By the end of this chapter, you will be able to
- Explain the benefits of effective communication for you and your workplaces
Communicating effectively is important for developing and maintaining relationships, for representing you and your employer professionally, for moving forward in your career, and for solving problems. Miscommunication, on the other hand, can negatively impact your business relationships.
Communication Influences Your Thinking about Yourself and Others
We all share a fundamental drive to communicate. Communication can be defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning (Pearson & Nelson, 2000). You share meaning in what you say and how you say it. Your choice of slang words, your style of writing, your selection of social media channels, the brands you wear, how you use your hands when speaking, and your body art all communicate your self-concept.
Your communication skills also help you to understand others. Their words, tone of voice, nonverbal gestures, or the format of their written documents provide you with clues about who they are and what their values and priorities may be.
Being receptive to these clues and being aware of our personal perceptual filters leads to more effective communication, as this 4.5-minute video explains:
(Direct link to TED-Ed “How Miscommunication Happens” video)
Communication Skills Are Learned
When you were an infant, you learned to talk over a period of many months. You didn’t learn to ride a bike, drive a car, or text a message on your cell phone in one brief moment. Similarly, you need to begin the process of improving your speaking and writing with the frame of mind that it will require effort, persistence, and self-correction.
You learn to speak in public by first having conversations, then by answering questions and expressing your opinions in class, and finally by preparing and delivering a speech. Similarly, you learn to write by first learning to read and then by writing and learning to think critically. As you progress in your business education, you will learn the skills for professionally communicating in your field.
As you study business communication, you may receive suggestions for improvement and clarification from more experienced speakers and writers. Take their suggestions as challenges to improve; don’t give up when your first speech or first draft does not communicate the message you intended. Stick with it until you get it right. Your success in communicating is a skill that applies to almost every field of work, and it makes a difference in your relationships with others.
Communication Represents You and Your Employer
You likely want to make a good impression on your friends, family, instructors, and employer. They all want you to convey a positive image because this image reflects on them. In your career, you will represent your business or company in spoken and written form. Your professionalism and attention to detail will reflect positively on you and set you up for success.
In both oral and written situations, you will benefit from having the ability to communicate clearly. These are skills you will use for the rest of your life. Positive improvements in these skills will have a positive impact on your relationships, your prospects for employment, and your ability to make a difference in the world.
Communication Skills Are Desired by Business and Industry
Employers seek employees who are proficient in human (or “soft”) skills. Zety asked employers whether “hard” skills or “soft” skills are more important. Hard skills are skills developed through formal education and training and include technical skills, computer skills and language skills. Buffet (2021) defines soft skills as “transferable skills that are mainly related to the way you work with other people. They include social skills, communication skills, emotional skills, and people skills” (para. 6). Most employers (61%) ranked soft skills as more important than hard skills (Buffet, 2021). Your ability to communicate with colleagues, supervisors, and customers is a valuable asset.
The Toronto Financial Services Alliance’s report Unlocking the Human Opportunity: Future-proof Skills to Move Financial Services Forward (PwC, 2018) looks at the skills critical for the financial industry sector’s success. Leaders in the financial sector identify “the ability to understand and deliver meaningful value to customers” (p. 8) as critical for everyone in the organization. Because information about finance is available online, customers stay with financial institutions because of “the quality of their experience and how they feel after each interaction” (p. 12). Online interactions provide digital self-services while human to human interactions address more complex issues. The report confirms that future talent must have the ability to understand, communicate with, empathize with, and influence others. Although online activity and automation have replaced some points of contact, human connections through meaningful interaction are essential in creating a personalized experience and value for financial organizations.
Communication Is a Problem-solving Activity
Business communication is essentially a problem-solving activity. Communicators address the following questions:
- What is the situation?
- What are some possible communication strategies?
- What is the best course of action?
- What is the best way to design the chosen message?
- What is the best way to deliver the message?
In this book, you will use this problem-solving process as you apply business communication strategies to the challenges you will encounter in the workplace.
An individual with excellent communication skills is an asset to every organization. No matter what career you plan to pursue, learning to express yourself professionally in speech and in writing will help you get there.
Buffet, J. (April 14, 2021). Top skills employers look for 2021. Zety. https://zety.com/blog/skills-employers-look-for
PwC. (2018). Unlocking the Human Opportunity: Future-proof Skills to Move Financial Services Forward. http://tfsa.ca/pwc/TFSA_PwC_Unlocking_the_human_opportunity_2018.pdf