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Warren Buffett’s Communication Secrets

communication habits leadership
Warren Buffett sitting on the desk in his office communicating

 

By John Millen

You may know Warren Buffett as one of the world’s richest people. You may have seen him on TV or as a rock star speaker talking to thousands of cheering shareholders at his annual meeting.

His advice is so valued that someone recently paid $19 million at a charity auction to have lunch with Buffett!

But what you may not know is that Warren Buffett was deathly afraid of public speaking or getting up in front of anyone, anywhere. 

Today, I’ll be breaking down how Warren Buffett overcame his fears and why he calls developing his communication skills the best investment of his life.

Public speaking or death

Surveys show that people’s number one fear is public speaking, number two is death. Jerry Seinfeld says that means that when you go to a funeral you’d rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.

That’s pretty much how Warren Buffett felt. He says he was terrified. All through high school and later in college at the University of Nebraska he would arrange his classes so he never had to give a presentation.

So how did Warren Buffett transform himself into this great communicator, someone who’s comfortable being at the center of attention?

 

I’ve studied Warren Buffett’s career for many years, and here are three of his secrets of his successful communication:

  1. Overcome your fear
  2. Realize your value
  3. Embrace discomfort

Let’s break these down:

1. Overcome your fear 

Warren’s transformation started when he decided to get training to overcome his fears.

While he was doing his graduate work at Columbia Business School in New York he signed up for a Dale Carnegie public speaking course. He paid $100 back in the 1960’s. 

But when the time came to start the class, Warren says he “chickened out.” He lost his nerve and canceled payment on his check. 

So after graduate school, Buffett moved back to Omaha, and he started in the securities business. He knew it was time to face his fears and again enrolled in a Dale Carnegie public speaking course.  

Buffett says “If you can’t communicate and talk to other people … you’re giving up your potential.” So Warren sat with 30 other people who he said were “terrified of getting up and even saying their own names.”

But after taking the course Warren finally felt comfortable talking in front of people. He says it changed his life. 

That’s why on the wall in his office, Warren doesn’t hang his college degrees. Instead, he proudly points to the framed completion certificate for the public speaking course. 

I’ve witnessed hundreds of people overcome their fears this way and it changes their lives forever. 

And it also has a bonus effect. When you overcome a fear in one part of your life, you’ll find it becomes much easier to face fears in other parts of your life. You develop that muscle to finally take on your other fears.

2. Realize your value

When Buffett invests money he expects to make a solid return on his investment. He says the best investment you can make is in yourself.

He tells college students that he believes that by learning effective communication skills young people can increase their lifetime earnings by at least 50 percent.

That’s a great return on investment in yourself.

3. Embrace discomfort

Addressing early career women, Warren told them that to overcome fear you need to put yourself out there, “You have to do it, and the sooner you do it, the better. It’s so much easier to learn the right habits when you’re young.”

Buffett also told them that after he completed the public speaking course, he was worried he would lapse back into his fearful state again. That’s why he started teaching a university class at night. He says sometimes you’ve got to force yourself to do some things that feel uncomfortable at first, embrace discomfort.

Warren told the young women, “Just get yourself out there and force yourself to get into situations with people.”

It’s good advice for all of us because that’s how you create new habits that will help your future self.

Communication is at the heart of everything in your business and your life.

Warren Buffett is a very skillful investor, but he knows he never would have achieved his success without the ability to communicate.

To recap, Warren Buffett’s secrets of successful communication are:

  • Overcome your fear
  • Realize your value
  • Embrace discomfort

Start a new habit

So what habit can YOU form to start improving your communication skills?

Maybe start doing one thing every day that makes you feel uncomfortable, like listening more carefully, volunteering to speak, or saying what you really believe.

Just try to challenge yourself every day. 

That’s how you transform yourself, as Warren Buffett did. 

I can’t guarantee you’ll become a billionaire, but it’s worth a shot.

I’ll see you back here next time for more coffee with john.

 

Image: CBS News

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