Although clients approach me to improve their career/life I find them struggling with their abilities to communicate well and, especially, to express themselves in English. This is also true for those who are born and raised in the US. Although many speak and communicate well orally, their written skills, vocabulary, and understanding of how to communicate better and more effectively in both written and oral communication often needs work.
Some immigrants also suffer from a proper understanding of US idioms (one client did not understand when his boss winked at him and told him: Let us put this task on the back burner for now! He mistakenly thought that putting something on a back burner meant that doing something so that no one would notice it and then “burner” and “for now” meant going at warp speed. He was trained in aerospace and he knew what an afterburner did). If he’d known, instead, that it meant, To postpone something for another time, he would have remained in good graces with his boss!
Although my main focus in my career and life coaching practice is to help clients in their career flow and show them ways for them to be successful in what they do, I spend considerable time (billable time) writing and re-writing what they intend to communicate to others. This includes not just helping them with their résumés, cover letters, bios, and LinkedIn Profiles, but also helping them articulate what they intend when they take a certain business Point of View (PoV), or propose something to their bosses. Even preparing their Annual Performance Review many clients have serious problems clearly articulating how to present what they have done, so that it reads more as an accomplishment than as a diligent execution of a precise order.
This blog is about resources I give my clients, who are open to improving their overall communication skills. My interesting observation is that as clients move up in their organization they become increasingly more and more reluctant to admit that they have a communication (English writing/speaking) problem. Yet, when the problem is serious enough, regardless of their standing in their organization, I take the risk of offering them these resources. I remember clearly one case of a major company’s SVP, who could not speak in front of a crowd standing up. He had no problem speaking in a meeting when everyone was seating at the same table; an everyday meeting scenario!
Depending on your communication proficiency you can decide which of the following resources are appropriate for your ongoing growth in how you express yourself. In almost all cases I find that a client’s ability to communicate well in English is a fundamental skill that can hold them back despite their proficiency in their own technical area of work. So, heed this need with the attention that it deserves. It is one of the most underrated skills in one’s professional development.
I Words and their usage
These resources send you a daily email with a new word, its usage, and etymology, etc.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionaries: merriam-webster.com will email you a word every day for free. It also offers a paid on-line dictionary for an annual fee.
- Wordsmith is run by Anu Garg and is also a free email service that sends new words every day. This is a great resource for a variety of reasons. wordsmith.org
- Oxford University Press: Oxford Dictionaries Online provides free email service with daily words and their usage. Contact odo_us@OUP.COM It also offers subscription services
- There are many online dictionaries available for free. Just Google your interest, (e.g., Dictionary of Urban Slang) and find what you are looking for. For example, my client could have gone to http://www.idiomeanings.com and found out that the meaning of that idiom was exactly opposite of what he thought and would have found a perfect example right there to illustrate how wrong his thinking was—for free!
II English Writing
- The best resource for improving your writing skills is provided by the Purdue University through its Online Writing Lab (OWL). https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/ This rich resource offers a variety of avenues for you to improve your verbal (written and oral) skills through online exercises that allow you to visit different areas of your need: Grammar, Composition, Word usage, Pitfalls, etc.
- Additional resources can be found through Google and other searches.
- If you want to improve your written English make a habit of writing something every day.
- Several YouTube resources are available to improve your speaking abilities in both the US and British English. Rachel’s English is a channel that has many exercises and content (US)
- Anglolink (By Minu) this is a UK-based version of English
- There are many other providers of this content on YouTube.
IV Public Speaking/Leadership Communication
The best resource for improve your public speaking skills is the Toastmasters International. There are local chapters in every city, organization, and company. So, find a local chapter and sign-up. https://www.toastmasters.org/ Although not entirely free it is almost free.
V Body Language
Learning physical vocabulary to match your word power is equally important. There are many excellent TED talks on this topic and Amy Cuddy’s talk on this topic alone has received more than 26M hits.
No matter where you are in your career we could all use avenues to improve our communication. If you are shy to admit to yourself start with these and make a practice of improving your skills every day by making a habit of using these tools.