Section 1. A New Look At Communication

This introductory section takes a look at interpersonal communication from a variety of angles — from its centrality to life to a personal recipe for change.

1.0 Why interpersonal communication is the number 1 skill in life

The ability to communicate effectively has been called the key enabling skill of life. The Number 1 Skill. And with good reason.

Two-way communication is fundamental to the success of almost every important thing we do in life. In fact, it’s difficult to think of an exception. (And that, of course, is because almost everything important thing we do in life involves other people!)

Think of the various roles we might be called on to play in our personal lives — and the various relationships they involve. A sample might include being a parent, son or daughter, partner, client, patient, customer, committee member, friend, confidante, helper, guardian.

It’s impossible to imagine how we could play any of these roles to the full without being an effective two-way communicator.

Now think of all the work-related roles that are equally dependent on effective two-way communication for their success. How highly would you rate a doctor who didn’t listen well, who couldn’t make herself understood, or who lost her temper? Ditto for lawyer, manager, supervisor, waiter, teacher, engineer, sales executive, builder … and on and on.

Finally, think of all the processes that fill our lives, at home and at work, which depend on two-way communication for their success. Here’s just a partial list, in no particular order …

  • Giving and receiving information.
  • Comforting and being comforted.
  • Making good decisions.
  • Giving and receiving encouragement.
  • Drawing up plans.
  • Giving and receiving instructions.
  • Negotiating agreements
  • Tackling mutual problems.
  • Resolving conflicts.
  • Getting to know someone better.
  • Having someone get to know you better.
  • Giving and receiving companionship.
  • Playing devil’s advocate.
  • Brainstorming.
  • Giving and receiving feedback.

The list goes on …

To put it mildly, all of these activities are communication-intensive,. Communication is a tool of immense power and adaptability. Or to put it another way, conversation is at the very heart of our lives. Clearly, communicating with other people is about as fundamental as it gets.

Communicate well, and a thousand other aspects of life become easier to get right.

Communicate poorly and life becomes harder; success and satisfaction become more elusive.

The quality of communication in your life and the your quality of your life go hand in hand.

The TalkWorks Guide to the Number 1 Skill is the culmination of many years of research and teaching. It draws heavily on the work of Professor Gerard Egan, with contributions from Andrew Bailey. Some of the ideas in The Guide can also be found in two previous books written by Egan and Bailey: TalkWorks 2 and TalkWorks@Work. Both can be ordered free from this site’s shop.

To summarise, it’s hard to overemphasise the role of effective interpersonal communication in managing day-to-day survival, developing intimacy, becoming productive at work, making sense of both oneself and the world, and, for many, exploring religious or philosophical concerns and aspirations. A lot of the anxiety, frustration, and ‘people problems’ we encounter as we go through life have their roots in poor communication.

By getting better at how we understand and deal with other people, life can improve in many different ways. Even a few relatively small changes in your interpersonal communication style can make a big difference.

Here are the other chapters in this section.

1.1 What's It Like Out There?
1.2 Introduction To The Talkworks System
1.3 The Nature Of Dialogue
1.4 The Key Modes Of Conversation
1.5 What's Your Communication Style

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