No matter what job you have in life, your success will be determined 5% by your academic credentials, 15% by your professional experiences, and 80% by your communication skills. – Anonymous
How do you become a master musician? You practice for countless hours every day. How do you become a master teacher? You practice for countless hours every day. How do you become a master strategist? You practice for countless hours every day. How do you become a master husband or wife? You practice for countless hours every day. But what lies at the root of mastery in any skill? It is your desire to effectively communicate your message with confidence to your target recipient in the language that you speak be it music, knowledge, security, or simply love.
Communication is “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior” (Merriam-Webster, 2017). More specific to the field of Psychology, interpersonal communication is the “act or an instance of communicating;” or “the process by which people exchange information, feelings and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages: it is face to face communication” (Orzolek, 2015; Reverso-Softissimo, 2016; SkillsYouNeed, 2011-2017).
As I considered the opening quote this week, I realized that it was relevant advice for the graduation season as many college graduates are out seeking jobs. Even beyond the college graduates, young people are looking for summer jobs to earn pocket money for incidentals for themselves, or to help their families in challenging financial circumstances. Oftentimes, people may think that they do not get the job that they are seeking because their credentials do not meet the requirements, or because they do not have the right experiences with the right people. However, the loss of the opportunity may be due to a failure to communicate effectively what it is that you want to do. How have you communicated your skills, your desires, and your goals, to your target audience. In order to make yourself attractive and effective as a communicator, you have to be aware of what your potential employer is looking for and sell that package to them. See the slide below that illustrates the communication cycle.
Copyright: Richard Garrity (2015).
So the key components of communication are: the message, the messenger, and the recipient. Here are some questions to consider: (1) How do your present yourself in a face-to-face meeting? (2) Do you appear confident in what you are saying? (3) Do you dress to make a lasting first impression? (4) Do you conduct background research in order to ask the right questions? (5) Do you listen to the messages communicated to you through verbal and non-verbal channels such as words used, facial expressions, tone of voice, and the target recipient’s own efforts at grooming? The recipient’s feedback is important for you to evaluate because then you will know if this message that you are sharing is as important to them as it is to you.
So much effort goes into communicating a simple message that we sometimes take it for granted that people should understand what we meant by our brevity. However, Anthony Robbins reminds us, that “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way that we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” At the most basic level, two people involved in an exchange come from different backgrounds and they learn different techniques to manage their emotions, resolve conflict, and accomplish their goals. Add to these fundamental perspectives the varieties due to cultural perceptions, gender perspectives, religious ideology, political philosophy, and so one, and you have a lot more work to do to become a master communicator. The critical question for you then is: “Is it worth the effort?” It has to be worth it! It is worth the effort to us as adults by the satisfaction that we feel with our lives knowing that we have been heard by those who are important to us. It is also important to us when we feel rewarded for communicating effectively and not punished for it. This latter process is more difficult to navigate in the real world, but it can have significant returns. As adults with a few more experiences in our tool kits for living, we have to reward our young people for the efforts that they make in communicating effectively because it is preparation for the rest of their lives. Rewarding them has implications on an entire generation coming up behind you, and the Boy Scouts of America understand this well.
I want to congratulate the Boy Scouts of America for their merit badge in communication and what they are attempting to do in shaping the character of young men all across America, and by extension the world. ” ” For more than 100 years, Boy Scouts of America has helped build future leaders by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun.” (Boy Scouts of Amercia, 2017). There are more than 100 merit badges that can be earned by a scout. Boy Scouts earn merit badges by learning about a certain subject and meeting the specific requirements set forth by the merit badge counselor” (Scouting.org, 2017). In order to earn the communication merit badge, the boy scouts are required to attend a public township meeting of some kind, take notes of the session and present their reports to the counselors. It was in such a forum that I encountered them recently. I was a little surprised when I saw a few young men in the middle of a public meeting on a summer evening. I just knew that they were not there for summer fun. They were clearly representing a group because they were dressed in shirts that identified them as part of a group. They had an adult chaperone sitting with them, so it was clear that they were under supervision. They waited until the invitation was given to ask any other questions. And, at this point the leader of the group emerged. His initial question sought clarification on the powers of this public body in regards to the maintenance of the property surrounding their building. Enough detail was not provided in the initial response from the Chairperson, so he asked a series of questions, while holding eye contact, managing his tone, and rephrasing his sentences, until he finally led the Chair into providing him with the answer that he sought. Essentially, this group’s by-laws only granted them jurisdiction over the internal or soft projects of the organization. So any matters related to landscaping and the maintenance of the surrounding grounds had to be redirected to the management staff of the facility.
On speaking with their chaperone later, I discovered that all the young men were boy scouts aged 11 to 13 years. However, they were not simply trying to earn their merit badges, but they were also preparing to lead younger boys in the cub scouts for the summer. So the apparent leader was already mastering his communication skills for countless hours each day because that is what it takes to become an effective leader, in particular, a leader of children. You cannot become weary of asking questions. You cannot become weary of giving appropriate responses. You also cannot assume that your message is received and interpreted by the recipient in the way that you intended it to be received. So, you have to persist in sending the message, evaluating the feedback, and sending another message to correct or fine tune your intended message. You also have to be willing to answer questions when asked of you for clarification. A wise person once said, “Without communication, there is no relationship; without respect there is no love; without trust, there is no reason to continue…”
Life does not offer us the opportunity of checking out early. Once we are alive, we have to communicate with those around us – family, friends, coworkers, peers, fellow volunteers, the people at the check-out counters, and more. So, let us resolve to earn our personal merit badge in communication. Let it become a badge of honour that we can proudly hang over our lives to say that we are master communicators. Remember that we were given two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as we speak. Let’s resolve to listen well and to make ourselves heard.