Do Your Conversational Skills Need Upgrading?

More and more research is revealing that conversational skills can put you ahead of the game. Sure you need cognitive ability and emotional insight, but it’s the ability to converse well that’s tied to career success and even to innovative competence.

For example, one study investigated implicit communication strategies on complex team tasks. The researchers contrasted project team conversation: teams which readily shared goal information without being asked, versus teams that were reactive—teams whose members had to be questioned to gain goal information. In the study which involved 13 teams of four people performing the collaborative tasks, they found that the five teams with the fastest task completion times and lowest idle times exhibited higher rates of conversation and free-flowing sharing. In contrast, the five teams with the slowest completion times and longest idle times were primarily reactive. So people with proactive conversational and deliberative communication skills are far more successful performers.

In another example, Robert Baron and a colleague developed a 30-item social skills inventory to study such conversational skills as social perception, social adaptability and expressiveness.  Research on 159 independent sales contractors and 71 top high-tech executives found some startling revelations.  The higher the social competencies, the greater the financial success of both independent sales contractors and the top high-tech executives.

Who makes the money and who gains the opportunities? …

Studies of this kind have long focused on personality traits and cognitive skills (brainpower)—the ways in which entrepreneurs think, reason and reach decisions. The research has proved quixotic, idealistic and impractical, revealing only modest success. In still other research on emotional intelligence, the authors found only one reliable component significantly related to financial success: social perception. What does that say? 

Furthermore, in the  study above by Baron and colleagues, social capital–not emotional intelligence or sheer brainpower–was key to gaining access to clients. And once they got to the clients, emotional and cognitive intelligence still weren’t the deciding factor. Their higher outcomes were inevitably based on social competence.

I’m certainly not pooh-poohing brainpower and emotional smarts, but pointing out that the ultimate deciding factor is conversational expertise. Those are the people who get the opportunities and make the dough.

Not surprisingly, there is also a rapidly growing body of evidence suggesting that social competence is a strong predictor in respect to performance appraisals, frequency and speed of promotions and even personal health.

Ummmm, yeah. Those two intelligences are very useful for supporting conversational competency. But let’s not get the cart before the conversational horse.

Originally Posted on

This post was originally published on this site
Comments are closed.