types of settings.

For example, it will make it easier for you to realize when your employees, customers, suppliers, or investors are unhappy, and it will ensure you connect more deeply and cement your relationships. Listening carefully will also help you to mitigate business risks; to mediate problems between your staff as they arise; to deliver what your customers actually want; to better negotiate with your suppliers, customers, and others; and to lead your team more effectively.

Communicate effectively in writing

Of course, in business, as in life, much communication is done via the written word, whether emails, text messages, letters, reports, blogs, or social media posts. As such, if you want to get your messages across in the way you mean them, and pique the interest of the relevant parties, too, you must be able to write well. In addition, don’t forget that the words you write will convey a particular image about yourself and your business, so poorly written materials reflect badly.

If you’re worried about your spelling and grammar skills though, don’t fret, since you certainly don’t have to have a track record as the perfect English student. However, you do need to always check your work for errors, by utilizing handy spell check and grammatical tools and, wherever possible, external proofreaders who can look over your words with fresh eyes. Take care and time with your work and never post things when you have just written them in anger or frustration, as you’re likely to regret it later.

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