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Handwriting: A Skill For A Digital Age

Handwriting: A Skill For A Digital Age
Handwritten

    It seems like those of us who spend most of our day at a computer are slowly losing those handwriting skills our elementary school teachers spent years drilling into us. More than anything else, it’s a matter of disuse: many people hardly ever write anything out by hand and, if they do, it’s a quick note meant only to last until the next time they’re at a computer.

    But good handwriting is a skill worth honing, especially in a digital age, and for plenty more than writing your aging grandmother — although I’m sure she appreciates legible writing.

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    Bad Handwriting Kills

    In any given year, approximately 7,000 people die because a pharmacist couldn’t read a prescription. And while prescription pads will likely become electronic in the future, there will always be professions that rely on hastily jotted notes. Not all of these jobs will go electronic any time soon. Consider construction sites: not practical places for most electronic devices. But if you wander around a building site before anyone gets around to painting, you’ll see pencil marks on most of the lumber. Measurements, locations and quantities are all written on the wall, and while an illegible note might not kill anyone, there’s a high likelihood it could cost a contractor some money.

    Good Handwriting Saves Lives

    There are several diseases and conditions that can affect the brain and, in turn, the motor skills required for writing notes by hand. Neurologists can often tell a great deal about what is happening inside someone’s skull by looking at samples of their handwriting — especially if they have past samples. For instance, you can follow the progression of Parkinson’s disease in a patient very clearly through writing samples — handwriting can show the affects of the disease even in very early stages.

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    Different neurological disorders manifest themselves in different ways, especially on paper. Some can cause an overall decay in handwriting skills, while others can cause a patient to drop letters or words. There are, of course, a wide variety of psychologists who use graphology (handwriting analysis) for the purpose of understanding a person’s mindset as well. However, there is far more controversy about graphology than the simple observances made for the purpose of diagnosing neurological problems.

    Handwriting as Learning Mechanism

    Handwriting notes is a technique recommended by many educators as an excellent way to cement ideas in your mind. But handwritten notes work best if you can go back and look them over — and can tell just what they say. Pen and paper also offer a flexibility for diagramming that just isn’t available in word processing software. You can draw arrows quickly and create mind maps that aren’t restricted by a programmer that you’ve never met. You can even tear up paper (or use smaller pieces) and shift them around.

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    Writing out papers or notes by hand can also help provide a certain amount of focus that is difficult — if not impossible — with a computer. I know I have trouble focusing on a writing project when I want to check my email, read a few blogs or generally distract myself with the internet. To keep myself on track, I’ve had to pick up a pad of paper and go somewhere without a computer. Some days, it’s the only way I can stay focused.

    Preparing for Emergencies

    What if your power goes out? Your Blackberry runs out of juice? You’re stranded away from a printer? There are times that legible handwriting is absolutely crucial. Whether the power is on or off, odds are you have work that must get done. You may have to write out a document by hand and FedEx it to a client, or you may be writing in order to type it up later. You may even have to scribble down the phone number of a tow truck. No matter which, the effort is worthless if no one can read it afterwards. It’s practically a version of Murphy’s Law: if you write down something important, it’s bound to be illegible.

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    And there are jobs that may take you away from your computer — hard to believe, but true. If you’re interested in philanthropic work that will take you deep into a third world country, it’s in your best interest to have good handwriting. Even if you have access to email at all hours of the day, the people you might work with probably won’t.

    Handwriting is a Digital Age Skill

    Handwriting is an important skill — equally important to that ability to type 75 words per minute that you listed on your resume. You may not need to spend hours a day on perfecting your letters, but writing often enough to maintain a legible hand is worth your time. If nothing else, writing a long letter or outlining your next project can give your mouse hand a rest and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome a little while longer. Writing uses far different muscles in your hands than typing and can break up a series of repetitive actions: consider handwriting a stretching exercise.

    And you don’t need to go to the extreme of calligraphy. All you need is a legible style of writing: writing as if you left your mental caps lock on can be a quick way to write an easy-to-read note. A suggestion to keep in mind, though, is that writing in capital letter or in print usually takes longer than cursive. If you’re going to work towards legible handwriting, cursive letters may be the most productive in the long run.

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    Last Updated on April 11, 2019

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

    I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

    I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

    Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    How Communication Skills Help Your Success

    Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

    Create a Positive Experience

    Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

    When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

    What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

    Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

    As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

    Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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    Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

    Help Leadership Skills

    It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

    Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

    As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

    Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

    If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

    Build Better Teams

    Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

    In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

    If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

    When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

    Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

    Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

    1. Listen

    Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

    Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

    People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

    Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

    Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

    2. Know Your Audience

    Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

    Here is a good way to think about it:

    Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

    You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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    3. Minimize

    I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

    He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

    Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

    State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

    The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

    4. Over Communicate

    So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

    What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

    Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

    Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

    Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

    There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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    5. Body Language

    The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

    When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

    In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

    When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

    Conclusion

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

    Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

    There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    Now go communicate your way to success.

    More Resources About Effective Communication

    Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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