There’s no doubt that the world is changing pretty quickly these days. The way we work, live, and even talk to each other is quite different than it was even 10 years ago. Keeping up with the ever-shifting technology and culture that surrounds us is tricky enough, but communicating ideas effectively can be even more important. Here’s why “soft skills” are sometimes the most crucial ones to develop.
(Photo Credit: Justin Marty/Flickr)
In order to succeed in almost any industry, it’s important to have excellent communication skills. In fact, it might just be the single most significant attribute to cultivate as a professional.
1. During times of high stress, good communication skills are extra important.
The pace of our work environments demands that we be able to exchange thoughts quickly. But, it’s not only about efficiency. Yes, we need to be able to share our ideas and questions in as little time as possible, but more importantly, we need to share them accurately and clearly.
Being able to think on your feet is good, but it doesn’t help very much unless you’re able to get your meaning across. Staying calm under pressure, and helping communication flow through times of high stress, are important attributes in today’s world.
2. The modes of communication have changed.
Now, you don’t just have to communicate well in person, in meetings, or over the phone – you have to master email communication, texting, Skype, and much more. Each of these mediums demands a different set of skills, and practicing and honing them is important for success. One thing to keep in mind is that clarity is important in any setting where communication is concerned. Clearly articulating your ideas in your writing, no matter the medium, is something worth focusing on regardless of the mode of communication you’re utilizing at the time.
3. Computers can’t ask, “Why?”
Having an excellent memory used to be a really valuable skill professionally, but these days it’s practically obsolete. Because of technology, we’re able to locate important facts and details almost instantly, so these skills are less valued in humans. However, you can do something that a machine can’t: think.
Looking at the big picture, questioning assumptions about the way things are run, seeing a problem or a project from a different angle, these are skills only people possess. Your communication skills help you to take things beyond facts and figures, to elevate the process, and to find new ways of doing things.
Be sure to explore these aspects of your work, and communicate your thoughts clearly and often. It’s the only way we can separate ourselves from the machines!
4. Networking is necessary.
David Brooks of The New York Times recently wrote a piece about the skills needed to thrive in today’s world. He emphasized, in part, the importance of social courage to network and advance professionally. He wrote:
Everyone goes to conferences and meets people, but some people invite six people to lunch afterward and follow up with four carefully tended friendships forevermore. Then they spend their lives connecting people across networks. People with social courage are extroverted in issuing invitations but introverted in conversation — willing to listen 70 percent of the time. They build not just contacts but actual friendships by engaging people on multiple levels. If you’re interested in a new field, they can reel off the names of 10 people you should know. They develop large informal networks of contacts that transcend their organization and give them an independent power base.
Sincere, genuine, old-fashioned communication is more important than ever in today’s world. We need it to build networks, manage stress, stay relevant and useful to our organizations, and to collaborate with others across a variety of mediums. Cultivating those once almost trite “people skills” could be the single most important area of focus for professional success in 2015 and beyond.
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