Say It Better
Author P.S. Perkins believes in the power of words. More specifically, she believes in the power of communication to impact our lives, both negatively and positively. Yet, she argues, communication is something most of us take for granted simply because it is a skill everyone possesses, and it is time to change this view.
Perkins holds up communication as “the common denominator of self-empowerment that every human being shares, regardless of race, class, gender, socioeconomic level, or environmental circumstances. There are few things in life we can say everyone (barring physiological circumstances) is equally endowed with, but the universal gift of thought and communication is one of them — the endowment of human reasoning and language. It is an amazing ability, one we take for granted but still the most powerful resource we have.” In The Art and Science of Communication: Tools for Effective Communication in the Workplace, Perkins not only delineates the vital role effective communication plays in personal and professional success, but she also provides a guide to improving the communication skills of her readers.
Perkins’ guide to successful communication is founded upon her Communication Staircase™ a step-by-step guide to the elements of effective communication in which each level of proficiency builds upon the previous step. “This is the way communication works,” argues Perkins. “You are not effective on (or within) the third, fifth, or seventh step (or setting) if you don’t take one step at a time with the awareness and skill necessary for that step!”
The Communication Staircase begins with the most basic and personal form of communication: intrapersonal communication, or the thoughts and messages we communicate to ourselves each and every minute of the day. The Staircase then climbs to encompass increasingly more complex and public communication, including nonverbal, interpersonal, small group/organizational, public, mass and intercultural communication. Perkins organizes each chapter of The Art and Science of Communication around these steps, delineating the skills inherent in each level, then building on this knowledge as she moves to the next step. For example, throughout her book, she reminds her readers that nonverbal communication, ranging from personal appearance to gestures to facial expressions, continually influences the meaning that others derive from our words. Eventually, Perkins ties everything together in a chapter on intercultural commnication, providing a compelling view of how each individual’s communication style is influenced by his or her culture, and how recognizing the basics of how and why we communicate can lead to cultural competency and cross-cultural bridging.
A Primer for Positive Change
The Art and Science of Communication may seem too basic for already adept communicators. In addition, Perkins sometimes strays into general spirituality, recommending at times various coping mechanisms such as prayer and constructing internal dialogues. Also, some of the dialogues her example characters describe often seem rather naïve. For a communications expert, Perkins’ own writing is sometimes less polished than might be expected. Throughout her book, Perkins’ tone is supportive and inclusive. Her Communication Staircase provides essential information for anyone seeking to improve his or her communication skills. The Art and Science of Communication is an excellent starting point for anyone who needs to become a more effective communicator but is experiencing anxiety at the prospect.