Job interviews often cover the subject of communication skills. Like most nontechnical areas, communication skills are pretty unquantifiable, so there’s not a single agreed-upon way to report on our own capability.
Because of this, we tend to assess our “communication skills” in terms of how we think we talk. In our own estimation, can we speak our message out loud? We get a lot of practice at saying words out loud, so typically we say that we are “good communicators.”
But this assessment leaves out the real crux of the question. Communication isn’t “can you say words out loud in an order that makes sense.” That’s transmitting. Communication is when you speak, and someone else hears you, understands, and acts.
So as we are thinking about our competence as communicators, maybe we should check in with the people around us, the ones on the receiving end of our transmitting. We can ask how they feel after meetings with us. Are they clear about what we wanted, needed, are going to do next? When we need to advocate for ourselves, how does that land? What does it mean when we’re not communicating well?
Even though each of us speaks 100% of the words we’re ever going to say, those words’ intended audiences are better judges of their effectiveness. Let’s start by asking how we’re doing.