Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Solving The Crisis Of Poor Communication Skills In Nigeria










With this post, I probably won't win any brownie points in this country but the truth must be told.




As Nigerians, we're not in denial about many truths - endemic corruption in the public sector; epileptic power supply; chronic unemployment; and the slow or non-existent dividends of democracy such as equity, good governance and the effective rule of law. Yet, we're clueless about our inability to communicate effectively as professionals. This fact is evident not only in the ridiculous speeches given by our leaders, but also in the error-ridden content printed by our newspapers or in other media.






I'll thus take my cue from a quote by Ernest Hemingway, beloved American author and Pulitzer Prize winner, who gave sound advice for writer's block:



"Write the truest sentence that you know."






And for years, I have mulled over what I consider the appalling rate at which our ability to communicate has deteriorated, as easily illustrated in our public speaking, but more excruciatingly, in our writing.




Although the point below is not about writer's block, it is the truest sentence that I know as a communications coach and advocate, about our ability to communicate professionally:






Nigerians suffer from a crisis of poor communication skills.




Specifically, we most struggle with two of the three types of communication: the oral and the written. Nonetheless, we could become more competent communicators if  we acknowledge the problems below and strive for change.



Problem #1: Much a-speak about nothing










Nigerians love to talk.




Or rather, we love to hear the sounds of our own voices.



So we waffle on.




Politicians, industry leaders, youth representatives, team players, religious personalities, etc. - we do it in small gatherings, in public arenas and on television. We rarely get to the point on time. We also use big, redundant words/phrases to impress. Let's also not forget the Nigerian way of reeling off our titles as our identities when introduced in public: 'Barrister A B'; 'Engineer C D'; or 'Architect X Y'. Non-Nigerians would have a good laugh at our expense every time this happens. 





In the business setting, we love to use jargon and other annoying examples of corporate-speak such as 'leverage', 'paradigm shift' and 'striking while the iron is hot'. I'm sure we'll identify many of our faux pas mentioned in the video below.









Now you may say that we're no worse off than professionals in other countries.





Probably. 





But because other people are doing it, doesn't give us the pass to remain complacent. 





Solution:


First, let's realise that we tend to sprout lengthy, often meaningless utterances in public. Why don't we aim for simplicity, brevity and clarity instead in all our communications...beginning with the way we speak?




Next comes the education of public speaking. We can take some courses; go online and watch some TED talks to study others who have perfected the art; or listen to charismatic figures on radio, television, at work, and during various events. 




A good example of an effective talk is the speech below given at the Bpifrance Inno Generation Event  by Nigeria's renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu. Note his use of simple language, his comfortable poise, and his clear message about using 'africapitalism' to change the negative narrative about Africa.    





To speak convincingly in public, we should imitate what we admire the most from others—such as how to use presence, pitch, tone, pauses etc.—to create impact and influence our audiences.





Finally, we must practise and continue to do so, even after we are told that we have improved. Public speaking is more than just getting up/sitting down and blabbering about whatever comes to mind. It's an art that we should strive to master.









Problem #2: Weak, inept writing



 



It is everywhere.





We break so many grammatical rules that often, entire sentences don't make sense.





There's also a predisposition to ‘nigerianise’ the English language. And because after secondary school, few of us took refresher courses in grammar, over time, the wrong terms became widespread and easily accepted.



Case in point:




1) What is good for the goose is good for the gander. (Nigerian English) 



Versus


What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. (Standard idiom) 







2) The soup should be cooked until the desired doneness is achieved. (Nigerian English) 



Versus



The soup should be well cooked/cooked thoroughly. (Standard English)  





3) "You're not going to work today?"



"Yes"/"Yes I'm not going". (Nigerian English)


Versus



"No"/"No I'm not going". (Standard English) 





4) "Please borrow me some money". (Nigerian English)



Versus



"Please lend me some money". 
(Standard English)




And so it continues.



Other problems in writing are: not adhering to basic subject-verb agreement; wrong word choice when choosing synonyms, (words having similar meanings i.e. big/colossal, laughable/absurd); and confusion with homonyms, (words sounding the same but having different meanings i.e. son/sun, lunch/launch), etc. 




Let's not even get into the misuse of certain punctuation - with the comma (,), colon (:), semi-colon (;) and the apostrophe ('), being the most abused. 



Then there's the issue of excessive capitalisation. This is the single most prevalent grammatical error I see - in emails and newspapers; in formal contracts and in content online; on vans/trucks/busses; and on television.



It is really a scourge.






Some examples of unnecessary capitalisation  are underlined below:





Over 90 per cent of the nation's foreign exchange is derived from the Nigerian Oil & Gas sector...



Our company, ABC Limited, is into Trading, Manufacturing, Banking...



We are Resellers of imported merchandise...  



During my coaching sessions, I've noticed with concern, the excessive use of capitalisation in the work of different MBA participants - from the younger, full-time MBA students, to the senior professionals in the executive batches.



Given that such educated and well-rounded professionals reflect the society, I've come to realise that unfortunately, the root of our weak writing is twofold:







A) Poor reading culture



We simply stopped reading good material—well-written books by respected authors, plays, short stories, articles, white papers etc.—after school. Instead, we've developed an unhealthy appetite for poorly-written content, readily available on social media.



Be honest. When was the last time you read a good book? What about reading classics such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice; Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo?



We need to read to feed our brains, to expand our vocabulary and to sharpen our writing.




B) Laziness/unwillingness to brush up on grammar and to practise writing



We can't realistically expect to remember all the grammatical rules we memorised at school. Moreover, language evolves over time and as professionals, we must keep abreast of the changes.



We've become lazy and/or unwilling to do the work. Not only do we need to take some lessons in grammar but we should practise business writing at every opportunity we get, especially at work. 




Solution


We should sign up for business writing training and use tips given on how to improve our writing chops. Let's also develop a habit of reading good content to increase our knowledge of the English language.



The Lagos Business School offers MBA programmes and executive courses for professionals at different stages in their careers. A useful module in both the full-time MBA and Executive MBA courses, Management Communications, offers effective support and coaching for oral and written communications. It's worth some consideration.  





Conclusion



Yes, there is a crisis of sorts of poor communication in this country. But this crisis can be contained, and with the right strategy, solved...only if we become open to change.






The good news is that Nigeria is blessed with ample intellectual capital. This is why we excel in various fields abroad.




Therefore, even though we  may often fall short in public speaking and writing, we could become more confident communicators by using advice given in this post. 





 Who's with me?




  
   If  you  enjoyed  this post don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:   


Ø  Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.


Ø  Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles.


 


   Hire me for:



 v Communications training sessions for your staff and executives;

vWriting assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc);

v Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.



  Let me help you get results. 


      




Contact me:


A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.


B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:           0704 631 0592
International:  +234 704 631 0592  





-----------------------------



N.B- First image courtesy of Criminalatt; via freedigitalphotos.net. Second image courtesy of Master Isolated Images; via freedigitalphotos.net. Third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net.


Friday, 27 May 2016

Dear Graduates: Your Communication Skills Will Determine Your Worth









I'd make this quick because I know how short your attention spans are and how little patience you have with long, 'boring' content.




So here it is:






Despite your qualifications from Ivy-league/top-rated institutions; your professional networks and your raw intellectual prowess; your communication skills will either get your feet through those coveted corridors of your dream employers, or will cost you opportunities.






Yes, good, relevant degrees, hard work and whom you know, may get you noticed, but unless you display competent communication skills, you will not progress in your careers.







This is because mastering the three types of communication skills—public speaking; business writing; and nonverbal/body language cues—ensures that you exude value and that's what matters to savvy organisations.







Note however, that your communication skills must be attuned to the business environment and not birthed in your social media space.







For example, for your conversations online, the lazy, casual style you use on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. is unacceptable in any professional platform whereby your information is stored, such as on LinkedIn. Also remember that this is the information age. You will be 'googled' and your LinkedIn profiles will be scrutinised. So don't take any chances by coming across as infantile and unreliable. Moreover, your social media lingo could easily induce the scorn of prospective employers.






Now you're probably thinking that you know better than to communicate that way during interviews, at work meetings or during networking events. But here's something you may not realise - prolonged usage of informal language will dull your writing, causing this inappropriate style to seep into your communication in the business setting.






Case in point, the examples below sent as text messages:







"Howz it going?"





"Pls call me la8tr".



"Dunno wot d problem is".


"Emailed d proposal abt 4.30. Wld follow up 2moro".





The mistake often made is regarding text messages as an informal medium of communication and that sending such messages to your clients/bosses/colleagues or other professionals is acceptable.



It is not of course.





It's always better to err on the side of caution and remain in the professional mode in all work, or business-related issues, when communicating via whatever channels. You don't know who will access your musings or when your messages will be forwarded to decision makers. Therefore completely eliminate slangs and avoid using informal language in professional circles, if you wish to be viewed as the educated, talented professionals that you are.



Note that public speaking skills are increasingly more relevant to how you are rated, either as desirable candidates or as new staff. I concede that you may not be required to mount podiums to give inspiring speeches as newbies. Nevertheless, you will be expected to string together coherent, intelligent sentences to effortlessly communicate a thought----or to refute, engage or persuade----without resorting to the use of filler phonemes or phrases such as the  "ums", "ers", "that's to says", etc.






Good communication really matters


I stumbled across interesting data which lists the main reasons why you as graduates, don't get those desirable jobs. The list is not exhaustive, yet it sheds light on the issue of graduate unemployment.



Most of the blunders are avoidable and relate to how you comport yourselves on social media, (mostly inappropriately). However, the last point clearly lists poor communication skills as a factor for being disqualified by hiring managers.



Enough said.





Conclusion


So here's my stance on how updating your communication skills will be beneficial to your careers:





Great communication skills increase the perception of your worth.





Therefore, hone your communication skills and your chances at being chosen by reputable employers or being considered for advancement in your jobs, will increase significantly. 









Read more good content to be able to improve your writingspeak up more in meetings, even if doubt yourselves, and learn how to discern nonverbal cues.



You are a tech-savvy generation so you know there are numerous resources online to help you in all three types of communication: from writing resources such as Hemingway and Grammarly apps; to TED speeches for public speaking and nonverbal communication.



Simply become more proactive and persevere in the quest to become more effective communicators. Your efforts will pay off when you move swiftly along the path to rewarding careers.





Good luck!





If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:

 
-  Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.



- Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!
 




Recommended reading



How To Advance Your Career With Superior Communications Skills

  




  

  Need help improving your skills? Hire me for:


Communications training sessions for  your staff and executives;
 

-Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc);



Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.

 

  Let me help you get results.
   

   


   Contact me:



A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.


B) Call for a free consultation:


Nigeria:              0704 631 0592
   International:    +234 704 631 0592    






------------------------------------


N.B-   
First and second images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Embedded tweet courtesy of Twitter. Last image courtesy of Ratch0013; via freedigitalphotos.net.