“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Peter Drucker
Is communication the most important soft skill? I believe it is, and it is why the focus of my practice is on interpersonal communications. I have found that even if a client’s initial interest is in exploring another area of their lives, communication quickly come to the fore. Communication in this context is not just about sending a message, it is about receiving messages: the ability to actively listen and fully understand what is being communicated. Communication is the most important soft skill because everything flows from it — listening, showing empathy, networking, self-confidence, giving and receiving feedback.
Human communication is complex. The first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “communication” is often words – either spoken or written. But the words we speak and hear are just one way to communicate, and some studies show that most of our communication takes place through other means:
- Nonverbal communication: Communication without words, such as eye contact or posture
- Verbal communication: Communication with words, both written and spoken
- Body language: Communication through gestures, personal space, and touching
- Artistic communication: Communication through images and other creative media
- Musical communication: Communication through music, whether with lyrics or without
Most of us have a preferred method of communication, but all of use these different forms at one point or another. Learning to communicate effectively in many forms not only helps when you craft your own messages, but helps you to receive messages as well.
In a previous post I stated that making assumptions about what another person is saying, or the meaning behind the words they are using, can be a disaster. One of Covey’s “habits” he describes in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) says, “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. He describes it as “the key to effective communication”. If we want to have any sort of effective communication among ourselves, we first have to understand each other. And the simplest way of doing that is by asking questions. Another is by observing the other person. Sounds very simplistic, doesn’t it? It’s true and better yet, we can get better at it!
Next week’s post will look the importance of non-verbal communications and how 70% of communications actually occurs non-verbally.
This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring Soft Skills and why they are so important to your success in any endeavour.