Why Effective Communication Is the Most Important Soft Skill
Humans are built for connection. Whether that connection is brief (asking a sales associate for a price), constant (bonding with your coworkers), or deep (such as the relationship with your spouse), truly effective communicators can find a way to bridge the gap between themselves and any person they come in contact with.
Learning how to communicate effectively is not only a way to sharpen your soft skills; it will positively influence your career, relationships, and problem-solving abilities.
Why is communication so important? Let’s dive deep into why mastering this soft skill can become a life-changing event.
Communication: A Break-down
Let’s bring it back to the basics for a moment. Communication is divided into two parts: the giving of information and the receiving of information.
In any conversation, you are switching these two hats back and forth with at least one other participant. In order to communicate effectively, the giver must communicate information so that it can be understood easily, and the receiver listens, digests, and acknowledges the information that is being given to them. Sounds simple, right?
The principal of this soft skill may sound peaceful and transactional, but many mistakes can happen along the way. The giver of information may be angry, snappy, missing information, or unclear in their delivery; therefore, the receiver may react negatively to the attitude onset, stop listening, stop digesting in order to interrupt, or become misled due to incorrect perception.
And what about the other soft skills, such as organization and time management? Are these considered important as well?
Although they’re all good to have, the ability to communicate effectively still holds the high card.
If you get hotheaded each time your boss asks for a report, will he really care that your emails are divided into 20 colored folders?
Will your punctuality record really matter if you are disengaged on your phone during each business meeting?
The importance of communication goes beyond being an extroverted public speaker or a skillful writer; it is mandatory for any human to succeed!
Communication: Your Coworkers
As a business person, you probably spend more time in a day with your coworkers than you do with your family and friends. Learning how to communicate effectively in a workplace setting is vital, because information transmitting between you, your boss, your subordinate, or an associate is often attached to overall company success.
As the sender of information in a place of work, you have to make sure your information is correct, includes all relevant detail, and is delivered in a tone that encourages urgency but not aggression.
If a manager is constantly barking orders angrily, how will the receiver respond? They may appear stressed out (therefore, more errors are made) or offended (they may neglect work intentionally); both responses create a large, unnecessary mess that could have been avoided if both parties knew how to communicate effectively.
With the exchange of information, in a healthy workplace, the delivery is everything. The receiver has the responsibility to ask follow-up questions if they are unclear, and to let the sender know that the message is understood. Offices that support open-door communication between all members are often the most successful at achieving their goals. You know the saying: teamwork makes the dream work!
Communication: Personal Relationships
There is a statistic floating around that about 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Regardless if that number is accurate today or not, the reoccurring error leading to divorce is often—you guessed it—communication (or lack thereof).
Some of the most common communication problems between two partners include defensiveness (flaring up the second you are challenged), criticism (constant challenging and nit-picking), and a heart of stone (caring very little of the outcome). The soft skill of how to communicate effectively in a personal relationship is often lacking on the receiving side; this means actually listening to your loved one’s concerns instead of instantly reacting.
Ask any elderly couple: The secret to longevity is more than financial stability and a happy bedroom life; it’s listening to one another, and realizing it’s often you versus the problem, not one versus the other.
Learning to be an active listener is vital as a parent of a pre-teen kid, when providing information of any kind may result in an unwanted reaction. Realizing the importance of communication is key in any personal relationship, from maintaining closeness with your friend who lives in another city, to maintaining daily conversation with your partner who is constantly in your space. The ability to communicate well often removes hostility and defensiveness, which are sinking ships in any form of relationship—business or otherwise.
Communication in Everything
At virtually every stage of life, you’ll find that learning how to communicate effectively is the cornerstone in every life event.
We teach small children to use their words accurately and encourage them to speak their minds, just as we encourage both positive and negative communication during the tough teenage years. Effective communication results in good grades during group presentations, and is later evaluated during a first job interview. We tell someone we love them for the first time, and we offer our opinions at work meetings. The importance of communication is indispensable wherever we go and whatever we do.
And what are the benefits to honing in on this soft skill?
We build strong relationships within the office and within our personal lives, we find better success at work (effective communicators make fantastic bosses and leaders), and we create a healthier state of mind since information is sent and received clearly.
Just like riding a bike or starting a new hobby, learning how to communicate effectively requires time and practice in order for it to become muscle memory. When we build relationships through strong communication, we build a foundation for success in every endeavor.