Why are oral and written communication proficiencies so consistently ranked in the top ten desirable soft-skills by employer surveys, year after year? Because they are.
Communication skills are among the most in-demand abilities wanted by employers. LinkedIn Research rated this expertise as the highest sought soft-skill, whilst out ranking all others including Organisation, Team working, Critical thinking, Analytical skills and even Creativity.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that currently a wide range of employees are often encouraged to take online courses and in-person training to improve their presentation and communication skills. The high level of competency in these skills are required by employers because they’re applicable to every situation and every job, function, industry, and level of seniority.
So to begin, we’re going back to basics in this first question … What is Communication? Pause for a moment and consider this question and come up with your own answers…
Some fundamental definitions –
- Effective communication is a process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, knowledge and information so that the purpose or intention (whatever the purpose), is fulfilled in the best possible manner. So, it’s the presentation of views by the sender (communicator), in a way best understood by the receiver.
- Communication is a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange information but also create and share meaning.
The important elements being highlighted here being are – Exchanging, Dialogue, a bi-directional method to achieve Mutual, Shared Meaning and Understanding.
A second question, in furthering the importance of effective communication is ….. How much time are you spending in the act of Communication each day or week?
In percentage terms, how much of your time is spent in communication? Again, break-off momentarily to consider this question and make your own evaluation …
If you estimated less that 70% then that would be considered to be low …… typical, reputable studies point out that in the business context, that the majority of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and a whopping 45 percent of our time is spent in listening.
That surely calls attention to the paramount importance for being a highly accomplished communicator, when you are expending 70 percent of your time, doing it!
What are the elements of the skills needed for effective communication?
- Listening; the primary capability; including giving committed attention to the speaker, deferring judgements, remembering the content and being able to repeat the speakers messages
- Clear, concise thinking (as a precursor to communication), including understanding the logical connections between ideas, and being able to construct and evaluate arguments and solve problems systematically by correctly using information
- Assembling the communication’s content; this involves high-level language skills, such as possessing sufficient words, and then assembling the right words for accurate descriptive value
- Delivery skill; this is almost an ‘art-form’ and is the style for delivering the message, accounting for what’s needed to adequately convey the topic and information, should it be brief and concise? or explanatory with multiple examples? or use visual aids such as diagrams, charts, etc?
- Questioning includes using questions as a ‘prompt’ for the speaker, or asking for clarifications or additional information, using questions to refocus or redirect the discussion and formulating discovery questions to open-up new options or possibilities.
- Awareness of both self and others; knowing your communication style preferences and those of others and having the wit, versatility and flexibility to communicate to others in the style that they prefer and that creates the optimum opportunity for their best understanding.
- Establishing the relationship; creating empathy and rapport between the parties to the topic under discussion.
- Feedback as a means of expressing interest and attention to the speaker, and providing insightful observations, perspectives or evaluations.
- Understanding including the capacity to perceive the meaning of the topic or to grasp the idea and comprehending the meaning and portent of the information.
- Using Neutral Language; this includes being non-judgemental, and communicating with an absence of blame and with one’s own biases and self-filters minimised.
After having reviewed those skills, then the follow-on questions are – How would you rate yourself in the development and quality of these skills? And in the practise of these skills in the 70 percent of your daily time expended in the communication media?
In summary, this brief article is intended firstly as a reminder and a ‘plug’ for the value of top quality communications skills; and subsequently as an encouragement to you, the reader to apply some additional time, effort and focus upon improving them, for the benefit of yourself and others.
10 May 2021