From the time I began working at fifteen years old until the onset of my career at the age of twenty-five, I held a multitude of “jobs.” During these experiences, the most critical skills I took away were all centered in effective communication. In order for communication to be effective, there are three abilities one must be willing to embrace: to modify your communication to your audience, to retain your composure regardless of the situation, and to exercise comprehension by reiterating what has been told to you.
In the early years, while working in music retail, I learned quickly that I was required to interact with customers who communicated in different ways. I was unable to expect everyone to conform to my style of communication, so the ability to adjust to theirs was crucial to the tasks at hand. This was especially apparent as the gentleman who comes in looking for that old Dave Brubeck Quartet album will have a much different demeanor than the teen coming in for the new Green Day CD. This lesson, the ability to conform my style of communication to my audience, was a critical skill that I developed and practiced every day as I communicated with those who have vastly differing personalities and backgrounds.
Sometimes, in times of duress, it is easy to become exceptionally agitated. One thing that my prior experience in the restaurant industry taught me is to keep a level head at all times. At all moments, a restaurant is an organized chaos of barking orders, running food, and constant shuffling behind the scenes while the front end of the restaurant is a friendly experience for the diners. Being able to maintain composure has done more than elevate the perception others have of me; it has helped to keep me focused and able to continue effective communication. If you fall into the pitfall of stress and allow it to permeate your ability to think rationally and speak effectively, you lose not only the respect of those working with you, but also the ability to logically reason through the task at hand.
The last skill I learned, although arguably the most important, is reiteration. I also learned this in the restaurant industry simply by virtue of both being a cook and a server. I had to repeat what others were saying in order to demonstrate understanding. It was several years into my career in the IT/website industry, when I began to realize that this still applied. It was no longer a matter of applying what was requested in terms of food, but any task. This was an invaluable lesson I learned when working with my employers, employees and clients. The simple process of repeating what has been spoken to you decreases the likelihood for error tremendously.
These three abilities are what comprise any individual’s ability to effectively communicate in business relations, both internally and externally, with clients. Nothing can replace the ability to adjust one’s own communication style, retain composure, and reiterate what has been spoken to you.