Communication Competence: The Key to Unlocking Your Communication Superpowers!

May 5 / RICHARD G. JONES, JR., PH.D.




Most people, unless they majored or minored in communication studies in college haven’t taken any communication classes, perhaps aside from public speaking, taught by communication scholars and experts.   

Of course, we all learn some communication skills by mere exposure, experiential knowledge, and trial and error. Those can be effective ways to learn but they aren’t efficient or reliable.  

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So, the question becomes….
How do I become a better communicator?  

You can become a better communicator and leader with us at the Communication Leader Academy. Our nationally recognized experts have over 25 years of teaching experience, working with a wide variety of adult learners. Our curriculum is informed by foundational and new theories of teaching and learning, and our methods are varied to appeal to every learning style. 

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What is Communication Competence?  

At the basic level, being competent at something basically means you know what you're doing.   

Communication competence refers to the knowledge of effective and appropriate communication patterns and the ability to use and adapt that knowledge in various contexts. To better understand this definition, let’s break apart its components.  

Gaining Knowledge and Communication Competence 

The first part of the definition we will unpack deals with knowledge. The cognitive elements of competence include knowing how to do something and understanding why things are done the way they are.  
  • People can develop cognitive competence by observing and evaluating the actions of others.  
  • Cognitive competence can also be developed through instruction.  
In the Communication Leader Academy, you will learn and then apply concepts to your everyday life to gain real world value. This will help bring the concepts to life and also help you evaluate how communication in the real world matches up with communication concepts. As you build a repertoire of communication knowledge based on your experiential knowledge and the expert instruction, you’ll receive from our Learning Leaders, you will also be developing behavioral competence. 

Using Your Knowledge to Communicate Competently 

The second part of the definition of communication competence that we will unpack is the “ability to use.”  

Individual factors affect our ability to do anything. Not everyone has the same athletic, musical, or intellectual ability. At the individual level, a person’s physiological and psychological characteristics affect competence. 
  • In terms of physiology, age, maturity, and ability to communicate affect competence. 
  • In terms of psychology, a person’s mood, stress level, personality, and level of communication apprehension (level of anxiety regarding communication) affect competence.  
All these factors will either help or hinder you when you try to apply the knowledge you have learned to actual communication behaviors. For example, you might know strategies for being an effective speaker, but public speaking anxiety that kicks in when you get in front of the audience may prevent you from fully putting that knowledge into practice.  

By the way, if you’re someone who struggles to manage speaking anxiety, make sure to enter your email at the footer of this page to get updates on our new learning opportunities coming up this summer. We are going to have webinars, a stand-alone “crash course” in public speaking, and a Learning Arc with four separate courses, all devoted to “Speaking and Leading with Confidence and Competence.” 

Adaptability and Communication Competence 

The third part of the definition we will unpack is “ability to adapt to various contexts.” What is competent or not varies based on social and cultural context, which makes it impossible to only have one standard for what counts as communication competence.   

Social variables such as status and power affect competence. In a social situation where one person—say, a supervisor—has more power than another—for example, his or her employee—then the supervisor is typically the one who sets the standard for competence.  

Cultural variables such as race and nationality also affect competence. A Taiwanese woman who speaks English as her second language may be praised for her competence in the English language in her home country but be viewed as less competent in the United States because of her accent. 

Final Thoughts: “It’s Never Too Late to Start a New Learning Journey” 

In summary, although we have a clear definition of communication competence, there are not definitions for how to be competent in any given situation, since competence varies at the individual, social, and cultural level.  

Developing communication competence takes time and effort, but it can also bring many rewards, join us today at the Communication Leader Academy to make progress on your individual path toward becoming a more competent communication leader!  

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