Good listening skills: the nonverbal communication advantage

Good listening skills: the nonverbal communication advantage

As athletes you are probably expected to do a lot of listening: to coaches, advisors, teachers, teammates, business mentors and others who want you to learn from their wisdom. When these people are speaking to you, they will be judging you based on whether they think you are taking them seriously. And that judgment will be strongly based on your listening skills, your nonverbal behavior while they are speaking.

 

To understand the impact listening skills can have on others’ opinion of you, draw some insight from your own experience.

 

  1. Recall a time when you thought you were sharing an important idea with someone and at some point realized your remarks were being ignored.
  2. What did you observe about the other person’s behavior that signaled they were not interested in what you were saying?
  3. How did that experience make you feel about yourself?
  4. About the other person?

 

What you may have found is that people are greatly affected by poor listening behaviors–that a person’s subsequent behavior in a conversation, their feelings about themselves and about the other person all are influenced by how they felt once they realized they were being ignored.

 

Fortunately, once you become conscious of what good listening looks like to speakers, it is easy to be perceived as a respectful listener. It only requires you to consciously monitor your behavior when others are speaking to you. This means establishing eye contact with the speaker 50-70% of the time; minimal encouragers, such as head nods and occasional relevant questions; a posture of involvement, such as leaning forward in an open position; and empathetic facial expressions.

 

You need also avoid behaviors that suggest you are not interested in the conversation, such as a lack of eye contact, frequent interruptions, answering a cell phone, exhibiting a “stone face,” or abruptly changing the subject.

 

The dilemma many athletes face is that positive listening behaviors may not come naturally. Developing good listening skills is not the same as having good hearing. Keeping a “stone face” to not show a reaction to an opponent’s score–or pain or discomfort suffered in a collision–has its place in a competition. Scanning the field for opportunities rather than looking at teammates with effective eye contact may become habits that prove valuable on the field while creating the appearance of rudeness and indifference to a speaker in a one-to-one conversation.

 

Fortunately, good listening skills are easy to identify and to put into practice with conscious effort. The effort is worth the reward as speakers have a gift for attentive listeners—their trust as well as well as assigning positive traits to the listener such as courteous, attentive, concerned, and respectful, all critical attributes of successful employees.

 

Henry David Thoreau said that the “greatest compliment ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.” Planning listening behaviors to meet a speaker’s highest criteria pays rich dividends to those who take the time to practice them.

 

Exercise: In a small group of fellow athletes, including members of both genders, record answers to the following six questions on a chart-pad and discuss their implications.

 

  1. What have you observed that lets you know someone is listening to you?

 

  1. How does it make you feel when you know someone is listening to you?

 

  1. What words have you used to describe people who have listened to you attentively?

 

  1. What have you observed that lets you know someone is ignoring you?

 

  1. How does it make you feel when you know someone is ignoring you?

 

  1. What words have you used to describe someone who has ignored you?

 

 

Who you are speaks so loudly, I do not hear what you say

As an athlete, your coach may praise you for getting down and dirty and sweating like a pig as a demonstration of commitment to athletic excellence. And you may be spending a lot of time dressed in athletic shorts, T-shirts, white socks, and sneakers, all appropriate for practice and casual conversation in the dorm—and all inappropriate for meetings with business professionals.

The famed American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, had deep insight into how first impressions deeply influence people’s reactions when he said Who you are speaks so loudly I do not hear what you say. That is, from the moment people first see you, they are making judgments that will shape how they react to you when you begin to speak.

Grooming and employment: In fact, 95% of the employers interviewed said a jobseeker’s personal appearance affected their opinion of that applicant’s suitability for the job and 91% said they believed dress and grooming reflected the applicant’s attitude towards the company.

So it is critical that you make a positive first impression by paying particular attention to how you present yourself to people who could influence your career positively.

 

What not to wear In particular, beware of imitating the styles of pro athletes or celebrities you might admire, including ostentatious jewelry, body piercings, large visible tattoos, 6-button suits, unusual hairstyles and make-up, loud colors, overtly sexual or faddish clothing, blue jeans, tank tops, and casual footwear, such as flip flops, sneakers, platform shoes, or shoes with 4-6” heels.

 

Open the link below to see some of the outfits athletes have worn that placed them on a top 10 list of bad taste.

 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/fashionpolice/a-countdown-of-the-10-most-outrageous-athlete-outfits

 

Grooming Guidelines

 

Instead, use the grooming guidelines below as a way of making sure you meet the highest expectations of the professionals with whom you will be meeting.

 

  • Body: Cover tattoos, remove or conceal body jewelry and piercings
  • Perfume and cologne: Use light scents, very sparingly
  • Fingernails: Clean and trimmed.
  • Teeth: Freshly brushed
  • Breath: Clean, with no hint of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, or other strong odor. Throw out gum prior to a meeting. Avoid meals with onions and garlic.
  • Antiperspirant: Apply after showering the night before the meeting and again after showering the morning of the meeting for maximum protection

 

  • Jewelry: Limited and tasteful. It should not draw attention from your face. Appropriate jewelry would be a small band, such as a wedding, engagement, or school ring, and a professional watch. Women might wear a thin necklace or pendant, a single bracelet and small earrings that do not call attention to themselves. Avoid large, bright or gaudy jewelry or jewelry with a religious symbol.
  • Make-up: Women should wear light, natural looking make-up
  • Hair: Neatly combed and trimmed, recently cut and shaped.

 

  • Clothing: Neatly pressed that morning or the night before. Men’s pants should be long enough to touch the top of shoes. Male athletes should consider buying Italian cut suits if their chests are 8 inches or more larger than their waists for a proper fit. Men should wear long-sleeved shirts. Women should wear skirts or dresses that stop at or below the knee. Be sure to empty your pockets of change that could rattle or large items that would bulge from your pants.
  • Shoes, socks, belts and stockings: Should be relatively new, polished, and leather, and black, brown, or cordovan, with a matching belt and socks. Loafers are often viewed as inappropriate. Women should wear closed toes shoes, preferably with 1-2” heels. Men should wear socks that are calf length and women should wear stockings without runs.

 

When networking contacts observe that you took time to make yourself meet their highest standards for making a positive first impression, they will see you are a person who is taking them and the meeting seriously, a key step in gaining their trust and serious attention.

 

Following the checklist above before an important meeting will give you confidence that you will make a positive impression and will build your confidence for the interview.

Exercises:

  1. View the slideshow at the following link to see a corporate presentation on good grooming habits.

http://www.slideshare.net/hariamhk/grooming-personal-hygiene

  1. When you attend a job fair, make a point of noticing how the interviewers and job candidates are dressed and groomed, noting both positive and negatives examples.

 

Be gracious to everyone you meet because you never know when you are entertaining an angel

The great civil rights leader, Whitney Young, said It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared for it. That is, you should strive to create a positive and lasting impression in every interaction you have, especially with those who may provide just the right insight to assist you in achieving a career goal. As the apostle Paul suggested: You should Be gracious to everyone you meet, because you never know when you are entertaining an angel.”

 

First impressions: A famous ad once cautioned, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. One of the first steps that athletes can take is to learn how to prepare for meetings–even those that are unexpected–is to look at themselves through the eyes of a business professional and to ask: How would the ideal student-athlete behave in this situation?

 

Two fundamental rules will help guide you: the golden rule and the platinum rule.

 

The golden rule: The golden states that you should treat others as you would want to be treated if you switched places with them.

 

For example, if someone were to invite you to share a meal at a restaurant, he or she might observe how you treat the server and other restaurant workers as an indicator of your character and as a predictor of how you might treat others on the job. So smiling and establishing eye contact with the restaurant staff, listening to the server attentively without interruption, and complimenting the service and the food would all suggest you would make a positive and agreeable co-worker.

 

The platinum rule: The platinum rule states that you should treat others as they would want to be treated.   This requires that you analyze the situation and predict what the other person might consider polite behavior. Seeing you as a healthy, physically fit athlete, for example, older or physically impaired people might expect you to open a door for them while younger, physically fit persons might not. Or you might demonstrate the high energy expected of athletes and politeness at the same time by acting to be the first person to reach a door, opening it for people coming in the opposite direction and continuing to hold it until your entire party passes through.

 

In essence, following the golden and platinum rules are excellent guides that will allow you to create the kinds of positive impressions that are key to people wanting to help you achieve your career goals.

 

Exercises:

 

  1. If your coach asked you to attend a meeting at which top alumni contributors were attending, what might they expect you to say about your school, your coach, and your team to meet their highest expectations of a student-athlete?

 

  1. How might you prepare for competition in a foreign country to show you respect the language and cultural traditions of your hosts?

 

Pursuing a 4-year career plan while in college, including classes, work, and leadership

In our many years of advising students athletes we have discovered the most successful job seekers have two things in common: they took charge of their careers during their college years by defining their employment goals and implementing strategies for achieving them, and they developed and nurtured an ambitious networking plan that helped them find the information they needed to compete successfully for available jobs.

 

In this blog, we outline a four-year career preparation program, with each successive year building on skills developed in the prior year.

 

Year One: Awareness: Self-assessment and self-understanding

 

You should begin making your career plan as soon as arrive on campus– as decisions you make your freshman year—such as the courses you select, connections you make, and skills you learn to help manage your time and relationships.

 

  • Fundamentals
    • Time Management, so you use your time in ways that meet your three most important priorities: to practice, complete coursework, and pursue career goals effectively
    • Hospitality Skills, including business etiquette, dress, grooming, personal qualities, listening, expressing appreciation, all critical to networking success.
  • Connections
    • Mentor: Find one or more alumni, preferably a former student-athlete, who have been successful in a field similar to your personal goals, such as business, government, nonprofit, education, sports management or arts & entertainment and gain insight into what led to their success, lessons learned, what classes they recommend you take, which extra curricular activities might be best for you and suggestions on additional mentors who might help you.
  • Resources
    • Visit your school’s Career Center and become aware of its resources, such as data on the relationship between majors and careers they support.
    • Self-Assessment: use the self-assessment tools available at your school’s career center, as they will help you clarify what careers might fit your interests and abilities.

 

Year Two: Branding, interviewing, and seeking summer work

 

During your sophomore year, you will be choosing a major and developing a brand identity, one which highlights your strengths, especially those reflected in your athletic accomplishments.. With this information you can promote that brand identity through social media—reflecting your strengths in writing, through PowerPoint slides, and in a branding video.

 

Promoting yourself: Creating a LinkedIn page that sells your brand

  • Create a file in which you keep a record of positive information about yourself, including statistics, praise from others, and outcomes related to your initiatives. This information will be used in your written, oral, and video career communication.
  • Write both 1 & 2 page resumes, and when to use each
  • Create a videotaped 90-second elevator pitch. Consider also creating one showing you playing your sport with a narration indicating what it tells potential employers about the personal qualities that drive your success
  • Use photos and text in PowerPoint slides of athletics, service, work, and school
  • Put it all together on a LinkedIn page
  • Edit your Facebook page to promote a positive image of yourself, including deleting images and text employees may find objectionable.

Finding the right summer job

  • Master job interviewing basics: the screening interview
  • Attend career fairs and meet the firms events with a specific plan as to how you will sell yourself.
  • Make your networking contacts aware of your job search objectives
  • Seek and evaluate summer work opportunities

 

Year Three: Building your credentials for co-ops and full time work

 

Many companies favor hiring students who have co-op or internship experience. And many offer full-time jobs upon graduation to those who interned with them the summer after their junior year.  So gaining a summer internship is essential to competing with non-athletes for the best jobs.

 

In addition, you need to learn to master answering behavior-based questions, the most frequently used approach to job interviewing. Successful athletes have a strong advantage in this area, as they can tells stories that demonstrate the qualities that lead to athletic success: conscientiousness, perseverance, self-regulation, optimism, goal setting, leadership, problem solving, counseling, diversity, listening, following instructions, and loyalty

 

  • Use networking to identify summer internships and co-ops
  • Attend on and off-campus job fairs and meet the firms events
  • Update resumes and online images, projects and achievements
  • Learn advanced job interviewing: behavior based interviewing
    • Mastering the CAR approach to behavior based interviewing
    • Telling memorable stories:
      • Creativity stories
      • Connection stories
      • Triumph stories

 

Year Four: Finding a full time job

 

If you are not offered a full-time job at the end of a summer internship, you should make finding one a major priority your senior year until you do. This will require you to continue networking with fellow athletes, mentors, alumni, relatives, friends, past co-workers, teachers, and fellow volunteers in organizations in which you have served.  Once you are made one or more offers, you need to learn three skills:  negotiation, managing money, and making a positive first day impression on the job

 

  • Evaluating and negotiating job offers
  • Learning how to manage money
  • Creating and sustaining a positive first impression on the job.

 

Benefits:  As you implement each year’s plan, you will learn skills that will build your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-understanding.  And you will have vastly increased control over your career destiny, now and in the future.

 

Exercise: Take the career readiness inventory below.  Commit yourself to achieving each action early in your freshman year.

 

  1. I have begun a networking plan to gain insight from others about how to best pursue my career goals., including lists of fellow players, friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, and club members whom I can contact for career advice and insight yes     no

 

 

  1. I have a professional wardrobe that I can wear to networking events, job fairs, meet the firms nights, and interviews with mentors and employers  yes     no

 

  1. I have edited my Facebook page so only positive information is included in it yes     no

 

  1. I have created a concise, positive voice mail greeting yes     no

 

  1. I am keeping a record of positive things that coaches, fellow players, employers, teachers, fellow students, and others have said about my performance. yes     no

 

  1. I am keeping a list of quantitative measures of my success, such as records set, game winning plays, championships won, awards won and the number that led to them, as well as quantitative measures of success in other endeavors such as time and money saved, money earned in an entrepreneurial activity, raises and bonuses received. yes     no

 

  1. I have developed a resume which I update regularly and which I have had a professional evaluate. yes     no

 

http://athleteconnections.com/popular-professional-careers-for-former-athletes/

 

site with several relevant blogs

 

https://www.careerathletes.com/  networking site

 

http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1270752-advice-on-good-careers-for-athletes.html  focuses on high school athletes

 

http://www.athletestobusiness.com/

 

 

 

What Athletes Can Do to Achieve Their Dreams in Their Lives After Sports

The athlete’s advantage: The investment college athletes have made throughout their lives to earn the distinction of playing at the collegiate level demonstrates character traits that are highly valued by employers. These include conscientiousness, perseverance, self-regulation, optimism, goal setting, leadership, problem solving, counseling, diversity, listening, following instructions, and loyalty,

 

The hidden competition: While devoting upwards of 30 hours a week to their athletics and a similar amount to academics, many collegiate athletes are unaware of a parallel competitive challenge: creating a plan for convincing employers to hire them after graduation, especially as only a tiny fraction of them will earn a living by continuing their athletic careers after graduation.

 

For example, NCAA research shows only 1.3% of Men’s Basketball players go Pro, 1.0% of Women’s Basketball players, 2% of Football players, and 1.9% of Men’s Soccer players. Even many who have played professionally have had their careers end early through injury. So having a back-up plan started the first year of college is crucial!

 

Blog purpose: This blog is dedicated to helping athletes invest their limited time in building and communicating a set of achievements that will help them realize their dreams in their life after sports.

 

Awareness: In an age when employers are looking for specific skills and experiences, such as mastery of Microsoft Office functions and a history of successful internships and co-ops, collegiate athletes would be wise to begin to develop a career action plan at the same time and with the same dedication that they are investing in practices and classes.

The first challenge is awareness: to communicate the importance of making conscious career decisions early in their college experience to take classes, pursue work opportunities, and engage in other activities that will support a compelling case for hiring them upon graduation.

This blog presents a series of articles on how college athletes can promote themselves effectively when pursuing internships, co-ops, and full time work, using their athletic experience as a competitive advantage in their career communication.

Preview: Future blog posts will include relevant topics, each concluding with appropriate follow up actions.

Getting Started

  • Establishing and implementing a plan for career success: steps to take in each of your four years in college
  • Assessing your competition: Seeing yourself through the eyes of human resource specialists
  • Self analysis:
    • Understanding what you desire in a career
    • Exploring the past to generate information to use in career communication

Selling yourself through networking

  • Importance and impact of networking to career success
  • Understanding the five principles of networking success
    • Similarity and Proximity: Perfecting the 90-second elevator pitch
    • Asking for what you want
    • Giving back and the multiplier effect

Selling yourself through writing

  • Writing the thank you email or letter
  • Creating one and two page resumes: when to use each
  • Using a job matrix in writing effective letters of application
  • Writing other career messages


 

Selling yourself in job interviews

  • Getting ready for the job interview: company analysis
  • Creating a positive first impression: grooming, dress, business cards, timeliness, handshakes, listening skills
  • Preparing for and answering “screening” questions
  • Preparing for and answering “behavior based” questions
  • Responding to the “Why Should I Hire You?” Question
  • Asking appropriate questions at the end of the interview

Selling yourself through social media: Who knows you

  • Creating positive LinkedIn and Facebook profile pages
  • Posting your elevator pitch
  • Creating PowerPoint slides showing you in sports, service, school, and at work

Action Steps:

  1. Create a folder to put on your desktop into which you will drop materials relevant to your career plan.
  2. Complete the exercise below and save your answers as a first entry into your Career folder.

To help select a satisfying career path, consider issues related to your past experience. Think about what has been most satisfying to you in your jobs, schooling, and athletic competitions. Then complete the exercise below, ordering the importance of nine different reasons people enjoy work, using

  • VI for very important,
  • SI for somewhat important, and
  • UI for unimportant

 

 

Money and Benefits                                                        ______

Contributions are Recognized & Rewarded          ______

Friendly Team Members                                               ______

Responsible for Leading Others                                 ______

Competitive Environment                                            ______

Helping Others Succeed                                                 ______

Safety and Security                                                          ______

Work that Reflects my Values                                     ______

Easy Work                                                                          ______

Your answers will help you identify the kinds of work that you will find most and least rewarding.

 

 

Learn to Write Reader-Friendly E-mail and Text Messages

Participants in CommuniSkills workshops tell us they are increasingly living in a Blackberry world, where their managers, co-workers, and clients communicate a wide variety of messages via email and text messages. As a result, an important management talent is the ability to write short messages that read well on the small screens on which your co-workers and clients receive their messages.

Below is a link to a PDF document that gives expanded detail and examples of improving your email and text message communications.

Communiskills Effective Email.pdf

How Effective Is the Scientific & Technical Writing In Your Organization?

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Writing That’s Short, Sweet Linked to Jobs, Promotions

By John Eckberg, Cincinnati Enquirer

The ability to write well is increasingly becoming an express ticket to a decent job.

A 2004 report from a questionnaire to 120 human-resources employees at corporations that employ 8 million workers concludes that workplace writing is a “threshold” skill for hiring and promoting salaried employees.

That means if you can’t write with aplomb, even verve, you won’t get past the threshold of the front door and certainly won’t make it to the corner office.

Produced in conjunction with 120 human resources representatives of companies in the Business Roundtable, which includes giants such as Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Sara Lee and Western & Southern Financial Group, the study found that writing ability is woefully lacking in corporate America.

Leaders believed that clear writing meant clear thinking and that an employee who can write well is an employee who is ready to be promoted.

“The strength of corporate complaints about the writing skills of college graduates was surprisingly powerful,” the report concluded.

Keep in mind that this imperative for better writing is coming from the corner of commerce that brought us phrases such as “paradigm shift,” “results-driven,” “robust networks,” “seamless integration” and “top-line growth.”

The human resources report also found that:

Half the companies surveyed almost always make writing a consideration before any promotion occurs.

The private-sector cost for providing writing training is projected at $3.1 billion during 2005. That’s about $2,500 to $3,500 per worker.

E-mail has replaced the one-page interoffice memo as the most common form of written communication.

One-third of employees do not have decent writing skills.

None of this surprises Thomas Clark, a professor at the Williams College of Business at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Clark teaches a communications class – a one-day, one-page memo seminar – for Procter & Gamble interns and new employees.

After 23 years and more than 1,000 workshops, Clark says that his message has not changed much: Clear writing means brevity. Get to who, what, why and when right away.

One trend that has been sweeping through the workplace, he said, is the increasing prominence of e-mail and voice mail.

“Highly effective e-mail and highly effective voice mail – if you practice it every day, it will be reflected in your presentations and in your reports,” Clark said.

Job-hunters should not rely on e-mail, though, particularly for thank-you notes.

“We recently had a student beat out another from another university for an internship at a top company in town,” Clark said. “She wrote a four-paragraph thank-you letter rather than a one-paragraph e-mail like the other candidate.

“The letter she got back stated that it was clear that she was more interested in the position than the competition.”

Does clear writing really matter? After all, unclear communication works, too.

Clark has no doubt: “Crisp, everyday communication is a competitive advantage.”

Business, B-Schools Fight Bad Writing

By DAVE CARPENTER

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 5, 2006; 1:42 PM

CHICAGO — Like a dark and stormy night, bad writing has long shadowed the business world _ from bureaucratese to mangled memos to the cliche-thick murk of corporatespeak.

But in an era of nonstop e-mail and instant and text messaging, written communication skills within companies may be getting even worse as quality is compromised by the perceived need for speed. Wary of the trend, not just businesses but business schools across the country are working harder to eschew obfuscation. Some have added or expanded writing programs in recent years; others use corporations’ faux pas as case studies in hopes their students will learn to avoid them.

“It happens every day that businesses send bad messages,” said Jim O’Rourke, a management professor at Notre Dame and director of the university’s Fanning Center for Business Communication. “They send messages they don’t intend.”

Sometimes the message is just a case of execrable writing.

Dianna Booher, a communication training consultant for Fortune 500 clients, submits the following example from a company manager: “It is my job to ensure proper process deployment activities take place to support process institutionalization and sustainment. Business process management is the core deliverable of my role, which requires that I identify process competency gaps and fill those gaps.”

Translation: I’m the training director.

In the words of former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, who led a campaign in the 1990s requiring “plain English” in corporate and mutual-fund prospectuses: “The prose trips off the tongue like peanut butter.”

But it’s no longer just the inability to string clear, coherent thoughts together that poses the biggest risk. Rather, it may be clicking the “Send” button too hastily.

Business students got a prime example this year when RadioShack told about 400 workers by e-mail that they were being laid off immediately. “The work force reduction notification is currently in progress,” the company told employees at its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, in August. “Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated.”

An even more memorable case of bad corporate communication, involving an infamous memo sent by Cerner Corp. CEO Neal Patterson in 2001, is still providing learning material five years later.

Upset that the company’s parking lot was less than full by 8 a.m. and emptied out around 5, Patterson sent out an angry e-mail berating employees for laziness and promising to fire managers in two weeks if they didn’t shape up. He shut down the employee gym and said “hell will freeze over” before he would allow more benefits.

The e-mail was leaked and posted on the Internet, prompting the company’s stock to plunge 22 percent in three days, although it recovered strongly and Patterson remains at the helm of the medical software designer today.

“Frequently e-mails are fired off with never a second thought _ no proofreading,” said O’Rourke. “And certainly the grammar of instant messaging and text messaging has intruded as well.”

The Notre Dame center focuses on teaching students to say what they need to say in fewer words, write at an appropriate conversational level, and organize it in a way that makes sense for the reader. It offers courses in management writing for MBA candidates and business writing for undergraduates.

“They have to focus on the needs of the reader,” O’Rourke said. “Otherwise, she won’t pay attention, she won’t do what you want, she won’t retain what you said.”

Plenty of experts share the belief that IM creates or at least contributes to bad writing.

Tom Clark, a Xavier University business professor who also teaches writing skills at Procter & Gamble Co., says short communication is becoming the norm as more people derive their habits from instant-response communications media. That may be good news for those who abhor reading long documents but it’s not so great for quality writing reflective of long-term thinking, he observes.

“Young people are wrapped up in the speed with which they communicate rather than seeing writing as a reflection of their best selves,” he said.

Paula Hill-Strasser, an adjunct business professor at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, says even the brightest students seem to struggle more with writing than they used to. She suspects the lapses _ such as constant use of “they” as a pronoun and writing paragraphs that run three-quarters of a page _ are linked to young people’s increased multi-tasking and electronic distractions.

“For whatever reason, we are finding the business writing skill-set to be missing,” she said.

Trying to address the shortfall, SMU requires business students to write more company profiles and case studies than before.

But some experts say IM has gotten a bad rap in the office and defend it as a valuable business communications tool.

“The problem isn’t due to IM,” said Beth Hewett, a consultant on online and traditional writing programs. “Instead, I think that laziness and lack of understanding of formal business conventions are more responsible.”

Business students at Miami (Ohio) University’s Farmer School of Business work on rhetoric and are reminded to tailor their writing style to the purpose. They are told that conciseness and understanding one’s audience are more important than ever.

“People have been complaining about the quality of student writing since Plato,” said Kate Ronald, an English professor who runs the school’s Howe Writing Initiative. “But I think businesses are paying more attention to it. Businesses today are doing so much more writing, and doing it so much more publicly _ because so much of the discourse is discussed on the screen rather than on paper.”

Some companies, Procter & Gamble notably among them, are working to correct bad writing habits with their own in-house writing courses.

But there still isn’t much of a market overall for business writing classes, according to Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training.

“I think that would suggest that people are just so happy to get the communications going that they aren’t spending the time on how to communicate,” he said.