Here's a challenge for you: take 30 seconds to write down as many different forms of communication you use on a daily basis. Go ahead, I'll wait.
What did you put down?
Topping the list are probably talking face-to-face, calling, and texting. Then you might have the methods you use for business, like email and conference calling. Some of the new up-and-comers, like going on Blab or Snapchatting, might have also come to mind.
The fact of the matter is that we now have an increasingly wide variety of ways to connect with each other. And many of the ways we used to communicate are less relevant today.
For instance, a 2014 Gallup survey found that 65 percent of people never use a business landline anymore and 53 percent no longer use a home landline. On the other hand, 73 percent of respondents had texted the previous day and 55 percent had read or posted a message on social media.
With all these changes, the communication skills business leaders need are also evolving. While there are some old-school skills that are still must-haves, there are new ones that you have to master to be an effective communicator nowadays.
Here are the communication skills you might need to brush up on, or learn from scratch to succeed in today's business world:
The skills that you still need:
1. Active listening
Never underestimate the power of active listening. The concept has been around for decades, but it might be even more relevant today for two major reasons.
First, there's the prevalence of international business. Whenever there is a language barrier, it is essential to do everything you can to ensure everyone understands each other. That means being able to pick up on verbal and body language cues, as well as repeating what you've heard them or their translator say to show the other party you've understood.
Another major reason active listening is so important now is the prevalence -- and our dependency on -- cell phones. For many of us, our eyes spend a great deal of time on the screen. And that can distract us from what someone right in front of us is saying.
2. Having a sound, logical argument
One of the best -- and worst -- things about the internet is that everyone now has a platform for sharing their ideas and opinions. And that means there's a lot of terrible content out there that manipulates statistics or has major flaws in the basic argument.
Unfortunately, society has become accepting of this.
If you want to stand out as a leader who knows what they are doing, you need to be able to communicate in a clear and logical way. What you say needs to be supported in some way, either with credible statistics or anecdotal evidence. If you don't know how to organize your thoughts, you'll seem like another blathering moron who gets all his information from Facebook.
The new skills you need to learn:
1. Interpreting tone without vocal cues
It's now possible for an entire company to go days without speaking to each other in the traditional sense. Remote workers can communicate solely via email. Managers can provide instruction and feedback with messaging platforms or various HR softwares.
And while those tools make our lives easier, they deprive us from something critical to understanding communication: vocal cues.
For example, if your boss were to send you an email that said, "The client expected this product yesterday! What happened?" you could interpret that a few different ways. Your boss might be angry that the client's timeline wasn't met. Or he might be confused as to why the client thought everything would be finished so soon. Depending on what he actually means determines your next move.
If you rely heavily on nonverbal communication, make sure you really think about each word and punctuation point you use. When you're asking a question or giving constructive feedback, always take the time to think about where the message can be misconstrued simply because the recipient can't hear your tone of voice.
2. Understanding when to use which method
Not every form of communication was created equally. If you have a long and involved progress report to give a member of your team, text isn't your best option. And as anyone who has accidentally hit 'reply all' knows, some information is best shared outside of a company-wide email thread.
If you're going to be an effective communicator, you need to understand the pros and cons of each method. At my company, Coplex, our team has to work in a fast-paced environment because we're working with a lot of fast growing startups. And in order for everybody to stay on the same page, we have to use a variety of communication methods -- everything from Slack to phone calls to daily in-person meetings. Each team member needs to know which communication tool is best for each job. Most importantly, there has to be the right balance of both in-person and digital communications for everything to work out quickly and efficiently.
Without a firm grasp of the communication tools now available, they're useless to you -- like a telegraph for someone who doesn't know Morse Code, or Twitter for someone who doesn't understand what a hashtag is.
The communication game is constantly changing. If you're going to rely on outdated, inefficient communication skills, then you can expect your message to fall on deaf ears.