The Importance of Communication Skills

What we say is important but how we say it defines our motives, conviction and intent which determines the efficacy of our delivery and its impact on others. The successful expression of our thoughts, feelings and wishes is both an art and a science. It is an art since speaking about our needs requires being attentive to creating an intellectual and emotional bond with the listener. It is a science since it combines expressing oneself while concomitantly keeping in mind the needs of others. Effective message delivery is important in all human interactions and is imperative in love relationships and modeling it to our children.

A French saying states, “Il est pas le ton, mais la musique” – “It is not the tone but the music” it creates that matters in human exchanges. Our verbal delivery of thoughts and feelings is both an art and a science. It requires careful attention to imparting our message, feelings and needs sensitively while being attentive to the impact they may have on the listener’s dignity and wellbeing. This is not always easy. Since listeners often personalize all messages as directly relating to them, we must identify our intentions prior to speaking. For instance, we may say, “I would like to get your input about a hard decision I have to make that may impact you.” Or, “I need to apologize for the unkind statement I made. How can I best rectify it?” The content of these statements phrased respectfully, humbly and considerately makes it easier for the listener to hear it and be open-hearted in responding.

Humans are extremely vigilant about being positively regarded by others which offers us the safety to be honest, revealing, and open with one another. However, any hint of criticism, disapproval, disrespect or shaming is psychologically threatening often weakening the connection as one may be compelled to distance himself/herself from the speaker.

In “Why Communication Is Important: A Rationale for the Centrality of the Study of Communication” Researcher Sherwyn P. Morreale, Associate Director of the National Communication Association in Washington, D.C stated, “Communication enhances relationships to Self, Others, and Society, and is therefore Central to General Education. Communication improves critical thinking, develops leadership skills, helps build a successful family, helps prevent delinquent behavior and is vital to the development of the whole person.”

Currently, schools are not focused on teaching healthy communication skills. They are quick to reprimand unacceptable language but expect parents to educate their youngsters about appropriate and respectful verbal exchanges. Those who learn healthy self-expression at home are more likely to be socially liked and advance in life with greater ease.

Use your communication skills effectively:

  • Express your thoughts, feelings and wishes in respectful ways to all listeners.
  • Teach your children not only what should and should not be said but how to be kind and caring to others as they express their needs.
  • Remember, it is not what you say but how you say it that distances or bonds you to others.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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