A recent article in Entrepreneur magazine examines what Americans think is the most important skill our children need to learn in order to get ahead later in life. Without spoiling the results quite yet, those surveyed were given a choice of ten different categories:
So which one did you pick? If you chose communication, then you are part of the large majority. In fact, 90% of those polled chose communication. Based on those lopsided numbers, many people probably aren’t all that surprised by the results. But some of us are in that 10% and wondering why the hey communication outranked reading, writing and logic.
Am I biased? Sure, but that doesn’t mean I am wrong.
Admittedly, there is an inherent amount of bias involved in posing this argument, but my first question is: what is the difference between writing and communication? From my understanding, communication majors study writing, rhetoric, and different ways of presenting ideas. They are more concerned with communicating across a variety of mediums than writers, but they still have to use logic to formulate their ideas and take into account audience and purpose.
How do we learn interpersonal communication?
One argument for communication as the number one skill that today’s kids will need in order to get ahead is that communication is the foundation of establishing strong interpersonal skills and relationships. Communication isn’t just about bringing people to your side of the argument of making sure that your ideas don’t get lost in the shuffle. It can also be about networking in business settings or being able to foster loving relationships in your personal life. As the original article points out, this is especially true if we interpret the phrase “getting ahead” as having a full-life surrounded by loving and supportive people.
That still leads me back to the question of where we learn these communication skills. Surely some of it comes from observing others. We learn social skills and empathy from watching and absorbing the actions of those around us. However, studies also show that reading books helps to make people more empathetic and in tune with subtle social cues. Avid readers are also better at reading people. Any great writer is able to bring the human condition to life, thereby allowing readers to have experiences that they may never encounter in their every day lives.
For these reasons, I would argue that you can’t really separate reading, writing, logic and communication into different categories. They are too intertwined and inter-related. There is a distinct cause and effect that cannot be sliced apart even with the finest of scalpels and steadiest of hands. So sure, I will concede that communication is the most important skill needed to get ahead if you will concede that communication is an umbrella term for reading, writing and the logic that allows us to formulate and organize ideas into comprehensible pieces of writing.
Weigh in with your thoughts . . .
So what do you think? Which skill should be ranked #1 and why?