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The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great

Five Stars


EW TECHNOLOGIES are shifting the way we work and interact. Jobs are being eliminated, and industries are being disrupted as we try to come to grips with how this technology is changing us and how we can use it.

The thing to keep in mind is that machines are machines and we are human. And if you are reading this, that’s your advantage. Specifically, your edge if your ability to communicate in imaginative ways, in a way that develops empathy with your listeners. Your ability to persuade and tell a story.

In Five Stars, Carmine Gallo states that “your ability to communicate persuasively is the single greatest skill that will set you apart in the next decade.” Here’s the problem: finding people with the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively are “notoriously hard to find.”

Aristotle gave us the foundation of good communication skills. The purpose of good communication was to encourage both the speaker and the listener to flourish. To this end, the speaker had to articulate the theme of the argument and then prove that their argument is both solid and logical. But a good argument moves us not on logic alone, but it also requires, Ethos (trust, wisdom, goodwill, or the character of the speaker) and Pathos (emotional appeal).

Dr. Paul Zak says, “A compelling story with an emotional trigger alters our brain chemistry, making us more trusting, understanding, and open to ideas.” Geoff Ralston, a partner at seed accelerator Y Combinator, told Gallo: “I have to tell a story that is compelling enough for you to be a part of my story because I’ve created a change, something new and something interesting. And that narrative is something I want you to be a part of. That is how humans have created our civilization.”

Gallo gives us example after example of how men and women have moved us through storytelling, by weaving a theme with logic, wisdom, and emotion. People like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Katelyn Gleason, Richard Branson, Richard Turere, Bryan Stevenson, and a host of others. Here are some takeaways:

“Communication is more important than ever because we’re asking physicists, social scientists, biologists, to work together. In the past, they would work alone on individual projects and keep to their own discipline. –Anders Sahlman

“A strong leader is one who knows how to inspire a community and take advantage of the knowledge within it.” –Steven Sloman and Philip Fernback

“The human brain cannot be persuaded if it has to work too hard to understand the information.” –Carmine Gallo

“If you’re a brand in this age of splintered attention on social media, you have to be good at reaching people conversationally, and you have to have good content that they want to see, otherwise they chose not to listen to you.” –David Pakman

“One of the most effective tools of persuasion is to use the classic narrative structure of dividing the story into three parts or ‘acts’: the set-up describes the current situation; the conflict highlights the problem your customer's faces, and the resolution proposes your idea or solution.” –Carmine Gallo

Speaking in shorter sentences is the sign of a more mature leader. When you reach the C-suite level, make your presentation as simple as possible. Talking to someone using fewer words takes practice. By concentrating on convincing people faster with fewer words, you are building a unique skill.” –The McKinsey Edge

“The people who will thrive are the strong technologists who are capable of translating their expertise into terms that non-technical people can understand.” –Ben Gaucherin

“You cannot over-invest in communication skills, written and oral communication. As a leader, you constantly have to mobilize the troops. Learn how to motivate people—small groups, medium-size groups, large groups—and how to write in a way that is pithy and to the point.” –Indra Nooyi

In 2012 Google began a three-year study called Project Aristotle to identify the habits of the most effective teams. They found that who was on the team matted less than how the team members interacted with each other. “Many meetings at Google now start with sharing stories and experiences—the emotional component of team building that bonds people together.”

Next Gallo turns his attention to how we get from good or average to great—five star—communicators. He provides many ideas and examples but here are some key thoughts:

Stories build an emotional connection with your audience. Create a signature story—a story unique to you and your brand. Brad Stone believes that “today’s upstarts have a critical skill that separates them from the previous generation of entrepreneurs—they can tell better stories.”

Stories should be structured in three parts: The set-up (the trigger), the conflict (when all seems lost), and the resolution. Include details, a surprise, and empathetic characters.

Stick to simple words and phrases. Think eight-grade readability. Simple takes a lot of work. “Great communicators make their work look effortless because they put a lot of effort into making it work.”

Use analogies and metaphors. “To be a master of metaphor is the greatest thing by far…it is also a sign of genius,” wrote Aristotle. A former speechwriter to Bill Clinton, John Pollack wrote, “In many arguments, whoever has the best analogy wins.” Gallo says, “Persuasion cannot exist in the absence of analogy. Analogies force people out of conventional thinking. When an idea or a concept is truly different from what comes before, unconventional thinking is required to sell it.”

Connect ideas from everywhere. Creative geniuses are not geniuses “because they are smarter; they are geniuses because they’re open to connecting ideas from different fields.”

Gallo also covers how to deal with the fear of public speaking. “Neuroscientists have identified two techniques that will help you shine when the pressure is on: reappraisal and repetition. Reappraisal simply means reframing the way you think about yourself and the events in your life. Turning thoughts from negative to positive is the key to winning. Once you’ve transformed your thoughts, you have to put in practice time. Repeating a presentation over and over will boost your confidence for the big day.”

There is so much in this book that will help you perform better in all of your communication. If only read one book on communication this year, read Five Stars by Carmine Gallo.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:58 AM
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