Communication skills are more important than ever, for all fields of endeavor. Whether you’re an engineer or a communication scholar, having a firm grasp of communication will undoubtedly be a key role in your success. Oftentimes, people with great technical skills reach a point in their careers where they are no longer promoted, because of their inability to communicate effectively. Professors often tell anecdotal stories about students that have been hugely successful in gaining jobs right out of college, but then struggle to get promoted into management and leadership roles beyond their technical duties. This is because they were lacking in one fundamental skill that would have helped them shine above all their competition: communication.
In fact, according to a Job Outlook 2011 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employment (NACE), verbal communication is the most sought after skill by employers.
And, poor communication skills don’t only affect your success in the workplace. The divorce rate in the United States is almost 50 percent, and do you know what the number one cause of this is? Poor communication.
According to a University of Texas at Austin study, we speak on average approximately 16,000 words a day. Yet, we still don’t use these words effectively. In a world of cell phones, texting, tweeting, and emails, the need for effective communication has never been stronger than it is today, because many can barely remember what verbal communication actually is, let alone how to do it correctly. And while it is important to be able to communicate well through our devices, we need to remember how to speak professionally if we wish to survive.
“One of the biggest issues in the last five years is employees e-mailing instead of going to talk with, or at the very least picking up the phone to call, the person they need to communicate with,” says Patti Wood, professional speaker and trainer. “People don’t know how to make a request face to face and they avoid difficult or emotional conversations.”
“I will have college audience members say, ‘how do I start [and end] a phone call?’” Wood says. “They don’t know the dynamics of that. It’s that turn taking and initiating conversation, [which] is a skill set that you learn over time.”
The business and educational world are recognizing these problems. In a Wall Street Journal article, General Mills noted how their 50 or so MBA graduates hired yearly excel when it comes to data, but fall short when it comes to communicating their market research.
Schools have heard this complaint and are now increasing their communication coursework, sometimes even doubling it, as in the case of the University of Pennsylvania.
Besides the workplace and personal relationships, here are some other reasons communication is important:
Making sure you clearly express your wants, needs, and intentions can benefit you greatly in life. It can be the determining factor in negotiating a salary or setting the course of a friendship or relationship. Often, conflicts, arguments, and disagreements stem from not communicating clearly. Preventing these misunderstandings is one reason communication is important.
If you have ever watched The Bachelorette, you’ll notice that the guys who make it the furthest are the ones who get to spend the most time talking with the woman. This is because building a rapport with someone comes from talking and listening. When you can get to know each other and discover similarities, your relationship can build a more solid foundation. This applies to anything in life: clients, friendships, and more.
Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s a great relief to get things off your chest by discussing your problems with friends. This discussion also helps you to see your problems from new perspectives.
Communicating clearly means that people will be more apt to listen to you. Not only will you sound more intelligent, but will more easily get your point across. And when people value what you say, your self-esteem naturally increases.
With better upward mobility in the workplace, stronger relationships, lower stress, and increased self-esteem, you should find yourself happier all around.
Communicating effectively is a powerful tool, and improving your skill set will lead you to a drastically more fulfilling life, both personally and professionally. Set yourself now on the path to increased happiness and prosperity by vowing to work on your communication skills every day. You’ll be happy you did.