He’s done it again.
Michael Hood, co-founder of Toronto startup Voiceflow,recently accompanied Buffett to the Canadian Walk of Fame inductee gala. Hood took advantage of the opportunity to ask Buffett what advice he’d give to new graduates about to enter the workplace, so he could post the answer on LinkedIn.
Buffett initially responded with a simple, three-word sentence:
“Invest in yourself.”
The famous investor continued:
The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now at least is to hone your communication skills–both written and verbal. If you can’t communicate, it’s like winking at a girl in the dark–nothing happens. You can have all the brainpower in the world but you have to be able to transmit it. And the transmission is communication.
Buffett’s advice is so on point, especially considering that we live in a time when communication skills are more important than ever. Remote workers live and operate in different time zones and on different schedules, increasing the need to communicate effectively via the written word. Additionally, if you use modern technology to communicate, your potential audience has transformed from a few people to a few thousand, or a few million. Poor communication skills will affect how that audience perceives not only your message but you as well.
So, how can you follow Buffett’s advice and invest in your communication skills?
Here are four tips you can start putting into practice today:
1. Listen first.
Communication is a two-way street. By listening first, you demonstrate humility and a willingness to learn, which will encourage colleagues and clients and make them feel valued.
To accomplish this, resist the urge to interrupt, or to dismiss new ideas or techniques. Instead, dignify those you work with by asking for their opinions and perspectives. Then, make sure you pay attention when they speak–rather than concentrate on what you’re going to say next.
By showing your audience that you value what they have to say, they’ll be more willing to share what they really think.
2. Remember, it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it.
Many people feel that respect must be earned, rather than given. But taking the initiative to show respect to others will drastically increase the power of your message.
Respectful communication includes:
- remembering and using people’s names whenever possible;
- acknowledging others and their viewpoints;
- showing personal interest, by asking your audience questions and determining what’s important to them; and
- getting the full story before jumping to conclusions.
Respect begets respect. If you show consideration and dignity in the way you speak to others, they’ll be more willing to listen to what you have to say.
3. Think before you speak (or write).
In a world ruled by convenience and speed, it takes major self-discipline to think before speaking. But responding too quickly can cause you to say something out of emotion that you later regret–like sending an angry email or text, or agreeing to something that you don’t really want to follow-through on.
Instead of responding immediately to every question or message, take time to think about your response. When speaking, this may be a matter of just a few seconds. When writing, it may be a few hours, or even a day.
By thinking before responding, you can communicate in a way that’s both effective and in harmony with your core principles and values.
4. Strive for clarity.
You rarely achieve great communication on the first try, especially if the topic is complex.
Speaking face-to-face (or over the phone) is often preferable to written communication, because you can include emotional cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures. You can also ask follow-up questions to make sure the other party understands and is on the same page.
But if you’re communicating through writing about something serious, you should take time to reread what you’ve written and check for proper:
- grammar, and
Remember, conversational and authentic doesn’t have to mean sloppy. Paying closer attention to your writing will allow you to convey your thoughts more clearly. Additionally, by paying attention to detail you’ll stand out among peers and leave a better impression.
Warren Buffett didn’t develop his reputation by chance. He did so by investing in himself, first.
You can do the same–by learning to communicate effectively.
Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.