Why More English Books and Courses Won’t Make You An Effective Business Communicator.
You’re convinced that to showcase your professional expertise (and progress in your career) to your clients and co-workers, you need:
➣ To use more sophisticated vocabulary;
➣ Your English grammar to be near-perfect;
➣ To have a more neutral accent.
Here’s what you do to ‘fix’ the situation.
➣ You buy and (maybe) read books on how to speak fluent English like a native in under 6 months.
➣ You trawl through Google searching for vocabulary lists or grammar worksheets.
➣ You join an English class and patiently wait for the teacher to feed you with the language.
➣ You subscribe to blogs that offer you tips and hacks on how to improve your English.
➣ You download vocabulary apps onto your smartphone.
➣ You sign up to the next online course but don’t actually complete it.
In other words, you amass a tonne of information. One more book for your bookshelf, another course added to the portfolio, another blog with tips to fill your inbox, another shiny app to show your colleagues.
You’re pleased with yourself. More materials mean more knowledge. More materials mean you’re doing something to improve your English.
By absorbing all this content, you hope that somehow you’ll metamorphose into the grammar-perfect, articulate and accent-free English speaker of your dreams.
Like by osmosis.
Trouble is… the metamorphosis NEVER happens.
Despite all that knowledge you’ve amassed, you still struggle to find the right words when answering questions in your meeting. You still make grammar mistakes. You still have to repeat yourself because your client can’t understand your accent.
“What’s wrong with me?” you ask yourself.
Nothing is wrong with you.
It’s your FOCUS that’s wrong – in 2 ways.
#1: Don’t just speak, communicate
Speaking grammar-perfect, sophisticated and accent-free English will NOT help you win that deal, present with impact or persuade your clients of your proposal during that meeting.
Why? Because when you focus on speaking, this is what happens.
☞ You don’t pay attention – you’re so focused on talking that you forget to stop to check if the person is still listening to you.
☞ Your message is not heard – You’re so intent on speaking ‘fluently’ you forget to check if the other person has heard your message correctly or in the way you want it to be heard.
☞ You don’t listen – because you’re already thinking about what (and how) you’re going to say next while the other person is talking.
☞ You end up rambling – You’re so focused on getting your grammar right, on finding the perfect word, on speaking ‘fluently’ that you lose sight of what your goal is for talking in the first place and end up rambling (talking with no purpose).
When you focus on speaking, the focus is on YOU.
By contrast, when you focus on communicating effectively, the focus turns to your audience and this happens.
☞ You speak your audience’s language – not the sophisticated language you think you should have.
☞ You actively listen to them – to understand, to empathise, to forge a meaningful relationship.
☞ You adapt your accent and language – to make yourself easy to understand.
☞ You adapt yourself to their accents and language levels – making them feel at ease.
☞ You’re not afraid of pauses – for you to think, for your audience to absorb your thoughts.
⚡️Breaking news: If you want to make an impact in your business meetings, motivate your team, get that promotion, you need to focus on your audience.
In other words, you need to learn to communicate with them, not speak more at them.
This brings me to my next point.
#2: To be an effective communicator, you actually need to communicate.
Imagine a driver learning to drive through books without actually getting behind the wheel.
Or a runner learning how to run a marathon through magazines without running beyond their routine 5km run.
They’d never achieve their goals if they only read about doing their chosen activity.
Let’s face it, would you get into a car with someone who’s never tried or practised driving?
I didn’t think so.
Reading more books, devouring more tips on how to improve your English, asking for more vocabulary lists, signing up for yet another online course is like learning to drive through books.
You’re never going to be an effective communicator until you start getting your hands ‘dirty’.
In other words, you start communicating.
And the good news?
You don’t need more grammar or vocabulary. You can start communicating using the language you already have.
Phew! Are you as relieved as I am?
Here’s my 2-step approach to move from being a passenger to taking the driving seat in your next business meeting in English without more grammar and vocabulary.
Step #1: Start from where you are and reflect
The only way you’re going to believe that you’re already a highly competent speaker in English and don’t need more words and better grammar is to reflect on how you communicate now.
Here’s what I want you to do.
➣ Start from where you are >> Think about one situation you’ll be communicating in English in the next week – a conference call, a meeting, a presentation, a phone call, small talk. >>Choose 1.
➣ Before the situation – prepare
Business communication is situational. The more prepared you are before each situation, the less stressed and the more empowered you’ll feel.
Ask yourself – what outcome do I want>> what do I need my audience to do?>> What information do they need from me? >> who’s my audience – international speakers/monolingual speakers – their level of English?>> how should the information be delivered -plain English?
➣ During the situation – record
Recording helps you be present and aware of the situation as it’s happening. You may find it helpful to take these questions with you as prompts for later.
Record the situation on your smartphone. >> Is this something you can do? >> If yes, this will allow you to listen back and highlight issues that need work or issues which you’re pleased about.
Observe the person or audience >>Watch their body language >> Are they following what you’re saying? >> Do they look confused? >> Do they look interested? >> Are they asking questions?
Be aware of what you’re doing >> Are you listening to understand or listening to reply? >> Are you focused on what you’re saying or how you’re saying it?
➣ After the situation – reflect & analyse
Take 10 – 15 minutes to reflect and analyse on what just happened. Try and do this soon after your meeting, call, presentation while things are still fresh in your mind.
What happened? >> What worked? >> Why? >> What didn’t work? >> Why? >> What will you do differently next time?
#Step 2: Make Step 1 A Habit
I strongly believe in the power of reflection. The more you reflect, record and analyse, the more aware you become of your communication strengths and weaknesses. This, in turn, helps you make the small tweaks to the way you communicate with your clients and colleagues without having to resort to more grammar books or vocabulary lists.
But reflecting, recording and analysing occasionally won’t give you the important changes you’re seeking.
The only way you’re going to change the way you communicate in English is if you reflect, record and analyse consistently.
In other words, you develop and maintain a journaling habit of how you communicate.
“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real.” Charles Duhigg
Get yourself a journal and start your reflection journaling habit on your way to becoming an effective communicator in English.
If you like the idea of journaling your way to better communication but are unsure where to start and would appreciate someone to give you clarity and direction, my 14-Day Reflection Habit Programme could be an excellent starting point.
My 14-Day Reflection Habit Programme gives you the tools and encouragement to develop a journaling habit that will make you an effective business communicator in English.
The tools include >>a 3-step process workbook >> a series of reflection questions to guide you and give you clarity through each step >> my unlimited support, advice, feedback and expertise >>a 30-minute follow-up ‘hot seat’ session a week after the end of the programme.
Don’t read your way to becoming an effective business communicator in English.
Start from where you are, get communicating and develop a reflection journaling habit today.