The ability to communicate is an essential part of not only being a product manager, but being a good team player. Communication is required in every moment of your day as a product manager, and not only how you think.
To communicate effectively, there are 4 key mediums of communication to learn. They are:
1. In person, verbally
2. In person, non-verbally
3. Over the phone
Before I even get into communication, I want to touch on the concept of listening. You will never be an effective communicator unless you learn to listen. Listening involves focusing on who you are talking to. Don’t be doodling, or typing an email to somebody else, or watching a video. Focus on their words and what they are saying. Are they upset? Do they have a question? What is the reasoning behind what they are saying? Don’t jump to conclusions, and most importantly, try not to get offended if they are upset. It’s a good bet they are upset with the situation, and not you in particular. Listening is an entire topic unto itself, but the important thing to remember is to pay attention to who you are talking to.
Now, in person communication can take place in many different scenarios. It can be a face to face conversation, a small team meeting, or a large-scale conference. You can be meeting with customers or co-workers, or potential customers. You need to speak slowly, and clearly to ensure you are heard clearly. Try to keep a smile on your face, and try to avoid the speaking in a monotone, or using uhm, and errr. You want to make sure your message is heard correctly, and clearly.
Non-verbal communication is a bit trickier to master, and something many people never will. You have to be aware of your posture, your eye contact, your head position, where your hands are, if you are fidgeting, and even what you do with your mouth. Folding your arms gives the signal you’re are either impatient, or upset, even though you may think it is a comfortable way to stand. Rolling your eyes is a sign of disrespect. Not making eye contact when you are talking gives the impression of boredom or disinterest or lying. Not making eye contact when they are talking is a signal to them that you are distracted, ashamed, or not interested. A good resource for further reading is http://www.publicwords.com/2012/06/26/body-language-how-to-master-non-verbal-communication/
Phone calls are a daily occurrence both personally and professionally. As a product manager, it will be one of your main tools to communicate directly with the customer. I understand how easy it is to kick the phone over to speaker and recline back while listening. I highly recommend against this. Not only could sensitive material be overheard, but it is easy to be distracted while on a speaker call. Looking back on what I said about listening, be sure and do so on the phone. They can’t see you, so make sure they understand you are listening by repeating back important information, phone numbers and email address to verify they are correct. Make sure if you are on Bluetooth they can hear you clearly. If you can’t hear them, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask them to repeat themselves, or let them know you can’t hear them. Be polite, but don’t risk a misunderstanding because you can’t hear them. As always, speak clearly and slowly.
Finally, the most recent form of communication is digital communication. Primarily this refers to email communication, but recently it has spread to include social media. When sending an email, posting on social media, or chatting through an app, remember that words are emotionless, and meaning can become distorted. What may seem to you as a simple joke, or sarcastic remark, may come off offensive or hurtful. Be sure to be precise and read your correspondence several times before sending to verify correct spelling, grammar, and intent. Verify it is going to your intended audience, not non-necessary recipients. Avoid chat shorthand in professional communication such as “u r”, “u” other forms of abbreviated talk. Avoid emoticons for professional communication, except in certain context/mediums. A tweet with a smiley face could be appropriate if the message is clear, but I still recommend not using them for professional correspondence.
Understanding the forms of communication will help you learn how to communicate. Analyze your weak points and try to correct them by research, or even taking classes if need be. As technology evolves, we may soon be adding virtual reality to the list as well.
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