By Laurie Schloff
Resolve to be an effective communicator in 2013. This route to work success costs nothing and requires no special equipment. Whether it’s impressing at the job interview, standing out at the next team meeting or negotiating a conflict between colleagues, communication research reveals that the number one skill you need to succeed is in your power: being the best speaker and listener you can be. So if you’re contemplating a gym membership for the new year, consider developing your communication muscle as well.
Here are the five top resolutions for communication and career growth for the new year:
1. Strive for speaking success. One of the most satisfying ways to move ahead of the career curve this year is to stand out as a good public speaker. The evidence is clear: Those with the best communication abilities are more likely to find jobs and get promoted. In 2012, President Obama certainly realized the impact of speaking well after the first presidential debate. His sleepy performance led to a dip in his poll numbers, until more rigorous preparation got him back on track for debate number two. Even if you’d rather pet a piranha than approach a podium, consider taking a speaking workshop, finding a coach, or joining Toastmasters in 2013. Start with stating your opinion at meetings, even if you disagree with another participant, as long as you are courteous. Even better, get on the agenda, so that you can control the topic. Business leaders appreciate employees who take a stand versus a back seat at meetings. So, to rephrase an old expression, the speaking wheel gets the grease!
2. Ask for what you deserve at work. Yes, there are folks who are lucky in love and lucky in work in career. The rest of us realize that a great opportunity doesn’t fall into our lap, nor does Prince or Princess Charming knock on our door to rescue our careers for us. This year, resolve to get up the nerve to ask for that raise, promotion or challenging assignment.
Asking for something increases your chances of achieving your goal. Ladies, pay close attention to this since female workers are more reluctant to ask for more pay or a better position than are their male counterparts. This tendency may play a part in gender disparity in wages. When you make a realistic request, you aren’t nagging. And when you state your case, you aren’t bragging. You are simply stating facts and career aspirations. So, make the move to move ahead in 2013.
3. Praise yourself and coworkers. Stellar communication in the new year should include a focus on others. Studies indicate that both you and the person you compliment will feel a sense of well being when you offer sincere praise. The more specific the comment, the better. It shows you are a good observer and reinforces what you admire in your colleague. Others will sing your praises when you are genuine and generous in offering yours. As a bonus, use positive self talk — a sentence you say inside your head — to compliment yourself for handling an inflexible coworker or tough project at work well. For example, you might tell yourself, “I’m proud that I didn’t act frustrated with Jules when he wouldn’t chip in for the office party.” One wise communication expert observed, “The most important talking we do is the talking we do to ourselves.”
4. Resolve to be concise. We live in the age of TMI (too much information). Workers are exposed to thousands of ideas a day, and that doesn’t include the billboard on the way to work, and the notes kids bring home from school. You can avoid adding to the information complexity by sharing a point in 30 seconds or less, stating your main ideas in headline fashion, and leaving voice mail messages under ten seconds – yes, ten seconds, maximum! An old communication expression works as well in 2013 as it ever did: Be Brief, Be Bright, and Be Gone.
5. Cut yourself communication slack. No one speaks perfectly. Even people who talk for a living like Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper, and Oprah make mistakes. Speech research indicates that we make a verbal error (like ums and ahs) in up to three percent of our words. Having the “so what — everyone goofs – it’s no big deal!” attitude goes a long way in creating communication confidence. One TV reporter said at the beginning of the 6 o’ clock news, “This is the frightly, rather, the nightly news,” recovering quickly and smoothly. That’s the “so what” attitude in action! Of course, planning ahead for key work meetings with notes and practicing minimizes mistakes and ensures that your speaking strengths will be remembered long after a faux pas is forgotten.
The workplace has never been more competitive to enter or succeed in. With all the focus on technology, person-to-person communication still remains the critical ingredient for winning the job and achieving your career goals. Make 2013 your year to talk your way to the top. Put at least one of these resolutions to work with daily practice, and note the positive comments and results. Bravo in advance! This new year will have the best communication kick-off possible.
Laurie Schloff is a Senior Coaching Partner with Brookline, Massachusetts-based The Speech Improvement Company. She grew up in Cranford and went to Douglass College. Visit her online at www.speechimprovement.com.
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