As a person who writes at work, what are your opportunities, and what are your strengths?
This is how I invite people to introduce themselves in my writing workshops. In response, people are quick to proclaim what they can’t do.
- My boss says I’m wordy.
- I’ve never been good at grammar.
- Ideas that sound awesome in my head are a jumbled mess when I try to write them down.
These honest self-assessments are useful. It’s important to know where you need to grow, but it’s also good to admit your strengths. So I press for positives. Even then, some people struggle to say they’re good at anything.
Really? There’s not one thing you do well?
I don’t buy it. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have something to contribute as a business communicator. Every team has a mix of skills.
Consider the following specialties:
Error eliminator. You have an eagle eye for extra spaces, repeated words and excessive capitalization. You would never allow “your” where “you’re” should be. You may or may not be able to spot problems in your own work, but you sure can proofread mine.
Consistency whiz. Parallel structure makes you smile. In a flash, you spot that one Helvetica sentence in a sea of Arial. You don’t care if people debate the Oxford comma all day, as long as they pick an approach and stick to it. You’re a little obsessive compulsive. We like that about you.
Straight talk maestro. Your messages are short, probably not sweet. You get to the point with active voice, clear directives and strong calls to action. What you lack in tact, you make up in impact.
Spelling superstar. You never hesitate when typing words like accommodate, judgment and misspell. You aced so many spelling tests in elementary school, you still expect that people who read your email will respond with gold stars.
Doctor of organization. Structure is your middle name. You stack sentences like building blocks, putting them in an order that gets attention, makes sense and emphasizes what matters.
Visual virtuoso. You make messages sparkle. With tasteful use of type, color, bullets, images and all-important white space, you bring visual order to a chaotic page. You probably even know all the keyboard shortcuts.
Last-minute leader. You are calm under pressure, not intimidated by tight turnaround times. You do some of your best work at the eleventh hour. Maybe that’s why you procrastinate so much.
Creative genius. While your colleagues debate names to include in the cc: field, you’re at the whiteboard, sketching out key points, five alternative subject lines and a Venn diagram to illustrate the message. Hearing, “We’ve always done it this way,” compels you to create a new way.
Polished professional. Whether the news is good or bad, you manage to say it with clarity and grace. You turn complex concepts into simple sentences. You really have a way with words.
See anyone you know? I bet you recognized a co-worker or two. Tell them. Let them know you’ve seen their communication skills in action, and you want the benefit of their help.
Better yet, own up to your communication superpower. Stop being humble. Confess your skills to your colleagues. Recognizing your strengths can give you the confidence you need to move forward in your career. Sharing them with others expands the value you offer your team.
Show your skills. Pool your intellectual resources, and use the full strength of your team to make great messages happen.
As a communicator, leader, advisor, teacher and founder of Spencer Grace, Beth Nyland helps people improve the quality of their communications. A version of this article originally appeared on SpencerGrace.com.
This article first ran on Ragan.com in Feb. 2016.