Entrepreneurs need to communicate with investors, marketers, employees, influencers, programmers, customers and investors, among other people. All of these individuals have their own form of communicating, and speaking to them the wrong way could prove costly.
To succeed as an entrepreneur, understanding and mastering these different forms of communication is critical. Even if you feel that you’re an excellent communicator, you’ll probably benefit from brushing up on communication styles and techniques.
An exercise in humility
Bettering our own communication is a process, not a result. Just ask podcast juggernaut Lewis Howes: “I learned the power of communicating with people when I was a kid in school,” he says. “I felt dumb and like I wasn’t good at anything but I realized that if people felt good about themselves when they were around me, I could still add value.”
Howes says being aware of his own communication and working on it like the skill that it is has helped communication become of his greatest strengths.
“When I’m enrolling people into my vision for my business, events, books, podcast, brand, etc., it all comes down to how I connect with them on an emotional and intellectual level. That is the power of communication.”
Different types of communicators
There’s no right way to communicate with others. When you go to start a business, most will tell you that it’s critical to do things your way. You can’t innovate if you’re copying someone else, and your business isn’t going to succeed if it doesn’t offer anything different than competitors. The best startups are the ones that embrace the originality of their creators.
Similarly, you shouldn’t adopt someone else’s way of speaking. Instead of completely changing your communication style, you should refine it and build it to be even better.
There are plenty of different ways to break down the styles of communication, so I’ll stick to one described by Mark Murphy that I’ve found is fairly accurate. His version breaks communication down into four groups: analytical, intuitive, functional and emotional.
First is the analytical style of communicating. This type of communicating is all based off data, numbers and logic. People who use this type are always thinking about what the next logical step is, and they don’t always connect with others emotionally while speaking.
The intuitive style of communication is the intuitive or big-picture thinker. These are the ones that have great vision, but their speaking style isn’t always informative enough.
Functional communicators enjoy planning out every step verbally, to the point that they might over-communicate and lose the focus of whoever they’re speaking to.
Lastly, personal communicators are excellent at connecting with others emotionally, which is a pro and con on its own. While building a legitimate connection with others is great, some may begin to find the constant connection off-putting or annoying.
You’ve probably already pegged yourself as one of these styles just by reading the description, but they all clearly have strengths and weaknesses to them. The best thing to do is try to figure out what style other people are while you’re communicating with them. This will help you connect with them and could lead to smoother communication.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
Must-have communication skills
No matter which style of communication you gravitate to, you need to make sure you have the skills it takes to effectively communicate as an entrepreneur. Think about it: Entrepreneurs deal with people from different fields and backgrounds, so more than one form of communication is necessary.
One big divide has been verbal versus written communication. With the rise of email, social media and digital marketing, written communication has become a more important skill to master. This is because some things that can be spoken can’t be written. If you’re a naturally sarcastic person, you’ve probably noticed that your sarcasm doesn’t quite translate the same way across emails as it would in person.
Knowing how to communicate via written message is critical in today’s world. The first thing to know is that you shouldn’t type the same way you speak unless the other person knows you well. Make sure that your message is clear, and read it as if someone had sent it to you. There shouldn’t be anything written that can be taken the wrong way.
Communicators also need to understand that there’s a difference between speaking in a group session and one on one. Many entrepreneurs have speaking roles, so they need to learn how to communicate to an audience. There’s no perfect road map, but be aware that speaking to an audience the same way you would speak to a single person probably won’t go well. The same goes for the opposite — treating a single person like a crowd will be seen as insincere.
You also need to become a master of body language and listening — how you react to other people speaking could be more important than anything you have to say. If you’re trying to win someone over, you need to make sure you seem engaged and interested. Even showing others that you are present can lead to a more comfortable work environment.
“Another must-have skill involves the ability to both give and receive feedback, especially amongst founding teams or investor/entrepreneur teams,” says Noramay Cadena, managing director of Make in LA. “One good technique is the continue/start/stop method, which involves a group preparing feedback in advance for each team member–what they should continue doing, what they should start doing and what they should stop doing and then having a candid conversation around each person’s skill sets and areas of improvement. This technique empowers people with tangible feedback and enhance an open culture of communication.”
Communicating isn’t easy, and it’s only going to become harder as more forms of communication are created. If you stay on top and constantly work to become a better communicator, though, you’ll find that success follows.