How to Improve Your Communication Skills
A man I know very well, who for his company’s PR restrictions I cannot name, was once a left brainiac. He learned Morse code, was an eagle scout, and an Electrical Engineer in college (Go Irish). There was one Saturday where his friends had to drag him out of the library to go to a football game and … sigh…. there were a few dark years where he wore a pocket protector. The story could have ended with him sitting in an IT/engineering lab for the entirety of his career, but he made the very conscious choice to become the line of communication between technical minds and business decision makers.
If you are technically minded, here are a few suggestions that can help you communicate with people and be good at it (see picture below).
1. You have to want to communicate
What good is any idea without communication? If you cannot let someone know what it is that you deem important in a way that people can understand that will drive them to act, there is a great chance that nothing will come of your idea. You are incredibly intelligent, as is evident by your technical capabilities, but in order to get people to buy into your idea, either literally or figuratively, you need to be able to hold a genuine conversation.
A common example would be that businesses are increasingly looking to their IT departments to help make expensive IT purchasing decisions. If you cannot communicate what system you think is best and why, you may get the IT solution that doesn’t have all of the capabilities you need to help the business run.
2. Look at your talents from a different viewpoint
When I was in college, I interned at a business software company in their global communications sector. At the office, people didn’t necessarily sit by their teams and I would frequently sit by developers and IT geniuses hoping that their knowledge would flow to me through osmosis. Not knowing about the IT industry could have been a disaster, had my developer friend Simon not explained a great deal to me.
My internship was where I first encountered CRM, HR and ERP solutions, which meant nothing to me, until Simon pointed something out. A business has different departments, who have different IT needs. If a company purchases programs for all departments it would help them all run separately, but could be disastrous if the departments needed to share information. If business IT solutions were all connected like a series of gears, they would all run together and share the needed information to make the business run. Simon could have just looked at me like a sad puppy of an intern, but instead looked at his world from a different viewpoint to explain it to an outsider.
3. Help connect the dots
IT and engineering professionals start at the solution and work their way to the customer’s needs. Sales people start with the customer’s issues and relay information back to IT/ Engineering. This can be a confusing model, but does not have to be. As an IT or engineering professional you can become even more of an asset if you understand your company’s current systems and capabilities, and also understand and can communicate what your customer needs.