Why Should I Invest In My Communication Skills?
In a nutshell, because there is no other area to invest in that will have as great an impact on your career and on your personal life. There is a sure return of investment.
Most people are aware of some of the advantages that good communicators benefit from, both professionally and socially. In case you're not, I'll share some research results with you!
It's been found that people who possess a strong vocal presence maintain a distinct competitive advantage in winning new business and securing the best jobs, particularly in a weak economy. They are also more popular, have more admirers (what's wrong with that?;) and higher incomes than those who do not.
We make conscious and unconscious judgments and decisions about people and the messages they're conveying, based on vocal delivery, and the way they make us feel.
Studies show that our brains first pay attention to how things are said and then secondly to whatever the words might mean. If there's a jarring disparity between your words and the tone of your voice, your listeners will give more credence to the sound than the actual content of your speech. (Not that words aren't important- they are, and finding the right ones to convey a message is a large part of most programs.)
That means that two people can deliver the exact same words, yet cast entirely different impressions in the hearts and minds of their listeners.
Why are good communication skills so highly valued by companies? Being able to communicate in a clear, confident way brings in more business, keeps clients happy, strengthens professional relationships, and keeps a company running smoothly and efficiently. It's important to a company's bottom line.-The IDC Independent Directors Council (IDC) did a study and found that companies with 100,000 employees or more were losing sixty-two MILLION dollars on average each year due to misunderstandings!
Excellent communication skills are important because when we connect with outside professionals and with clients, we are representing a company, a particular brand, and it's incumbent upon us to uphold the professional image and high standards of excellence that our company seeks to project and maintain.
Those are some reasons it's important to develop communication skills.
But we also do it because it's fun and worthwhile, and meaningful. We cultivate our communication skills because we want to develop our potential as individuals and experience life even more richly and fully, and connect with more people, and in an even more effective way.
Why else is it important and necessary to continually work on (and play with) our communication skills?
We are all works in progress. We're always growing and changing, and so are our personal and professional roles, as well as the world around us.
With regard to our professional role, we may have played one part one way, even mastered it, then find ourselves needing to expand our skillset or adapt to a slightly different style for a new role; for example, a new job may involve more presenting of information, or it may call for more of a leadership role; for example, managing a group of people.
As individuals, our personalities are what they are, but our style and behaviors change as we grow, evolve, and learn. If we aren't careful or if we don't check in periodically, we can find ourselves stuck in an old way of thinking or behaving, or sounding, or find ourselves holding onto thought patterns or habits that are not serving us well in our daily communication. It is only through exploration and observation that we become aware of these issues and then address them.
Our professional and personal styles need to be reassessed and tweaked from time to time, kind of like our hairstyles, or our way of dressing; lest we find ourselves wearing the same hair style we were wearing 10 years ago.
Unless it's a classic look. 😉
The goal of all communication is to get a message across clearly, so that listeners understand it, but the other critical component of communication is that people benefit from hearing our perspective on a topic or particular information that is presented. It's the way the ideas are worded, felt, and delivered after having been sifted through our unique sensibilities, that makes an impression, leaves a mark, and forms a connection between us and the listener.
In business, communication isn't just about sharing information; it's also about connecting in a moment. It can be meaningful communication, even profound in the way that it connects people and establishes trusting relationships.
Another truth to keep in mind is this: most good communicators are not born; they are made, and anyone who decides they want to develop their skills, can. When Steve Jobs first started presenting, he was very uncomfortable and not very good. And he knew it. I saw a clip of him on a panel where he acted very nervous and used limited eye contact. He used to have great fears about speaking; he said that before a panel discussion, he would ask the moderator ahead of time where the bathroom was, in case he had to be sick.
Steve Jobs came to understand the importance of communication style and public speaking as a game-changer when it came to reaching and affecting people, and that these skills were powerful and effective tools that he could use to separate him and his company and vision from his competitors. So he became laser focused on learning the skills, and methodically, diligently, continued until he felt a degree of mastery over them.
As far as public speaking and presentations go, really, one could say that all communication can be considered a form of presentation to some degree, whether it involves presenting to a group, or leading a meeting, or participating in a meeting. Even when you're having a conversation with one person, you're presenting information, experiencing it first through your own understanding and then delivering it to that particular listener in the appropriate way. In fact, every time you open up your mouth to speak, you're reinforcing who you are, to yourself, and to the world.
Many of us tend to hold on to certain blocks or self-limiting beliefs, like "I'm shy; I'm not a good speaker; I don't have a good voice; my accent is funny" etc., allowing one perception of ourselves to dominate our whole identity. This is just foolish, and it causes unnecessary anguish, not to mention missed opportunities.
It takes some courage to readdress our mindsets and explore and experiment with identity and style; to take risks, discover, or re-discover parts of ourselves and then share them with others... but it is the way that we grow and develop our personal styles, and it is the only true path for developing "authentic executive presence."
Developing public speaking, or any professional or personal communication style also takes some discipline. It takes discipline to learn and practice different states of being, new ways of connecting to our body and breath, etc., in order to habitualize new behaviors. Getting the right information, guidance, feedback, and support can do wonders in how a person experiences themself as a communicator.
Having this growth mindset has an added benefit. It encourages those around us to grow and access their unique gifts. When a leader is willing to share and take a few risks, that makes the people around them feel comfortable enough to do the same. That's how good leaders are able to bring out the best in their individual team members and make it an even stronger team.
I have so many clients who say the same thing: "I wish I had done this years ago" or "I never knew such a program existed." Many of my clients go on to earn promotions, pursue goals that they wouldn't have had the courage to in the past, or get past mental or psychological obstacles that had been burdening them for years. I tell you, your voice and the way you connect to it, is powerful.