Sunday, May 23, 2010

From Flower Girl to Duchess Through the Power of Communication

"One day I'll be famous, I'll be proper and prim. Go to St. James so often, I will call it St. Jim..."

May 20th was Eliza Doolittle Day, and yes, theater buff that I am, I'm still singing some of my favorite songs from "My Fair Lady" three days later.  If you are not familiar with it, it's a musical about rather snobbish phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, who wagers that he can take a cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, and pass her off as a member of high society by teaching her to speak properly. 

I know that you would love to hear about our Eliza Doolittle Day celebration or perhaps more about the musical.  And I would love to share all that with you.  But that is not my purpose here.  What inspired this post was the discussion we had at our little get-together.  In the movie, Henry Higgins turns Eliza Doolittle into a woman able to pass herself off as a duchess by helping her learn to speak proper English.  Our discussion concerned whether people are still judged today by the way they speak.  And that led to a discussion of the importance of good communication skills, including proper grammar - and to a consensus that since these are no longer taught in school, it's important to learn them elsewhere.

In business, it is critical to be able to communicate your ideas quickly and clearly.  You may have the most brilliant idea, one-of-a kind service, or valuable product on the market today, but if you cannot make me understand that, your idea, service, or product is useless.

Communicating effectively requires many different skills.  Proper pronunciation, grammar, spelling, and punctuation are vital.  There are many books and classes available that teach these basics.  I don't have a particular favorite.  At the risk of betraying my age, I went to school when grammar, punctuation, and penmanship were still taught in elementary school.  I have seen several books on these subjects at the local Barnes & Noble, however, and most of them seemed likely to be effective.  If someone has a resource to recommend, please feel free to post it in the comments.

Another crucial factor in effective communication is vocabulary.  You don't need to memorize the dictionary.  But you do need to have a large enough vocabulary to always have the right word at your disposal.  When I was 13, my grandmother gave me a subscription to Reader's Digest for my birthday.  Believe it or not, I was thrilled.  This magazine held a wealth of treasures for me, including a feature called "It Pays to Increase Your Word Power."  Each issue came with 20 words, their definitions, and an example of their usage in a sentence.  It was an easy way to increase my vocabulary by 20 words each month.  Reader's Digest still carries this feature and they have an online version on their website.

Perfect grammar, extensive vocabulary, proper pronunciation - is that everything?  No.  Unfortunately, you can have all of this and still not be able to get your point across.  Fortunately, this is also a skill that can be learned.  And I happen to know the only person I would recommend to teach you.

Before I continue, in keeping with all of the current laws, I must state that I am an affiliate for the products I am about to recommend, and the link is an affiliate link.  And now that we have that out of the way, let me also state that the only reason I am an affiliate is because I can make this recommendation with no hesitation at all.  So where do you go to learn to put all of the basic skills together into an effective package?  Felicia Slattery's Communication Transformation.  Felicia is a communication consultant, speaker, and coach specializing in training busy professionals to succeed by communicating effectively with clients and prospects.  You've seen her mentioned in many of my blog posts as one of the people whose opinions and input I value and trust.  If you really want to learn how to get your message across, she is the one person who can help you. 

Learn to speak and write clearly and concisely.  Practice the skills necessary to communicate with ease and confidence.  Who knows what might happen?

"One evening the King will say, Oh Liza old thing.  I want all of England your praises to sing.  Next week on the 20th of May, I proclaim Liza Doolittle Day." 


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