How Are Your Communication Skills?

Everyone enjoys having good friends, an exciting job, and even a great partner in life. If you don’t have communication, none of those would exist and if good communication doesn’t exist, then any of those things will likely be hard to sustain. Psychology Today’s article, “Top 10 Reasons Relationships Fail,” mentions that “Numerous studies have identified communication (or a lack thereof) as one of the top reasons for couple’s therapy, as well as one of the top reasons for break-up and divorce.” So, communication is key to a successful relationship.

Communication is at the heart of everything we do. According to an article published by the University of Missouri we “spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication.” Success or failure results from how well we communicate with others. This means a lot when it comes to a Social Engineering engagement. With poor communication skills the engagement will be over before it even starts. Think about the result if you walked into an office building, walked up to the receptionist, handed her a USB drive, and demanded that she print a document for you. What are the chances that she would comply with your request? Not very likely. That would be a compete fail.

Organizations also rely on good communication, and without it they will not function. Even if communication is just hampered or diminished, the entire organization will suffer. When there is bad communication in an organization, morale suffers, there is decreased motivation and productivity, and an increase in mistakes, as brought out in the article “The Effects of Bad Communication in Business.” There is a lot more to communication then just being able to read, write, speak, and listen. It needs to be thorough, accurate, and timely. Effective communication has to be learned.

Communication doesn’t come easily for everyone and that it can take a long time to learn how do it, and even longer to become really good at it. Even then, it can still be a struggle for some. Becoming an effective communicator can be learned through hard work, practicing regularly, and committing to improvement. Look at the scientist Michael Faraday. In the article “Why Communication Is Today’s Most Important Skill,” it said that effective communication for him “wasn’t a natural talent, he worked hard at it, taking copious notes on his own lectures and those of others.” The result was that “The effort paid off. His regular lectures at the Royal Institution made him, and the Institution itself, a fixture in the scientific world.” Take heart, if you have the desire, you too can learn.

Got Skills?

How does one learn to be an effective communicator? Good communication requires skills. Skills that we can practice. Many of those are discussed in the books Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking and Unmasking the Social Engineer by Christopher Hadnagy, and the ones listed in the article “Communication Skills for Workplace Success.” Here are a few examples:

  • Rapport; Find a common ground, establish what their expectations are, and make that connection that will keep them in the conversation.
  • Effective Listening; Not just hearing the words that are said but actively listening. This involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying. You can show this by using reflection, by asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing what the person says to ensure understanding.
  • Nonverbal Communication; Watch what message your body is conveying and be observant of what the body of your audience is conveying. Is there good eye contact? Are your gestures and stance giving off a friendly and inviting tone that makes you appear approachable? Does your audience seem engaged? Watch for the micro-expressions, as discussed by Dr. Ekman. In addition, learn more about body language and nonverbal communication in the book Unmasking the Social Engineer. These tools can help you see the hidden cues.
  • Affability; Be good-natured and personal, but not too personal, have an honest smile, a friendly voice, and be polite.
  • Medium; Know what form of communication to use depending on the conversation you’re about to have. Think whether the conversation should be in person, such as you have some bad news that needs to be conveyed or is it just a grocery list and you’d rather just have it sent via texting. (That way you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything you are told to get.)

There are many more that are discussed and can be learned. Read the books and check out the SE Podcast and the SE Framework. These will help you in learning what the skills are. Then by studying and practicing them, you will develop into an effective communicator.

Another factor to consider is one’s communication style.

You Be Stylin’

Our communication style is our preferred way in which we like to communicate in or like to be talked to. We all feel more comfortable when dealing with certain behaviors and we have our own perception on others’ intentions and behaviors. When we learn about our own communication style, we can learn how to communicate to other communication styles in an effective way.

Here at Social-Engineer we use a communication profiling tool called DISC. According to DISC, there are four communication styles:

  • Dominant
  • Influential
  • Conscientious
  • Steady

Each style has their strengths and weaknesses, and everyone has a predominant style. By learning our predominant style, we can learn what our strengths and weaknesses are. This will allow us the ability to adapt to how we and other people will react and relate in certain situations. This knowledge can make it easier to align everyone’s skills and strengths within these situations and increase performance. Knowing how others perceive us and how we can talk to other styles will allow us to build rapport more quickly and have successful social engineering engagements, better working relationships, and better personal relationships.

How do we find out what communication style we are?

There are many DISC assessments out there, from free to for-pay options. Our team uses the Personal DISCernment Inventory by Triaxia Partners to determine DISC communication profiles.

You Can Do It

By applying the skills we discussed, and learning how to communicate properly to other communication styles, we can be more successful in our relationships, in our work, and in our social engineering engagements. Practice using them by coming up with some topics for small talk and use it on people you hardly know. Practice reading and recreating micro-expressions. To be an effective communicator takes a lot of time, effort, and practice. If you think you are an effective communicator, ask someone close to you and see what they say.

One thing I found that helps me, before I do any public speaking, I practice out loud to see how I sound and will even practice in front of my wife. She can be brutally honest, but it helps me to improve in my communication. As my wife says, I am still a work in progress. In fact, we are all works in progress, but we need to keep working hard at it and practicing. Then we all can become effective communicators.

Stay safe and secure.


Written By: Mike Hadnagy