I like to listen to people. Really listen. Listen to what they are saying and what they are NOT saying. Sometimes the answers are clear and other times the answers are hidden. One conversation in particular struck me. It was a conversation between two people and one was complaining that he was not being heard by his team.
This made my mind start thinking about ways in which we are either not heard, or are dismissed. Perhaps this person was having that issue because he lacked clear communication of his ideas, or was not seen as a strong member of the team. Verbal, written, and non-verbal communication are key to gaining ground in the areas you desire.
Non-verbal communication is the ice breaker. Think about the way you appear walking into a meeting. Is your head held high? Do you smile? Do you look people in the eyes when you speak to them? The very first instance someone sees you is your first opportunity to make the impression you desire. This first impression will set the tone for the discussion. Walk in confident and friendly. Your audience will take note that you are there to do business and are invested in communicating with them. They will feel welcomed and at ease.
Verbal communication skills truly are an art form. Being able to craft sounds and thoughts into words and paragraphs comes easy to some. For others, this is a craft that seems daunting and elusive. Being an extrovert helps me excel in my communication skills. I am largely unafraid to speak with new people. I thrive in meeting new people and sharing ideas. However, for those who are more introverted, verbal communication is very uncomfortable and often crippling. If you are one who has trouble with verbal communication, consider honing your written communication skills while you work on gaining comfortable levels with your verbal communication skills.
Written communication can emphasize your point, make an idea memorable, or totally destroy a project. Of course we want to give our projects as much growth potential as possible, so being able to formulate a well written idea is just as important as verbal communication. Written communication is tricky because the reader is not afforded the opportunity to see the facial expressions of the writer. So often times, jokes come off as harsh criticisms. The tone of a person’s writing is just as important as the words the writer uses to convey a message.
Bring Forth Your Inner Picasso
Think of creating a painting. Before creating your masterpiece, you must start with a properly prepared canvas. Stretching muslin onto a wooden frame is the first step to creating a painting. The second step is to temper the muslin with a wash of water-thinned paint. This will allow the muslin to harden and provide a strong base for the paint to stick. The next step is to allow your creativity to flow through colors, shapes and movement. Before you know it, you have created a lovely piece of artwork that is truly showing of who you are.
That confused look on your face is one that I see often. It is okay, I speak in odd metaphors at times. I paint life with an interesting brush. Let’s explore how you can become Picasso of the Morning Stand-up and get your ideas heard!
- First, start with the way you enter the room for the meeting. This is your non-verbal communication that sets the stage for the meeting or conference. Head up, smile, look people in the eyes. Assert your position in the room and welcome others into your space. (Stretch your muslin onto the frame and temper the canvas.)
- Second, allow your ideas to flow through well-crafted words and examples. Show data to back up your claims. Explain what reports mean, show the ups and downs. Give your audience the desired information in the most direct and informative way. (Paint that beautiful masterpiece!)
- Third, a nice written follow up will concrete your ideas and give your audience a physical takeaway. Concentrate on the content and intent of your proposal. Pay attention to your tone and remember that there may be someone reading the report who was not in the meeting to see experience your passion. (Hang that masterpiece in a gallery!)
Communication is just one of the many soft skills that can help propel your career. I have a session called Become the Most Valuable Player: Soft Skills for the Hard Market. This year I have been focused on presenting this session at various SQL Saturdays around the country.