You see the phrase “strong communication skills” everywhere: on resumes (I have strong communication skills), on job postings (strong communication skills required), on bios (she has strong communication skills).
But what does it mean to “communicate strongly”? And what “skills” do people who communicate strongly possess? We’ve identified five:
People who communicate well know what’s important and what’s not. They can sniff out superfluous or offensive information that obfuscates the main point and remove it. And they can do it instinctively.
Wanna practise your brevity: Get a Twitter account. Even if you don’t tweet to anyone but yourself, it cuts you off at 140 characters.
People who communicate well take the time to get their facts right. They don’t speak about what they don’t know — and if they don’t know, they say so.
Wanna practise your diligence: Verify everything twice, with two different reputable sources. Google makes it easy.
People who communicate well know their audience — not only what they’re looking for but what they’re thinking. They craft their communication for the head and the heart, making sure that people hear and feel what they’re saying.
Wanna build emotional intelligence: Picture the person you’re speaking to — not just their job but their whole lives. Where do they live? Do they have kids? What do they like to do for fun? Knowing where they’re coming from makes it easier to lead them where you want them to go.
People who communicate well know that others need time to process the information they’re sharing. They don’t wait until the last minute to share. And they make sure due dates and action items are clearly marked.
Wanna practise your timeliness: Bold every date you send or receive. They’ll stand out and you’ll know what’s when.
People who communicate well deliver everything with a smile — sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. They make bad news palatable and good news awesome.
Wanna practise your friendliness: Read everything you write aloud. If it doesn’t sound friendly in your ear, it won’t sound friendly in anyone else’s ear. And use conjunctions wherever you can (i.e., it’s vs. it is). It’s more natural and friendlier.
Here’s how we would divvy up Shakespeare:
Grade 9 — Twelfth Night
This is a perfect introduction to the bard for minor niners. It’s light, very funny and full of prepubescent jokes — especially from Sir Toby Belch (–>) who may have the best name in the entire anthology.
Twelfth Night also mirrors the difference in maturity levels between ninth grade boys and girls. The play’s females are smart, cunning and forward-thinking. The males are boorish, self-centred and lovestruck. Yup, sounds about right.
Grade 10 — King Lear
By the time you’re 15 years old, you’re well on your way to hating your family. So before you irreparably destroy that relationship, it behooves to see what that really looks like. The King’s two daughters, Regan and Goneril, exemplify this, as do the Earl of Gloucester’s kids, Edmund and Edgar. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for them.
The tragedy of it all is how the King’s descent into madness is essentially dismissed by his own selfish kids. This alone should give young people pause — especially ones with older parents.
Grade 11 — Romeo & Juliet
Most kids will lose their virginity in Grade 11 (16.9 years old for boys, 17.2 years for girls). But before they do, they should see what being lovestruck can do to them and how being blinded by love can affect everyone else in their lives. In this way, the Montague/Capulet story is a double warning: young love has consequences, and (spoiler alert) falling in love for the first time can cloud your judgement to the point of accidentally killing yourself for no reason.
On a related note, Romeo & Juliet features modern literature’s first wingmen, Benvolio and Mercutio, with the latter having one of the best lines ever written: “A pox on both your houses.”
Grade 12 — Hamlet
You’re 18. You realize you know nothing about anything. You hate your father. Your friends kind of suck. You’re questioning your entire existence. Oh, and the girl you love is a bit of a psycho. That’s the plight of Hamlet and almost every other soon-to-graduate kid out there. It sucks. It’s hard. And it’s refreshing to know that you’re just joining a long line of confused teenagers.
Interestingly, Hamlet’s most famous line, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” is a popular passage with grammarians. Change the punctuation around and it means something totally different: “To be or not? To be. That is the question!”
Ernest Hemingway said that, and he was right. Of course he was right.
The first draft of anything is purely conceptual. It’s about sending what’s in your head through to your hands and onto the page. You shouldn’t expect brilliance. And if you think it’s brilliant, you should check yourself big time because it’s not. It’s raw, unformed and probably full of mistakes — as it should be.
Your first draft is a jumping-off point. Be proud of it. But be honest about it.
Know to walk away
It’s hard for anyone writing anything to give it space to breathe, to marinate and percolate. It probably comes from that puritan pursuit of perfection we all have ingrained somewhere in our psyches. But more doesn’t always mean better. And in writing’s case, it never means better.
Give yourself time to mull over your arguments, constructions and calls to action. While it’s fresh in your mind, you’ll notice other pieces of writing in the digital and actual worlds that will make it better. When you do, take a pic of them or write them down, then go back to your piece and see if what you learned can be applied. Chances are it can be.
Know to ask for help
You’ll always be too close to whatever you’re writing to be objective about it. That’s why no one should edit their own work; it’s akin to giving yourself a rectal exam.
Show your work to your colleagues, your family and your friends. Get as much feedback as you can. The comments that come up multiple times are the ones to address. Then when you’re happy with where your second draft is, bring in a pro editor.
Pro editors are trained to be that objective set of eyes. They’ll tell you if something doesn’t make sense because they have no horse in your race. They’ll see things you don’t. They’ll call out things that make perfect sense to you but mean nothing to anyone else. They’ll be brutal and ruthless. And you’ll love them for it.
Know to apply these rules to everything
Emails. Presentations. Marketing materials. Dissertations. White papers. Web copy. Blog posts. A first draft can never be your best work. Sure, some lines from your V1 will wind up in the final — but probably not how you wrote them. And that’s okay. Old Ernest says so.