The Ultimate Guide to Business Communication Skills in English [Your team needs this now].


You probably already know that your business communication skills can make or break your career. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, 65% of employers and recruiters say spoken and written communication skills are more important than your area of expertise and educational background.  

That’s because these heads of companies, employers, and recruiters understand the importance of business communication skills–and how they affect the entire team. 

Better communication means a team that works, a team that’s motivated and moving toward shared goals.

Great business communication skills within a team mean the difference between stagnation and resistance and meeting that next big goal you have–whatever it is.

So here is your ultimate guide to business communication skills–in English. It’s designed to help you think about how to improve your own business communication skills–but also the skills of your international team.

And it’s created by a Neurolanguage coach, who runs an international team–me. You can come back to this again and again to practice and use this information. I’ll be adding videos to it throughout the month.

Contact me to discuss Business English coaching for your company.

Do you need coaching that is truly flexible and customized around your company’s current projects and priorities? If so, get in touch with me or a member of my team directly. 

We’ll help you create a targeted coaching plan that works directly with your team toward meeting your business’s current goals–on their schedule.

And before you commit to any coaching program, ask if you can speak to the owner and head coach about your team’s specific training program. Your team deserves personalized strategies–and it starts with your first contact.

What you’ll learn in this article:

1. 3 simple and essential business communication skills that help your team perform.
2. Business communication skills: 3 mistakes to avoid!
3. Business communication skills in practice: try one of these fun icebreaker activities at your next team meeting.

1. 3 simple and essential business communication skills that help your team perform.

“Business Communication Skills.”  That’s a huge topic.
But there are actually some very concrete and simple steps you can take to improve quickly. And when your team learns them–your business can really stand out in the business world.

Let’s start by taking a look at a simple business communication skill that can be a game-changer:

Boost your team’s confidence and build rapport with active listening.
Are you great at active listening? What about your team?

Before you say “yes” I want you to really think about it. Because active listening is one of those soft skills we don’t really learn intuitively. Is your team dynamic, highly competent, and outgoing? Then they might be great talkers, but not active listeners.

This can be true in conversations between the team leaders and the rest of the team, between team members. Or between your team and clients.

If you want your team to feel confident and build rapport, you’ll want to encourage active listening.  And there are some easy ways to do this. (And, remember, if you want to see these in action or hear what they sound like–be sure to check out the video that goes with this section).

Be aware of your body language: 

  • tilt your head slightly to the side,
  • keep your posture open,
  • look at the person who is speaking to you.

Use rephrasing.
Here’s a tip that sounds easy…but isn’t.
The next time you’re listening to someone on your team, don’t respond right away.
Instead, after your teammate finishes speaking–try rephrasing what they just said.

Like this:

Your teammate:
“You know, there’s a conference on coming up in the States in a few months. I really feel like we should send someone from our team.  We might meet some potential clients.”


“So, you’re saying our clients are likely to be in the States–and maybe at this conference.”

Notice that you don’t have to agree–just show that you’re listening. It creates a lot of confidence and trust in your team.

Communicate your goals–clearly.
When you (or your team) are not exactly sure what you’re supposed to accomplish– that creates resistance. This means it’s hard to get started and slows efficiency and progress.

Here are a few tips for making goals clear.

Talk about goals in formal conversations.
For example, don’t have your team talk about goals while sitting around the coffee maker.

Hold an official meeting (even if it’s in a fun place). Make sure someone takes notes. And then do something else that’s really important:

Maybe you send out an email or share a document with a summary of your shared goals. Or maybe you check in personally with your team later and make sure they understand.

Actually talk to them and ask questions. In an international context, where people may be working hard to communicate in more than one language, following up is even more important for clear goals.

Plan on stress BEFORE you communicate.
Here’s an idea that maybe doesn’t come to mind right away when you think of business communication skills and why they matter. But it’s essential–especially to an international team. Take stress into account–and manage it.

Think about it: your team could be great at business communication when they’re relaxed. But, as a Neurolanguage coach, I can tell you that our communication skills suffer when we’re stressed out.  Especially when we’re speaking in more than one language or communicating across cultures.

The good news is, you can plan for more challenging situations. 
Maybe your team is feeling stressed out because a deadline is coming up.
Or they’ve got an important meeting with a difficult client.
Some people on your team might even feel stressed about leading a meeting in English, for example. These are situations my team and I have helped our clients with on a number of occasions.

Visualization is one of the best techniques you can use for challenging business communication situations.
In other words, you imagine yourself in a challenging communication situation.

And you picture yourself handling it well.

And to go one step beyond visualization, try actually role-playing your situation with your English coach.
Don’t have an English coach just yet? Why not join me for one of my monthly business skills workshops? They’re live, interactive and free. Just sign up for my newsletter and you’ll get your exclusive, monthly invitation.

For a few more simple and smart techniques for planning for stress–and still having great business communication skills, be sure to watch the video on this topic.

2. Business communication skills: 3 mistakes to avoid!

Have you ever embarrassed yourself in a business setting? In my last video, you learned about making your international team great with business communication skills.

But I wouldn’t be doing my job as an English coach if I didn’t tell you how to avoid these 3 big business communication mistakes you NEED to avoid if you want your team to thrive.

Here are some of the most common mistakes my team of expert teachers and I see with our clients–in all kinds of companies.

Business communication mistake #1: you’re too focused on problems.
Here’s a big mistake you probably don’t even know you’re making: focusing too much on problems when you communicate. This is something I can see often with my clients.

And it makes sense. In some cultures, like in France, we place a high value on looking critically at situations or on pointing out problems.

And it is, really, really important to point out problems–so you and your team can solve them.

But, if you focus too much on the problem in business communication, you can actually stop communication altogether.  And your team can’t find a solution when that happens.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Let’s say your team is working on a big project. You’re going to create a series of instructional videos to help new users with your new medical device.

The problem is, there is no way you can finish all the videos before the device comes out.

If you just say:
“These videos will never be done in time.”
You may be telling the truth–but you’re not helping to solve the problem.

Try this instead.
State the problem objectively and without too much emotion

“Our video team thinks they won’t be able to complete all the videos before the device becomes available.”

And then add:

  • “What if”
  • “Would it be possible to”
  • “We could” plus a possible solution.

“What if we released the instructional videos over the next 2 weeks–and not all at once?”
Would it be possible to postpone the release of our device for a couple of days?”
We could have some people who are working on another project help out so we can get this done sooner.”

Focusing on the problem can create resistance: it can make people not want to help, or feel like they have no solutions.

Focusing on solutions puts your team in people in problem-solving mode. It makes them start searching for solutions to your problem. I think you can see for yourself which is best for your team!

Business communication skills mistake #2: you’re too direct/ you speak with too much authority.
Are you too direct, or speaking with too much authority? This is another really big communication mistake people make–and the worst part is, you can do this without realizing it!

In English, people with good business communication skills will expect you to be indirect with your requests.

For example, I’ve seen someone ask for a report to be turned in by the end of the week like this:

“You will turn this report in to me by the end of the week.”

If your English-speaking colleagues hear you say that they will feel uncomfortable and embarrassed for you. That’s assuming they know you made a cultural mistake.

If not, they could get offended. In short, you’ve created a lot of reactions–but you haven’t motivated your team.

Use softeners to make requests sound more polite–like this:

Could you have this report to me by the end of the week, please?”

To an English speaker, this will sound more polite.

And remember:
The more authority you have, the more important it is to speak indirectly.

Business communication skills mistake #3: neglecting your emails.
Here’s another place we often see people making business communication mistakes: email. Why do email mistakes happen so much? When you are speaking with someone, if they’re not sure if you’re being rude or friendly, they just have to look at your face and body language.

But with email, there is no body language and no friendly smile to make sure that your teammate, or boss, doesn’t get the wrong idea!

Here are a few ideas for making sure your business communication skills are great when you email:

3. Business communication skills in practice: try one of these fun icebreaker activities at your next team meeting.

One of the best ways to show your team that you value business communication skills is to give them a chance to practice them–in a low-stress environment. And doing this will also help you lead great meetings.

Icebreakers create trust, make people feel safe, and build motivation. They help your team be at their most efficient and ready to take risks. And, as a team, you’ll be more likely to reach your goals.

They are fun–that’s why they work. Here are three I know you can do with your team–in English.

Icebreaker #1: the pointless question.
The first icebreaker I’m going to share with you today is the ‘pointless question.’ That is, a question that people can answer, that is not too personal, but that helps us get to know who they are or where they come from.

They are way more interesting at meetings than “How about that weather?” And you help your team avoid awkward moments when they have difficulty with small talk. So everyone is happy!

Try asking one of these in your next meeting:

“Using only food: Where did you grow up?”
“If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?”
“If you were a beverage, what would you be?”

And remember, to hear me actually ask these, explain how to use them…and to learn what my beverage I would be if I was one…be sure to check out the video lesson that goes with this business communication skill.

Icebreaker #2: show and tell
Is your team meeting online and even from home?  Then try this really fun and easy icebreaker: show and tell. This is one that will remind people in English-speaking countries of a childhood memory where they brought something from home to show as a child.

It’s so easy to do. Just have different members of the team share an object they have near them. Any small item, decoration, photo, mug…

Icebreaker #3: Guess who?
“Guess Who?” is an icebreaker game that is easy to play and that will teach you something about your team–and probably make you all laugh a little.

First, have everyone share some random piece of information about themselves. Make it something that no one knows. They can give the meeting leader the information on a piece of paper or send it in a private chat on Zoom.

Then the meeting leader will read the odd facts one at a time and the rest of the team tries to guess who it is. Imagine trying to find out who on your team said:

“I’m wearing the scarf I got on vacation in Croatia!”
“I had a power bowl for breakfast.”
“My favorite TV show is Queen’s Gambit.”

Setting your team up to communicate well and work toward their shared goals in a meeting can be as simple as investing a few minutes in an icebreaker. And it’s worth every minute you spend.  Yes, you can lead great meetings in English. And icebreakers can help you do that.

Take the next step for your English and your Business:
Improve your English in the comments:

The best way to become more confident using Business English is to practice!

Here’s your Confidence Challenge for this week:

  1. Think about a business situation you were in where you noticed a person, or a team who had great business communication skills.  How did it make you feel?
  2. Tell us about it in the comments below.

Further reading for professionals in English

Curious to learn more about the topic of the day? I’ve selected these excellent resources for you. Advanced English speakers turn to articles like these to improve their business communication skills and you can use them to explore these topics further.

Don’t miss my next free, interactive workshop.

You’re serious about improving your English and your business skills. And I’m serious about helping you do that. That’s why I hold workshops every month on business skills you need. Want your exclusive monthly invitation? It’s easy. Just sign up for my newsletter.

More good stuff…

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