Excellent communication skills

I’ve always wondered what people mean when they say they have “excellent communication skills”.

Does that mean they have a large vocabulary? Or that they speak or write more words per minute than average? Or is it simply another way to say that they are comfortable talking about any subject? Is it a nod to Bill and Ted?

My personal experience is that, whether it’s speaking or writing, “excellent” communication describes several different behaviors which I describe below. All of them fall into 3 categories

  • Sharing information
  • Gathering information
  • Establishing credibility

The excellent communication skills

1. Be concise. Excellent communicators use less words or images to say the same thing.

2. Be precise. Excellent communicators choose words or images for the purpose of maximizing clarity. Not novelty or intensity.

3. Be measured. Excellent communicators choose tone or body language with the same care as words or images. This gets interesting when you compare the cultures of different countries. What counts as normal in one country can come across as “cold” or “over the top” in another.

4. Gather information. Excellent communicators spend at least as much time listening to other people talk (or reading what other people write) as they do expressing themselves. They also seek out patterns and inconsistencies to uncover what’s missing or unsaid.

5. Confirm. Excellent communicators make sure they understood what other people said or think. Often this is done as part of “listening” or reading.

6. Be empathic. Excellent communicators understand what other people feel and show it. This can be done in a variety of ways

  • Being “personal” in order to convey a sense of caring for the other person.
  • Sharing details from one’s personal life in a way that relates to other people’s experience.
  • Mirroring other people’s emotions or otherwise just accurately describing what they’re feeling.

7. Be credible. Excellent communicators provide reasons to believe what they say or write. Either by being knowledgeable about the subject being discussed or being transparent about needing to gain knowledge.

8. Be present. Excellent communicators don’t try to rush forward to the next point in a conversation or delay what needs to be addressed.

So… In a nutshell: Less is more. Get to the point. Don’t assume. Know your audience. Be authentic. Find the right rhythm.