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Business Communication Skills


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  • 1. Management Enrichment Training Program M37 Business Communication Skills FIRST EDITION Table of Contents • Basic Communication Concepts • Communicating the “3 Cs” During Basic Member Contact • Advanced Nonverbal and Verbal Communication • Telephone Communication • Dealing with Difficult Members
  • 2. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts Communication is central to almost Objectives everything you do as a credit union employee. It is taking place, even if Upon completion of this chapter, you’re unaware of it, every time you’re you will be able to: in the presence of another person— 1. Explain why effective commu- whether it’s a coworker, a member, a nication is important; Who benefits when director, or your boss. Good commu- 2. Define three important quali- nication is so crucial to working in a ties that should be communi- you develop your credit union that it may be the most cated; communication important ingredient to credit union 3. Describe how communication success! works; skills? Everybody! If communication skills are lacking, 4. List and explain ways commu- the member receives poor service, the nication breaks down; staff doesn’t work together cohesively, 5. Enumerate four important and the credit union suffers. When communication principles. communication skills are at their best, the right information gets to the right people at the right time, in a form in manner. It also enhances your which they can use it. Good communi- opportunities for advancement. cation is critical to every phase of The members benefit from your management and member relations. increased communication skills, too. However, good communication When you are a good communicator, doesn’t just happen. It requires knowl- the members get the information they edge, and it requires practice. Your need in a way that they can understand skills are enhanced when you under- and use it. Your communication skills stand the principles behind good make the members feel valued and communication. If you comprehend respected and help them see that the the way communication works and credit union is an organization that why it breaks down, you can improve employs professionals who can be the quality of communication in the trusted with their money. credit union. The credit union also benefits from your communication skills. When Everybody Benefits From staff members communicate well, the Communication Skills members are happier, teamwork is You benefit because communication enhanced, and conflict is reduced. skills are important to your own When employees make members feel career. They make people view you as a valued and respected, and give them true professional, and this encourages confidence in the credit union, every- them to take you seriously. This helps one wins, including the credit union! you get things done in an effective B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S 5
  • 3. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts Three Important Qualities to Communicate These three qualities are the charac- teristics of a true professional. Much of this book focuses on learning to project these “3 Cs,” so it’s important that you understand what they mean. Activity 1.1 helps you define these this model of communication works. qualities. Tami, a loan officer, is finishing up a loan interview with Mr. The Communication Process Thompson. She looks up from There are four main parts of the paperwork, and asks, “Did you want communication process, shown in this me to add gap insurance?” diagram: the sender, the message, the Mr. Thompson looks confused. receiver, and feedback. Let’s analyze the parts of the com- Considering a moment in a conver- munication process as they are illus- sation between a member and a loan trated in this brief communication officer will help you understand how example. Activity 1.1 Give yourself 2 points for each of the following statements that describe you to a high degree. Give yourself 1 point for each of the statements that somewhat describe you. Evaluating Communication _____ 1. I am empathetic; I can identify with the members’ needs and feelings. Skills _____ 2. I am someone who lacks self-doubt. _____ 3. I am engaged with the members and interested in them as people. _____ 4. I am intelligent and knowledgeable about the credit union, its unique philosophy and history, and its procedures. _____ 5. I want the members to have a great experience at the credit union and I do what- ever it takes to make sure they get the service they deserve. _____ 6. I am experienced enough to handle most situations, questions, and problems. _____ 7. I am energetic and ready to deal with any situation. _____ 8. I am trustworthy with the members’ financial assets. _____ 9. I respect myself, and this encourages others to respect me. _____ 10. I am patient with the members’ questions, misunderstandings, and mistakes. Total your points here: ______ A. Record your total for statements 1, 3, 5, and 10 here. _____ These statements describe your ability to communicate the quality of caring. B. Record your total for statements 2, 7, and 9 here. _____ These statements describe your ability to communicate the quality of confidence. C. Record your total for statements 4, 6, and 8 here. _____ These statements describe your ability to communicate the quality of competence. Are you satisfied with your scores? Are there areas in which you would like to improve, either a little or a lot? The next section describes how the communication process works, and it will help you build your skills in communicating the “3 Cs.” 6 B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S
  • 4. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts Sender Tami’s message. When the sound waves The sender is the person who enter his ears, he processes them in his decides what he or she wants to com- brain, using his own experience to municate. assign them meaning. However, since In this case, the sender is Tami, a Mr. Thompson has no experience with loan officer who has received training gap insurance, he is confused. in the concept of gap insurance. She understands that if Mr. Thompson Feedback wrecks his new car, insurance will only Feedback is really another message, reimburse him for about 80 percent of one sent by the receiver back to the its value. He needs gap insurance to sender. It can be words or it can be cover the rest. She wants to communi- body language or other symbols that cate to him the importance of gap let the sender know the receiver’s reac- insurance. tion to the prior message. In this case, Mr. Thompson’s confused look is non- Message verbal feedback that tells Tami he has A message is a set of signals that are not understood her message. sent from a sender to a receiver. In this case, Tami has used her experience to Nonverbal Communication compose a message about gap insur- Tami’s words to Mr. Thompson (her ance. Tami’s primary message consists verbal message) were accompanied by of words. However, the words them- another type of message. When Tami selves have no meaning—her message looked up from paperwork and made is nothing more than sound waves. eye contact with Mr. Thompson, she Those sound waves must be assigned sent another type of message, one meaning by the receiver. without words. Sometimes this is called “body language,” and it is one Receiver example of nonverbal communication. Mr. Thompson is the receiver of Activity 1.2 Match these pictures to the nonverbal message you think the character is sending. Experimenting with Nonverbal Communication A. B. C. ____ I might be interested in the product you are telling me about. ____ I doubt what you are saying applies to me. ____ You’re taking too much time explaining this to me. Answers appear in appendix A. B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S 7
  • 5. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts Activity 1.2 gives you some examples receiver that interferes with the com- of nonverbal communication. munication process. For instance, if This section has focused on the you hold a conversation in a place components of the communication where other conversations make it process: sender, verbal and nonverbal hard to hear, that’s one example of message, receiver, and feedback. external noise. If telephones regularly Activity 1.3 gives you a chance to interrupt your conversation, that’s review these components. another example. Here’s an example of a communica- Communication Breakdowns tion breakdown that occurred as a Since human beings are involved in result of external noise. A credit union communication, the process has many president told the marketing director, opportunities to break down. Com- “I want you to order 500 blue cups munication breakdowns occur when with the credit union logo for the the message as interpreted by the annual meeting.” However, the conver- receiver is significantly different from sation was held in a noisy restaurant, the message as intended by the sender. and the message was distorted. When There are many ways that communica- the president got to the annual meet- tion problems happen. We’ll look at ing, there were 500 blue baseball caps three of them: for the attendees. • External noise; Distractions can be a form of exter- • Internal noise; nal noise, as well. If you have ever tried • Differences in experience. to have a conversation in a place where interruptions are frequent and many External Noise other things are competing for atten- Sometimes noise is something that tion, you know how distractions can is actually heard, and it interferes with impair the sender’s ability to accurate- the receiver’s ability to hear the send- ly transmit a message and the receiv- er’s message. External noise is anything er’s ability to understand it. in the environment of the sender or Activity 1.4 is a self-assessment that Activity 1.3 Identify the four main parts of the communication process in this story. Case Study A member walks toward the teller line. Before he reaches her window, Sharon, the teller, has already made eye contact, smiled, and has leaned toward him a little. She says, “Good morning, Mr. Stevens. How can I help you today?” Mr. Stevens smiles back. 1. Who is the sender? ______________________________________________________ 2. Who is the receiver? ______________________________________________________ 3. What makes up the verbal message? __________________________________________ 4. Is there nonverbal communication in this example? ______________________________ 5. Is there an example of feedback? ____________________________________________ Answers appear in appendix A. 8 B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S
  • 6. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts helps you identify ways to reduce the makes him tend to interpret every frequency of communication break- message in the most negative way pos- downs due to external noise. sible, that’s an example of internal noise. Internal Noise When the sender or receiver is Noise and distortion of messages prejudiced in some way, that’s another don’t always happen because of some- way internal noise can interfere with thing external to the communicators. her ability to receive a message in the Sometimes noise is internal. Internal way it was intended. For instance, a noise is anything in the mind of the department manager who has become sender or receiver that interferes with convinced that people under 20 are the communication process. For irresponsible may tend to misinterpret instance, when one party is upset things that are said in an interview about something that occurred at with a 19-year-old applicant. home and it takes away his ability to There are several things you can do focus on the conversation at hand, or to reduce problems resulting from Activity 1.4 You can reduce the frequency of communication breakdown resulting from external noise. How often do you take these steps? Ideas for Reducing 1. Move important conversations to a quiet area, free of noise and distractions. External Noise _____ Always _____ Usually _____ Sometimes _____ Never 2. Forward phone calls during important conversations. _____ Always _____ Usually _____ Sometimes _____ Never 3. Recognize the potential for distortion by external noise and check for understanding. _____ Always _____ Usually _____ Sometimes _____ Never If you had any answers that were not “Always,” you have room for improvement. Use this space to list improvements you would like to make in the way you manage your communi- cation environment. ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S 9
  • 7. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts Activity 1.5 Try this experiment. Without thinking about it, put a check mark beside the picture that comes closest to matching the mental picture you get when you think of a dog. Why did you choose How Experience that particular dog? Affects Perceptions _____ Because I have a similar dog. _____ Because I had a dog like that as a child. _____ Because I know someone with a dog like that. _____ Because I recently saw a movie or picture of a dog like that. Other reasons _________________________________________________________________________ internal noise. You can recognize the communication. impact of internal noise on your abili- Your choice was probably based in ty to focus. You can attempt to set some way on your personal life experi- aside outside stresses during important ence. Even though everyone reading conversations, or else you can avoid this book is reacting to the same word, having important conversations when there will be great variety in the images you know stress is reducing your abili- of dogs they choose. This shows that ty to communicate. You can identify there is no specific meaning in the the ways in which prejudices distort word “dog” itself. your ability to send and receive mes- If meaning is not in the word, where sages accurately and take steps to mini- does meaning come from? Meaning mize the impact of those prejudices. comes from inside the people who are communicating, based on their own Differences in Experience personal life experience. When you Another source of communication read the word “dog,” it was only letters breakdowns is the difference in the on a page until you gave it meaning, personal life experiences of the sender based on your own experience. and receiver. Activity 1.5 illustrates Now, let’s add the sender and receiv- how differences in experience affect er’s own personal life experience to the 10 B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S
  • 8. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts communication model that we learned sonal life experience to the encounter. earlier. If the sender’s and receiver’s If the sender and receiver have some circles of personal life experience do experience in common, the receiver is not overlap (if they have little experi- more likely to interpret the message in ence in common), there is potential for a way similar to the way the sender a breakdown in communication. intended. When you communicate with some- one, each party brings a different per- Activity 1.6 Karen is a teller supervisor who tells her staff they may dress casually, but professionally, during the summer. Photo A shows Karen’s mental picture of “casually, but professionally. Avoiding However, Photo B shows the range of attire that Karen’s staff wore. Communication Breakdowns Based on Differences in Experience Photo A Photo B Communication broke down because of the different personal life experience of the sender, Karen (age 45), and the receivers, Karen’s staff (ages 20-25). Remember, the meaning in com- munciation comes from inside the sender and receiver, not fromt the words themselves. The younger staff’s personal life experiences caused them to interpret the word “casual” in a differ- ent way than Karen. How could communication have been improved in this situation? Which of these solutions do you think would enhance communication between Karen and her staff? a. Karen could post pictures from catalogs and magazines clarifying visually the way in which she defines the word “casual.” b. Karen could post pictures of the types of clothing she would find unacceptable. c. The young staff could be punished for misinterpreting the concept of casual professional attire. d. The young staff could recognize their potential for giving a different meaning to a word than their boss intends. They could ask clarifying questions in order to come to a common under- standing. Answers appear in appendix A. B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S 11
  • 9. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts Avoid Problems Based on explain the specific actions that he • Meaning is in Difference of Experience was hoping for. He said, “By the people, not in words Think of someone you regularly time the member is eight feet from communicate with. Chances are, there is your station, you must make eye (or other symbols). some difference between your experi- contact and smile. You must use the ences that will create the potential for member’s name at least once during • You cannot not the transaction. You must say ‘thank communication breakdown. For communicate. instance, are there generational or eth- you’ at the end.” When Burton start- nic differences? Are there differences in ed communicating in this specific • Communication the part of the country where you each manner, the misunderstandings and grew up? Maybe there are differences in misinterpretations of the word makes a statement professional level or in education or “friendly” ceased. about the training. Look at the example in Activity 1.6 Use those differences in experience and see if you can determine how relationship to help you understand how your communication could be improved. between the sender receiver will interpret the message. Consider where it may be necessary to Four Important and receiver. be specific in explaining what a word Communication Principles means to you. There are four things that can • Perception Here is an example of a credit union generally be said with certainty about is reality. president who used this technique suc- communication. cessfully. At first, Burton was frustrated Principle One: Meaning Is in because his young tellers weren’t People, Not in Words being “friendly.” Some of them This principle is based on the seemed to think “friendly” just concepts you learned in the last section meant “not overtly rude.” Others regarding the way personal life experi- seemed to think “friendly” meant ence controls a receiver’s individual “extremely casual.” Burton stopped interpretation of a message. saying, “Be friendly,” and began to Activity 1.7 Which of these solutions would enhance communication between Kristin and her coworkers? Preventing a. Kristin could remember that everything she does, says, and wears communicates some- Misunderstandings thing to those around her. She could be more aware of what her actions might say to her coworkers, and clarify to them that she is preoccupied, not angry. b. Kristin’s coworkers could work hard to read nuances into everything Kristin does, assum- ing they know the intent behind each action. c. Kristin’s coworkers could remember that meaning is in people, not words (or other sym- bols). They could keep in mind that the meaning they’re assigning to Kristin’s actions may not be her intended message at all. If they have doubts about their interpretation, they could ask clarifying questions. Answers appear in appendix A. 12 B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S
  • 10. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts Principle Two: You identify ways for both parties to Cannot Not Communicate improve communication in this case. This principle is based on the fact that we are always sending messages, Principle Three: Communication whether we intend to or not. (Remem- Makes a Statement About the ber that messages can be both verbal Relationship Between Sender or nonverbal). and Receiver For example, Kristin is a credit This principle is based on the fact union loan processor. One morning, that your words (and other symbols) arriving at work, she was preoccu- and the way they are expressed say pied and in a hurry and walked to something about how you see yourself her desk without speaking to her in relation to the other person. For coworkers. They wondered if she instance, your communication tells: was angry with them. Did Kristin • how powerful or authoritative fail to communicate with her you feel you are in comparison coworkers? to the other person; Kristin’s coworkers might say she • how much you like the other failed to communicate with them, but person; actually, she did communicate with the • how important, intelligent, or staff as she walked in. Any time two or interesting you think the other more people are aware of each other, person is. communication occurs. Communi- Here’s an example of how commu- cation doesn’t have to be intentional, nication can make a statement about and communication doesn’t always the relationship between a credit union involve words. Kristin didn’t intend to employee and a member. send a message that she was angry with Mr. Simpson brings a check writ- her coworkers, but that’s the message ten to Jim and Sylvia Simpson to they received. Use activity 1.7 to Heather’s teller window to be Activity 1.8 Here is a picture of a woman. How old do you think she is? Perceptions _____ Under 40 _____ Over 40 B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S 13
  • 11. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts cashed. However, only Mr. Simpson away the condescending tone of the has endorsed it. Heather needs to words, and using the member’s name give Mr. Simpson the information softens the message. that he must have both signatures Heather should remember that her on the check. She also wants to tone of voice also sends a relational communicate that she respects Mr. message that she respects and values Simpson and perceives him as an Mr. Simpson as an intelligent human intelligent, valued member. She does being. not want Mr. Simpson to feel she is “talking down” to him. Principle Four: Here are two ways Heather can Perception Is Reality choose to respond: This principle is based on the fact Response 1: “You can’t cash this that each person builds his own reality, check without your wife’s endorse- based on his own perceptions and life ment.” experiences. The important thing to Response 2: “I can’t cash this check remember is that each person’s reality for you without your wife’s endorse- is completely real to him or her! ment, Mr. Simpson.” Activity 1.8 illustrates this point. There’s only a subtle difference Some people are convinced this pic- between the two responses, but ture depicts an old woman, and others Heather should remember that the are just as convinced the drawing words “You can’t” tend to communi- shows a beautiful young woman. This cate bossiness and may even be per- is one example of how two people can ceived as “talking down” to the mem- see the same situation, yet perceive ber. It implies the member should have entirely different realities. If you saw a known this already. For this reason, younger woman, you perceived the Response 1 is not as good as Response dark horizontal line near the center of 2. The “I message” in Response 2 takes the picture as her necklace. She is look- Activity 1.9 The phenomenon of “perception as reality” is illustrated by the experience of Samantha, a teller at Federal Credit Union. The credit union changed its name last month to better reflect Dealing with its expanding field of membership. A member Samantha is serving complains, “Ever since Member you changed management last month, the service here has become less personal!” Perceptions Samantha is perplexed, because nothing has changed at the credit union but the name. How should Samantha respond to this member? a. She should argue with the member, based on the fact that management hasn’t changed. Nothing has changed but the credit union’s name, so how could service be worse? b. Samantha should accept that this member’s perception is reality. If the member thinks service is worse, then for him, this is true. Samantha should acknowledge the member’s feelings, say she’s sorry the member has been disappointed, and promise she’ll do her best for the member today. (However, in the process, she should clarify that the credit union has not changed management, only its name.) Answer appears in appendix A. 14 B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S
  • 12. Chapter 1 » Basic Communication Concepts Activity 1.10 Most of what you learn in the rest of this book is based on one or more of the four principles introduced in this chapter. Review these principles by filling in the blanks. Four Principles Revisited 1. Meaning is in _______________, not in words or other symbols. 2. You ___________ not communicate. 3. Communication always makes a statement about the ______________ between the sender and receiver. 4. Perception is ________________. Answers appear in appendix A. ing back over her right shoulder. If you These building blocks include the saw the older woman, you saw the hor- knowledge of how communication izontal line as her mouth, and saw her helps you project caring, competence, chin tucked into her fur coat. and confidence. You have also over- viewed a visual model that showed you Summary how communication works. The four In this chapter, you have received principles of communication are appli- the building blocks for the construc- cable to the topics addressed in the rest tion of important communication of this book. Activities 1.9 and 1.10 skills. These skills can enhance your summarize these lessons. The next career, as well as improve the member’s chapter helps you apply the things you experience with the credit union and have learned in chapter 1. enhance the credit union’s image. PLAY PAGE Cups or caps? Reminder: To access the Play Page, go to or go to and type “Play Page” into the Search Box. Select the title of this module, and then the chapter you want to review. B U S I N E S S C O M M U N I C AT I O N S K I L L S 15