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The King's Speech: Power in Confident and Engaging Communication

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If you haven't yet seen The King's Speech -- you should.

Having heard so many good things about the movie, I was sure that my expectations would be too high and I'd be disappointed. That didn't happen. I'd see The King's Speech again in a heartbeat.

The story of a newly crowned king overcoming his speech impediment could have been excruciatingly boring. But the film's photography, dialogue and exquisite acting capture the deep fear that speaking in public often engenders -- and the pity, disdain and disappointment that failing elicits within oneself and from others.

And yet, in the real world, communication has become a beleaguered skill. Could that be because it's less important nowadays? Have generations of parents failed their children or have schools neglected verbal communication as a priority? Is it now only kings and leaders who need to learn to inspire others with their words? Or are we inundated with so much information that we've simply become sloppy communicators?

Whatever the reasons, communication is still the vehicle by which success is achieved. Few ideas or people are so impressive that they stand on their own merits without effective communication and persuasion.

Asked by The New York Times columnist Adam Bryant what she looks for in a potential new hire, Atlantic Records CEO Julie Greenwald replied:

"Confidence. You want to add somebody to the mix who's confident, who's going to speak up--someone who's going to come in who has a new point of view, who has ideas, who's not afraid to try to join the team."

Greenwald looks at hiring this way: "Somehow you got in to see me. Engage me. Make me love you."

This is from a woman who had to overcome an intense fear and hatred of public speaking en route to where she is today.

Why would any of us walk into a meeting or start a conversation feeling unable to inspire confidence? Why would we allow others to manage us because we don't know how to respond to them? Why let someone's less promising idea win the day simply because we didn't bother to package the better one persuasively?

And why accept for a moment an idea supported by the now all-too-common "some people say"? Every time I hear that on a newscast, I cringe. It's yet another way that we lower the bar of effective persuasion and allow ourselves to be led by the nose without reliable support.

All it takes to interact more effectively and to raise the bar is a willingness to see communication skills as tools, devices for informing and persuading others, and ways of engagingly conveying our thoughts.

You wouldn't want to use a rusty, poorly maintained tool to accomplish a critical job. Skilled communicators sharpen their verbal and nonverbal tools daily and learn from others' successes ways to make themselves more effective as well.

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie occurs when the king challenges the lack of formal educational credentials of his speech therapist, played by Geoffrey Rush. At first thrown off balance, Rush's character, Lionel Logue, recovers a moment later by providing a confident, engaging, passionate, humorous and persuasive description of the insight and experience that qualify him more than any university degree. It's a scene not to be missed. Rush shows a king what really matters, skillfully drawing him into anger, then rage and finally the realization that beneath his humiliating impediment he has a truly powerful voice.

If The King's Speech provides anything more than stellar entertainment, it is the realization that with help and determination even the most challenging faults of public appearances and conversations can be overcome, that effective communication can change a life or a leader and open doors to the future previously seen as firmly closed. For that alone, it's worth seeing.

Kathleen also blogs at Comebacks At Work about responding effectively on your feet. She's also on Twitter @comebackskid

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