What makes a good communicator?

Ah, communication. It’s the one word we dread to hear used in a sentence, whether that sentence is ‘we’re just not communicating any more, Steve’ or ‘we’re looking for someone who’s able to communicate effectively’.

Because good communication, for all you might understand its basic definition, isn’t something one can easily sum up.

So, what is it employers are looking for when they specify they need ‘good communication skills’ in their job post?

Be succinct

There’s a reason Buzzfeed’s listicles are quickly topping more reputable newspapers’ nuanced opinion pieces as most read. It’s this: they’re digestible.

Good communication hinges significantly upon the reader or listener’s ability to understand exactly what’s being said and to take in the most salient pieces of communication without need for further elaboration.

But don’t mix being succinct with bluntness. While the two are closely related, a good test to see whether you’re still communicating in a positive manner is to take a step away from what you’ve crafted. If you return to it in a few minutes time and find that the information is less useful than you expected, consider redrafting.

Be specific

Linked intrinsically to the above point, be sure to say something of substance. Nothing gets on a colleague’s nerves more than a 300-word email that says nothing of substance and provides nothing of use.

Before crafting a communication — or heck, even starting a story to prove your point — it’s important to think about exactly what the conversation is asking for and how you, in turn, are going to address that.

Pick the right time

Here’s something we often fail to consider: are you communicating what you need to communicate at the right time? For example, if there’s a critical piece of information you need to share with your manager, should you really be emailing it to them when they have a particularly busy day? (And if the answer is still yes, how are you following it up?)

Or from an interview or meeting perspective, are you choosing to share your stories or thoughts that are truly relevant to them? Or are you rinse-and-recycling ideas in your need to be a part of the conversation?

If the answer is yes, hear us out: communication also means knowing when to fall silent; to listen, and to admit that you’re not quite familiar with the subject your cohort is speaking of, but that you’re willing to ask questions and learn.

Understand what your body’s doing

While the above three points are what’s more likely to be noted as ‘communication’, how you’re presenting yourself is equally important to how your information comes across. If you’re disinterested, tired, or mumbling through your notes? Forget about your coworkers understanding your coworkers paying attention to you.

The same goes for your interviews. If you’re claiming that you’re comfortable negotiating with senior-level stakeholders but the way you hold yourself — for example, if your posture’s shrunken in on or you’re disinterested in making eye contact — it’ll come as no surprise your interviewers find it hard to believe you.

About the author

Viv Mah writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs.

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