Communication skills has long been a revered subject. It is said that communication skills are vital to success in life. Most careers today demand strong communication skills. As a result, kids are encouraged to hone their communication skills right from the early days through elocutions, debate competitions and the like. I attended an “english medium” school and undergraduate college in India. Good communication skills in that environment meant the ability to speak fluent English and to win oratory competitions. Sometimes, the concept extended to languages beyond English. But overall, it was about the quality of language and being able to speak before group of people.
Fast-forward to a few years now, several contradictory experiences made me rethink the whole idea of communication skills as I had known it to be.
Majority of US folks have a great command over English as that is their primary language. I truly admire the way people here articulate. That would imply good communication skills in the classic sense. However, during several college and work projects, I noticed a disconnect between what one is trying to say and what the other is interpreting. However, beautiful the language may sound, getting others to reach the same understanding is a whole different aspect. People can talk endlessly but if there is no clarity and everyone is on a different page, then it is totally ineffective communication in my opinion. On the other hand, I have seen email threads from international teams that were written in incorrect grammar or
Communication skills transcend language. I had a Chinese roommate during my masters’ education. We had more differences and less in common. She learnt English quite late in her life and hence, her English wasn’t always coherent. However, we shared a great friendship. We would chat about our countries, our experiences and life in the US. Despite the language barrier, we were able to relay our thoughts and feelings to each other perfectly. What connected us was empathy.
To me, empathy and clarity are essentials of good communication. Words are simply a medium to express.