Sunday, June 17, 2018

Teaching Communication to Business Executives

While teaching business communication to a bunch of young executives, engineers and MBAs and finance executives among them, I realized that most fear the possibility of making mistakes and thereby do not communicate in English. The first step was to tell them that the idea of communicating is to get the message across and not write to get a literary award.

So step 1 - communicate even if you make mistakes. That's top priority.

Next, whatever you are communicating, spoken or written, needs to be understood by the other person, so keep it simple. And when you speak, keep it simple, use body language and get the message across in more media than one if possible. They did simple exercises like introducing themselves, then preparing and introducing themselves again. Some of them really prepared well and floored everyone. The importance of eye contact, body language, preparation of a script and reading aloud before a mirror, were stressed. Another tool we used was the JAM sessions where they spoke about a topic of their choice for a full minute without any preparation. The same talk was then prepared on and spoken again for a minute and then a third time. They could see the difference each time.

I found a simple TEd talk by Marianna Pascal about how to speak English that will help new speakers who are not confident about speaking English.

There is a wonderful talk by Sid Efromovich on '5 Techniques to speak any language. This holds good for any language including English so hear him out. The steps are - Make mistakes, Scratch out the foreign alphabet, find a stickler, shower conversations, buddy formula.

When you write, construct simple sentences. Some common mistakes are - not knowing when to capitalize and when not to, not using a period to end the sentence, using SMS language, not knowing the format of writing an email or a formal letter. Once the basics were addressed we realized that grammar was always going to be a challenge. I went through Anjali's grammar book and found it difficult to put it across or remember the many do's and don't's, some of which did not have any clear reason. So we gave a brief introduction to the parts of speech and constructed a few sentences and letters. One of the big problems was with the use of tenses. Checking online, I found a wonderful resource, the and this wonderful teacher Ganesh, who explained so many aspects of English so beautifully, concisely and without any judgment. Here is Ganesh on Tenses. He is brilliant. God. I suggest you watch all his videos at leisure.

Another tool we found was which gives online help to check spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. It's a huge help. The participants were asked to use all the online help they could get.

Meanwhile, nothing helps in writing or speaking English than practice. So they have been advised to read and write as much as they can to improve their understanding of well constructed, simple sentences.

As Josh Kaufman says in his TED talk 'How to learn anything in 20 hours', the barriers are not intellectual. They are emotional. The fear of being judged stops them from speaking and writing. Hopefully, we would have reduced that a bit.

I am getting there and hopefully, by the time I am done with this course, I would have cracked this some more.

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