1.2 The Importance of Effective Communication

Communication is Key to Your Success

Today, writing is a more important skill for professionals than ever before. The National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges (2004) says that writing today is an essential skill for the professional. It goes on to state that much of what is important in American public and economic life depends on strong written and oral communication skills. A survey by the Workforce Solutions group at St. Louis Community College asserts many employers are concerned at the large number of college graduates applying for jobs who lack communication and interpersonal skills (White, 2013).

Good communication skills, particularly in writing, are essential if you are going to succeed in the workplace. The working world depends on written communication because within modern organizations, almost every action is documented in writing in some form, including written correspondence (emails, letters, memos), slideshow presentations, technical reports, proposals, and other formal reports. It’s crucial that your writing is clear, concise, accurate, and grammatically correct. A Harvard Business Review article says: “If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building. I have a zero tolerance to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid” (Wiens).

Technical communication is the process of making and sharing ideas and information in the workplace as well as the set of applications such as letters, emails, instructions, reports, proposals, websites, and blogs that comprise the documents you write. 

Specifically, technical writing involves communicating complex information to a specific audience who will use it to accomplish some goal or task in a manner that is accurate, useful, and clear. Whether you write an email to your professor or supervisor, develop a presentation or report, design a sales flyer, or create a webpage, you are a technical communicator.

Technical communication can be thought of as a problem-solving activity in which individuals may 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, we will examine this problem-solving process and help you learn to apply it in the kinds of situations you are likely to encounter over the course of your career.

 

Communication Street Sign
Figure 1.2

Communication Influences Your Thinking

We all share a fundamental drive to communicate. Communication can be defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning. You share meaning in what you say and how you say it, both in oral and written forms. If you could not communicate, what would life be like? A series of never-ending frustrations? Not being able to ask for what you need or even to understand the needs of others?

Being unable to communicate might even mean losing a part of yourself, for you communicate your self-concept—your sense of self and awareness of who you are—in many ways. Do you like to write? Do you find it easy to make a phone call to a stranger or to speak to a room full of people? Perhaps someone told you that you don’t speak clearly or your grammar needs improvement. Does that make you more or less likely to want to communicate? For some, it may be a positive challenge, while for others it may be discouraging. But in all cases, your ability to communicate is central to your self-concept.

Take a look at your clothes. What are the brands you are wearing? What do you think they say about you? Do you feel that certain styles of shoes, jewelry, tattoos, music, or even automobiles express who you are? Part of your self-concept may be that you express yourself through texting, or through writing longer documents like essays and research papers, or through the way you speak.

On the other side of the coin, your communications skills help you to understand others—not just their words, but also their tone of voice, their 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. Active listening and reading are also part of being a successful communicator.

Communication Influences How You Learn

When you were an infant, you learned to talk over a period of many months. When you got older, you didn’t learn to ride a bike, drive a car, or even text a message on your cell phone in one brief moment. 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 “stand-up” speech. Similarly, you learn to write by first learning to read, then by writing and learning to think critically. Your speaking and writing are reflections of your thoughts, experience, and education. Part of that combination is your level of experience listening to other speakers, reading documents and styles of writing, and studying formats similar to what you aim to produce.

As you study business communication, you may receive suggestions for improvement and clarification from speakers and writers more experienced than yourself. Take their suggestions as challenges to improve; don’t give up when your first speech or first draft does not communicate the message you intend. 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.

Remember, luck is simply a combination of preparation and timing. You want to be prepared to communicate well when given the opportunity. Each time you do a good job, your success will bring more success.

Communication Represents You and Your Employer

You want to make a good first impression on your friends and family, instructors, and employer. They all want you to convey a positive image, as it 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.

Good Communication Skills are Desired by Business and Industry

Oral and written communication proficiency is consistently ranked in the top ten desirable skills by employer surveys year after year. In fact, high-powered business executives sometimes hire consultants to coach them in sharpening their communication skills. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the following are the top five personal qualities or skills potential employers seek:

      1. Communication skills (verbal and written)
      2. Strong work ethic
      3. Teamwork skills (works well with others, group communication)
      4. Initiative
      5. Analytical skills

Knowing this, you can see that one way for you to be successful and increase your promotion potential is to increase your abilities to speak and write effectively.

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.

 

Additional Resources



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"Why Is It Important to Communicate Well?" Business Communication for Success. [License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0]