Communicating — speaking, writing, listening, reading, connecting — is something we all do every day. Sharing with others a mix of information and emotions in every interaction is what makes us uniquely human. And communication, this finding shared understanding with others, is something that increasingly we all struggle with, despite having more communications tools at our fingertips than ever before, and despite using them in more casual ways than we’ve ever done before.
Communicating effectively — whether to a team, to our partner or online — is something most of us want to get better at — and can. And we need to.
Recent studies show us that employers increasingly rate “soft skills” like communications as a key competency they look for in hiring, with 77 percent in one study saying they were as important as hard skills.* Employers in the workplace increasingly cite communications and transparency as among the most important attributes in a company in employee engagement surveys. Salesforce reports that companies that communicate effectively are 50 percent more likely to have low employee turnover rates.** Companies and nonprofit organizations alike are increasingly investing in communications platforms and skills trainings for their teams because they realize how critical it is for retaining employees and achieving their objectives. When a 2015 Pew study asked respondents to select the skill that was most important for children to learn in order to succeed, 90 percent said “communication.”***
Last week my book Honestly Speaking was published. I wrote it because I believe communicating and connecting with others with honesty, authenticity, and confidence is something we all want to get better at and I wanted to share some of the common truths and lessons I’ve learned in the spirit of helping you.
More than any other skill, communicating effectively is at the core of leadership and love. But it also requires discipline and focus. Like anything worth doing, it takes effort. This book is about encouraging everyone to put a little more effort into communicating well — which will yield better, nicer conversations in our world — and give you some tools to make that effort easier, faster, smoother.
We live in a time of increased polarization and less immediate consequences for our words with more tools and more volume than ever before. But I believe we can improve our relationships, our politics and the places we work with a bit more honest self-reflection and a bit more thoughtful discipline around how we speak — hence, being honest in how we speak, or honestly speaking.
I wrote Honestly Speaking because I believe in empowering everybody to communicate better. Being honest with yourself and communicating it clearly with others is something everybody can do. I believe it’s something we can all do, it’s something the world needs more of, and is at the root of so many of the insecurities and challenges we all experience every day.
Communication isn’t about pushing more information out or getting more off your chest. It’s about finding more common ground with others, seeking to understand what people mean when they speak and seeking to understand how people hear what you say, can really transform so many of the problems of polarization we seek today.
Communication is really as much about relationships as it is about speaking. It’s about knowing yourself and how you show up in the world, so you can share your ideas and thoughts more effectively. At the end of the day, we all want to be heard, seen, and acknowledged by others. So much of the anger and frustration in our politics comes from a place of people not feeling heard, and not taking ownership over their own feelings.
Communication — listening, understanding, speaking and sharing — communing — is something that we can all do with a little effort, discipline and focus. Doing it will make your work better, your relationships better and help you live a life of meaning and happiness.
This article is adapted from the introduction of Honestly Speaking: How the Way We Communicate Transforms Leadership, Love, and Life, available now.