Once, there were two novice monks. They were keen and enthusiastic, but they had a bad habit. They were addicted to cigarettes.
There weren’t many breaks during their daily tasks, but there was a lot of praying time.
“I wish we could smoke during these periods,” said one. “Well, let’s go and ask the Abbot,” said the other, “he can only say no.”
They agreed to do so. The next day, one of the novices was enjoying extra privileges while the other was in disgrace.
“I can’t understand it,” said the latter. “I went to the Abbot and asked if we could smoke while praying, and this happened to me. What did you ask him?”
“I asked him if we could pray while smoking,” his friend replied.
This story makes an important point: the way you say things is even more important than what you say. And for all but a very small minority of us, the way we communicate will decide how rapidly we advance in our careers.
It all comes down to the art of presentation. True, not all of us are making formal presentations using PowerPoint and other tools in a meeting room every day. But most of us are presenting, and pretty much most of our working time.
If we’re telling clients about the company’s products and services, if we’re negotiating with suppliers or other third parties, or if we’re talking to our boss, that’s all presenting. Even the way we talk to our colleagues will be perceived in a certain light. And if we’re presenting properly, that light will be a positive one.
For example, suppose you relish the idea of working from home a couple of days a week. Suggesting to your boss that this would make you more productive and allow you to get more done is likely to be better received than saying you’re tired of commuting to work every day.
Knowing what people want to hear and then telling them is a good way to be seen as someone well above the average. I don’t mean like the weasel-worded politician who changes his opinions in an effort to be popular, but understanding people’s needs, goals and concerns and addressing them is the key to making progress.
Public speaking and other “soft” presentation skills can make all the difference. Think of some sectors you know, perhaps even your own company. It’s not necessarily the most qualified people, or even the most intelligent, who rise to the top. It’s more often the ones with the best interpersonal communication skills. And if you don’t have them, acquiring them can represent a very good investment.
Having said all this, an increasing number of us do have to make formal business presentations. So acquiring those skills is also a wise move. There are plenty of suggestions right here on this website!
By David Vickery