Let’s examine the art of effective communication, with a particular emphasis on why communication is important in so many aspects of our lives.
From personal relationships, to business and our workplace, communication is a make-or-break skill. Among many benefits, communicating well helps you form closer relationships, bring cohesion to teams, and take on leadership roles.
What Does Good Communication Look Like?
Communication, at its most basic, is the process of sending and receiving information between people. Delivery may be verbal or written, which happen through spoken words and text exchanges. Another important form is visual or non-verbal communication, consisting of graphic cues such as eye contact, body positioning, gestures and facial expressions.
Regardless of what form it takes, effective communication is clearly participatory – not just one-sided. All the best examples we have of good communication (and good communicators) indicate a process of give-and-take. Here’s why communicating in this manner is so effective.
A. Two-way process
Great communication involves both speaking and listening, or expressing and receiving. The goal is to develop a shared understanding of the information being disclosed.
The parties also recognise that the roles of speaker and listener are fluid. Just as you speak and impart information, you should listen in turn for feedback as the recipient digests the information. The listener can provide visual and other indicators that they are following on. They can also check their understanding by asking questions.
Effective communication focuses on what is important. Communicating well helps eliminate jargon and conveys information in a clear, simple way that gets the message across. An open and easy communication style also helps build confidence and trust in the message being received.
While the saying “think before you speak” feels cliché, preparation and thought are essential to communicate effectively. An accomplished speaker thinks carefully about the content of their message and their objective, who the recipient is, and how best to communicate with the particular audience. They even adjust their body language to capture and retain the audience’s attention.
Importance of Good Communication Skills
Communication is at the root of what makes us human, and a core part of our society. Great communicators enjoy more fulfilling relationships and connect faster with others on many levels.
If you can think and speak and write, you are absolutely deadly! Nothing can get in your way.Jordan Peterson
Beyond enabling us to have rapport with others, communication plays significant roles in many aspects of our personal and professional lives.
1. Helps build (and sustain) personal relationships
Sincere and thoughtful communication is the bedrock of strong relationships. Friends, family, and spouses who are comfortable communicating with one other enjoy more fruitful relationships. Strong use of verbal communication skills, body language and facial expressions all enable easier connection with others, and this can be key to building a valuable social network.
2. Key to social accomplishment
Excellent communicators are able to navigate social situations much better. They are adept at getting others involved, carrying them along, and typically emerge as the nucleus of whatever group they find themselves in.
In a social context, some of the verbal communication skills you need to shine are: active listening, speaking clearly and concisely, asking open-ended questions, asking for clarification, noticing and responding to body language and other non-verbal signals, and injecting humour.
3. Opens up career opportunities
If you are not a good communicator, your career options are limited. In every career field for university graduates, communication skills are advantageous. In most professions, effective verbal communication is essential and strong written communication skills may be needed as well. Some career examples where you must communicate well are teaching, healthcare and marketing.
4. Sets job candidates apart
Communication skills are regarded as a key attribute for job candidates, says an employer report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Candidates who are accomplished communicators are regarded as better team players.
Crucially, employees who consistently display strong communication skills make a stronger case for leadership positions at work. That also means that employees with poor communication skills have dim prospects to become successful supervisors and managers. If you struggle with public speaking for example, how can you effectively manage a large team?
5. Good communication is good branding
When persuasive communication is part of your image, people are more attracted to you and you are likely to gain more professional opportunities. Clear and evocative communication in branding can also drive business success.
People want to buy from brands that know how to communicate effectively. Apart from increasing customer engagement, great communication fosters brand loyalty. According to one survey, 65% of customers become emotionally attached to a brand that communicates a caring attitude.
Benefits of Communicating Effectively at Work
While communication has clear benefits in our personal life, the value of effective communication at work can be even more imperative. At work, great communication is not only a social requirement but has financial implications.
For context, research data suggests that employee misunderstandings impose an average $62.4 million cost to US and UK corporations. Companies often find a strong business case for improving communication, which they can achieve in part by selecting the best communicators for jobs and roles.
Here’s how excellent communication benefits the workplace.
A. Encourages good workplace culture
Organisations that encourage honest, thoughtful and open communication create a place where people want to work. Workplaces that promote good communication foster a sense of community and a shared purpose amongst employees. In turn, they are able to achieve higher retention and ultimately save money on recruitment.
B. Creates effective teams
Four out of five employees say that effective internal communication has a positive impact on their job performance, for obvious reasons. Clear and simple communication at work lessens ambiguity. Clear communication also creates a much stronger basis for collaboration at work, and eventually results in more effective teams.
C. Fosters innovation
Teams that encourage open and non-judgmental communication innovate faster and better than their peers. Teams thrive in these environments due to the psychological safety they enjoy at work. A study by Google, called the Aristotle project, found that psychological safety was a prime factor for high-performing teams.
D. Boosts productivity
Great communication at work also leads to more engaged employees. Rather than the disorganised schedules, distorted information, and misalignment that poor communication creates, these teams feel more in tune with one another and better engaged overall.
Why Communication is Important for Leaders
Communication is a key attribute of good leaders. In fact, excellent communication is considered a core leadership function and is one of the front-line metrics used to evaluate leaders.
Leaders who communicate well excel in operations and planning, and are able to communicate skillfully across multiple levels, from team level, to the boardroom, and beyond.
Here’s what good communication skills can bring if you are in a leadership position, whether within or outside your organisation.
1. Lead effectively
Much of leadership is about internal management – day-to-day operations, setting and meeting short to medium term goals, and more. To ensure that everything ticks over nicely at work, a leader must be able to secure buy-in and carry people along. As you create plans, allocate tasks, and monitor performance, you should be able to effectively communicate what is required and listen for feedback.
2. Instill a vision
As a leader you need to think clearly and express ideas and information with various audiences. Your vision is what grounds the work that your employees do.
Effective communication skills help you communicate big ideas and vision in a way that fosters a sense of ownership in the company’s future. Through repetition and clear articulation, everyone understands where you are all headed.
3. Solve problems efficiently
Communication is just as critical to problem solving as it is to building relationships. Times of crisis are typically confusing as everyone strives to make sense of the events. A strong communicator can quickly pinpoint where the problem lies and organise others to find a solution that works.
4. Seamlessly manage external relationships
Finally, leadership roles are not only inward-facing, they are also outward-facing. In a role as a leader, you are tasked with managing corporate relationships or even the firm’s reputation with external stakeholders. Leaders with top notch communication skills are able to navigate these complex relationships and create a net positive for their organisation.
Why is Written Communication Important?
Written communication has perhaps never been as important as it is now. An irony of technological progress is that we are writing more rather than less. Talking to one another in-person or even on the phone has been replaced by digital text correspondence.
The importance of written communication skills actually goes beyond the immense power to inform, endear, inspire or persuade. As Jordan Peterson exclaims in the video above, knowing how to write is synonymous with knowing how to think.
The practice of deliberately and skilfully placing your thoughts in text forces you to expand your thinking in ways that are hard to replicate.
Drafting text or restructuring your writing to improve clarity often require numerous thought adjustments and refinements. You come to perceive or understand the subject better at the same time as you enhance the reading experiences of your audience.