Show Jacqueline Whitmore a candidate with raw talent, a terminal degree from a prestigious institution and the professional experience to match it, she’d still say, “So what? Can s/he communicate? How is he or she at showing good business etiquette?”
Whitmore is an author, and soft skills expert who has, for the last decade, made her living showing good business etiquette to Fortune 500 companies, universities and associations. If you doubt the legitimacy of Whitmore’s expertise, consider that research, too, suggests that etiquette and soft skill savvy are crucial to business success: The results of a survey of 200 members of the American Marketing Association revealed that 91.1 percent of respondents rated that showing good business etiquette was either very important or important to business success regardless of age, gender, education, income or marital status.
It’s Not What You Say…It’s How You Say It
55 percent of the messages we transmit to each other come from body movements, 38 percent from the voice—inflection, intonation, volume—and 7 percent from words. In other words, it’s not necessarily what we say, but how we say it that counts. Considering this, it is rather astounding that soft skills evaluation, attentive listening and nonverbal communication are not taught to children—and according to corporate trainers, the lack of training in showing good business etiquette shows.
Here are some steps you should consider taking on your journey towards soft skills improvement:
Nothing screams disengagement, even apathy, like looking around the room, glancing periodically at the list of unopened emails on the screen, or silencing a ringing (or even vibrating) cell phone. If you’re meeting with someone, show them that you are fully engaged by turning off your computer screen and your cell phone. If you are in the middle of a project, schedule a time when you are able to give them your undivided attention. Likewise, if you are speaking to someone who seems preoccupied, ask them, “Are you free another time? Maybe we can catch up later this afternoon.”
Practice Empathetic Listening
Showing good business etiquette means that you must maintain a clean mental slate. If you are formulating a response while someone is talking to you, you are most likely pantomiming the act of listening. According to Whitmore, “Whenever you begin to craft a response before someone has finished their thought or argument, then you are not fully digesting the words and the meaning behind them.” For Whitmore, empathetic listening involves visualizing and actively imagining yourself in the other person’s situation.
Paint a visual picture
While you are listening, create a visual image of what is being said. This will help you follow the story; it will also impress your colleagues “that you hung on to every word and made them feel like the most important person in the room.”
Listen with your entire body
Many professionals are under the false impression that interjecting or (even worse) filling in the blanks of the other person’s sentence suggests that they are being attentive. Don’t assume that you already understand the speaker’s idea or that you know where his or her sentence will end. Instead, nod occasionally, make eye contact, eye the speakers hand gestures or facial expressions.
Pause before you reply
Silence is, according to Whitmore, one of the most important, yet most commonly neglected—and feared—tenants of conversation. Don’t gloss over this “white space of conversation.” Silence will allow you to carefully reflect on what you are going to say; it will also keep you from pantomiming the act of listening while the other person is speaking.
Are you interested in enhancing your knowledge in the fields of business, soft skills evaluation, organization behavior, and human resources? Do you want to become a human resources expert—a leader capable of transforming a business, government, or not-for-profit organization? If so, learn more about Marygrove College’s Master of Arts Degree in Human Resource Management (HRM) program!
You should also know that as of March 26, Marygrove College has reduced tuition rates for several online graduate programs by 19 percent! The decision was made in an effort to address students’ concerns across the U.S. about the rising cost of higher education. This is one step—amongst a few others—the college is taking to ensure that a Marygrove education is an achievable, financially-sustainable investment.