First impressions are everything. What are first impressions based on? Communication. When applying for a job, the first step is to communicate your strengths—send a cover letter and résumé. Excellent communication skills assert intelligence and portray a positive image, right from the start. Letters with grammatical errors and lack of purpose are immediately tossed aside, while those that demonstrate superior knowledge and confidence are called in for interviews, which take communication to the next level. Interviewees must then convey an air of professionalism and preparedness through not only their verbal communication skills, but also their body language as well. Essentially, communication is the basis for everything we do. We are communicating every second of every day, whether we realize it or not.
A friend of mine, who is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, unfortunately has very poor communication skills. Even as an honors student, the one subject in school that she never quite seemed to grasp was English. Her intelligence has gotten her far, but she is slowly realizing that she really must sharpen her grammar knowledge in order to be taken seriously.
Grammar is the foundation for communication, but another skill that must be mastered is presentation. Even proficiency in written communication is not enough to compete with the best these days. In order to stand out in a sea of cookie-cutter professionals, one must convey these skills through writing, express them verbally, and finally put them into action. The difficult part here is the verbal presentation. Even the most skilled individuals can appear to be unintelligent through the use of ineffective communication styles. The trick is to convince those around you of your knowledgeability.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating your communication skills:
How did people react when I spoke? The effectiveness of communication can be easily determined from initial reactions. If colleagues respond negatively or meet your contributions with criticism, your delivery could probably use some work. Positive reactions signal effective portrayal.
Did I make my point? If you are successful in your communications, co-workers will listen carefully and they will take your views into consideration. If you leave meetings feeling as if your point was not accurately conveyed or as if you could have said more to express your thoughts, the chances that others fully grasped your initiative are slim to none.
Did people respect my opinions? Co-workers won’t waste any time on ineffective arguments. Superior ideas will immediately be presented and meetings will move forward quickly from points they perceive to be invalid. If your ideas are generally held in high esteem, others will ask for your thoughts.
If you feel as if your methods of communication don’t quite measure up to those around you, it’s definitely worth the time and effort to reevaluate your techniques. Your peers and your career will surely realize the benefits.
Adapted from “5 Ways to Determine If Your Communication Style is Hurting Your Career,” Kathy Caprino, Forbes.com