Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Being articulate could possibly be the most important business skill you can develop. In my twenty year career, I have observed the resulting contrast between the careers of those ‘who can’, and those ‘who can’t’.
I’m currently working with a guy who really knows his stuff. Technically, he is excellent. When I ask him a question, he knows the answer without fail. When given a problem, he’ll know how to resolve it.
But he fails in his objectives almost always, because he struggles to communicate his responses. ‘Knowing’ something isn’t enough when you can’t communicate it.
So what I have to do is ask him questions that require Yes/No or simple answers. I get what I want, but it takes take…. My Time.
The more senior you get, the less time you have. He is a middle-manager, responsible for project delivery. But this chap’s future has a ‘glass ceiling’. Because there is only so go as far as his superiors have patience for poor communication.
His poor communication means that he has limited potential and utilization within his organization.
What Do I Mean By ‘Being Articulate’?
It’s about communicating clearly, concisely and effectively.
You’ll have met someone who you consider isn’t articulate; these ‘mumblers’ errrmmm and ummmm their way through their verbal communication. They use vague terms. They mix terms and it always feels like the answer you’re looking for is within reach, but it never arrives. Conversations go around and around in circles until you ask that magic question that reveals what you’re looking for. Know what I mean?
Managers don’t have the patience to wait for the magic question. Neither do clients, colleagues and subordinates!
This is why articulate people succeed, because they get right to the point. They communicate their messages clearly and use few words. You don’t need to ask them twice.
Articulate people don’t need as much knowledge as the mumblers. They don’t even need to be as clever. Articulate people create confidence in the people they work with because they leave the conversation in a clear position.
Why Are People Articulate?
In my experience, it’s nothing to do with having a wide vocabulary or knowing the latest buzzwords. It’s quite the opposite in fact! Some of the defining qualities of an articulate person are:
- They’re confident in asking questions and ‘drilling down’ in conversations
- They’re not afraid of conflict and they are assertive
- They’re clear on their role and remit
- They’re not afraid of admitting gaps in their knowledge
- They break down problems into more manageable tasks
- They’re not afraid of sharing bad news
- Their voice is calm, audible and engaging
- They use simple language that everybody involved in the conversation can understand
In summary, articulate people are confident because they know their boundaries (due to knowledge, role/remit and behavior).
Less articulate people, in contrast, try to ‘wing it’ in conversation to avoid being exposed as not knowing something, or not being capable of something.
But for Pete’s sake… who does know everything and is a super-hero?
Managers don’t expect super-heroes. Let’s not try to be one!
Top 6 Reasons for Business Communication Barriers (from wikipedia)
- Complex Messages: The use of complex technical terms can result in a lack of communication. The remedy is to stick to the point, use clear and concise messages that are easy to understand.
- Withholding Information: In an organization, much of the information is kept confidential due to company policies. Make sure the information that is needed is readily available and easily accessible.
- Different Status: Management must keep employees well informed and encourage feedback.
- Ineffective Communication Processes: The maintenance of the hierarchy in the organization is essential, but its very presence can reduce the flow of the communication. It is therefore essential to reduce hierarchical levels and increase departmental interaction and communication.
- Lack of Trust: The most important factor behind a lack of communication in an organization is competition, which leads to a lack of trust among the various employees. Share information, communicate openly and honestly, involve others in decisions.
- Language barrier: Language barrier is another important factor in business communication, if communication happens without a common language, it is not worthwhile.
Take the last point – language barrier. This doesn’t just apply to ‘foreign’ languages. Some people use technical or complicated language with the wrong audience. It’s called jargon. And it’s a sure-fire way to kill an active conversation and see people disengage.
Here’s a Cool Book
I found this book whilst researching this subject: It’s the Way You Say It: Becoming Articulate, Well-spoken, and Clear. What I like about this is it addresses something we can all change – how we actually speak. Our voices. The way we form words, breathe and posture. If you lack confidence, then give this a try, because I know that when you apply some of these simple techniques you will see how the impact of your oral communication improves, people will listen, and you will become more engaging.
What Do You Think?
Do you consider yourself articulate, or not? What does it do for your career prospects? Leave a comment and share your opinion.