Two years ago, Warren Buffett shared the back seat of a car with a young startup founder who was selected to be the Oracle of Omaha’s personal escort for a day.
Seizing the moment, the twentysomething entrepreneur asked the billionaire Buffett for a success tip he could pass on to young people graduating from college.
Buffett was unwavering and resolute in his answer:
Invest in yourself. 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.
Why was Buffett so sure of this being that one tip, out of countless gold nuggets he’s offered us in the past? Why this particular piece of advice?
Simple: The billionaire has publicly admitted that during high school and college, he was “terrified of public speaking” to the point of throwing up. This one hits close to home.
After taking a public speaking course at Dale Carnegie, Buffett said, it changed his life. When you walk into Buffett’s office in Omaha, the only plaque proudly displayed on the wall isn’t his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, which he earned from University of Nebraska at 19. No, it’s the communication diploma he received in 1952 from Dale Carnegie — the one that transformed him.
The secret to success
Buffett advised honing both your communication skills as key to success. Or, at least, the way to “increase your worth by 50 percent.” Clearly, it has worked for Buffett, as his worth has increased to the tune of nearly $68 billion USD at last count.
Several studies link financial success to how well you communicate. One research I’ve cited in the past was conducted by the Carnegie Institute of Technology. They found that 85 percent of a person’s success comes from a person’s “human engineering” — the ability to effectively communicate, negotiate, and lead, both when speaking and listening. The other 15 percent? Technical knowledge.
In my work coaching executives and successful entrepreneurs, one thing is for sure: Every single one of them agrees that communication, whether interpersonal or organizational, is a necessity for the success of their business.
Here are three ways you can increase your capacity to communicate at a high level while increasing your own worth in the process.
1. Communicate to the other person’s style
Even if you believe now that you’re a good communicator, chances are you’ve run into situations where no matter how clear the message, you know that there’s a disconnect with the other person.
It may be that you don’t understand how to properly communicate to another person’s personality type–that person’s unique and innate way of receiving the message.
To bolster this idea, take this powerful advice from best-selling author and life strategist, Tony Robbins:
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”
One of the biggest causes of conflict is due to two people operating from different ways they view the world, stemming from different typological orientations. With our differing personality types, we often miss communicating on the same frequency.
The good news? With self-awareness and emotional intelligence, anyone can learn and adapt to the communication styles of other people in order to work better with them.
2. Communicate with your ears first.
Effective communication isn’t just about talking; great conversationalists listen intuitively to the other person’s story, asking questions, and searching conversations for depth, meaning and understanding.
This takes the skill of being “present” and “in the moment.” Meaning, you cease from having the need to talk over others to get your point across, which works to your advantage. When you listen — truly listen — you hear peoples’ objections, anxieties, and fears but also the solution to problems.
3. Communicate with your story
In his new book, All In: How Impactful Teams Build Trust from the Inside Out, leadership expert and best-selling author Robb Holman explains one simple communication principle you can begin practicing to bring real results: tell your story.
Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has unique life experiences and one-of-a-kind perspective. Holman is no stranger to this idea, as he shared with me on the Love in Action podcast an incredible story of how he experienced a real-life miracle after being diagnosed with a mysterious illness he thought was going to kill him.
To his point, you have a history, and so does everyone else! This is the reason we have favorite books and movies — we connect with the characters, relate to the stories, and feel inspired by them.
Rather than hiding or dismissing stories as irrelevant in the workplace, learning to tell your own story helps your team understand how to connect with you while opening the floor for them to share their own stories.
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