What it takes to polish a skill

Many of us grew up in an era when persons in authority were quick to teach us to keep our nose to the grindstone. In essence, we were taught to apply ourselves conscientiously to our work if we wanted to be good at it.

An introvert, I appreciate conscientiousness. I like having time to think things through. I could spend all day doing so without getting bored. But this style of discipline – though necessary for seeing things through – does little to advance my skills.

What I need to create, enhance and/or polish skills is the willingness to connect with others, especially if the skill I want to create has to do with public speaking or other communication-based activities. These people-focused skills require me to get out of my head and into practice.

Do you need to develop your communication skills? Here is what I have learned from others.

1. First, you need to understand the essentials of those skills. Do you know what they are? You may, but unless you seek guidance in the essentials, you may not realize you are missing a key area. Could you get this information from reading? Yes – in this case you can be alone in your search while seeking ways to enhance your mental awareness.

2. Second, you need to not just think about these skills but also apply them. In the case of communicating well, the act of showing up and getting present to what’s being said around you – listening, observing, responding and seeking clarity – requires work. This physical application gives you an experience of what you mentally understand.

3. Third, get perspective from others. It’s easy for many of us to overlook things that aren’t apparent to us as well as to be too self-critical. Learning what others think about our abilities helps give us context for what in our abilities works well and what else we should consider for more effective results. Our learning and skill enhancement have the most opportunity when we see with new eyes. Hearing that our audience cannot tell we are nervous, observing from a recording our mannerisms or noticing the emotional impact we make on others all give us signs of our abilities we wouldn’t get alone.

4. Fourth, anything worth doing, usually requires us to dig deep for motivation. Otherwise it’s superficial and not worth our time. Skill-building that emphasizes what’s in it for you leverages your ability to see yourself through the natural road-blocks and challenges.

So what does it take for skill-building?

Practice. Developing a skill doesn’t happen in a one-time seminar.

Ask for help. You don’t need to know how to do everything – each of us has a reason for being here and a sense of perspective. Tap into this and you’ll benefit as a result.

Re-frame your thinking. When you are open to new ways of seeing challenge, new ways of considering your existing assets and new ways of appreciating the ideas of others, you will sharpen your skills.

 Individual communication coaching

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