Here’s what I think: Your communication skills can never be too good.
Imagine one person telling another, “My problem with what you said is that it was just too appropriate, clear, engaging, relevant, and factually correct. That bothers me. I’d rather have it be inappropriate, unclear, boring, irrelevant, and just plain wrong.”
Of course, anyone who hopes for that second type of communication is in luck because there is plenty of it available, whether the communication is happening face-to-face, in print materials, or on the web.
I believe I have quoted this before, but since it is one of my favorite quotes, here it goes again:
“Work is love made visible.” — Kahlil Gibran
Building on that idea, communication is love made accessible.
Love is about relationships, and relationships are expressed through communication, both verbal and nonverbal.
At the end of the day, though, word and deed cannot be separate. If you say you are going to do something, and you don’t follow through, you have done something. That something is popularly known as “nothing,” and it is strong action indeed.
You Are Your Word
People experience you through verbal and nonverbal communication on your part and theirs. Can your words match your intentions “too well” for maximum effectiveness? In other words (ha!), if you are making promises, do they match your actions? Or are you doing “nothing” and plenty of it?
I have a hierarchy of relationships I consider important, which are with my:
- Higher power
- Clients and
Your order may be different. It doesn’t matter. For practical purposes, the most important person with whom you communicate is yourself, and the most important person for whom you can follow through is you.
This applies to your work life and your love life. There is not any area of your life in which ultimately it will pay off to communicate poorly.
You need to be open with yourself so you can be authentic with others. If you don’t know what’s going on with you, no one else will, either.
I hope that I have made the case that good communication skills are essential and that, really, they cannot be “too” good.
First, I’ll clarify key communication skill building concepts and then provide suggestions about how you can put these concepts into action.
Skill Building Concepts
Good communication can be defined in many ways. Here is my basic take on it, adapted from Stephen Wilbers:
- Appropriate. Effective communication is appropriate in every way, including age and culture.
- Clear. This may be a no-brainer, but it has to be said: Effective communication can be understood.
- Engaging. Communication can be engaging in many ways, for example appealing to emotions, humor, or logic. To be memorable, it needs to be interesting in some way.
- Relevant. Ideally, each communication is either explained as a tangent or specific to the situation on hand. At times, seemingly irrelevant communication is actually relevant — but don’t use that as an excuse to ramble and hope to get good results.
- Factually correct. Some communications don’t pertain to facts but, when they do, it’s important for facts to be as accurate as they can be. When dealing with emotions and opinions, instead of “correct,” go for “truthful” and “sincere.”
With the above definition of “good communication skills” on hand, now let’s consider how to put them into practice.
Skill Building Action Steps
Even if you have never created a list like the one I included above (I personally love lists), I’m sure none of the bullets on it came as an earth-shattering revelation. How can you incorporate this basic understanding into your work and love lives?
I find it easier to be a good communicator if I think about the outcome I desire from the interaction before I start speaking. This comes in handy especially for more formal types of speaking, like presentations.
For example, say you are having an enrollment (sales) call with a lead. Much of the time, your goal will be to find out whether your products or services are a good match for your lead. Knowing what you want the outcome to be, you can provide information and ask questions that will lead more directly to getting the answers you want.
This leads (no pun intended) directly to the question of consideration. Try to remember that communication is a form of love. Thinking of communication in this way may motivate you to think about who the other person is, and what they might want out of communication. Most everyone enjoys feeling loved and understood.
A third way to put good communication skills into action is preparation. Chances are you are called upon to communicate about some of the same things over and over again. Become an expert! Write up your message in 150, 250, 500, and 1,000 word increments. You’ll find the mere act of getting your thoughts on paper improves your ability to communicate. If you read them aloud to someone else, your effectiveness will blow through the roof!
Try as I might, I cannot think of situation in which I found communication “too good.” Let us know in the comments if you can — and, of course, what that situation involved.
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