Some people say things better than others. Some people really know how to articulate their feelings. Some, however, lack the confidence to speak boldly or even quietly. Some only talk when they absolutely must. Where do these differences come from? Why are some people better communicators than others?
A lot of it has to do with training. Not just the instruction you get on the job or through a planned program but what happens to you in the world from the get-go (that would be "the beginning"; one of my kids recently looked at me with one of those stunned what-are-you-talking-about looks . . . ). If people encourage you to speak up, then you´re likely to do so. If you´re told to be quiet all the time, you´re probably going to be pretty quiet, especially around the people who´ve indicated that they really don´t want to hear from you unless it´s absolutely necessary.
Some companies have very specific communications training in place so that their employees can address a range of issues from knowing how to hold their chopsticks straight in order to avoid insulting their hosts to responding appropriately to a bereaved parent´s return to work. What you might consider an obvious skill might not be so obvious after all.
We should be worried, for example, about the new generation of workers who´ve grown up on text messaging, IM´ing, e-mailing (that´s so yesterday, right?). You could get along quite well with never having to open your mouth, but that´s not realistic for people working in a corporate environment (though if you´re in a bad mood these days, it is easier to hide out in your office or cube without having to explain yourself). So do you incorporate communications training into your employee development program? Yes! But I don´t believe it´s smart to wait until it becomes a real necessity. If you wait, it probably means a problem has arisen and that´s what you want to avoid.
Sometimes when I speak to groups about pursuing their goals (that´s my "Wish It, Dream It, Do It" presentation) I suggest that people prepare and study their "scripts." Scripts aren´t just for the movie biz or theater. You can jot down a few words, fill in with some catchy phrasing and then read it over a few times before stepping into an important meeting or into your boss´s (or employee´s) office to discuss a sensitive topic.
I think one of the reasons communications gets minimized in the corporate environment is because people aren´t willing to recognize that we all could use some practice. We misspeak all the time and then wish later that we´d kept our mouths shut. But instead of just kicking ourselves in the rear end every time we commit a verbal faux pas maybe we should really examine where our poor communications skills are coming from. If you want your co-workers to understand you then at the very least you must know what motivates you to say what you do.