Communication skills in the emoji age


I MEAN, really. Who cares whether a sentence runs on and is devoid of punctuation, and a coherent structure?

To a considerable degree, today's world seems unmoored from basic standards of cogent communications. So much of what we consume has the feel of text-speak – LOL!

In this age of instantaneous, on-the-fly digital communications, there's a sense we've sacrificed clarity for immediacy and convenience. Communication skills are often placed in the soft-skills bargain bin.

They share space in the broom closet with problem-solving, teamwork and leadership. Communication skills, however, have always been deserving of a place in the "hard skills" club – computer skills, marketing, project management, etc.

Indeed, giving this vital skill set its "jacket," as it were, is the subject of ongoing debate among pedants everywhere. When it comes to communicating, I might be accused of snobbery or starchy purism. However, when you give an inch, the ensuing mile is rough terrain.

Who hasn't clenched their teeth upon reading a confusing, one-line e-mail in response to a carefully crafted, brief but detailed query? "Passed on to accts dept. Will advise soonest, ttyl."

An e-mail sent with three-four clear questions is acknowledged with a terse response answering none. Consequently, another message must be dispatched via e-pigeon for clarification.

Sometimes a project can't go forward without clarification or clear instructions. Confusion ensues because some people don't read e-mails properly. Compounding contempt with derision, the offending party replies in ambiguous language.

The result is squandered time, lost productivity, and money.

Communication skills also take a beating over on WhatsApp. Now a legitimate channel of professional communication, the widespread abuse of this app is app-solutely appalling. There are times I get business-related WhatsApp screeds that read like they were typed on an Enigma machine.

The digital era appears to have ushered in the shelving of communication skills – as if decent writing with some structure and flow are fading vestiges of an elitist mindset.

This digital shorthand trend seems prevalent not only in written communications. Video, an increasingly dominant form of digital communication, also exhibits this malaise of new-age speak.

Smartphone cameras and webcams have placed fire in the hands of the proletariat. The results are decidedly mixed. R u fussing because a "ramblin rose" in a Zoom meeting takes the scenic route to a flaccid point? Lighten up! Zoom conferences are the casual Fridays of communications, right?

The webinar is another video forum where good communication skills suffer liberal interpretation. I've endured countless webinars during which I've been left to scavenge through a scattershot presentation for some shrapnel of useful information.

Videos created for business marketing purposes fare no better. For each video online assembled with structure and purpose, hundreds of others are free-form jazz, taking the viewer on a wild, rudderless ride that dumps them at the edge of town. With the democratisation of video, many users have taken this to mean, "Look, Ma! No hands!"

Millions of videos are uploaded across various platforms each day. Browsers are spoiled for choice.

That's why it's crucial to approach your content with structure, clarity, and purpose. If you have a mission behind getting on camera, then you have to compete for the attention of audiences.

Unless you're a celebrity, you can only cleave the digital clutter on the strength of solid communication skills.

I'm no manic street preacher for stuffy, overly formal professional interactions. It isn't unreasonable, though, to ask that whatever the medium of communication, messages should be clear and easy enough to assimilate.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, verbal and written communication skills were paramount for many jobs and professions. "Excellent communications skills are a definite asset," – that's how job specs would often read.

In job interviews, inquisitors would scan you for good verbal and interpersonal skills. Prospective employers assessed how you would convey instructions and ideas to others; how you would relate to teams and inspire people in your charge.

Language and communications are indispensable to the business and professional landscape. Good communication skills enable the free flow and digestion of information. Conversely, haphazard communications can produce costly misunderstandings.

In the digital age, good communication skills are more important than ever. Most working stiffs are caught in a typhoon of daily tasks and responsibilities. Folks have neither time nor bandwidth to decipher imprecise language nor muddled messaging.

For all the social media platforms, apps, and other marvels of the tech revolution, these innovations are driven by human connection. At the heart of strong connections are strong communication skills – that's no cappin' (bull*insert emoji*).


"Communication skills in the emoji age"

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