The Enlightened Business Communicator
By: Tonya Foust Mead
This is the political season where mudslinging and degradation of character represents the tactical weapons of choice to disarm one’s enemy, opponent and competitor.
Fortunately, business owners and entrepreneurs understand that healthy competition drives the capitalist economy and serves as the catalyst for new technologies, innovative products and the exploration of new markets.
For instance, take heed of the following examples:
* MSN and YIM merged in October 2005, to obtain 44% share in the instant messenger market.
* StarCite, Inc. and OnVantage, Inc. in August, 2006 merged to galvanize the meetings technology market.
* Yahoo and Google collaborated in January 2007, to develop preloaded software to be included jointly in Samsung’s new cell phones.
* Microsoft and Cisco collaborated in November, 2007 to unify communications space.
* Microsoft announced just recently in February 2008, the purchase of Yahoo for domination of the advertising and consumer online business.
Verbal communication and oral expression represent just a tiny portion of our daily interactions with others. And yet, conversation is what drives attitudes and opinions, dictates action, exonerates guilt or exalts worth. As a small business owner, it is easy to concentrate too much on operational performance and financial results that leaves little energy for the pursuit of enlightened or philosophical knowledge. As time advances, quick, hasty speech lacking in forethought will take its toll. The purpose of this article then is to help small business owners reflect upon their conversation, communication style and the resulting message prior to the infliction of damage too disastrous to repair.
What communication strategies might the entrepreneur employ when asked to elaborate on the strategy, plans and tactics of a competitor? How might a CEO or president of a small business obscure his/her personal feelings for a competitor while expressing with reserved clarity his competitor’s weaknesses?
Robert Genva in Managing Your Mouth suggests the following devices.
1. Be Smart. Play dumb. Similar to the joke of three monkeys, when asked to elaborate upon the failures of a competitor, see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
2. Change the subject. Throw the questioner off the scent. Business owners might provide a shallow answer or purport to know very little about the subject at hand.
3. Pull in the reins. Be very blunt. State unequivocally that you are not going to discuss or make assumptions about the strategies or plans of your competitor.
4. Go off on a tangent. Take the conversation ‘around the block, or around the barn.’
5. Shrug your shoulders. Use negative nonverbal language to get the questioner to back off of the subject.
6. Drag a red herring. Avoid answering a delicate question by discussing or bringing up a similar topic that touches upon the present subject matter.
To master one's tongue is definitely a challenge. In the fifth century B.C. Lao Tzu wrote Tao Te Ching as a guide for political and military leaders. Through the ages, kings, rulers and even despots have looked to this book for the sage advice that it offers. Here is a quote taken from The Tao of Leadership as it relates to this article.
Never seek a fight. It if comes to you, yield, step back. It is far better to step back than to overstep yourself. Your strength is good intelligence: be aware of what is happening. Your weapon is not a weapon at all. It is the true light of consciousness. Advance only where you encounter no resistance. If you make a point, do not cling to it. If you win, be gracious. The person who initiate the attack is off center and easily thrown. Even so, have respect for any attackers. Never surrender your compassion or use your skill to harm another needlessly. In any event, the more conscious force will win.
Higher consciousness in today’s fiercely competitive world is a necessary trait of the modern entrepreneur. To obtain the higher conscience required, one might look to western and eastern religious teachings in which the seeker is reminded that it is the wise man who speaks good conversation with meekness while the fool will, from the same mouth speak both curses and blessings.
Thus, every time a business owner opens his mouth, he has the opportunity to be perceived as the personification of a solutions-based ideology; to brighten a dark and bleak world. Or conversely run the risk of embodying everything imaginable that is wrong with society today.
Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA http://www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya.ishareknowledge.com