At its most basic, communication transfers information from one place, person, or group to another place, person, or group. All living things communicate in some way. Animals communicate through sound, touch, and smell. Even plants use a form of communication with each other, sending messages, warnings, and nutrients through chemicals, electrical signals, and underground fungi networks. In this article, we’ll focus on human communication and why it’s important. Here are fifteen reasons:
#1. There are different types of communication
Many people associate communication with speaking, but communication is much more expansive. Non-verbal communication, which includes sign language, is communicating through body movement and facial expressions. Humans can receive and send a lot of information through posture, eye contact, hand movements, and more. Written communication is another very common form of communication. In the business world, it’s highly valued, and in the email and social media age where many relationships are maintained through writing, it’s a very good skill.
#2. Neurodivergent people often communicate differently
As we learn more about communication, it’s become clearer that not everyone thinks or communicates in the same way. Neurodivergence – which is a mental or neurological function different from what’s considered “typical” – can include communication differences. In a blog for Psychology Today, therapist Louise Taylor (who identifies as neurodivergent) describes how many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder communicate in ways others find funny or odd, or even rude and aggressive. Many neurodivergent people also don’t have an interest in societal norms, surface-level conversations, or “nonsense.” Understanding that neurodivergent people often communicate differently can help society become more inclusive.
#3. Communication is cultural
Cultural differences affect communication. Experts categorize cultures as either high-context or low-context. In high-context cultures (like the Mediterranean, Central Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia), meaning is understood through context, nonverbal cues, and reading between the lines. Low-context cultures (like most Germanic and English-speaking countries) communicate specifically and explicitly. These differences are important to know when engaging with people from other cultures. Low-context cultures value relationships and body language more than high-context cultures, which prefer direct, precise spoken or written words.
#4. There are different communication styles
There are four basic communication styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. Passive communicators are easygoing, but often have trouble expressing their feelings and needs. They may be easier to talk to during conflict, but their lack of clear communication can lead to misunderstandings and resentment. Aggressive communicators are direct, even to a fault. They don’t shy from confrontations but can be blunt and rude. Passive-aggressive communicators seem calm on the outside but show their true feelings through body language, under-the-breath comments, and secretive behavior. They often resort to the silent treatment when they’re upset. Assertive communicators, on the other hand, are clear about their feelings and needs while maintaining their calm. They’re considerate of others but also good at setting boundaries.
#5. People can work through communication differences
Communication differences are affected by neurodivergence, cultural norms, and styles, but people can work through their differences to communicate well. Remaining curious and calm is important. People should also strive to understand the other person’s communication style and background while trying to understand what is being said. They should avoid trying to change the person’s communication style so it matches their own. People also need to understand their own communication style and how it might be helping or harming an interaction. When everyone in a conversation or conflict takes a more reflective approach, communication is smoother.
#6. In the workplace, communication affects productivity
According to statistics described on Entrepreneur, effective communication can increase an organization’s productivity by 25%! Why? Communication is the glue for any organization. You can have the smartest employees working for you, but if they can’t communicate and coordinate with each other, it takes forever for anything to get done. Even if an organization doesn’t have the industry’s brightest stars, it’ll be more productive if everyone communicates well with each other.
#7. Communication facilitates good conflict resolution
Conflict is a part of life, but in a workplace setting, it can be especially tricky. Organizations often bring in experts for conflict resolution, but many conflicts can be solved when people work on better communication. Effective conflict resolution skills include active listening, accepting responsibility for one’s own feelings, and not resorting to blaming or personal attacks. When people have practiced good communication, they’re much more likely to move through conflict in a healthy, effective way.
#8. Communication builds strong teams
Projects and organizations live or die on the strength of their teams. To build team strength, everyone needs good communication skills. They need to understand each member’s style, how to work through conflict, and how to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their feelings, ideas, and concerns. Team leaders have the primary responsibility of facilitating strong communication, but everyone on the team needs to be committed. When there’s good communication, even very diverse teams can work well together.
#9. Communication encourages innovation
How many new ideas were born from a simple conversation? When people come together (especially people with different backgrounds and perspectives on the world) to communicate effectively, it opens opportunities for innovation and knowledge exchanges. In a business setting, organizations are always striving to be more innovative. That requires diversity, and for diversity to be an effective tool, there needs to be excellent communication.
#10. Good communication gives clarity and encourages engagement
For organizations to be successful, employees need clarity on their goals and engagement. The reason for clarity is obvious – without a strong sense of direction, employees will be less productive and effective. But what is engagement? Engagement is tied to how invested an employee is in their work and the future of the organization. Good communication from leadership is one way to encourage engagement. Employees understand more about decisions being made. Communication should go the other way, too; employees should feel encouraged to comment on and participate in decisions.
#11. Organizations need communication to be transparent
Businesses are accountable to many stakeholders, including employees, customers, and shareholders. For entities like public health groups or governments, society at large needs to be kept in the loop. To be transparent and accountable, good communication is essential. We’ve seen the consequences of bad communication many times. As an example, in the United States, the CDC has faced criticisms regarding its politicized communication and lack of regular communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. With public health, poor communication is a matter of life and death.
#12. Good communication builds trust
Different types of relationships require different levels of trust, but trust is always important. How do humans build trust? Communication is a crucial element. We receive and send information about our feelings and needs through our words, body language, facial expressions, and writing. In relationships where communication is aggressive or hurtful, trust is weakened. Trust is also threatened when communication is too vague or purposely withheld. Take the silent treatment, for example. A person getting the silent treatment is left on their own to guess what the other person is thinking or feeling. There’s no sharing of information or opportunities for understanding. The silent treatment may seem passive, but it’s often a manipulative weapon that kills any hope for resolution and trust-building. All parties in a relationship or interaction must commit to healthy communication if they want to build trust.
#13. Good communication is essential for romantic relationships
Communication is a common theme in discussions about romantic relationships. According to Nastal-3, a survey that examines sexual health lifestyles in Britain, issues with communication and “growing apart” are the most common reasons for marriage and live-in partnership breakdowns. Data from this survey also shows that young people want more information on communication and not just sex education. This information shows how essential good communication is for romantic relationships. Other research has revealed similar results. When couples can’t articulate their feelings or needs safely, can’t resolve conflicts, or have trouble understanding one another, break-ups are often the inevitable outcome.
#14. Good communication helps with decision-making
People need information before making a decision, whether it’s at work or in their personal life. Often, people need to communicate with others to get information. As an example, let’s say a person wants to apply for a new job. They will want to communicate with several people, including their significant other (if they have one), recruiters and interviewers, and their previous job. If they want advice during the job-switching process, talking to other trusted people and those who’ve worked in the field is also beneficial. Good communication skills help the job-seeker collect essential information and make a good impression on others.
#15. Good communication is essential during times of change
Communication is essential to good conflict resolution, but it’s needed during any time of change, even good change. Most people feel a mix of emotions when faced with big life changes, whether it’s a new job, a new relationship, having children, or moving. A lot of feelings and stressful thoughts can rise to the surface. To adapt to change and feel secure, people need to communicate with each other in healthy ways. That means listening, understanding how a person responds to change, knowing what communication style everyone tends to fall back on, expressing empathy, and drawing boundaries. Good communication can make life changes easier and bond people closer together.