Communication skills are considered paramount for success in life.
In a survey of Harvard Business School (HBS) alumni 10+ years out in real world, they were asked “Of all the courses they took during the two years at the school, what course has been the most helpful in real life. Now HBS is known for its marketing, finance and such main domain courses the world over.
The two courses that were ranked highest by the survey were surprisingly Communication and Human Behaviour in Organizations.
What is meant by communication?
Communication takes place orally, verbally and through body language. Unfortunately, most communication courses in business schools and corporate training programs focus on just these three aspects of communication.
However, communication is beyond this and beyond being able to write a good paper,
or do a good presentation. It is all that and much more. Communication is about five
more substantive things. And they are:
Ability to say 'no' even to a senior, politely.
Ability to ask an honest 'question' to anyone including a senior, without offending or fear.
Ability to say 'sorry' even to a junior, sincerely.
Ability to listen and
Ability to say what you mean and mean what you say so your word becomes your bond.
In this blog, I will now share two simple techniques for strengthening our ability to say
“no” where the honest answer is no. (In future blogs, I will share tips and techniques for
the other four.)
In our culture, when we want to say “no”, we will either say nothing or just don’t reply such as to an email. That creates many misunderstandings. An amazing and yet simple technique is to learn to say, “let me think about it” or sending an interim reply. It gives you time to understand for yourself why you really want to say NO. In real life situations, saying no can be very stressful especially if you have to say no to a friend, a relative or a peer in the organisation. Once you know the real reason, you’ll be better able to communicate it to the people asking you to say yes. Then politely tell them why you would not be able to do it at this time. They may not like it the first time but later, they will respect you for being honest and forthright.
How do you say “no” to someone in an unequal power situation- like your boss at work or your father at home or your professor?
The answer is. “You negotiate.”
Your boss wants you to take on a new project and you are already overloaded. Saying “no” to a boss can be perilous for your career and yet you know you can’t take on the new assignment without hurting the quality of the work at hand.
So, how to say no? The technique is to negotiate. Tell him. “Sure. I would be happy to. But I already have these four projects that I am working on. Which one would you like me to do first?”
My young friends, practice these techniques, if you don’t already, and make them your second habit. When the answer is “no”, you say so and don’t overpromise. The world begins to trust your words. Your word becomes your bond whether it is simple matter with a friend or an important intranational business matter.
And, when your word is your bond, you create trust and credibility- you become a leader.