by Lisa B. Marshall
Today we’ll be talking about effective and authentic communication.
Why Do Effective Communication Skills Matter?
And if you're listening to this podcast, it's likely I'm already preaching to the choir. However, I can't tell you how many people say to me, well, I just don't do that much speaking. Or, in my profession communication is just not that important. In my mind, this is what I hear...
What? How can you possibly think that? I don't care what profession you're in. The ability to inform, motivate, and persuade others in an engaging and compelling manner is ALWAYS important.
Effective Communication Skills Get You What You Want
How we communicate--confidently (or not), positively (or not), persuasively (or not) determines how effective we are at meeting our goals. People who communicate better get promoted faster. People who communicate better get hired. In short, people who communicate better get the things they want. I would argue that effective communication skills are the most important skills for professional (and personal) success.
And perhaps more importantly, when people communicate ineffectively, when they make a communication error, they lose credibility, they lose money, and they lose respect.
Communication Gaffes Can’t Be Reversed
While it's still fresh in our collective memory, let me remind you of the weird trifecta of public communication gaffes that happened over the past week.
When people communicate ineffectively they lose credibility, they lose money, and they lose respect.
If somehow you missed the news, during the MTV Video Music Awards, award winner Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech was ruined by Kanye West, who took the microphone away from her to express his thoughts on who should have won. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" in the middle of a speech by President Barack Obama. And tennis pro Serena Williams lost game, set, and match (and $10,000 in fines), because she yelled and cursed at a line judge.
The thing is, you can’t take back your words. Communication can’t be reversed. Especially in today’s world of cell phones, digital cameras, and YouTube, you never know when your mistake will be posted for the entire world to see, over and over again. (Remember poor Lauren Upton, the 2007 beauty pageant contestant that struggled with her response to a question. Her video has now been viewed over 36 million times).
Your Communication Style Matters
Of course, these examples are extreme. But there was also a more subtle example of the importance of communication skills last week too. I watched a few episodes of HGTV’s Design Star this season and last week was the final episode of this interior design competition. The judges had to decide between two final contestants; one would win their own television show. Neither competitor was a CLEAR winner in terms of design skills--each had their own unique strengths (although I’m sure some will argue that point). In my opinion, ultimately it came down to hosting skills.
Each contestant was very different when it came to their on camera communication style. Contestant, Dan Vickery struggled with eye contact and giggling, which I think was mostly due to nerves. In contrast, contestant Anthony Ballatore was extremely comfortable in front of camera. In fact, his style was described as unorthodox--someone who “is who he is and doesn’t care.”
Here’s what I think, Anthony won the contest because his on camera communication style was viewed as more authentic, engaging, and fun. Especially today in our digitally focused society, we want to engage with authentic people.
How to Communicate Authentically
I think most people know it’s a bad idea to communicate like an insincere telemarketer reading a script. But it may not be as clear what it means to be authentic, particularly in today’s world where personal and professional often blend together. And although my definition of how to communicate authentically is still evolving, I think it’s important to give it a try.
From a very broad perspective, I think being authentic means being comfortable in your own skin and willing to risk being yourself--being real--in front others. I learned very early in my career that it isn't impossible to please everyone, so I might as well just be myself. (In fact, after my very class that I ever taught I was reading the evaluation forms. The very first one said, “Lisa was too serious and didn’t smile enough” and the very next evaluation read, “Lisa included too much humor in the classroom. She needed to be more serious.”)
So how can you be yourself? How can you communicate authentically?
Use short sentences
Be honest and direct
Use common vocabulary that you are comfortable with
Use I/me statements
Tell personal stories that provide glimpses into your life outside of work
Communication counts. Whether you are communicating privately, speaking publicly, networking online or in-person, interviewing, resolving conflict, mentoring someone—really communicating in anyway—your ability to communicate effectively and authentically will have an impact on your success.
No matter what your profession, your ability to be a credible, engaging, and authentic will advance your career. It is important to share who you are in your own words and in your own way so that you can get the things you want. I think some that Oscar Wilde said sums up my feeling about what it takes to be an effective communicator today, “Be yourself because everyone else is taken”.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication your success is my business.
As always I invite you to join my networks on LinkedIn and Twitter. There’s also lots of action on the Public Speaker Facebook Page.
If you have a question, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.