Business communication skills Lecture notes

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Arab British Academy for Higher Education. BUSINESS COMMUNICATION SKILLS Introduction:- Developing good business communication skills is as much about the ability to develop good content as it is about good form. Business documents must maintain certain standards and should be, at most, recognizable internationally. Documents can be classified into two types: internal and external. Internal documents circulate within the organization and may include memos, reports and proposals. External documents circulate outside of the organization. Examples include: letters, tenders, proposals and reports. The external environment may include clients, customers, suppliers, stockholders, government, media and the general public. 1 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Unit 1 Business Communication: What is Business Communication? Strong Business Communication skills are critical to the success of any organization despite its size, geographical location, and its mission. Business communication is intertwined with the internal culture and external image of any organization. It therefore determines what is communicated, by whom, and at what level in the organization. Ultimately, good business communication practices assist the organization in achieving its objectives by informing, persuading and building good will within both the internal environment and, the external environment. If organizations are to survive and prosper in the rapidly changing global environment, they must continually change the way communication processes are structured and delivered. This global environment forces us to think about communication issues against the backdrop of culture, technology and competition, which continually raise legal and ethical concerns. Meaning of Communication: The word “Communicate” comes from the Latin verb “Communicare” that means to impart, to participate, to share or to make common. By virtue of its Latin origin it is also the source of the English word “Common”. 2 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Thus, communication is defined as the process of conveying or transmitting a message from one person to another through a proper channel. Elements of Communication:- For communication to exit there must be at least four basic elements: - A Sender/Encoder - A Receiver/Decoder - Message - Channel and Medium SENDER MESSAGE RECEIVER RESPONSE CHANNEL Sent GAP Received FEEDBACK Encoder/Sender: - Encodes Message - Chooses Appropriate Channel - Chooses Appropriate Medium - Solicits Feedback - Attempts to Minimize Noise 3 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Decoder/Receiver: - Decodes Message - Practices Active Listening - Provides Feedback P.S. For communication to be more effective there should be Common Background and Purpose, Interest, Cooperation between Sender and Receiver. Medium VS. Channel: These two terms are often confused in business communication. Understanding the distinction is essential to understand business communication. Consider the following examples:- Channel air Medium airplane Channel water Medium boat The Choice of the Channel and by extension the Medium should therefore be determined by the following: 1- Purpose of communication 2- Ability of Encoder to effectively use the medium 3- Effectives of the medium to deliver the message. 4 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Other Elements:- Response: When the sender transmits the message, he expects a response. The response may be immediate or deferred, favorable or unfavorable. Feedback: Feedback is essential to the communication process. It tells the sender of the message that the message has been received and understood and the purpose fulfilled, whether it is to persuade or inform or for good will reasons. Feedback both reassures the sender and indicates that the receiver is involved in active listening. Feedback should always be solicited by the sender, and in the best case built into the process of communication. General Guidelines for Effective Communication:- 1- Clarity of Purpose: this requires careful planning. Lack of planning becomes the first major barrier in communication. Communication does not take place. We have to make all possible efforts to understand the why’s and how’s, the when and where, and above all the “what” of our message. As George Berneard Shaw says, “The major mistake in communication is to believe that it happens.” 2- Shared Activity: Lets not forget that effective communication is the responsibility of all persons in the organization. At any level – managerial or no managerial. They are all working towards a common goal. It means that all of them have a share, directly or indirectly, in 5 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. many different ways, in the process of communication. Whether communication is effective can be judged on the basis of the intended results. 3- Common Set of Symbols: The encoding and decoding of the message should be done with symbols that are familiar to the sender and the receiver. It is an immutable condition of communication that the code or set of symbols be mutually understood/intelligible. 4- Focus on the Need of the Receiver: Whenever we communicate we must keep in mind the needs of the receivers of the message/information. It should be our endeavor to see that whatever we communicate should be of value to the receiver, both in the short run and in the distant future. Our awareness of the needs of the receiver will make him more receptive. 5- Active Listening: Active or “participative” listening is as important as any other element in the process of communication. It shows, again, that communication is a joint responsibility of both the sender and the receiver. 6- Controlling Emotions: Emotions play an important role in interpersonal relationships between superiors, subordinates and colleagues in an organization. It should be, therefore, an important aim of communication to create an environment in which people are motivated to work toward the desired goals of the enterprise by which they achieve their personal goal. 7- Politeness: This leads us to the tonal aspect of communication. There is a saying, “The tone makes the music”. In the same way, the tone of voice, the choice of language and the congruency or logical 6 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. connection between what is said and how it is said influence the reactions of the receiver. 8- Eliminate Noise: Every possible effort must be made to eliminate the element of noise that distorts communication at the transmission stage. It becomes especially important in the wake of modern technological advancement. Anything going wrong with the equipment or any disturbance in the transmission line is bound to defeat the very purpose of communication. 9- Clarity Assumptions: No effective communication can be based on assumptions. The sender of the message must clarify his assumptions and then go ahead with proper encoding of the message. 10- Avoiding connotations and ambiguities: Semantic problems can be solved by using simple language and avoiding connotations. Care must be taken to see that the receiver of the message does not have to go beyond the text of the message. It is also necessary to avoid all ambiguity, which means to avoid using words with double meaning. 11- Socio- Psychological Aspect: As communication is a two-way process involving both the sender and the receiver, both should make conscious efforts to understand each other’s cultural and social- psychological background. As a golden rule for effective communication one must remember, “First understand, then be understood.” An effective communicator is an informed communicator. 12- Completeness: One must also endeavor to send a complete message, furnishing all necessary facts and figures. Incomplete communication annoys the receiver as a result of which proper 7 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. feedback will not come. The message should be so organized that the receiver is not left in doubt about any aspect of the message. 13- Conciseness: Completeness does not mean inclusion of unnecessary details or diversions. An effective communication is concise and crisp. The sender should be clear headed and properly focused in his vision. Review Questions: 1- What do we mean by “effective communication”? How does the knowledge of the communication process help us in communicating effectively? 2- “The major mistake in communication is to believe that it happens.” Discuss 3- Why is it desirable to avoid the use of jargon? 8 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Unit Two Essentials of Effective Correspondence: Introduction: Letters are the most important means of written communication, the most numerous and the most personal. They are also very important for any organization or individual for the purpose of giving or seeking information. Modern technological developments have not diminished their importance. As an executive goes up the ladder of his career he has to spend more and more of his time in handling correspondence. Needles to say that the success or failure of an organization depends to a large extent on its correspondence. It is, therefore, obligatory for an executive to learn the art of writing effective letters. Let us have a look at the salient features of an effective letter. 1- Simplicity: it must be kept in mind that the writer of a letter is a person communicating with another person. It is, therefore, the polite, personal touch that proves to be more effective than the stiff, detached style generally associated with business correspondence. To highlight this point some typical expressions used in business correspondence are given below along with reasons for objection and suggested alternatives: 9 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Typical expression Reason for objection Suggested alternative “I beg to acknowledge a- Verbose “Thank you for you receipt of yours of…” b- Tone servile and letter of..” insincere c- Phrase lack firmness Respectfully yours False complement, Yours faithfully unduly servile “ I regret to inform you A convenient “I am sorry to have to that..” phrase, but sounds tell you that.. rather formal. Apologies to be effective must be as personal as possible. 2- Clarity of Goal: Both in thought and expression we have to be clear in our correspondence. Every letter is a reflection of the writer’s mind. He should be therefore clear about what information he is seeking or wishing to give. All facts and figures must be stated in the simplest possible language. It means that there is no scope for ambiguity and flowery language in business letters. 3- Public Relation Aspect: Besides aiming at the immediate goal, business correspondence is also deeply concerned with the image of the company in the eyes of the public. People form images about companies from many sources, and correspondence is a major factor 10 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. among them. All effective correspondence has the broad objective of enhancing the company’s public relations. 4- You-attitude: The most effective business letters are those that show the writer’s interest in the receiver. It means that the writer has to view things from the reader’s point of view so as to get a favorable response from him. Communication experts, therefore, advise us to shift our focus from “I” and “We” to “You” and “Your”. A Comparison of the following examples show the difference in attitudes. We-attitude You-attitude We have received your letter of June Thank you for your letter of June15 15 We have shipped the two dozen steel Your two dozen steel racks should racks you ordered reach you soon/with this letter. I have five year’s experience as a Five year’s practical experience as a sales executive sales executive will enable me to push up your sales. 5- Courtesy: When we adopt the “you-attitude” for mutual benefit it is natural that our tone becomes courteous. It involves writing directly to our reader, avoiding the outdated cold style and also excluding elements of anger and preaching that very often spoil communication. 6- Persuasion: Persuasion is the main function of business communication. It is most evident in effective business letters. The basic purpose of an effective letter is to influence, or to sell an idea to the reader(s). 11 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. 7- Sincerity: Sincerity means that our readers must believe what we say. They must be convinced that we are genuinely in mutual profit- sharing and well-being. Words of exaggeration like ‘extraordinary’, ‘sensational’, and ‘revolutionary’, ‘greatest’, ‘amazing’ etc. must be avoided in letters. 8- Positive Language: A wise communicator tries, as far as possible, to use positive language. Use of positive language becomes all the more important in a business letter, the primary aim of which is to build up the best of human relations and to earn business. Positive words stir up positive feelings. That is why it is advisable to avoid using negative words like ‘failure’, ‘refuse’, ‘sorry’, ‘no’, ‘do not’, ‘mistake’, ‘loss’, damage’,etc. It should be our effort to find positive substitutes for them. 9- Coherence: Effective letters present information in logical order by careful use of linking devices, use of pronouns that are reference words, and repetition of key words. Linking devices like ‘besides’, ‘therefore’, ‘likewise’, ‘however’ etc. and the pronouns like ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘these’ give a logical progression to the thought content of the writer. Repetition of key words gives the content of the letter a forceful thrust. A skilful writer knows which words to repeat. 10- Care for Culture: In international correspondence we have to be specially careful in choice of words so as not to offend the receiver who may be having a very different cultural background. We should avoid use of culturally derived words, slang, colloquialisms and as far as possible, even idioms and phrases. To write a letter in simple, general service list words that are universally understood and acceptable. 12 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. 11- Tactful Approach: An effective letter is a tactfully planned letter. A business letter is not always a simple, straightforward statement of a situation or giving out of some information. There may be a problem. There may be not a good news to convey. The writer has to decide how best to approach the problem or to convey the bad news. Review Questions: 1- What do we mean by “You-attitude” in business correspondence? Why is it regarded important? 2- What do we mean by the public relations aspect of a business? 3- What is the necessity of a “tactful” approach in letter-writing? 13 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Unit Three The Lay-Out of a Business Letter Introduction: A business letter is supposed to have a lay-out that impresses. Its physical appearance, that includes the quality of the paper, the arrangement of the typed/printed, the way it is folded and kept in the envelop, the envelop itself with the addressee’s name and address, stamping – everything communicates and passes through the receiver’s mental filter. As has been said, a letter’s appearance is a part of its message. Before we discuss each of the points / parts of a business letter let us have a look at the two most commonly followed lay-out conventions. The first-indented form follows the old, established British conventions of writing letters and paragraph construction. Each paragraph can be easily identified because there is some space left in the beginning. This is also the way most of us are taught to write paragraphs in the earliest stages of our learning. The second – block form – is of recent origin, primarily because of the American practice of paragraph writing. Now, of course, it is being followed all over the world. No doubt it looks more presentable, and is easier to handle. 14 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Formats for Typing Block Style Date Name of Recipient Title/Department Company Street Address City, State, and Zip Code RE Dear Name: Subject: ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________ Sincerely, (Handwritten Signature) Writer’s Name Title dm (typist’s initials—If the writer is also the typist, you may omit this notation.) Enclosure cc Dr. Rashid Al-Mansori PS: 15 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Formats for Typing Indented Style Date Name of Recipient Title/Department Company Street Address City, State, and Zip Code RE Dear Name: Subject: __________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________ Sincerely, (Handwritten Signature) Writer’s Name Title DDB/cm Enc cc Dr. Mahmoud Hasan P.S. 16 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. 1- Heading: The heading, also called “letterhead”, contains the name of the firm/company and its address. It is usually given at the top centre or the top right side of the paper. It is also usual to give the telephone, fax and telegraphic address. 2- Date: Place the date at least two spaces below the letterhead. The line may be flush left or right, or centered below the letterhead. Do not abbreviate the month or use nd, st, or th with the day numbers, like May 5th, 1998. Also, do not use a month’s number, like 6/23/89. Both date orders listed below are appropriate; December 10, l997 10 December l997 3- Inside Address: It contains the name and address of the organization or the individual to whom the organization is being sent. It should be complete. This is always on the left margin. a- Addressing individuals; i- Mr. is used for addressing a man ii- Miss is used for an unmarried woman iii- Mrs. is for a married woman iv- Ms is used for a woman whose marital status is not known. Most woman now prefer the use of Ms v- Messrs is a plural for Mr. and is used while addressing a partnership. When addressing couples, give both appropriate titles: Dr. and Mrs. Jehad Hosni Mr. Jehad Hosin and Dr. Rania Osman 17 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Dr. Jehad and Rania Osman Dr. Margaret Wright and Mr. Steven Jones Mr. and Mrs. Ali Al-Ajmi Ms. Ghada Al-Ahmad Mr. Talal Al - Saadi 4- Reference: “Reference lines” assist with filing or routing correspondence. A reference line can refer to your files and/or your reader’s files. Place your reference line first. Our reference: Project 234 Your reference: Invoice 3444 RE Order 4558 5- Attention line: Use an “attention line” whenever you want to direct your letter to a specific person or department within a company. Place the attention line two lines below the inside address. Use a colon after Attention 6- Salutation: Always try to greet your reader by name rather than by title. If you don’t have a name, you may use one of the following. Dear Committee Member: Dear Meeting Planner: Dear Colleagues: To All Sales Reps: To Whom It May Concern: Dear Madam or Sir: Dear Purchasing Agent: 18 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. If your letter is addressed to a company, the proper salutation is: Gentlemen or Ladies: Ladies or Gentlemen: If your letter is addressed to an organization of only women or only men, use: Dear Sirs: Dear Mesdames: Use a person’s full name instead of the Mr. or Ms. or Mrs. Dear Kim Krause: Dear K. Krause: Use a colon after formal salutations, and a comma after informal ones. Dear Mr. Jones: Dear Jim, 7- Subject: In external correspondence, “subject lines” tell a clerk how to file and route a document. When a clerk reads, “Subject: Project 2469-993KLS”, she knows where to file it or to whom to send it. In internal communications, “subject lines” not only should help clerks, but also inform the reader as to the content or subject of the letter. The more information you give in the “subject line”, the better. Subject: Management Development Subject: Management Development Classes Subject: Request for Approval on Management Development Classes Subject: Request for Approval on the August 10th Management Development Seminar Instead of Subject:, you may use Re or RE. 19 Arab British Academy for Higher Education. Place a subject line two lines below the salutation because it is part of the body of the letter. Either use all capitals or underline the complete subject line. SUBJECT: EXHIBITOR BOOTH SPACE STILL AVAILABLE Subject: Exhibitor Booth Space Still Available the body of the letter carries its message or content. It is 8- Body: generally divided into three or four paragraphs, each having its own function. The first or opening paragraph links up the correspondence and establishes rapport with the reader. The second paragraph may be called the main paragraph that contains the subject proper. If need be, the point made in the second or main paragraph is elaborated or further developed upon in the third paragraph. The fourth or final paragraph brings the letter to a goodwill ending, leaving the door open for further business. 9- Formal Close: The closing should match the tone of the letter. Listed below are closings that range from the very formal to the informal. Very Formal Respectfully yours, Yours respectfully, Formal Very truly yours, Yours very truly, Yours truly, 20

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