Words matter. The best idea in the world will go for naught for lack of description. Whether oral, written or conveyed in sublime body language, improved communication can enhance your business and — ultimately — your life.
Sun is a self-styled “wealth whisperer.” A financial advice entrepreneur, speaker and media personality, she has been featured on CNBC, Fox Business, Cheddar and appeared in 100 other interviews for various outlets.
A millennial career blogger, Minor is also a social media coach, speaker, was named one of the 30 Under 30 and formerly known as The Young Professionalist.
Carpenter is a keynote speaker and learning facilitator.
Together, the trio found a few choice words to explain how they communicate and pass along pointers for those seeking confidence to succeed in their own lives and businesses.
“Own your confidence,” Sun said. “How do you convey confidence when communicating verbally — in person, on the phone or virtually — versus when you communicate via writing?
“Confidence is a powerful mindset,” she said. “Each morning we wake up deciding how we’ll face the day. Some choose the role of weakness, but I’d much rather choose the role of confidence, strength and belief in myself and those around me.”
Minor said the eyes have it.
“Conveying confidence in person starts with looking someone in their eyes when talking to them,” she said. “It is also a sign of respect. Sit up tall and be confident with projecting your voice — not yelling.
“Be knowledgeable in what you’re speaking about,” Minor said. “Do your research beforehand about the topic and the person you’re speaking with to make the conversation less intimidating.”
Hearing equally important to vision.
“Listening is such an important skill,” Minor said. “It helps carry out a great conversation. Sometimes we are so quick to respond that we don’t listen to have a quality conversation.”
In-person interaction tops even the best online conversations.
“It’s harder to convey confidence in writing as opposed to in person,” Carpenter said. “I use eye contact and practice active listening. I’m open and honest about what I know and what I need to find out before giving an answer.”
A strong first impression can be the difference between landing the business or not.
“How do you present yourself as open and inviting to ideas and collaborations when meeting with team members or even potential clients?” Sun asked.
“Communication is a two-way street,” she said. “We must take ownership of that and play our role to practice, listen and stay actively engaged until the messaging is complete and supportive. Be open and invite others to communicate with you. The rest will just happen organically.”
From the onset, those with the need will take the lead.
“Invite the other party to open the conversation with their wants and needs first,” Minor said. “I show them that I care and that I’m interested before spilling all the beans with business talk. It’s OK to spend 10 minutes learning about each other first.”
Mutual interest must be genuine.
“It all starts with communicating and letting people know that you want to hear new ideas and invite collaboration,” Carpenter said. “Ask, What are your thoughts on this? What would you change? Do you have any suggestions or additions?
“Create an inclusive environment where people know their opinions are heard and valued,” she said. “That will help you land business and build long-term relationships.”
Open, effective communication leads to less confusion and stress. The experts offered their best tips to ensure they communicate clearly and concisely with co-workers.
“When you’re working a million miles per hour, there’s bound to be things ‘lost in translation,’” Sun said. “We have to be intentional in getting the message across. After a conversation, summarize things in writing just so everyone can tweak if what they said or heard isn’t accurate.
“A big part of communication is asking carefully framed questions,” she said. “Then make sure you receive the answers fully.”
Make it clear
This is where lessons from school apply in real life.
“The biggest thing I learned in sales classes is to repeat back what was said and ask for clarification: What I heard you say was… Is that correct?” Minor said. “That really goes a long way. I have to do this a lot with clients who communicate via email. I call and clarify.
“I’m a huge advocate for sales classes,” she said. “Everyone should take them to learn how to become better communicators. It was the most impactful skill I learned for business and professional development.”
Carpenter dismissed the notion that communication has limits.
“It’s better to over-communicate than to not communicate at all,” she said. “When we don’t give information and are not transparent, people start to fill in the blanks and make assumptions.
“Paraphrase what someone says and ask if you understand correctly,” Carpenter said. “Ask questions for areas you don’t understand or need clarification on. Don’t be afraid to reach out with more questions.”
Beyond spell check, all three experts hailed Grammarly as the best program to help keep communication typo-free.
“I would not be able to run my business without this tool,” Minor said. “It catches typos and grammatical errors. It also sends weekly reports to your email.”
Effective communication helps keep everyone on the team on the same page. This is especially important for remote workers.
“My previous manager was an incredible role model for me when it came to leading a team,” Sun said. “He always said you need to be known for saying the same thing regardless of who on your team you speak with. You team needs to know you are fair.
“I like having open conversations with multiple members of my team at the same time so they hear it together at once,” she said. “Keep it fair, keep it consistent, and be open.”
A person to come to
Planning also enhances communication.
“I’m a huge fan of agendas when it comes to meetings,” Minor said. “There’s a guide to review, and it makes the conversation move swiftly. You have to make your team feel good about being able to come to you about any issues.
“As a team member, it is always great to approach or present any problems to your team with a solution as a way to open conversation,” she said.
Team members’ knowing what to expect helps communication no matter if they are near or far.
“Keeping a consistent and ongoing gauge is important,” Carpenter said. “For virtual teams, it’s even more important to communicate where you are on a project, and what help and resources you need. You cannot physically pop in someone’s workspace and ask the question.
“Open office hours, one-on-ones and team meetings are great ways to have conversations,” she said. “It’s also important to get to know your team and colleagues outside of work. What motivates them? What do they like to do for fun?”
Beyond the team, good communication is essential to build and maintain a rapport in business relationships.
“I like to over communicate and take the time to make sure I hear, listen, take notes and can fully explain,” Sun said. “With communication, it’s a smart investment of time to get things across accurately and in a relatable way.”
Managing contacts aids productivity.
“I keep a list of people who I want to maintain a relationship with,” Minor said. “Each of them receives an email, call or card for the holidays, a thank you, or when they’ve made a great achievement. My goal is to communicate with them at least each quarter.”
That does not mean contacts must be bosom buddies.
“You don’t have to be friends with everyone you work with, but you have to be respectful,” Carpenter said. “If you struggle to find a common interest, ask questions about things your contacts are interested in such as kids or hobbies. You might be surprised what you have in common.”
Listen and learn
Listening is an underrated skill. Yet, it will make or break communication from the beginning.
“Listening is no different than getting better at any other important skill in your life,” Sun said. “Practice, be intentional and reflect as you listen.
“I also like to type notes so I’m sure I heard what the other person said,” she said. “As a financial advisor, this is critical.”
Resist the urge to fill gaps in conversation.
“Great listening requires being comfortable with pregnant pauses,” Minor said. “You’re probably not listening if you’re responding right away. We try to avoid dead silence in conversations, but it’s OK to ask for a couple seconds to process and take notes.”
Good communication is an exchange, not a contest.
“The goal is to listen with the intention to understand versus respond,” Carpenter said. “That means listening to the complete dialogue, waiting at least four seconds to process and then respond. We often have our response ready to go before someone is even done speaking.”
Emojis and slang often appear in communication, but they have their place.
“I love emojis because so much communication occurs beyond just words,” Sun said. “It’s the tone, the feeling, the imagery. It all matters.
“Taking the time to help clarify your tone is important these days,” she said. “We need to be mindful of how others will receive our messages.”
That led to Minor’s caution about emojis.
“Some people use them as a crutch to soften a message when we actually need to be direct about the subject,” she said. “If we’re not chatting via text, then I say no emojis.”
Carpenter is all about location and context.
“I usually stray away from emojis and slang in workplace conversation, but it depends on the culture,” she said. “Certain cultures encourage short-form use. Feel out your audience. If you’re still not sure, it’s best to stay away until you better understand the culture.”
Practicing, practical leaders
Good communication makes great leaders, particularly when they helm teams of different backgrounds and education.
“Leadership starts with us,” Sun said. “We need to actively practice to be better leaders, listeners and just human beings. We should never stop learning and being humble enough to accept new lessons.
“I change my communication style as it relates to different people,” she said. “Everyone is unique, and it’s an opportunity to relate and connect more effectively.”
The circle comes back to group insight.
“Understanding how team members best receive communication is key,” Minor said. “Do they need visuals? Are they good with written communication? Being a leader means being flexible in your leadership style with each of them.”
The same message can be received differently on different days.
“It’s about the impact of your message and not just about the intent,” Carpenter said. “How someone feels, asks or interprets your message may be different from your intention. It’s important to respect their opinion and have an open and honest conversation around it.”
Vocal communication, written communication and imagery all need to work together to effectively represent what you stand for.
“Take real ownership of your brand,” Sun said. “No one knows you like you know you. Work really close with your team on all design, communication and style to bring things together.
“My more senior team members know our brand well, but you still need to jump in now and then to keep things personal,” she said.
Great communication is not a one-shot wonder.
“Practice, practice and practice,” Minor said. “Record yourself and actually watch yourself. It is uncomfortable for many, but it’s necessary. Then ask friends to watch and give feedback.”
Even the experts face challenges.
“This is tough for me,” Carpenter said. “I try to be as consistent as possible. I look for outside perspectives from my team, clients and partners. Sometimes we’re so much inside our brands that we can’t see how others view it.”
Flex to circumstances
Know your audience is a prime rule of communication, which affects conversation style.
“Communication is so much about the other person,” Sun said. “Everyone is different. Taking the time to hear and listen and all the other elements of good communication is most successful when you relate to the other person.”
Minor added that there is “always room to adjust communication style depending on the characteristics of your audience. Use it to your advantage.”
Communication constants prevail, regardless of age.
“At the end of the day, people are people,” Carpenter said. “We all experience life differently for a variety of reasons, including our generation. Have a conversation about communication preferences — text, email, in person — and consider adjusting or adding a communication method accordingly.
“We all want to be valued and heard but communicate this differently based on preference and generation,” she said. “It’s important to have a conversation and bridge this gap.”
Entrepreneurs need not look far for hidden communication treasures.
“One of the best resources to enhance your communication skills is already within you,” Sun said. “It’s a mindful, intentful decision to practice listening and communicating over and over again.
“Being a financial advisor helped me with this,” she said. “I had lots of practice. Using live streaming helped me further improve my communication skills.”
Minor recommends joining Toastmasters and checking library lists for classes on public speaking.
“It is not just about getting out in front of a crowd but also crafting a message, reading body language and adjusting your communication on the spot,” she said.
Carpenter prefers to tell her tale.
“Storytelling is something I have been working on and is necessary for my type of work,” she said. “I’ve been watching talks from people I admire, watching breakdowns of great talks and then practicing.“
Her book, How to Listen and How to Be Heard: Inclusive Conversations at Work, is available for pre-order.
“In it, I break down — in simple ways and small chapters — how to enhance your communication skills,” Carpenter said.