Abraham Lincoln is one of the most loved Presidents of the USA. He is an admired leader of the world for he always thought before he spoke. The incident given below highlights his thoughts on writing and the learning can be extended to helping you to improve business writing skills.
One day Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury Chase said, “Oh, I am so sorry that I did not write a letter to Mr. So-and-so before I left home!”
President Lincoln promptly responded:
“Chase, never regret what you don’t write; it is what you do write that you are often called upon to feel sorry for.”
(From Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories, by Colonel Alexander K. McClure)
A well thought, structured and concise mail or report is easier to read. It saves the reader a lot of precious time in today’s busy world. Lincoln’s seemingly simple response in this story has great meaning. You have to be careful of the words you speak – even more of the words that you write. You are responsible for what you have stated in your writing.
This gives you even more reason to ensure that you recheck the contents for its grammar, punctuation and flow of thought before delivering it to the intended recipients. A minute or two spent in rechecking this way would save you a lot of time, trouble and explanations later.
The bottom line is: Be aware of what you write and how you do so, since it has an impact on your image and career. Improving this aspect of your communication skills can go a long way in putting your career on the fast track.
Here is a well known anecdote that reinstates the importance of effective questioning in verbal communication:
Two young men were walking home after having attended a religious service by a renowned priest. One man said to the other, “I wonder whether it would be alright to smoke while praying.” The other replied, “Why don’t you ask the priest?”
The next day, the first man went up to the priest and asked, “Father, may I smoke while I pray?” The priest replied, “No son, that is disrespectful.”
The young man went back to his friend and recounted what the priest had said.
The second man replied, “I am not surprised. You asked the wrong question. I shall give it a try.”
Saying this, he went up to the priest and asked, “Father, may I pray while I smoke?” The priest replied, “By all means, my son. By all means.”
What is the learning point of this story?
Communication skills consist of effective questioning methods. It is an understood fact that you can elicit the desired response by asking the right questions. This would require a certain amount of tact and presence of mind. With practice, you can get better at asking the right questions. By mastering the art of effective questioning, you would be able to consistently communicate, and hence improve your verbal communication in an effective manner.
Here is a story that will highlight the importance of clarity in written communication:
A blind boy once sat at the side of a busy pavement with a hat placed in front of him. He had a hand-written sign that said: “I am blind. Please help.”
Passers-by hardly took notice of the boy and there were only a few coins in his hat.
A man who was passing by stopped beside the boy. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then looked at the signboard, took it and wrote a few words on it. “Here you go”, he said and placed it where everyone could see, and then walked away.
Soon the hat began to fill up. The young boy was pleasantly surprised and happy. Later that day, the man who changed the signboard came by. He asked the boy, “How are things?” The boy recognized the man’s voice and said, “Hey mister, were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”
The man said, “I wrote what you wanted to really tell them. It was the same thing that you meant, but only written in a different way.”
He had written: “Today is a beautiful day. But I cannot see it.”
This short story indicates that communication can be made more effective by exploring a different perspective. You can see more results if you do so. This is especially true in written communication. In business communication, it is essential to think from the perspective of the reader. This will improve clarity and help the reader to understand better.
Here is a witty story on an important aspect of communication – effective listening.
In a small town, a police officer curbed a speeding motorist. After pulling over to the side, the man began, “Officer, I can explain…” “Quiet!” replied the police officer hastily, “I’m taking you in for speeding within residential limits”. The man protested, “But officer, please listen! I…” The officer was in no mood to listen. “I asked you to keep quiet! You’re coming with me.”
A few hours later, the officer looked towards the offender and said, “You’re lucky today. The chief’s at his daughter’s wedding. So he’ll be pleasant to you when he gets back.
To this, the man replied, “Don’t count on it. I tried to tell you – I am the groom…”
This humorous story helps to drive home the importance of listening skills in effective communication. Listening to the other person while he/she speaks can avoid communication gaps and consequently, any problems that may arise out of it. If the officer would have listened to the offending motorist’s explanation before taking him in, he would have been able to avoid a lot of problems for everyone involved.
Hence it is important for us to improve our listening skills. Listening is a step above hearing. This is when you not just simply hear with your ears what the other person says; it is when you assimilate the idea or thought that is being conveyed and internalize it. With practice, you can effectively improve your listening abilities. This is a vital step towards improving your communication skills.
“It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes
I trust that my readers have been able to understand the concept of Emotional Intelligence through the stories I brought forward in my previous blogs. For a few weeks from now, I shall be focusing upon communication, the backbone of all successful relationships – be it personal or professional.
The focus of MMM Training Solutions has been to improve business communication in the workplace. There are many elements that, which when put together, constitute effective communication. I shall focus an important element today – tact and delivery. Let us now understand this concept with a story.
A long time ago, a Sultan summoned one of his wise men to ask how long he would live. “Your Excellency”, replied the wise man promptly, “you would live long enough to see all your sons and their children dead.” Upon hearing this, the Sultan flew into a fit of rage and ordered that this wise man be executed at once.
Some weeks later after this incident, the Sultan called upon another wise man of his province and asked him the same question. Now this man was really wise. After some thought he answered, “Your Excellency, I see that you shall be blessed with a successful life, wherein you will live so long that you will outlive your loved ones.” The Sultan was delighted and rewarded the wise man with gold and silver.
What is the difference in the way both these wise men communicated to the Sultan? Both of them perhaps said the truth, but there was a stark difference in the results. The difference lies in tact and delivery of content – the first wise man failed in this aspect, while the second wise man succeeded.
One of the most important lessons in business communication is that you should deliver your content after a lot of careful consideration and thought. A business environment is very sensitive and the method in which you communicate holds a critical key to your growth and success.
Four things cannot come back – the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past life and the neglected opportunity.
~An Ancient Proverb