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11 Secrets People Good At Communication Never Told You

11 Secrets People Good At Communication Never Told You

Communication skills are the ‘secret sauce’ you need to get ahead at work and become a successful leader. Whether you are making a presentation for your co-workers, building a relationship or making a sale, robust communication skills are well worth the effort to develop.

1. They practice important communication before delivery.

Skilled communicators understand that a top notch delivery does not happen by accident. For example, the late Steve Jobs held rehearsals for his legendary Apple product launches.

When all the eyes of the public (or your boss!) are on you, take the time to practice. Visit the presentation location (e.g. the conference room, meeting room or other location) in advance so that you are familiar with the layout and equipment in the room.

2. They practice theatre for important communications.

The speed, tempo and style of your communication plays an important role. For example, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates releases mosquitoes when he gave a TED Talk on public health.

That move caught the attention of the group and helped them to focus on his presentation. Using visual aids, repeating key points and changing your volume to emphasize certain points are ways to use theatre to improve your communication.

3. They know when to use active listening skills.

Great communications understand that communication involves the speaker and the listener. That’s why they practice active listening skills, especially in conversation.

These skills involve maintaining eye contact and asking good questions about the person. For example, former U.S. President Bill Clinton is known as a great communication because he focuses on one person at a time.

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Tip: There are several ways you can improve your listening skills, start here: 7 Things Truly Amazing Listeners Do Differently.

4. They study great communicators.

The best communicators are lifelong learners. This includes watching speeches and presentations given at conferences such as TED and at political campaigns.

Many public speakers have studied Lincoln’s 19th century speeches (e.g. The Gettysburg Address) as an examples of brief and powerful communication. To begin this study yourself, consider reading books such as Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo or Public Speaking for Success by Dale Carnegie.

Further Reading: 20 Most Inspiring TED Talks of All Time That You Should Not Miss.

5. They take courses to improve their communication skills.

Did you know that Warren Buffet, the legendary billionaire investor, considers communication skills highly valuable? He took the Dale Carnegie Course in his 20s and considers it one of his best investments.

In the ancient world, lawyers and statesman studied the art of public speaking for years in order to become successful. Take a page from their experience and invest time and money in order to reach this skill.

You can start by reading books, but the best way to improve is to practice and get feedback.

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6. They communicate using body language.

The words used by great communicators are important, yet they are only part of the communication picture. For example, resting your head on your hand while listening to someone else speak generally signals a lack of interest.

Psychology Today reports that pointing your finger to emphasize certain topics can be effective. Your hands, your smile and other aspects of your body can help you become a more effective communicator.

Tip: Read Better Body Language in 18 Steps to improve your skills in non-verbal communication.

7. They know when to use humor in communication.

Great communications are skilled at getting a laugh out of an audience. For example, noted African-American author and leader Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) used humor in his speaking.

This approach helped him work through the tension involved in public speaking. Likewise, Nellie McClung (1873-1951) used humor in her advocacy for women’s rights in Canada in the 20th century.

If you are seeking to make a challenging point, take time to learn how to use humor effectively.

Resource: Get started by studying the article, Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor.

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8. They know how to work with different audiences.

Every audience is different and top notch communicators understand how to customize their communication accordingly. If you are speaking to an audience of scientists and engineers, it makes sense to use a lot of technical examples and emphasize proof.

In contrast, communicating with young children requires a different approach. For the best results, take the time to study your audience before you communicate with them.

TED Talks by scientists are a great example of how complex topics can be communicated to the general public effectively.

9. They understand the importance of good timing.

Good communicators understand timing deeply. For example, a good sports coach knows when to deliver a rousing, inspirational speech to lift the spirits of the team.

The best communicators also know the value of responding quickly to a crisis. James Burke of Johnson & Johnson took charge of communicating the corporate response to the Tylenol crisis in the early 1980s. Sometimes, a swift response is the best response.

10. They know how to use their personality profile

Knowing yourself matters in effective leadership and communication. If you are a person who connects well with people, then it makes sense to focus on that strength.

However, if you are weak in managing details, consider following President Reagan’s examples and working with a strong team of researchers and speechwriters. In fact, Reagan may never have achieved praise as “The Great Communicator” without partnering with writer Peggy Noonan.

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Top communicators need not always write their own speeches if they bring other strengths to the table.

11. They know how to use different communication methods

Knowing the difference between a live speech, a TV interview and a written report are some of the distinctions that great communicators have mastered. For example, some communicators have specialized in the art of copywriting – selling ideas and products through words.

Copywriting expert Neville Medhora explains how to write an effective “cold email” and get in touch with potential customers and other important people.

Tip: Keep growing your communication skills in business by reading: 12 Tips for Better Business Writing.

Featured photo credit: Microphone / Goranmx via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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