The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

These days, it often feels as if we are talking at—rather than to—each other. So much of our communication takes the form of text, with its lack of nuance and tone, that it can be difficult to find common ground. Instead of having engaging discussions, we send statements flying past one another. Misunderstanding rules the day and conflicts sometimes arise.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can still use technologies such as email, text messaging, and social media so long as we consider how our words come across to the person on the other end. That takes thoughtfulness, empathy, and the ability to express oneself clearly. These are called soft skills and are traits that are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

As someone who built a large global pod­cast network almost entirely through social media, this is an issue that has been on my mind for years—because the decline in communication skills that is so apparent online has, at times, made that journey difficult.

As I sat down with Joe Hart, the global president and CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, for the interview that begins here, this subject naturally came up. I think it’s one of the most fragile areas of both our business and personal lives, as good communication skills are the foundation of all we do. When cracks appear in that foundation, everything can collapse; and we’re starting to see it happen.

Apart from business, I have two other reasons for concern about communication skills: an 18-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter. It has been challenging to teach them how to express themselves, how to be clear and concise, and how to sense when is the right time to ask for something or share information. But I know how important those soft skills are and what an advantage they will have in their future jobs if they are strong communicators. Because Hart leads a company whose name is synonymous with effective social skills, I wanted to hear his thoughts and advice.

Imagine what the world would be like if we all stopped, listened, thought before we spoke, and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Our companies would be more successful, our advocacy efforts more effective, and our personal lives more rewarding. I know it’s easier said than done, but those of us who grew up in the face-to-face world must work to maintain the skills that got us to where we are, and we must nurture those skills in the younger generations for whom texting and communication at a distance is the norm.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.
Imagine what the world would be like if we all stopped, listened, thought before we spoke.