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The Muse

March 14, 2006

The Art of Communication

Of all the skills that professionals must posses, I've come to realize that a key attribute is communication. It does not matter how smart or how strong your technical skills are, they are no match for being able to communicate at the highest level. Indeed, with globalization and the rapid rise of Asia in world politics, communication is more important than ever. Yet engineers are really not taught anything about this. I'm sure everyone of you might be able to think of a few people you have met along the way who are simply brilliant in having the ability to talk. And you must have also met a few really intelligent people who were the darling of your teachers, but did not achieve the level of success you might expect them to.

By communication, I do not mean the ability to speak in English. Its the ability to think fast, think logically and convey those thoughts in effective terminologies. Its about creating impressions and having the confidence to talk what you think. As someone who has been involved with management for the better part of the last two years, I have already had so many experiences that reinforce this issue. I have met with so many managers who have stressed the need to be articulate and confident. The really successfully ones have the ability to communicate in different levels - talk a certain way to the management, a different way to the workers, a different way to peers, a different way to clients and so on.

Hand in hand with communication, is the ability to market yourself. When you meet someone [a manager, a supervisor, a client, an interviewer] you need to be able to sell yourself to them. This is not bullshitting them, this is being able to differentiate yourself through how you speak. Whatever your profession is, you can bet that there are thousands of others with the exact qualifications that you have. So how do you increase your value? Simple - increase the value of you as a person by increasing intangible issues like communication and marketing skills. Most of the time, senior management does not want to hear theories and tech jargon in meetings. You need to develop the art of hiding the science and providing the implications. It is not a mistake that some of the most successfully people in business are excellent communicators and marketing gurus. Every success story involves a person who is an excellent communicator who also happens to be an engineer, physicist, management expert etc.

Indeed, the way you communicate and frame thoughts and questions has the ability to change people's perceptions. One of the most cited papers in Economics is "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," by Daniel Kahneman, of Princeton and Amos Tversky of Stanford.

"The authors argued that the ways in which alternatives are framed, not simply their relative value, heavily influence the decisions people make. This was a seminal paper in behavioral economics; its rigorous equations pierced a core assumption of the standard model that the actual value of alternatives was all that mattered, not the mode of their presentation."

More in this fascinating piece in Harvard Magazine.

One of the most effective ways to build communication skills is to travel. When you meet new people, and interact with new cultures, it opens up a whole new way of thinking and talking within you. So, when you plan your next career goal, be sure to include provisions that will require you to improve your communication and marketing skills. It will be worth it.


  • ohh yeah, communication matters more than your work... i have personally come across people who are so talented and gifted with this skill..

    good to see u back :-)

    By Blogger NaiKutti, at 8:27 PM  

  • Communication really makes difference btw u and the thousands.

    good post da


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:00 AM  

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