If you look at any job application for an Assistant role, you will find something about communication skills. It is a must-have in our profession. Why? Well, we have to communicate efficiently with our Executives, we have to interact with loads of different people from all walks of life and different levels within the business. We have to express our opinion, with authority and we quite often have tel tell people things that they do not want to hear. Also, we have so many different ways that we communicate. I’m not just talking verbally and through our body language, but also all the different methods we now have to communicate – text message, email, WhatsApp, Slack, over the phone (remember that one!?) So, communication skills are kinda essential and something that needs to be reviewed continuously. We should always look at how we are communicating and what we can do to improve our approach. But where do we start? Well, on Practically Perfect PA we have two great blog posts that can help you think about the tools you use to communicate and how to communicate effectively. I also thought I would share five great books about verbal communication.
So, if you have a little bit of time off over the summer (wishful thinking?) to enjoy a good book, you won’t go wrong with these beauties:
This book is made up of 92 tips that will help you talk with confidence, adjust your body language so that look intelligent and in charge! The tips are easy to follow, cover all aspects of life and relationships with those around you. My favourite tip?
Putting you first gets a much better response, especially when you’re asking a favor, because it pushes the asker’s pride button. Suppose you want to take a long weekend. You decide to ask your boss if you can take Friday off. Which request do you think he or she is going to react to more positively? “Can I take Friday off, Boss?” Or this one: “Boss, can you do without me Friday?” In the first case, Boss had to translate your “Can I take Friday off?” into “Can I do without this employee Friday?” That’s an extra thought process. (And you know how some bosses hate to think!)
However, in the second case, “Boss, can you do without me Friday,” you did Boss’s thinking for her. Your new wording made managing without you a matter of pride for Boss. “Of course,” she said to herself. “I can manage without your help Friday.”
I’m sure you have all seen a TED talk, if not check out our must-see TED talks for Assistants. I’m sure you’ve all wondered what it must be like to get up and deliver a speech like that. Well, if you read this book, you will learn the techniques used by the world’s most excellent public speakers at TED. You will also pick up tips on how you can get your ideas across with passion and conviction. My favourite tip?
The most popular TED speakers don’t have a “job.” They have a passion, an obsession, a vocation, not a job. These people are called to share their ideas. Motivated and energized speakers are always more interesting and engaging than bored and passive ones.
Made to Stick Why Some Ideas Survive, and Others Die by Chip Heath & Ted Heath
This is an excellent read about all of the urban legends, conspiracy theories and what is now called ‘fake news’. Why do these stories stick while people with really amazing breakthroughs, concepts and ideas never get heard? How can you make your communications stick? How do you get heard in a busy environment full of loud and confident people? I think we could all use a little help in that department! My favourite tip? Actually, this is from Norah Effron (who I love), but it is about making your point quickly…
My high school journalism teacher, whose name is Charles O. Simms, is teaching us to write a lead–the first sentence or paragraph of a newspaper story. He writes the words “Who What Where When Why and How” on the blackboard. Then he dictates a set of facts to us that goes something like this: “Kenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the faculty of the high school will travel to Sacramento on Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Speaking there will be anthropologist Margaret Mead and Robert Maynard Hutchins, the present of the University of Chicago.” We all sit at our typewriters and write a lead, most of us inverting the set of facts so that they read something like this, “Anthropologist Margaret Mead and University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins will address the faculty Thursday in Sacramento at a colloquium on new teaching methods, the principal of the high school Kenneth L. Peters announced today.” We turn in our leads. We’re very proud. Mr. Simms looks at what we’ve done and then tosses everything into the garbage. He says: “The lead to the story is ‘There will be no school Thursday.’”
Power of Communication: The Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively by Helio Fred Garcia
This book is filled with great examples of when people have communicated brilliantly and when it has been a disaster! The premise of the book is that if you can not communicate you can not lead. Assistants are leaders, and we do need to communicate well so this book will give you lots of tips on how to build trust and inspire loyalty. My favourite tip?
One reason some leaders misunderstand communication is that they think they’re already good at it. They’ve been speaking since before they were one year old; reading since age four or five; writing since soon after that. Unlike just about every other discipline leaders have had to master, they’ve been communicating their whole lives. It seemed to be no big deal. Just as a fish is unaware of the water it swims in, leaders often are unaware of their own communication abilities. Or lack thereof.
Okay, this book came out in 1997, which is quite some time ago but it is still worth a read because dealing with conflict is something we all have to do in our careers. Best be armed with the verbal skills that will help you deflect, disarm and defuse any high pressured situation. My favourite tip?
Stop disagreements with a hand gesture. No, not that one! If people are arguing and you try to talk over them, what will happen? They’ll talk louder and the voice of reason will get drowned out in the commotion. Putting your hand up like a policeman will cause them to pause for just a moment, which gives you a chance to get your verbal foot in the door. Then say these magic words, “We’re here to find solutions, not fault.” Remind them that John F. Kennedy said, “Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, it’s to fix the course for the future.” If the conversation starts deteriorating into a gripe session again, make a T with your hands and call out, “Time out. Calling each other names won’t help. Instead, let’s focus on how we can keep this from happening again.”