In tough times every business is looking for that special edge, the one that puts it in a more competitive position. Many executives are focused on such topics as customer satisfaction, more effective procedures or even down sizing to remain in budget.

But I bet very few have considered improving the one thing that is at the core of all these problems. However, it is a simple fact that effective communication skills are extremely good for business.

Worried about customer satisfaction? Then a staff with improved communication skills will have an immediate effect in this area. Frustrated that you have to spend so much time in repeating requests; re-stating statements and fixing up the results of miscommunication? Just think how much more effective time you would have with improved personal communication skills.

There are three simple rules which, if followed, will improve your ability to communicate.

Learn to Listen. Communication is a two way process, but if you start with focusing on your listening skills you will have a much better understanding of what people actually say to you.

People do not listen very well. They are more concerned with what they are going to say as soon as they can get a word in edgeways, than actually giving attention and interest to what is being received. Change your focus and become a listener; and that means concentrating on what is being said without judgement or bias.

Listen with movement; which means encourage the speaker with gestures. Nod in agreement; use eye contact to maintain interest.

And finally if you do not understand something take the time to clarify it. A simple question such as “I am not sure I understand what you meant, can you explain it again to me.” will allow the speaker to rephrase it.

When you have listened, you are in a better position to undertake clear communication yourself.

Organise your thoughts. To be able to be understood you need to have a clear outline of what you are speaking about. We think very much faster than we speak, so taking a few moments out to organise what we want to say will not impact on our communication, it will improve it.

We need to know quite clearly in our own mind what our main aim is going to be. If we are not clear on this our communication is going to be erratic, unfocused and ineffective. We should ask ourselves what do I want this person to know or to do. This is the key to clear and effective communication.

Once we have it clearly in our mind, the next thing we should consider is what are the most important things my listener needs to know for me to achieve this aim. Three pieces of information at one time is all that your listeners can absorb. So quickly select the three most potent points you can use and you’re done.

Monitor the feedback. While you are speaking to your three main points watch your listeners for feedback. You may notice that they are looking confused. Stop! You may need to rephrase the statement, or restate the information in another way. You might find that your listeners clearly do not agree with what you are saying, and you have the opportunity to allow them to voice their opinions. Being able to address concerns immediately usually has a very positive effect on your listeners.

You will also be able to see the nod, the smile and the positive body language which will indicate that you have agreement.

In business today, there is very little activity at any level which does not depend on good communication skills. And yet when considering what can be done to improve a company’s position in the market, it very rarely even gets a mention.

So why not make this personal. Try improving your personal communication; I am sure that you will notice a vast improvement in the way in which your instructions, your ideas or your suggestions are received. And that has got to be good for your business.