Effective communication skills is one of the core competencies which are required of any business analyst. The ability to communicate effectively plays a huge role in the success of any business analysis project as it cuts across every vital activity in the project cycle. It is at the core of business analysis planning, elicitation, requirements management and analysis, strategy and solution evaluation.
To succeed in any given project, a business analyst must effectively facilitate conversations and manage stakeholders collaboration and engagements; all of which thrive on effective communication skills. A key way to effectively build one’s communication skills is to develop critical listening skills. As subtle and often passive as the art of listening may seem and tend to be overlooked, it paves the way for the success or otherwise failure of any communication activity, and this may ultimately impact the overall project outlook.
Let the speaker know you are listening. This is a key way to not only get the attention of your stakeholder, but also win their trust. Paying attention requires cutting off any mental or physical distraction, such as email, side conversations or any visual clutter, and staying focused on the stakeholder. As often as you may be tempted to give in to a quick distraction, you may miss a key point or aspect of the conversation that the stakeholder is trying to pass.
It is widely believed that effective communication is 93% non-verbal and only 7%. In other words, what you “do” while communicating carries more weight than what you “say”. Does your body language convey the same message as your spoken words? While some aspect of your non-verbal communication may be unconscious, you must build active effort into ensuring that they sync with what you are truly trying to convey to the speaker. Looking away, hitting your finger on a desk or placing your hand on your chin may tell your stakeholder that you are not fully invested in the conversation, even though the reverse may be the case.
Engage the use of positive and intentional body language in any conversation. A key step to effectively doing this is to maintain good eye contact and constantly nod at intervals. This tells the stakeholder that you are interested in what they have to say and are ready to propose the right solution to their needs.
A key way to confirm to your stakeholder that you are actively listening to them is by asking questions. Asking questions helps you to ensure that you are not missing out on any detail, and also tells the stakeholder so.
Where unsure, you may ask clarifying questions starting with words such as “Do you mean to say…?” “Can you help me further understand…?” “What, in your opinion, is….?”
Another key way to provide confirmation is by paraphrasing what the stakeholder has said. This helps you understand the message in your own words, and also ensure that you are on the same page as the other person(s) involved.
Paraphrasing statements may start with words such as “If I understand you….”, “Correct me if I’m wrong,....” “From what I understand,....”
When providing confirmation, do not cut the speaker abruptly. Give them room to finish their statements, afterwards you may proceed to ask questions or paraphrase.
Effectively listening requires respecting the communication needs of the other person. Your stakeholder(s) need to feel heard and listened to. This paves the way to effective stakeholder collaboration and plays a role in the ultimate success of the project.
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