Chase Jarvis has a pair of entries on his blog about connection. Not his name for it, he couches it in terms of conversation and verbal skills. He posits an interesting thought experiment to try (my name for it--I hope to God nobody actually tries this). Go up to someone, without saying a word. Start taking their photograph. Work it, like you would with a subject you're supposed to do a portrait of. But don't say a word.
You can see how tense and awkward this would be. Just imagining it gets the point across.
The point is how necessary good communication skills are to every aspect of photography. The technical minutia of photography is the easy part. It's just a skill set. The crucial element is your ability to connect with the diversity of subjects and clients and situations that a professional photographic life is going to throw at you. The crucial quality is curiosity. About everything. It's why I think the best education for a photographer is not a technical school, but a liberal arts background.
Now Chase is a classic extrovert. He is one of the more energetic and charismatic photographers out there, and he's found his natural niche in advertising photography. I'm a classic introvert, as are a lot of people attracted to photography. I'm a very social introvert however, and I like being around people. I just need recovery time afterwards. The day after the wedding that I shot last weekend, I needed to be alone and not talk to a soul. I grunted to salespeople, trying for as little connection as possible. My photographs were all of haystacks and rocks. I needed to recharge, so that when I picked up Robin at the Spokane airport I'd be happy, and not annoyed, to see her.
My great strength as a photographer is that I can disappear into a situation, and photograph it from within. My entire work life and artistic life is dependent on deep connection and communication with my surroundings, and working from that place. Much of that is verbal, of course, and I'm a pretty verbal person. But it's only one surface to an interaction.
I actually could imagine Chase's homework assignment working, if one were deeply enough connected for words to be unnecessary. But I know that Chase is talking about more than words.