It’s easy to take communication skills for granted.

“Huh? You mean, like, talking?”

No, dude. Not like… “talking”. We see it a lot on resumes – Excellent written and verbal communication skills – but what is that really?

Communication skills are synonymous with Interpersonal skills or People skills. In that respect, it’s how well you get along with others, how well you listen to people, and how well people understand you. It takes into account your demeanor, your respect for people, and your ability to contribute to the completion of tasks.

Communication is to talking as ballroom dance is to walking. The latter is a component of the former, but not its whole. Not by a long shot. Communication, like ballroom, requires intentional, high level finesse which is not necessarily present in plain old talking. Anyone can talk (Boy, can anyone talk!) but not anyone can be the Fred Astaire of talking. “Hold on though, who can be the Fred Astaire of anything?” If you’ve quickly reasoned that having that type of proficiency requires practice, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

When I was an employee for a major arts institution, the Event Staff was once required to participate in listening exercises and conflict resolution drills. I remember thinking, What in the world…? This is so corny. Then I worked for other organizations that didn’t value or think to implement training like this at all. And I tell ya, the difference was hugely noticeable. People more frequently walked on egg shells, defaulted to defensiveness, argumentative language and blaming, participated in underhanded politicking and gossiping, and in the worst cases, flipped out and verbally abused their team.

Going back to our dance analogy, becoming a sophisticated hoofer takes time. But even the most complicated tap choreography is assembled with some pretty easy individual maneuvers – like slap, shuffle, and step. In the next several weeks, I’ll present you with an overview of 8-10 simple ‘moves’ to help you become a more adept communicator. This may prove especially useful if you work with sensitive types or big personalities. Coincidentally, I find these can be one in the same. Or maybe you are the big personality whose volume needs to be reeled in so you can be better heard.

Come back here every three or so days for new tips that may help you: guide a team, facilitate dialogues, give feedback, be heard, better your relationships and excel in your overall communication skills in the workplace!

Speaking of skills, see this video of the brothers Fayard Antonio Nicholas and Harold Lloyd Nicholas in one of the most astounding dance sequences on film. They were best known for “flash dancing”, a form of tap dance evolved from the 1920s-1930s which combined dance with acrobatics.