You frequently hear that “good communication skills” are the key to success. But what do people mean by that? Ask ten different professionals and you may get ten different answers. Here’s my take.
When we talk about “good” communication skills, we often mean a single competency: persuasion. The art of persuasion, if you have it, means that you can articulate your thoughts clearly and win over opponents. You can write better copy or make a better sales pitch. You can become the top candidate for a job. You can delegate well and attract followers. In short, you’re a winner, and will be an asset to any team.
Why choose persuasion over the other communication skills? We’ve all met articulate people who just don’t have the ability to move us; they have thousands of words at their disposal, but we don’t feel inspired.
Persuasive people do more than speak; they articulate ideas that connect with their listeners’ needs. They understand how to reach our personal motivation and inspire us to act. Persuasion is a form of communication that can be learned; it consists of just a couple of basic concepts. First, persuasive communicators know how to identify and articulate issues. They can separate what’s important from what’s not, and convey the most important ideas first. They understand which concepts will be most important to the company – or to their listener and how to support them with other concepts.
Second, persuasive communicators know how to organize their thoughts. They know how to build a case for what they think and construct a clear call to action. The whole idea of persuasive speech is to get people to act: to change, to start, or to stop something they’re doing. A good communicator will prepare people to act and to know just what they should be doing next.
Once you have the skill, you’ll need to master the techniques you’ll be using to communicate. Martin Yate (CPC) is the author of Knock em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide. He says that any good communicator must master the following:
- Listening skills – You listen to understand, rather than just waiting your turn to talk.
- Writing skills – Your written communication leaves a lasting impression whether you make any effort or not. What kind of impression is up to you.
- Technology Skills – Technology has changed the way we communicate and your ability to navigate the new standards in communication media has significant impact on your professional image.
Are you persuasive? If you worry about your communication skills holding you back, Toastmasters International is a great place to hone them. Find out more at http://www.toastmasters.org/. Their tagline says it all: “Becasue communication isn’t optional.”