While waiting for a flight out of Lisbon, Portugal last week we stopped for coffee at an airport café.
After placing our order my husband, Mike, was surprised to hear the shop assistant say “you won’t get coffee here”. Confused, he falteringly responded “but isn’t this a coffee shop?” Fair question, I thought!
An awkward couple of seconds followed before another shopper intervened, leaning in to tell us “the coffee machine is broken”.
While this was a run-of-the-mill language issue that’s a normal part of travelling, it’s also a great example of the subtleties in the English language. English is rich in shades of meaning. We have a huge range of words and phrases to choose from.
In the business world, the word choices we make have a major bearing on the effectiveness of our communication. Yet, many people choose language that puts up barriers to understanding rather than opting for clarity and precision.
Poor communication gets in the way of good business operations, causes friction between people and can be the determining factor in whether you get a promotion, or win a new client. In today’s economy your success as an individual - and the success of your entire organisation - is driven by reputation. While you can’t control what others think of you, you can influence it by being the best that you can be and building your skills as a credible communicator.
A person who communicates with credibility has strengths across three areas:
Have you noticed that some people just have the “x factor” - they seem to effortlessly jump into any conversation and immediately form a connection. They’re totally present in the situation, focusing on the others in the discussion and using phrases and examples that make sense to everyone involved.
While it could be suggested that in this tech-driven world the art of conversation is dying, I’d argue that there’s never been a more crucial time to sharpen your skills in this area. Being able to connect and engage with individuals and small groups is a critical factor for anyone wanting to succeed in their business or career.
There are many resources to help you become a better verbal communicator. I love the writings of Leil Lowndes - here’s one of her cracking blogs about speaking on the phone.
Most of us have suffered through an awful presentation or a dry and seemingly pointless meeting. It doesn’t need to be that way. You mightn’t be called on to perform on a stage to thousands of people, but being able to present with confidence and credibility at a meeting or in a group marks you as a stand-out.
Credible communicators are comfortable in any sized space and with any sized audience. They understand that being a good presenter means putting the audience first – choosing language that forms a connection rather than focusing on trying to sound clever.
If you struggle when speaking in front of people, make the decision to build your skills. There are many programs, books, coaches and online resources to help you – or simply start practising and making a conscious effort to improve.
3. Written Communication
I was reminded only this week in a blog that many people write poorly because they ignore a very important principle; all communication - including the written form – is most effective when expressed from the audience’s point of view. This often gets forgotten in the business world, yet putting it into practice can transform your written communication, whether it’s email, formal reports, social media, or any form of the written word.
If you don’t think you’re a strong writer, there are plenty of ways to improve. Start by paying attention to your reader; who are they and what do they most need from you? Think about the best way to make a connection with them before diving into what you have to say. Every word counts; they don’t have the benefit of hearing the tone of your voice or reading your body language.
Getting serious about your skill level as a credible communicator will make a significant difference to your professional success. Do your own personal audit; how do you rate in the credible communication stakes? When you communicate, do people get your message every time, or is there a language barrier? Which of the three areas do you need to work on next?
Less word vomit, more clarity and precision – let this be your new mantra. You’ll get a massive boost when it comes to work, relationships, and life in general.