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Soft Skills & Hard Skills

The skills of the future: No. 2 Communication

eye 481 Published on 10 Oct. 2023
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In a constantly changing world, the art of effective communication becomes more than just a skill: it's a pillar upon which fruitful professional relationships, remarkable innovations, and exceptional careers are built.

In this second article of our series on future skills, we will explore the importance of communication at the heart of this technological revolution, where humans must reinvent their way of interacting and processing information.

How can we define communication skills?

Communicating effectively with others, and now with machines, requires advanced cognitive and behavioural skills. In this new context, individuals are expected to have a broad perspective to grasp the essence of information from various sources and to be pragmatic in conveying their thoughts clearly, concisely, and comprehensibly to a targeted audience in a given context.

With the rise of digital technology, one must also be able to switch between multiple communication channels to receive, interpret, and effectively transmit information. Behaviorally, listening, tactfulness, and open-mindedness are essential since interaction is not just with humans but also with machines in real or virtual conditions.

Why is communication crucial?

With the increasing prominence of digital tools, communication methods are evolving and challenging individuals on many levels. They are expected to mobilise their analytical skills, especially to simplify complex information related to artificial intelligence (AI).

AI evokes enthusiasm, concerns, and misunderstandings. Beyond its often complex jargon, the very concept of AI is still poorly understood, as are the intricacies of its use. Clear and simple communication skills are therefore essential. Explaining the impacts of these technologies, their capabilities, and how to use them is crucial for demystifying and adopting them. New professions demand this skill, such as the query engineer, commonly known as a prompt engineer, where the ability to speak relevantly and accurately is decisive.

This technology-involved communication also applies to human interactions, where machines mediate to create a virtual environment. Technology and the rise of telecommuting have revolutionised our communication methods, which need to be rethought and assimilated by users. Misinterpretations of messages transmitted virtually, difficulties in choosing the right transmission channels and using them correctly, and the rise of digital incivilities highlight the communication skills individuals must now develop.

How do we measure this soft skill?

Communication skills can be assessed in various ways. Written exercises are well-suited to gauge an individual's writing capabilities, synthesis skills, clarity, conciseness, and originality.

Orally, interviews, whether individual or group-based, directive or non-directive, can evaluate listening skills, understanding, responsiveness, and expression, particularly in terms of non-verbal consistency. These can occur face-to-face or virtually, with asynchronous interviews also applicable.

Simulated scenarios are indicated to put individuals in context and observe their ability to adapt their communication to the audience and context. They allow one to gauge their ease with various communication channels, extracting accurate information and conveying it by mastering these channels' specific codes.

Lastly, psychometric tests delve deeper into evaluating this skill. They identify an individual's preferred communication style and measure key abilities like tact, listening, assertiveness, attitude towards feedback, conflict management, and cognitive skills related to communication, such as responsiveness, text comprehension, or verbal intelligence.

How to improve communication?

Ask for feedback: With more and more messages being transmitted virtually, misinterpretations are common. Kindly ask if you've been clear enough or how the message was understood. These are questions that will be well-received and will help streamline your communications. This feedback can also be applied to machines when the responses to your queries don't precisely match your expectations.
 
Sugarcoat your criticism: Criticism is inherently not positive; it allows expressing dissatisfaction, explaining facts, and making someone aware of elements to correct to improve. It might be wise to convey the message tactfully for it to be constructive. It's common practice to start with a positive comment, then kindly state the criticism, and end with another positive remark. This exercise can be done both orally and in writing, physically or virtually.

Focus on clarity and conciseness: It's crucial to structure your messages clearly with machines or humans. It's also essential to adapt your vocabulary to the situation and the recipient, avoiding technical jargon or ambiguous terms.

In conclusion, in a constantly evolving world where technology is reshaping how we work and interact, communication emerges as a key skill. Whether it's to explain the complexities of artificial intelligence, navigate a virtual environment, or simply interact with our colleagues, the ability to communicate clearly, accurately, and empathetically is pivotal. It is this skill that will allow us to redefine communication codes to build strong human relationships while effectively collaborating with machines.

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist (career guidance and psychometrics)

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