Business Communication: What It Is & the #1 Skill You Need

March 13, 2024 (Updated) | By Sam Pelton
Cartoon representation of two faces in conversation, one smiling and the other slightly concerned, capturing the unspoken emotions at play in communication.

In the hushed predawn of a New York skyscraper, Lauren hunches over her email, the glow illuminating a face creased with fatigue.

Across the globe, in bustling Buenos Aires, Diego paces his home office, frustration simmering as a video call crackles with static.

Their worlds, separated by thousands of miles and cultural canyons, share a universal struggle: the daily dance of business communication.

Lauren, wrestling with nuanced wording in a crucial client pitch, fears misunderstandings that could sink the deal. Diego, battling language barriers and unreliable technology, worries his passionate ideas become garbled whispers in the ether.

Their stories illustrate how business communication is not just confined to polished boardrooms. It can look like emotional tightropes. Vulnerability. Body language. Unspoken expectations.

And while conventional wisdom presents us with stats on the cost of miscommunication (a staggering $1.2 trillion per year in the US alone, according to one estimation), it rarely delves into the deeper currents of what truly makes communication tick in the business world.

So, let's dive below the surface. Yes, we’ll go over the basics. But we’ll also explore the subterrain below, where the right nuance can bridge seemingly insurmountable divides.

Buckle up, Lauren and Diego—your stories are just the beginning.

First, the fundamentals…

Why Is Good Business Communication Important?

Communication happens all the time in business.

And if the communication isn’t good, there’ll be problems.

Wasted time. Lost clients. Workplace drama.

Here are some reasons why you need good business communication…

1. Builds Trust

Clear and open communication fosters trust among colleagues, clients, and stakeholders.

This is illustrated in a report that found around 45% of respondents who felt that poor communication affected trust with their leadership or team.

When everyone understands expectations, the foundation is laid for that greater trust and, therefore, stronger relationships.

On a personal level, when I don’t understand what’s expected of me, or if I don’t feel free to engage in open workplace communication, it can be stressful. An environment of trust is much more conducive to a healthy workplace.

2. Boosts Productivity

Miscommunication is a productivity killer. Ambiguous directives, unclear timelines, and missed information derail projects and waste valuable time.

On the other hand, effective communication helps ensure everyone is working toward the same goal with the right tools and knowledge.

Applying this concept a little differently I see this in my own working processes in regards to “self-communication.” If I approach a workday without communicating my goals and expectations for the day to myself (preferably by writing them down but internally at the very least), I’m much less productive.

3. Enhances Innovation

When ideas flow freely and diverse perspectives are heard, creativity thrives.

Good business communication creates an environment in which open dialogue and constructive criticism are encouraged. This type of effective communication facilitates collaborative problem-solving, paving the way for swift and effective responses.

I’ve found that my own personality is often hesitant to speak up, even if I do have a potentially good idea. Other people don’t have any problem speaking their mind—so you’ll need to be aware that there are a vast range of personalities on your team, and you’ll want to take steps to make all feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

4. Strengthens Brand Perception

Every interaction with a customer, from initial contact to after-sales support, shapes their perception of your brand.

Just like with the internal workplace, positive, attentive communication builds trust—which can help turn prospects into customers and customers into advocates.

Conversely, poor communication breeds frustration, damaging your brand reputation and potentially driving customers away.

Recently I had an internet bill that was significantly more expensive than it usually is, because a long-term promotion had expired. Perhaps the company sent me an email to warn me, but I don’t recall receiving one, and the uptick in price caught me off guard—ultimately lowering my perception of the brand.

Why Is Good Business Communication Important?” with each of the subpoints above and corresponding icons

The benefits of good business communication extend far beyond mere information exchange. It's the lifeblood of a thriving organization, driving success, resilience, and a harmonious work environment.

Now let’s go over some of the different types of business communication.

Types of Business Communication

“Business communication” is a broad term that encompasses multiple different types of communication.

Here are a few of them…

Internal Communication

Internal communication occurs among employees and leadership within a business in 3 different forms:

  • Upward Communication: This flows from employees to managers and involves feedback, suggestions, and progress reports.
  • Downward Communication: Managers use this to disseminate information, provide instructions or training, and motivate employees.
  • Lateral Communication: This occurs between colleagues of the same level, fostering collaboration, sharing knowledge, and problem-solving.

External Communication

External communication occurs when people within your business communicate with people outside of your business—whether that’s prospects, customers, investors, or the general public:

  • Marketing and Public Relations: This aims to build brand awareness, attract customers, and manage the organization's public image.
  • Sales and Customer Service: This involves interacting with customers or prospective customers to address inquiries, resolve complaints, and build loyalty.
  • Investor Relations: This targets investors and financial analysts, keeping them informed about the company's performance and financial health.

Each different type of business communication will come with its own nuances and challenges. The important thing is to make sure you know whom you need to communicate with and what is the appropriate way to communicate with them.

Business Communication Channels

What are the best channels to actually go about all of this business communication?

Well… that depends on several factors, such as the purpose of your communication and the nature of your business. But here are some options you can consider, and determine which channel works best for your situation.


Emails tend to be the go-to for many businesses, and with good reason—you can send and read them whenever it’s convenient for you, and you can make sure to say exactly what you want to say. Emails are best when you have detailed information that doesn’t need to be in-person and also doesn’t require much back and forth, and are great for marketing and sales.

Workspace Chats

Workspace chats (such as Slack) allow you to easily manage chat conversations in a single place. It’s more organized than email, and also more immediate if you need quicker responses from people on your team, but can be overwhelming. Workspace chats are great for conversations that multiple people need to see, or conversations that need a lot of rapid back and forth.

Text Messages

SMS has similar benefits to Slack but is often even more immediate and allows you to contact people outside of just your workspace. The downside is that you don’t want to text people too much, since it’s a bit more intrusive. But it can be a very effective way to communicate important info or push an urgent promotion.


Sometimes a more in-depth or personal conversation needs to be had that wouldn’t be best for email, chat, or text message, but doesn’t require a full-on in-person or video meeting. That’s when a voice call can come in handy

Voice calls allow you to go into a more detailed back and forth about something and hear the other person’s reaction. Voice calls work well for sales conversations (although video may actually be better whenever possible).


In some ways, video is the best of both worlds between voice and in-person. You get most of the benefits of in-person while also getting the convenience of a voice call. The primary downside is that you have to show your camera, which isn’t always ideal or possible.

Video calls work well for most types of in-depth communication but is not necessary for quick interactions and may not be best if you want the interaction to have an easy record. (You can also do video webinars to communicate both with employees and customers/prospects.)

In-Person Meetings

Sometimes good ol’ fashioned face-to-face is the best way to make sure clear communication happens. In-person meetings and conversations are best for complex or sensitive topics.

Just make sure there are good notes so that everyone can refer back to what was discussed.

Simple Examples of Internal Communications Tools

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Invisible Business Communication Realities: Beyond the Facade of Emails and Meetings

Business communication often paints a picture of polished presentations, clear emails, and well-organized meetings.

But beneath this veneer lies a complex reality woven with invisible threads of emotions and unspoken expectations. Psychology Today notes, “The message sent may not be the message received because it must pass through a filtering system of thoughts and feelings—for both the sender and the receiver.”

Here’s how to navigate some of these invisible forces.

1. The Emotional Undercurrent

Every interaction, even the most seemingly professional, carries an emotional undercurrent. Unacknowledged frustrations can color our communication—leading to misunderstandings and missed opportunities.

Recognizing and managing these emotions, both our own and those of others, is essential for fostering empathy and building trust.

2. Unspoken Expectations

Every interaction carries a set of unspoken expectations, shaped by past experiences, organizational culture, and individual assumptions.

When these expectations go unmet, it can breed frustration and sometimes even conflict. Making expectations explicit, through clear communication and open dialogue, can help prevent these misunderstandings and build stronger relationships.

3. Non-Verbal Cues

Communication goes far beyond words.

Facial expressions, body language, and even tone of voice can convey powerful messages that words alone cannot capture. Being mindful of these non-verbal cues, both our own and those of others, allows us to build deeper connections.

This gets even more complicated when technology’s involved—it’s difficult to read tone of voice through plain text on a computer or phone screen. It’s best not to read too much into a Slack conversation, text message, or email, but it’s good to be aware that there are people who will read too much into things.

Developing the Most Important Skill for Business Communication: Empathy

In light of acknowledging some of the realities mentioned above, every employee and business leader would do well to develop their empathy skills.

Empathy is the ability to step into someone’s shoes and feel what they’re feeling. And it’s arguably the most important business communication skill. In other words, if you do well in this area, every other aspect of your business communication will improve.

Case in point:

  • 76% of workers who felt empathy from leaders reported more engagement
  • 64% of consumers in the US feel that companies have lost the human touch of customer experience
  • According to Harvard Business Review, “emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable [to businesses] as highly satisfied customers”

Always try to see your communication through the eyes of the person you’re communicating with—whether that’s customers, prospects, or team members.

For some, empathy comes naturally. But for others, it takes extra work. Here are some basic ways to practice empathy:

  • Active listening: Paying close attention not only to the words being spoken but also to the underlying emotions, concerns, and motivations behind them.
  • Mirroring and validation: Reflecting back the emotions and concerns you hear to ensure understanding and build rapport.
  • Considering different perspectives: Acknowledging that there may be multiple valid viewpoints, particularly when it comes to business strategies, and actively seeking to understand the other party's perspective.

Practicing empathy will help you really understand and connect with people—and will make your communication better than ever.

Business Communication Best Practices with subpoints below and corresponding icons or geometric shapes

Business Communication Best Practices

Putting it all together, here are some practical ways to make sure you’re engaging in the best business communication possible:

1. Start from a Place of Empathy

When it comes to business communication, don’t start from a place of “what can I get out of this?”

Instead, start from a place of empathy. This goes for everything from marketing initiatives to team meetings.

Things will go so much better if you’re focused on how to best connect with the other person rather than on what you want and your own feelings.

This is much easier said than done and is a skill that takes practice—so start practicing now.

2. Know Whom You’re Communicating With

Not everyone communicates the same way.

So part of empathy is understanding the person you’re communicating with and imagining yourself in their shoes specifically.

In other words, know your audience.

If you can really put yourself in their shoes, you’ll be able to speak to what they’re thinking and feeling.

The best reason to do this is that it’s just kind. But it also has the benefit that it will make them more open to hearing what you have to say.

3. Choose the Right Channel

We went through several examples of communication channels above. They aren’t all appropriate for every situation.

You’ll need to choose the right channel based on your goals and, again, based on an empathetic understanding of whom you’re communicating with.

(Sensing any theme here?)

Communicate using a channel that will best connect with your audience—not based on your own preferences.

4. Be Mindful of Tone

It’s so easy for communication to break down because of tone.

This can be seen in a recent report that found that 42% of workers stressed out to some level over trying to convey the right tone in their responses.

You may say the exact same words, but you say it in 2 different ways or using 2 separate communication channels and it can be interpreted completely differently.

This can be especially tricky when communicating digitally, where people can’t actually hear your voice or see your face.

Again, practice empathy to imagine how your tone will come across.

Now, you don’t want to go overboard and communicate in a way that’s unprofessional—if you try to make your tone too empathetic, it can come across as condescending or inappropriate for the setting. If that’s the case, you’re not really being empathetic; you’re overcompensating.

5. Don’t Expect Anything Unspoken

If you haven’t spoken an expectation, don’t expect that expectation to be met.

So speak your expectations—kindly, with empathy.

And even if you have spoken an expectation, have an attitude of grace toward people when they don’t live up to your expectations.

Remember, you’re not the boss of the world. Your expectations aren’t law.

And even if you are the “boss” at the business and you may sometimes need to have hard conversations, all of your expectations must be given with the underlying attitude of empathy.

We’re all human. We fail. We have flaws. I do. So do you.

Let’s remember to give grace in regards to others’ shortcomings, and that our communication standards may not be the same as everyone else’s.

Start Improving Your Business Communication

Communication is one of those things that we’re always improving. It’s a lifelong process.

And it’s always changing, because we’re communicating with different people in different settings.

The key is to practice empathy—and let that empathy lead you to the most effective business communication possible.

What are you waiting for? There’s no reason not to start today.

SMS is highly effective yet underused business communication tool. Not using SMS to its fullest for your business? Get a free trial here to see how it works.

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