What is communication?
Communication is more than the exchange of information- it’s the backbone of EVERY interaction you’ll have. It’s how you navigate the world, make decisions, form relationships, and succeed at being a human being.
That’s why good communication skills are essential for survival.
To drive this point home, let’s talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological idea that Abraham Maslow presented in his 1943 paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation.”
In that paper, he sorted human needs into five categories that usually take the shape of a pyramid. Those needs are:
Physiological needs form the base of the pyramid. They include food, water, sleep, sex, and warmth- all the basics needed to maintain physical health.
Next up are safety needs, which is pretty self-explanatory. It includes things like emotional stability, financial stability, available resources, employment, and predictability.
Belongingness and Love Needs
The third level includes family, friends, lovers, and feelings of acceptance, connection, and trust.
The fourth level is Self-Esteem, which includes independence, distinction, pride in oneself, freedom, and respect.
At the top of the pyramid is Self-actualization. Self-actualization is where you realize your potential and seek personal growth- but you only reach this stage after meeting your other needs.
And we meet those needs through communication.
Think about babies. Babies don’t know anything about communication, but they know about crying. So, they cry to express their needs, and someone usually comes to soothe them.
Like the baby, you have to communicate your needs to people who can satisfy them. Look at the hierarchy again. You can fulfill every single need on that pyramid with communication.
However, if your communication skills are less than average, you may run into miscommunication and other problems. So, here are some tips to sharpen your skills and get those needs met as quickly (and easily!) as possible!
Practice Active Listening
Active listening is where you focus on the speaker and wait to form your response until after you have the information. That way, you can provide the speaker with a more accurate response.
To practice active listening, try having one conversation at a time (no texting or email-writing while talking), asking questions for clarity, and really listening and focusing on what the other person is saying.
Then, you’ll be ready to form your response.
Know Your Audience
Are you chatting with your grandma over a cup of coffee? Or is it your boss at the end of the workday? Either way, remember that you communicate differently with different people, and what’s appropriate for grandma may be too casual for your boss.
By keeping your audience in mind, you’ll be able to target your messages, match tone and formality, and get your point across with the least amount of miscommunication possible.
Rambling confuses the message (and the reciever) and can leave everyone frustrated by the end of the conversation. Instead, practice triming your communication down to the bare-bones. That way, you can provide the information they need while leaving out the irrelevant bits, thus expiditing the process.
Communication doesn’t have to be fancy, and you don’t need to use all your words at once. Breathe, be specific in your need, and stop rambling!
Think about your Words
Everyone’s heard the “think before you speak” mantra, but it’s one of the best things you can do to strengthen your communication skills. Never say the first thing that pops into your head- it’s often a shallow gut-reaction to what you THINK you heard. Instead, take a moment to process the information before forming your reponse- that way, you have a better chance of finding a better one that enhances the conversation and, if possible, meets someone else’s need.
Communiucation is more than an exchange of information- it’s the basis of the human experience, and that’s why we need good communication skills to survive (and thrive) in today’s jam-packed world.
How do you feel about your communication skills? Do you believe communication is the basis of all human interaction? Let me know in the comments!