Career Success is More Than Technical Training, You Need Communications Skills to Get Ahead
Part Two of a Four-Part Series: Not Developing Soft Skills Can Be a Fatal Flaw When Trying to Advance Your Career
Jen Seregos | Meritize Career Success Coach
There’s nothing worse than that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when someone misunderstands you and a disagreement ensues. The inability to communicate well leads to conflict, damaging relationships and can result in being passed up for a promotion or not getting a job offer. If you’re having a tough time getting your point across, you feel misunderstood or you’re feeling isolated in your job search or at work, chances are you can benefit from improving your communications skills.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Communication is the key to a great relationship.” This is not only true in your personal life, but it’s also the key to a great professional life. If you want to land a new job or get promoted faster, you’ll need to know how to communicate effectively. Mastering communication is important no matter what field you’re in. Whether you’re a nurse or a UI/UX designer, you must be able to connect, understand others and convey your thoughts.
In the previous post to this four-part series, we talked about the fatal flaw of overlooking competitive skills to advance your career. Technical abilities such as knowing how to write code if you’re a software engineer or knowing how to use heavy equipment if you’re a mechanic are necessary. But having competitive skills like communication, problem-solving and time management are what separate people who achieve massive success in their career from those who don’t.
In part two of this series, we’ll help you tackle the first competitive skill of communication and show you some simple keys to becoming a master communicator to advance your career faster.
Key #1: Listening
If you want to be an expert communicator, get ready to spend a lot more time listening rather than speaking. The best way to learn how to communicate well is to understand others. When you listen and ask people questions about themselves, you’re building rapport with that person. We tend to decide if we like people within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. The best way to win in that brief window is to become a good listener. Listening also gives you the opportunity to observe other people’s communication styles and take note of what works and what doesn’t. For example, is there a guy at work that everyone avoids? What’s he doing in his communication style that’s turning people off? Is there a woman in your office who’s been promoted twice in the past year? Observe what she’s doing well. Listening is crucial because when you really hear people, you understand them. And when you understand people, you can connect with them much better.
Key #2: Body Language
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 55 percent of communication is nonverbal. That means 55 percent of people’s communication is through things such as facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures and posture. It’s a good idea to start paying attention to your body language and tone of voice. Do you fidget a lot? That may show people you’re anxious or nervous. Do you fold your arms across your chest during meetings? That may make you seem standoffish. Do you make eye contact when you’re talking with someone? Start thinking about how you show up at work, networking events and interviews with your body language. Check out Amy Cuddy’s inspiring Ted Talk on body language titled, Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.
Key #3: Validation
The communication skill of validation is often overlooked but is extremely important. Part of building rapport with people is making them feel heard and understood. When you’re in a conversation, make a conscious effort to validate the other person’s point as you’re making your own, especially if you’re going to disagree or have a different viewpoint. For example, if someone says they prefer 30-minute meetings, you may respond with, “It makes perfect sense that you prefer 30-minute meetings because they’re faster. I usually like to make my meetings 45 minutes, because I find those extra 15 minutes for Q&A are really helpful for me when I’m meeting with my team.”
Key #4: Clarity
Having a clear message is important because it saves time, makes you sound confident and shows your competence. If you find yourself needing to say the same thing in different ways so people understand you, it may appear as though you’re not as competent at your job – even if you are! While you may fully grasp the concept in your mind, others may see your inability to clearly convey what you mean as a sign of not knowing your stuff. And needing to repeat yourself is a time suck to everyone in the conversation. Make yourself stand out as an authority in your craft by having a clear, defined message when you express yourself.
Key #5: Picking the Right Framework
In today’s work world, we have more ways to communicate than we did even a few years ago. Now, we have text messages, phone calls, emails and in-person meetings. Determining the best way to connect with someone will help you in the workplace. For example, if you know one of your bosses never checks his email and you have something time-sensitive to get his approval on, you’re better off checking in with him in person or giving him a call.
Let’s recap. There are five key areas of communication: listening, body language, validation, clarity and choosing a framework. Each of these important skills is crucial to your ability to get the job you want and continue to advance in your career. These skills help you connect with the people around you. Whether you’re communicating with a potential employer, your boss, co-worker or a client, you want to establish rapport and a connection. The best way to do that is to have great communications skills.
In the next post for this series, we’ll highlight the importance of problem-solving and give you some practical and simple tools to become an expert problem-solver.