Being a good communicator can make you stand out. Did you notice I said “good” and not “great”? There is a reason for this and it comes from being an educator and a communicator since 2003; the way we operate in this world is one where you can do everything from your phone without even speaking to someone through it – in fact, almost all of us primarily use our “smartphones” for the “smart” features – however, if Albert Einstein really did say that quote you see floating around on Facebook, technology maybe really does have the capacity to make us “dumb”.
We have cultivated a way of being and communicating that involves photos and text speak and not a real focus on being communicators in the sense of in person, group, and / or phone. This now spans across generations – even people my parents’ age will prefer to text sometimes than pick up a phone. And why? Because it is convenient. Because we can explain and communicate this way but will this necessarily work with careers?
Some corporations have done away with voicemail and/or even having each employee have a dedicated desk phone. We are moving towards using email and text as a primary mode of business communication. I have mentioned many times to my classes that in my day in Corporate America, you always called someone first before you sent an email. It was the unwritten rule of communication. I do not think this rule exists anymore.
Do we still need, though, to have these soft people skills if technology allows us to do things remotely?
I argue that yes – that if you have these “soft” communication skills that you do not have to even be “great” – just “good” will lead to you having a great competitive advantage over other people in your field, career, job search cohort.
I would say that over the last few years, I have noticed a decrease in communication skills among my students, my peers and others. I do believe this is due to the tremendous increase in technology and the fact that everywhere you go, you see people staring at a small screen in front of their faces. It is even challenging as a teacher to get my students to put down their devices and pay attention to the world around them. I have seen whole families on vacation or out to dinner somewhere all each engrossed in their own devices. I have been one of these people - "GUILTY" am I, too. Giving the kids an iPad to watch a show to get them to sit quietly while waiting for a doctor or for food to come to the table, obsessively checking my facebook page (why, I do not know) but the idea is that we all do it. I am consciously trying to be less connected - even as I run my business online, I am trying not to check my weebly stats 100 times a day and to dial back the tweeting and sharing just so that I can work on life and all that is around me.
Many people are so used to texting and living vicariously through their social media crafted world that being someone who can do the following things is a competitive advantage – here are my quick hacks to being a good communicator, which you can then continue to build upon to become a great communicator.
Speak among a group – maintain conversation and resist the urge to touch your phone in any way:
Writing – continually practice your writing skills; share your end results
Being able to succinctly write content and communications is so important for your career. So many people do not know how to write and do not know how to write to different audiences. You should be able to do the following types of writing:
Public Speaking – being able to speak in front of a small or large group
You must practice this ability - you must work on your speaking skills. Do you use sounds like "uhmm" and "ahhh" or even the word "like" as stop-gaps in your speaking? If you think you do not, right now, open your voice recorder on your iPhone I told you to put down and record yourself talking about something - anything. I will wait. Now play it back. What do you hear?
You need to practice this ability and to use it - force yourself out of your comfort zone and speak in front of a group of friends for fun or ask to give a presentation about your job at your kids' school's career day (which I might be doing soon). Or offer to come speak to my classes this Spring at the College of Staten Island - I have two classrooms of over 30 students who would love to hear from you about how you identified and found your career. Can you do it? I am serious about letting you be a guest speaker - think about it.
What do you think about these quick hacks to getting comfortable with communicating well? What would you do to improve your communication style? Do you want to come speak to my classes this Spring? Happy Hunting!
Lisa Vento Nielsen