Some time ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with a high ranking individual in our international business community. He exposed to me an interesting perspective, one of the young Bermudian, despite how smart or talented we may be, who simply doesn’t know how to communicate effectively on an international level. It is this that he suggested causes many Bermudians to fail to get ahead in international business.
Stepping outside of myself for a moment, I really couldn’t help but stop to consider the point he was trying to make. Could I deny that Bermudians have developed our own way of speaking and in some cases our own variations on English? Perhaps those that just don’t measure up to commonly accepted grammatical structure and syntax? Could I also deny that some Bermudians, despite how smart we may be, have difficulty in not only presenting our own ideas, but also in selling ourselves?
I’m reminded of this conversation by commentary in the introduction of a book I’m reading about improving one’s communication skills. The introduction starts off with,
"Have you ever admired those successful people who seem to ‘have it all’? … A lot of them aren’t smarter then you. They’re not more educated then you. They’re not even better looking! So what is it?” Noone gets to the top alone, those who "seem to ‘have it all’ have captured the hearts and conquered the minds of hundreds of others who helped boost them".
It then suggests that wanna-be’s wandering around at the foot of the ladder often gaze up and grouse that those at the top are "snobs", "cliquish" or accuse them of belonging to an "old-boy network" are simply missing the facets of true successful communication. This is the very moment I was struck profoundly and knew this book would be a worthy read. I grew up hearing about our own "old-boy network", how there was a small group of wealthy individuals who essentially controlled and ran everything and have done so for many years.
Have you ever wondered, like me, what is it that makes these individuals do so well? For many of them, it may not even seem to appear to have lots of money, connections or wealth, but what always seems to be relatively apparent when they talk to others of the in-crowd is that they seem to have something likened to a “midas touch”. These individuals seem to naturally ooze a little something called charisma.
The book I’m reading suggests that most everything in successful communication begins with your body language. The way you look, the way you hold yourself, and in every way you act is like a mini autobiography of your personality and who you are. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and thus a first impression in the characteristics of how you hold yourself says everything about you even before you open your mouth.
I’m drawn back to that conversation I had some time ago. I could only wonder if perhaps this individual was describing my own ability to communicate with some of his remarks. On that day I had neglected to bring my tie and ended up feeling tremendously underdressed when he and his colleague were dressed smart and I only as ‘smart casual’. I had assumed the encounter was to be more of an informal introduction and underestimated the opportunity to share some of my thoughts and ideas. Of which I did so far under prepared. Quite unfortunately I left the meeting realizing that I did not appear as prepared as I very well could have been and sadly I have been learning since that preparation is everything.
I can’t help but review my own success, as a young bye of heritage rooted deeply in St. David’s; for I cannot claim that I have any ties to the “old-boy network”. I can be thankful that I have grown to learn and appreciate the little subtlties that have drawn me to study the art of communication a little bit more in an attempt to pursue the success that others so quaintly enjoy.
I can’t help but wonder about other youth my age. Perhaps indirectly this individual I met was referring to me, though I could not deny that in the place of context I could see his point of view as a generalization of circumference around many Bermudian youth. Has our educational system risen to the challenge of providing our youth with the knowledge and experienced necessary to survive in the world that lies beyond this little 21 sq mile rock?
For those of us who weren’t so lucky, I’m glad that there are those wonderful books out there supported by Amazon reviews. Those that can help even those clueless among us gain a little insight into how to step forward to be even just a little bit more successful in life.