“There is one great evil in the universe. Misunderstanding.”
- Quote by Someone

In this case, someone was me. I said that. And now you know I’m the one that said that, because I’m communicating it to you right now.

Communication is one of the most important facets of our day-to-day life. It’s not an exaggeration to say that human civilization exists as a consequence of our ability to communicate with one another, to coordinate and work out differences in meaningful and long-lasting ways. 

Despite that, being a good communicator is a surprisingly tricky endeavour. It takes skill, practice, and patience to be able to truly wield your words and get your point across to others. So then, what are some of the keys to good communication?

Know Who You’re Communicating With

As part of my quest to learn how to communicate effectively, one of my first steps was to communicate (hehe) with none other than Jordan Stouck, Ph.D., the Communications and Rhetoric program coordinator for UBC Okanagan. During our brief exchange, I asked her what her most important piece of advice for being a good communicator was. 

“Know your audience (who are you communicating to? what are their needs and expectations?) and your purpose (why are you communicating? what do you want your audience to know or do?),” she said to me in an email.

This is simple, yet deceptively crucial advice. An inexperienced communicator will place the brunt of what they’re trying to say on their audience, and expect for them to get their point without any priming or preparation. Any form of communication that depends on the audience making connections without any help from the communicator is going to be inherently kneecapped.

That’s why it’s so important to know to whom and why you’re communicating. You wouldn’t talk to your professor in the same way you would your childhood friend, right? Getting a sense of what your audience expects and needs is a crucial first step to connecting with them.

Be Willing to Communicate

This is a deceptively difficult step. Being willing to communicate doesn’t just mean being comfortable with sharing your thoughts and ideas; it means being open to sharing them when necessary. It is frustratingly easy to keep things bottled up and not be honest with your thoughts and feelings when it comes to being understood. Something like two-thirds of every fight or argument I’ve been in has come about as a result of poor communication skills coupled with an unwillingness to share before de-escalation becomes necessary.

Don’t fall into that trap. If something needs to be said, say it, as long as you keep the above point in mind. Good communication is key, and being able to partake in that good communication is even more important.

Not All Communication is the Same

At first blush, this seems like the most obvious thing in the world. No, duh, not all communication is the same! You could have the contents of this article communicated to you in plenty of ways, through plenty of mediums: you could read it online, in print, have someone read it to you, or even get it delivered via Morse code! 

But that variety is exactly why it’s important to understand this point. Simple, one-on-one verbal communication makes up far less of our daily lives than we might expect. Being able to understand that communicating with others might not always mean what you expect is a crucial part of making yourself understood in a plethora of different situations.

For example, someone who is mute or nonverbal may communicate with sign language or gestures. Someone who speaks a different language may rely on a translator, or interpretation. There are many ways communication can be complicated by how it’s done, which is why it’s important to remember that good communication doesn’t always come about in ways we’d expect.

So, how do you bridge the gap with people who use different methods to communicate with you? In simple words, be willing to learn. Everyone has different needs, and learning them is key to connecting with them. It may be difficult, unintuitive, or even strange, but a willingness to understand one another is foundational to effective communication.


These are just a few points about being a good communicator. Ultimately, the biggest takeaway I can give you is that getting better at communicating is a learned muscle. You’ll make mistakes, put your foot in your mouth, and probably be a bit of a fool more than a few times. But as with everything, that’s part of learning. 

If you aren’t willing to be bad at something or try new ways to get better at it, then you’re never going to really grow.