As the world gets smaller it also gets more complex.
Technology is bringing people closer together while at the same time distancing others.
To navigate this landscape requires a particular set of communication skills. Skills that you acquire and perfect over a lifetime.
Some of these skills are as old as humankind. Others have been brought on by the advent of technology and require new learnings.
They’re skills that, when stacked up on top of one another, can turn you into a Master Communicator.
To be an effective communicator in the digital era you have to develop a Communications Stack.
Scott Adams of Dilbert fame developed what he calls The Talent Stack, which is loosely defined as the set of individual skills you acquire to make you unique in the marketplace.
We can apply this model to communications too.
Acquiring communication skills and stacking them on top one another can mean the difference between success and failure.
Good communication is important regardless of what you do in life. You need it to get on with other people, to make your case in disagreements and to help you put forward your wants and needs.
The difference in good communication and bad communication can mean losing a relationship, losing a business contract or being misunderstood.
The top 10 skills you need to effectively communicate now and in the future.
Collectively these skills can help you become a Master Communicator and futureproof you for the increasingly complex world ahead.
And they are?
1. Written communication
Despite moving into a more visual-based media world, mastery of the written word will remain as important as ever. People will always read and the demand for well-written content will continue.
Structuring sentences well, knowing how to craft an article, how to write up an interview and how to create written content for each social platform will continue to be an in-demand skill for the foreseeable future.
2. Verbal communication
Knowing how to articulate yourself when speaking is important for all walks of life. Some people are naturally adept at public speaking whereas others have to work on it.
Demosthenes of Athens, an ancient Greek, was known as a master orator but that wasn’t always the case. He was naturally weak both verbally and physically so as a young man worked on both his speaking skills and bodily strength.
Nothing can invoke more emotion both in you and your audience than verbal communication. Churchill was right, learn oratory skills and you too can become a king (or queen).
3. Nonverbal communication
Did you know 65 percent of all interpersonal communication is nonverbal? What your body says is often more important than what comes out of your mouth.
Understanding nonverbal communication not only allows you to read other people but can also help you know how to present yourself when dealing with others.
If you want to remain open, don’t fold your arms or point your feet away from the other person. If you don’t want to seem nervous, don’t rub your body or grab the back of your neck with your hand.
Read the best book on nonverbal communication, What Every BODY is Saying by ex-FBI agent, Joe Navarro, to understand what people say is often not what they’re thinking.
4. Social psychology
If you want to communicate better with other people, you have to understand what motivates and moves them. To do this requires a basic understanding of social psychology.
Why do people conform to a certain group? Do they aspire to social status? Have they had any experiences in the past which affect how they think now?
You don’t have to be a Freud or a Jung, but some basic principles will allow you to understand the other person and ultimately be able to help them.
Charlie Munger‘s The Psychology of Human Misjudgement is a great place to start.
5. Emotional intelligence
Having empathy to put yourself in the other person’s shoes requires depth of character. Empathy is one of the unique human character traits that separates us from every other species.
“We live on one Earth but billions of us are living in our own World” is a great quote I recently read.
Understand this and know that how you see an event might differ to how someone else sees it. Doing this gives you a freedom to look at a situation from different angles and perhaps, even better, it allows you to be empathetic to that person.
It’s not about winning but creating a win/win for all involved. Negotiation is not a skill but is a collection of skills that comprise of rapport building, problem-solving, decision making and assertiveness.
Negotiation is important for all walks of life, business or personal, and being able to negotiate what you want while at the same time allowing the other person to get what they want is a valuable form of communication.
7. Data gathering and interpretation
People in business will tell you data is the new oil. And while that is technically true, gathering and interpreting data does not necessarily mean working with vast amounts of complex numbers.
Not that understanding data analytics is not important. It is, hugely, and will be even more so as time goes by. But data is all around us and not just on a spreadsheet.
Our senses gather data by what we see, hear and feel. Those same senses can help us understand people by reading and listening intently to another person or group.
Whether by spreadsheet or by sensory input, data gathering and interpretation is a skill you need.
8. Technical chops
The world becomes more technical as everything moves online.
In the early days of the internet, if you didn’t code you couldn’t participate. Things have changed a lot since then and thanks to social media anyone can have a voice.
Though that doesn’t clear you of having to develop technical skills to navigate the online world.
You don’t have to be a developer (although that would help) but having a basic understanding of HTML, FTP, video production and image editing will make your communication much better.
Further, you won’t be dependent on other people to make simple changes and amends to your work.
On top of this, knowing the difference between A.I and an algorithm will allow you to move past the hot air and hype often associated with technology.
9. An eye for design
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but when it comes to design there are certain principles that remain concrete.
Colour matching, typography, sizing and imagery are important factors when it comes to design. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will allow you to convey a brand that is congruent with whatever you’re promoting.
Thankfully sites like Canva make the design process easy and you can have an expert looking image for a blog or social media post made in minutes.
10. A humble eye on the future
The final piece is to just stay humble. Know that what works today – be it communication platforms or content types – may not work in the future.
Staying humble means you’re willing to accept that things change and you don’t know everything.
Staying humble means you’ll stay hungry. And in today’s world, that can only be a good thing.