My beautiful wife hates to parallel park. She assures me that she can do it, she just doesn’t like it. She would rather drive around and park several blocks away so that she can pull in and out easier and avoid it all together.
I was reminded of this the other day as I parked outside of my office. Being able to parallel park with confidence saves time and allows me to devote my energy to other things.
This is when it hit me that public speaking and improving communication skills are a lot like parallel parking. People hate it. They claim to be able to do it, but are willing to park blocks away to avoid doing it. Yet, being able to speak with confidence saves time and allows one to devote more energy to other things. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are three lessons from parallel parking that can be applied to improving your communication skills.
Parking Close is Helpful in a Storm
If it’s pouring rain, being able to park close and not walk blocks from a more convenient parking space is helpful. It keeps you out of the weather and dry. In a career storm, being able to present your ideas clearly and sell yourself is helpful when the dark clouds form on your career. It’s helpful to navigate a job market or get yourself unstuck if you have a marketable skill and presentation skills qualify.
People Assume That If You Can Park, You’re a Good Driver
Admit it, when you see someone back into a tight parking space, you’re impressed with their car control. You probably assume that they’re a good driver if they can squeeze into a little space. If you’re a good public speaker, people automatically assume that you’re intelligent and valuable. Once you get on the road, you still have to prove that you can drive, but it’s a lot easier having a positive reputation working with you. The same rule applies to good communicators. You will still have to prove that you belong in the room, but starting with a positive reputation makes proving it easier.
Parallel Parking Can Be Learned and Improved With Practice
Like parallel parking, people hate public speaking because for the most part, they’ve never been taught how to it correctly. They don’t have a process that allows them to hit their mark with confidence every time. It just becomes easier to avoid it all together. The key difference here is that you can practice public speaking without causing thousands of dollars of damage to someone else’s car if you fail. The good news is that with the proper level of skill, the challenge isn’t scary anymore and you begin to look forward to new opportunities to show it off.
Just like being a good parallel parker allows you to get out of storms more quickly, establish a positive reputation for yourself and can be learned and developed with practice, so too can becoming a better communicator. With the right coaching and practice you too can park closer to your goals and benefit from the reputation of being a polished, professional presenter.