The Importance of Communication Skills
by Laurie Wilhelm
When considering why is communication important, the bottom line is: if you’re a good communicator, you’ll have better chances of success. You’re able to persuade people, influence others, negotiate effectively and provide valuable feedback. You can inspire, motivate and encourage your staff and employees. You can convey your ideas better to your boss, you can make interesting conversation and network easier and you can speak to groups of people with self-confidence and credibility. The better your communication skills, the greater success you can achieve. The importance of communication skills cannot be understated.
Communication is truly achieved when the sender and the receiver share an understanding of the communicated message. Many times, this is easier said than done.
Communication has two parts. The first is the communicator and how effectively she can convey her message to the listener. The second is how well the listener of the communication receives the message. There should be little or no misunderstanding, misinterpretation or confusion – if there is, the communication is not successful.
There are three things the sender should keep in mind when communicating:
1. The point of the message.
Perhaps this sounds silly – after all, doesn’t everyone know what their point is? Well, not always. It’s easy to get muddled up in a blur of phrases and examples or carried away in a monologue that jumps all over until the train of thought has run right of its track.
One way to make sure this doesn’t happen, is to think through what it is you want to say, and write it down. Not in essay form, just point form…to get all the points down. Then, add in supporting points if you think you would need to give facts and examples. Keep all information relevant. If you ramble into too much detail or give a long-winded example, you’ll lose your listener because you’ve taken her so far away from the point of your message.
2. How you’re going to say it.
How you say something is as important as what you say. Select your words carefully and accurately to avoid as much misunderstanding as possible. Stay away from jargon and phrases that are understood only by insiders. Approach difficult topics as positively as possible without glossing over issues, undermining the seriousness of the situation or the urgency of a resolution. Word criticisms using effective feedback techniques.
3. Know your audience.
Know the level to which your audience can understand your message. You’ll use different words if you’re speaking to a group of high school students than you would to accountants. Do some research and find out how to make relevant the information you have to convey. Determine what is the most effective way to communicate your idea and have it remembered. Do you need PowerPoint, handouts, props or follow-up information?
For the listener or the receiver of the message:
Obvious, but not often done well. Look at the speaker. Focus on what she’s saying. Get involved in listening and interact with the speaker by providing non verbal cues to the speaker to show what you understand and what you don’t. Avoid interrupting.
2. Ask questions
When the speaker isn’t clear, ask relevant and specific questions for added clarification and explanation so that you understand as clearly as possible the message she is convey. Ask for examples, more detail or meanings to jargon if the words used are not common language. Paraphrase what was said and ask if that was an accurate summary of her message and points.
3. Respond respectfully
Listen for understanding and gaining different perspectives. If you agree with what was said, say so. If you don’t, respond respectfully and appropriately. Remember, it’s just as important how you say something as what it is that you say. Choose your words and phrases to encourage ongoing conversation and discussion.
Whether you’re the speaker or the listener, each requires some effort. Good communication skills result create effective communication and a reduction, and in some cases elimination, of confusion and misunderstandings that results in wasted time and missed opportunities.