Critical Thinking: The Soul of Effective Communication
The cost of poor communication in organizations is very high. In a 2008 whitepaper by IDC, the cost of employee misunderstanding and poor communication in US and UK businesses was estimated at US$37 billion!
Another whitepaper from Project Management Institute’s Pulse research reveals that the most crucial success factor in project management is effective communications to all the stakeholders. The report further revealed that US$75 million is at risk for every US$1 billion spent on a project due to ineffective communications.
Poor communication is also linked with poor employee engagement and attrition. Learning and development departments schedule communication skills training which only covers the syntactical and explicit parts of the communication process. Needless to say, such training interventions fail to be effective because they don’t touch the core of communication.
If communication is defined as a meaningful exchange of information, thoughts and feelings between two living creatures, critical thinking is the engine that provides this meaning. Communication starts with a thought, a feeling and an emotion. The mind builds on this thought before putting it out to the receiver. Critical thinking, quite simply, is the tool to coherently build our thoughts.Effective communication starts with a clear thought process.Critical thinking breeds clarity of thought.
A constant pursuit of critical thinking equips leaders and managers think rationally, provide sound reasoning and develop a coherent argument. When leaders think critically and communicate clearly, they are also able to eliminate ambiguity in communication.
Communication is as much about listening as it is about delivering. Listening involves a careful interpretation of what is being said, not said, the meaning behind it and the intent. It requires a leader to consider arguments from others, elicit alternative perspectives and distill facts. Critical thinking allows a leader to exercise restraint while listening and helps in following the thought process of the other party. Critical thinking helps a leader in responding effectively in a given context rather than reacting.
‘Listening to the self’ is also an important part of communication process. Critical thinkers possess higher awareness of their own beliefs, experiences and biases. Critical thinking enables them to think beyond the barriers of their own biases.
Critical thinking builds confidence in communication. It is far easier to communicate when you are prepared with facts, arguments, perspectives and possible solutions.Communicating is one thing. Communicating in a way that delivers maximum impact is another. Critical thinking is a tool to structure your key messages in a way that delivers maximum impact.
Critical thinking and communication are intricately connected. Effective communication requires clarity of thought, ability to listen intentionally and deliver messages in the most optimal way.
Organizations can address a lot of their communication problems if they are careful about evaluating critical thinking skills when hiring the leaders and developing a culture of critical thinking. Improving how people think is a great way to start improving the quality of overall communication in the organization. Once people think clearly, rationally and critically, external communication training interventions will also yield desired results.
Critical thinking is the driver of effective communication.
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Join in the conversation: What other ways does critical thinking help in effective communication? Share your experiences in comments.
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