Good communication is essential for success in almost every area of a person’s life. There is no way to get around the need for these skills unless you’re a hermit.
We are not born with communication skills. We learn them throughout our lives. As children, we acquire them through observation and imitation of those around us. Later we learn them as part of our socialization, education, and career training.
You may have heard about one of those extremely rare cases when a child has been locked away in a closet, basement, or makeshift dungeon from birth to late adolescence or early adulthood. When rescued, they were incapable of speaking or communicating in any way. According to linguistic experts, this proves that communication skills are learned.
It may seem like some people have a natural talent in this area. This may be true to an extent. But I’ve witnessed too many amazing transformations (including my own) during Dale Carnegie courses and Toastmasters meetings not to be convinced that skills like public speaking can be learned.
Good communication is not just about having the ability to speak well. It includes many areas that together can lead to communication mastery. Here are the top communication categories along with a description and comments.
1. Verbal Communication
The ability to express your thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a way that another person or group can understand them as you intended.
Whether a person understands what you are saying is almost entirely YOUR responsibility. Many people mistakenly assume that it is up to the listener to decipher what they are trying to say. This is not true. It is your responsibility to make sure that the listener receives and comprehends your message.
In situations where the person you are speaking to is a poor listener, it is up to you to get and hold their attention if what you are trying to say is important. Otherwise, it’s not worth your efforts.
2. Communication Acknowledgment
Seeking out verbal and non-verbal signals that your communication has been received and understood in the way you intended.
Short verbal responses like “Yes” and quick non-verbal replies like a “nod” are familiar signals of acknowledgment.
When communication is important, a more precise way to determine if your messages have been received and understood is to ask questions. Key points of your communication may be converted into short questions. Doing this is a way of taking responsibility for your communication.
3. Non-verbal Communication
Facial expressions and other body movements that indicate certain emotional reactions to your communication.
We are all familiar with the looks, gestures, and body (language) movements that send certain messages. Most people don’t appreciate the important role these messages play in communication.
Developing the ability to tune into these messages and trust your intuition (or gut feelings) on how you should respond will give you a significant advantage in your communications.
4. Public Speaking
The process of delivering a prepared speech to a group of people to inform, influence, or entertain.
Public speaking is popularly known as the number one fear for most people. I could list 10 reasons why people fear it, but each one is applicable to other areas of a person’s social life. Perhaps that’s why you simultaneously improve other communication skills when you become competent in public speaking.
Public speaking may be the most challenging communication skill to acquire, but there are multiple benefits. Mastering it will not only improve other communication skills at the same time but together they will also enhance your social skills and job performance.
5. Written Communication
The ability to express your thoughts, feelings, and ideas in writing in a way that another person or group can understand them as you intended.
There is, of course, no instantaneous verbal or non-verbal feedback with written communication, which can be a disadvantage or advantage depending on the circumstances.
It can be a disadvantage in complicated business and personal situations when immediate verbal and non-verbal feedback is needed to avoid any harmful misunderstandings. It can be an advantage when used to repair a relationship to void confrontation and make sure that your full communication is received without disruption.
Giving your complete attention to a speaker without interruption.
Listening is an undervalued communication skill. People with poor listening skills miss a lot of important information. The information that they miss could greatly improve their knowledge, relationships, and effectiveness in their career.
The benefits of mastering communication skills greatly outweigh any fear, uneasiness, or frustration you might experience during the early stages of learning. Once you develop these skills, which can happen quickly, you’ll hardly remember any awkwardness. And a new exciting world will be opened up to you.