Mastering the Art of Communication
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Many things are often blamed on poor communication: assumptions, misunderstandings, unhappiness, even war. And while your own day-to-day conversations may seem low stakes, there’s a lot more riding on your words than you think.
In the latest episode of Business Analysis Live, we delve into the art of communicating effectively with special guest Jane Osemwegie—a kindness advocate, distinguished Toastmaster, and Vice President of the IIBA Nova Scotia Chapter. Effective communication extends beyond words, encompassing more than just speaking or writing. In Jane’s words, "When you’re talking and they don’t understand, you're not communicating."
With that pearl of wisdom in mind, let’s explore the essential elements for developing strong communication skills and genuinely connecting with your cherished interlocutors.
Active Listening is Non-negotiableActive listening isn’t just about hearing words. It’s also about understanding the message behind them. It involves absorbing information with curiosity, reflecting on what’s behind the words, and responding appropriately.
This is actually harder than it sounds, as many of us put a premium on replying quickly and sharing our thoughts. How many times have you been in a conversation with someone, and one of the things you’re thinking about is what to say next?
Active listening is the cornerstone of effective communication for a reason—it cuts to the fundamental need everyone has to genuinely be heard. By being an active listener, you’re already halfway to being a great communicator. And you haven’t even uttered a word yet.
Empathy = ConnectionThis leads us to the next pillar of communication: empathy.
Empathy is about truly understanding and sharing the feelings of others, not just hearing people. It's a bridge to deeper connections and trust, enabling business analysis professionals to work effectively with cross-functional teams and stakeholders.
Say, for instance, that you’re in a meeting with the development team and they’re trying to explain why a particular functionality won’t work. Rather than responding from your own point-of-view, try opening with a phrase like “I know what you’re trying to say” or “I see that this is important for you.” These simple words convey that you understand and value the person you’re talking to, and it makes them feel heard (going back to the active listening part).
Empathy helps improve your working relationship with your clients. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the core values that sit at the heart of the business analysis role. And it may even need protecting in the age of artificial intelligence and remote work.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our body says the opposite of what our mouths are saying. Other times, our body goes rogue, betraying how we really feel when we’re not even talking.
A Posture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Non-verbal cues often communicate much more than words, making them a quicker way to both gain and convey information. Effective communicators are mindful of their own body language and can read the room, understanding others' non-verbal signals to enhance their communication approach.
Luckily, using body language effectively is as simple as nodding or making eye contact when someone is speaking. When your body and thoughts are aligned, it becomes a mutually reinforcing relationship—and the message that you’re engaged and that you care is heard loud and clear.
The words we choose and how we address others can build bridges or create barriers. Using inclusive language, such as saying “we” or “the team” rather than “I,” fosters collaboration and respect, which is essential for any professional environment.
Inclusive Language Reduces Conflict
You might be surprised how often people exclude others without even intending to or realizing it. As with body language, it’s often a seemingly small and subtle gesture that has the biggest impact.
Using inclusive language shows your leadership skills, as it greatly reduces the potential for conflict. This is because team members are more likely to contribute positively and openly when they feel they’re included. And they’ll know you’re someone who can be trusted to hear them out and treat them fairly.
That said, inclusive and respectful language isn’t just about choosing your words carefully. As with previous strategies, it’s also about understanding your audience and speaking to their needs. People want to feel included and heard, and using inclusive and respectful language is one of the easiest ways to ensure they do.
Concision helps convey your message effectively (see?). Plan what to say, avoid over-explanation, and refrain from filler words (the dreaded ums and uhs) to make your communication clearer and more impactful.
Shorter Is Sweeter
Also consider your target audience. Key stakeholders may understand certain business jargon, but a room full of prospective business analysis professionals probably won’t. Here’s a pro tip to sharpen your delivery: consider recording yourself whenever you’re speaking in public. It will help you identify strengths and weaknesses you wouldn’t otherwise have noticed.
So be concise and, crucially, consider whether you even need to say something at all. As Jane reminds us, "Sometimes good communication means knowing when not to talk." We couldn’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) have said it better ourselves!
Effective communication ultimately comes down to trust, which is one of the most important parts of the work we do as business analysis professionals. We’re often asking people uncomfortable questions, or we’re involved in confidential matters that demand a tactful, discrete approach.
Small Act, Big Impact
The strategies we’ve outlined aren’t exhaustive, but they can help us handle these situations better. The most important takeaway is that simple, easy gestures often have the biggest impact on communicating more effectively.
If you’re hungry for more, check out the full conversation. And don’t forget to join us in two weeks for another insightful discussion on a business analysis topic. If you have any questions or want to continue the conversation, reach out to us via email at email@example.com.
Explore fresh and candid conversations on a wide array of business analysis topics with the Business Analysis Live podcast.
About the Authors
Susan Moore, Community Engagement Manager, IIBA
Scott Bennett, Manager, Business Analysis, IIBA
We host Business Analysis Live to discuss business analysis topics and answer questions from our live audience. We have a backlog of upcoming topics and we’re happy to take suggestions. Add a comment to one of our videos to suggest a topic you would like us to cover in an upcoming episode.