Writing skills: Communication is a basic survival skill

Friday, August 16th, 2019 00:00 |
Journalism. Photo/Courtesy

Every professional today needs to have communication skills. There is an assumption that only people in the direct line of communication practice need to be skilled in the field but nothing could be further from the truth.

Certainly, journalists need to be skilled in interpersonal communication skills, in nonverbal communication skills, interview skills and horn their writing skills. The same must be said for people in the field of public relations and advertising. These people engage in communication activities every day. 

Give it to them. Some of them have sharpened their skills to amazing levels. Listening to presidential spokespeople and political communicators play with words, run rings around journalists, and dodge questions with ease while redirecting the conversation to themes they are more comfortable with can be fun.

This is what every professional ought to develop his or her skills in, and particularly those who are engaged in a daily encounter with members of the public. Imagine a scenario, and this happens often when you walk into a doctor’s office.

The very design of the doctor’s office in some cases is aimed at communicating a sense of mystery. The white overcoat, the stethoscope hanging around the medic’s neck, the mandatory, ceremonial cleaning of hands, the question over what brings you to his office while the mystery figure sitting in front of you is writing furiously.

It does not stop there, she hides the writing away from you, but it does not matter, you would not be able to decipher the handwriting anyway because of the way it is done. 

The horror experience of a recent patient is worth remembering. She had been going through tests then she went back for the results. Without much ado, the lady physician told her that she had cancer and it looked advanced and then dismissed her.

After the experience of many patients in the hands of medical officers, it is never difficult to find out why people are scared to go to the hospital.

Think again; what was that the governor of the county of Nairobi engaged in at the requiem mass for the late Kibra MP? A big part of it could be blamed on a lack of communication skills.

For in communication it is not just what you say, but how you say it and where you say it. Emotional intelligence is a big part of it. Shouting fire loudly in a crowded place is not a very effective way of communicating the danger that the public face when a fire has just broken out.

Even people involved in everyday communication still get it terribly wrong. A clip doing rounds on social media has a refugee speaking to President Donald Trump.

The traumatised woman tells the President of the US of how his family members were killed. When she pauses the president asks her where his family members were. Listening skills are a critical component of the communication experience.

There is hardly an office today that does not engage with members of the public and where skills of interacting with the members of the public are critical. 

It is said that in the 1970s there existed a group of young men in Nairobi who engaged in what they called gorilla gospel witnessing for Christ. Whenever these young men encountered you, they had a simple question of whether you were a Christian or not.

A negative answer invited immediate ruthless punches that would only stop the moment you changed your answers to positive. Everybody engaged in dealing with members of the public ought to do themselves and their office a favour by going to learn communication skills. —The writer is Dean, School of Communication at Daystar University.

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