By Christa Skiles
As someone who has worked in marketing and public relations her entire career, I’d like to let you in on a little secret that all communications professionals understand to be true: Every person you will ever meet thinks he or she knows what it takes to be a good communicator.
It makes sense, right? In today’s world, we spend an inordinate amount of time communicating in one form or another – responding to emails and texts, participating in meetings at work, updating our social media accounts, talking to our family and friends. How hard can something we naturally do all of the time really be?
Short answer: Hard. More often than not, we tend to overestimate how well we communicate with others, and this failure in self-awareness has serious consequences. In the workplace, poor communication causes stress, dooms projects and hurts morale. On an individual level, studies coordinated by the Carnegie Institute of Technology show that communication skills account for as much as 85 percent of our personal financial success, with just 15 percent based on knowledge and technical aptitude.
So, what makes someone a great communicator? Forbes recently asked this question of its top business and career coaches. Their advice, while perhaps not surprising, definitely bears repeating. Good communicators get to the point, connect with individuals on an emotional level and know that one size does not fit all. They listen more than they talk and avoid making assumptions. Finally, they understand their audience, provide value to them and believe in the power of a good story.
To their list, I’d add the following:
- Good communicators set goals. They don’t just know what to say, but why they’re saying it and what they want to achieve.
- They sweat the details. Good communicators know the importance of every word and visual they use, and they take pleasure in agonizing over those choices. [And, honestly, sometimes it is agony. Exhibit A: Ask me how many times I went back and forth between honestly, seriously, truly, etc., in the previous sentence.]
- They measure results. They’re not content to throw something into the world and then hope for the best. They review analytics and pore over metrics in order to learn what they did well and what they can improve next time.
- They are passionate about what they do and care about getting it right. They may not be curing cancer, but they know that someone who has just been diagnosed with it wants clear, compassionate information about what to do next. They may not be building roads and bridges, but they know that the drivers on them want to know how their commute will be affected by today’s construction.
I’m grateful to work with a group of people who strive to be the best communicators possible, who take great pride in the work and who love helping clients meet their communications goals. Because, at the end of the day, we’re the people who believe good communications can make all of our lives a little better.