So you have something to say? How would you like to say it? Would you like to deliver the message face to face, in a public forum, via email, on the phone, via Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Periscope, Twitter, Instagram, carrier pigeon?
With so many avenues for communication and access to data, we inevitably end up with a lot of noise. Noise that causes overwhelm. Noise that confuses.
Many people are seeing the benefit of improving their communication skills and looking for ways to set themselves apart from the rest. Learning a broad range of communication skills is important and an essential foundation for this discussion, however let’s focus on an aspect that is not often discussed at length in many professional development courses. The impact of being genuine.
Think about the speeches you remember hearing from the past 12 months, the presentations you saw in the office, the conversations you had with friends, family and colleagues. Which interactions truly stand out? Which messages really stuck with you? The chances are that the ones that stuck with you are the ones where the person communicating the message had a genuine interest and care for what was being said.
I had to research to find out what the government was working on in regards to women’s health and image, but I remember Pink’s passionate acceptance speech directed to her daughter at the VMA’s last year. I’ve read a lot on creativity, but the one message that stands out to me is the talk John Cleese gave in London in 1991 where he seems to be learning as much about the topic with a genuine sense of awe as we are listening to him describe it. His speech is much less passionate than Pink’s, it is more of a university lecture, but still captivating. You may have some idea of the state of American Health Care from the news we hear, but if you were watching Jimmy Kimmel after the birth of his son, you would have no doubt about what needs to change. As a trainer, education and learning are big interests of mine and I try to listen to as much as I can on the topic, but the one that stands out is the famous TED Talk given by Sir Ken Robinson. I’m not alone on this one, at the time of writing, it had over 50 million views. He talks about his experiences with learning as well as striking stories of children he has interacted with and was touched by.
You can stop me here and suggest that this is simply the art of storytelling, but I can tell you that I have sat through enough training programs, presentations, project meetings and even team meetings (actually, even one on one meetings) to know that many people have heard about the importance of storytelling and so they try to use it as a tactic, rather than trying to find something that they truly connect with.
We need to be genuine. If we lack the ability to be genuine in our communication, no matter what the form or the means of delivering that communication, we will erode our credibility and lose the focus of those that we are working so hard to engage. A story told from the heart is more compelling than a polished, professional presentation from a disconnected source.
So, how do we do this? It’s work, after all. Sometimes it can be hard to muster that passion, even if you love your job. Sometimes there are policies or processes to follow that we don’t connect with, but we have to lead anyway.
The key is people.
We are connecting with people. We are leading and engaging people. We are not merely laying out logical arguments dispassionately that will be processed and followed by robots (not yet, anyway).
Here are a couple of quick tips that can help:
- Just one thing
Find one part of the message that has a personal impact on you. Something that you see as a truth in life. This will help you get started – even if you don’t feel passionate or agree with the whole message, you can connect with part of it and go from there.
- Be genuine about the people you are communicating with
Remember, telling a story for the story’s sake will disengage those that you really want to have paying attention. The basis of any communication is to find out what is important to the people you are communicating to – so find out why the message is important for them and show a genuine care for them, even if you struggle with the message you must deliver.
If you’re new to public speaking or stepping up to a role that requires more effective communication, focus on being genuine. It can cover a multitude of sins, as it were. Some of the greatest communicators in history did not only follow all the steps of great presentation skills or communication skills, but they had passion and they were genuine. It makes a difference.
If you have been in roles that require greater levels of influence, keep in mind the ability to show passion and an element of personality in amongst the professionalism can yield even greater results.
So, learn all of the Communication skills you can; after all, you need to know the rules before you can break them, but don’t be afraid to add more of yourself into the equation. Let people in. Build a personal connection and show that you have a genuine care for the topic and especially for those listening.
Matt is a Principal Consultant at Glass Rock Consulting. He is a passionate, authentic, engaging facilitator, coach, learning and HR professional. Matt has over 15 years’ experience in delivering Human resources. Learning, Communications, Projects and Change initiatives for a range of companies across retail, sales, IT, customer service and corporate support. He lives in Sydney, loves his family, music and a good laugh.