Most people claim to have “good communication skills.” Unfortunately however, not many actually know what it means, much less practice good and effective communication.
Communication Skills is taught as a course or subject separate and differently from English or other languages in school for a reason, and that is because Communication Skills is not about grammar, literacy, literature or proficiency in a language as most people believe, although it may include that.
There are 3 core aspects of effective communication; receiving information, decoding information and giving information or feedback, and they work in a cycle:
What does this means? Effective communication skills is about knowing:
…and doing all of the above, properly. It also involves:
Communication Skills as a course or subject explores the various ways you can do all of the above, and the importance of doing so.
Effective communication skills requires us to do all of the above without neglecting either. If you DO NOT:
- Receive communication, e.g. by cutting people off or not allowing them to speak, or
- Pay proper attention to people who are communicating with you, or
- Understand what is communicated to you, yet do not make the effort to, e.g. by asking questions, or
- Give relevant and sufficient feedback or response to people when you are communicated with; be it a positive, negative or neutral response, as long as a response is lacking
…you are failing at communication, even if it is with just one of the above. Communication also fails when one person is practicing good communication skills and another is not; it requires all parties to observe good communication skills.
Communication is critical to social interaction and society in general. It is essential in building any good relationship be it in business, international relations, at the workplace or home, in friendships or partnerships or any other aspect of society big and small. Most problems of society, from wars to civil unrest, personal squabbles, workplace challenges and more, when examined carefully will soon reveal at its heart, a failure of communication in either of the three main areas, on someone’s part. That is why effective communication is so important in society and to all institutions; poor communication makes working with others difficult and costly.
Effective communication on the other hand, as simple yet elusive as it is to most, builds people, organisations and entire nations. Development is largely facilitated by our ability to connect with others, share information and understand each other; and this power is for example exemplified by the Internet itself. Communication is one of the things that makes us, humans, intelligent beings, and when we fail at it we are failing at an essential part of our existence.
So next time we tout our communication skills, we need to understand what it requires of us and live up to it.
Effective communication skills is a habit that needs to be developed over time, and it needs to be done through conscious effort i.e. constantly reminding oneself to LISTEN, UNDERSTAND and RESPOND/INFORM as we engage with others.