Business Communications Skills

Business communication skills

Good communications are basic to successful management. In spite of much literature dealing with theory and practice of this subject, our communication skills are still very poor.

Peter Drucker in his foreword to a book (Parkinson & Rowe (1978)) on communications states quite bluntly that poor communications are a direct result of our ignorance. He contends that we do not know:

  • what to say;
  • when to say it;
  • how to say it; or
  • to whom to say it.

Communication Breakdown

A light-hearted look at a hypothetical communication breakdown

The setting is the future, the law at this future date decrees that a woman should produce at least one child within 3 years of marriage. If not, then the Government, in order to boost the falling birthrate, will force the services of a certified Government sire on the hapless female to assist in the creation of another human being.

Wife
Well darling, this is the day we have been dreading. If I had only known that they would pass a law like this.

Husband
Yes dear, and there is no way out of it, the facts are that in view of the falling birthrate, it is compulsory to have at least one child within 3 years of marriage. Failure to comply will entail the services of a certified Government sire being provided to assist.

Wife
Oh dear, and the Man from the Government Birth Compulsion Department is due today! What shall I do?

Husband
Well I must be off to work now. I do hope it won't be too awful for you, and that they send you a decent chap to do the job.

(Kisses Wife ......departs.) Wife later answers a ring on the doorbell.

Wife
I suppose you are the man from the er...

Man
Good morning! I have come to...

Wife
Yes, yes, I know. Please come in. Just excuse me for a second.

Man
(To himself) I suppose this is the right house. I don't know why people cannot bring their babies to the studio to be photographed, instead of dragging me all the way out here.

Wife (Returning)
Won't you sit down Mr....

Man
Jones is the name. I hope I have come at a convenient time. Your husband is away I suppose?

Wife
Yes, we thought it would be the best thing to do especially as he can't do the job himself.

Man
Ah! It's the professional touch that is needed to get really good results. I suggest one on the sofa, two on the rug, one on the edge of the bath and finally one on the bed.

Wife
Good heavens! I didn't think so many would be necessary.

Man
Oh yes! We professionals can't get results with only one attempt, you will be able to say which you like the best and one of them is sure to be a gem.

Wife
Excuse me, but this does seem to be a bit informal doesn't it?

Man
The whole charm of the thing is in its informality. Would you like to see some samples of my work? (Produces an album of baby photographs). Now look at this one. I took four hours to get him, but it's a beauty.

Wife
Er, yes it's lovely, to be sure.

Man
And, look at this one, quite a photograph, a very tough assignment done on top of a bus, in one shot.

Wife
Good gracious, on top of a bus?

Man
Yes, the mother was a film star and wanted some publicity. This one I did in Central Park one snowy afternoon. I took from 2 o'clock until five. It was nearly dark when I had finished and the squirrels were nibbling at my equipment.

Wife
Central Park! Oh my, and twins too!

Man
Here's a nice job. People were crowded three deep at the end just to see me on the job.

Wife
Oh! Oh!

Man
I should never have finished but for the assistance of two policemen. Well, Madam, I think we had better get started. Would you be so kind enough to help me with my tripod?

Wife
Tripod? Whatever for?

Man
Well you see I've got a 3 foot stand and...

With that the poor woman fainted.

Had the communication been clear and had both persons clearly understood what they were talking about their respective states of minds (in particular the woman's) would have been considerably different.

Next | A communications conceptual model