Why Are Good Communication Skills Important?

Take a second and look at Human beings, really look at us. We’re not as strong as elephants or rhinos, we’re not as tough as lions or tigers and we can neither swim like fish nor fly like birds. Yet, despite all this, there is still one inescapable fact: Human beings are the dominant species on the planet.

The short answer to your question lies implicitly within the above paragraph. With good communication skills, a group of disparate individuals can overcome a great many obstacles by working together. It is believed that our earliest ancestors were able to ward off predators by sticking together in large groups and thus presenting a formidable target (as opposed to, say, a buffet). We were also able to hunt prey much larger and stronger than ourselves (e.g. the woolly mammoth) by co-ordinating our efforts with good communication skills.

Such good communication skills are, not to put too fine a point on it, vitally important to the Human race as a whole. This excerpt from ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution’ by Russian author Peter Kropotkin (1902), illustrates what we’re trying to say better than we ever could.

“Man is the result of both his inherited instincts and his education. Among the miners and the seamen, their common occupations and their every-day contact with one another create a feeling of solidarity, while the surrounding dangers maintain courage and pluck”

In other words, their shared lifestyle is a form of communication, the result of learned social primers and a lifetime of experience. It is the secret ingredient to our success as a species.

Good communication skills in the workplace operate along the same basic principles as they do outside the workplace. The goal is clarity, but equally, the speaker wishes to illustrate her point of view and encourage others to sympathize with it. This is why politicians pay their speechwriters as handsomely as they do.

Communication skills are also Vital to Human interaction. Humans are able to learn all sorts of things by listening for verbal cues that we are unconsciously primed to respond to. Information about a speaker’s age, class, race, gender and even occupation can be gleaned from the simple act of listening to a person. To quote Peter Trudgill’s book ‘Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society’ (1974),

“Different social groups use different linguistic varieties, and as experienced members of a speech community we have learnt to classify speakers accordingly”, for those interested – this is known as ‘social-class dialects’.

You might ask how this affects you. Well, consider this; if you are applying for a typically upper or middle class job (say, office manager as an example) and you speak with a traditionally working-class accent, vocabulary and demeanour during your interview, you are actually less likely to get the job than the applicant who uses received pronunciation and does not use colloquialisms or slang terms. You might be more qualified on paper, but the interviewer will likely say something about you not being “the right fit” for the position. This is because he has been primed to expect a certain type for a certain role. Therefore, good communications skills, in this instance at least, would hinge on your ability to appeal to listeners by meeting their expectations.

Of course, we now know that such distinctions are unfair. Combating expectations of class, race, gender and sexual stereotyping led to the rise of ‘political correctness’, a much-maligned (and often justly so) and yet consistently misunderstood phenomenon.

For a more extreme example, imagine giving an obscenity-laced PowerPoint presentation at your next meeting. Once you stop laughing, consider the implications even if everything in the presentation was 100% accurate, (groundbreaking, even) you’d still be fired, wouldn’t you? Swearing is, of course, a lower-class way of communicating.

You need to find the correct words for the correct situation, but evidently, there has been a great deal of discussion as to what are the correct words.

If you want to know more, the poem ‘The Six O’Clock News’ (1976) by Scottish poet Tom Leonard is a good place to start. In the UK, we study it as part of GCSE English (or at least we did when this writer was at school), and the poem neatly highlights the social and class-based distinctions that typified (and still do to some extent) ‘normal’ speech and any important announcements..

So, in conclusion, communication skills are important because without them, nobody would be able to understand YOU.

Scientists Astounded as Four Legged Fossil Snake Turns up In Museum

A unique species of early cretaceous snake – unique in that it apparently had four functioning limbs – has been discovered in the Bürgermeister Müller Museum in Solnhofen, Germany this month.

The discovery was made by Dr. David Martill of the University of Portsmouth, who was showing a group of students through the museum’s collection when he noticed the specimen’s remarkable attributes.

The snake, which measured about 15 centimetres from nose to tail, is thought to have been a carnivore (a fact borne out by the bones of smaller animals preserved in its stomach) and probably hunted via constriction, like many of today’s snakes. Experts believe that it may even have used its limbs to aid in the process.

Built for burrowing (an activity which likely would not have included its limbs in any significant way), this new discovery lends credence to the scientists who argue for snake evolution occurring on land, as opposed to in the sea.

Fossil snakes with stunted hind limbs are known to palaeontologists – and even today’s boas and pythons have a small pair of spurs where their hind limbs are thought to have once been. However, no snake, extinct or extant, has ever been discovered with four limbs.

Appropriately enough, Dr. Martill named the creature Tetrapodophis, meaning ‘four-legged snake’.

However, some experts are not convinced. In our vibrant, ecologically diverse world, there are a great many species of legless lizards that are not true snakes. European slow worms, for example, are snake-like in aspect, but they are lizards, not snakes. Another example would be the Mexican Bipedidae family, which are serpentine in appearance, but which retain a pair of fully functioning forelimbs.

“Is it even a snake? I honestly don’t think so,” said the University of Alberta’s Dr. Michael Caldwell, an expert in snake evolution, to National Geographic.com’s Ed Yong. According to Caldwell and a growing number of other critics, Tetrapodophis lacks certain distinctive features in the spine and the skull that would label it a snake. The fact that this is the only known specimen in the world and that the skull is only partially preserved will probably see the debate continue until such time as a complete specimen is unearthed.

But Dr. Martill is insistent that his discovery is a snake. Speaking to National Geographic, he pointed out the specimen’s backwards-pointing teeth, single row of belly scales, the connections between the vertebrae and the shortness of the animal’s tail after the hip – all of which suggest snake to the educated observer. Of course, many legless lizards also feature these traits, but none has all of them. This means that even if the animal has been mis-identified, it is still totally unique to science.

Even more mysterious are the origins of the fossil itself, which contains the rather distinctive characteristics indicative of the Crato formation in Brazil. Discounting for a second that this is quite possibly the earliest fossil snake known to have emerged from South America, question marks have been raised regarding how the specimen could have made it to Germany when the trade of such artefacts is illegal under Brazilian law.

Since 1942, it has been illegal for any unlicensed person to dig for fossils in Brazil without first gaining permission from the Brazilian National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM). Last year, a number of people were prosecuted (where they faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison) for the illegal export of Brazilian fossils to museums in Germany and Great Britain. Odds are that Brazilian authorities, as well as the scientific community in general, will be looking into the origins of such an important find with great interest.