There’s no getting away from communication: it’s the heart of our society.
And it’s no secret that modern forms of communication (social media, video conferencing, instant messaging, voice) are more and more a part of the modern job hunting process.
So, having strong communications skills is not only important for your career growth, but for your everyday success in the workplace, especially considering 86% of employees blame poor communication for workplace failures.
This article is going to discuss the ins and outs of developing a solid set of communication skills, what the top 10 communication skills are for your career development, and how you can make your communication skills stand out in the workplace.
When we talk about communication skills, we’re talking more about communicating effectively than we are about communicating in general.
Communication skills are a specialized set of soft skills that help you influence others in your social networks and professional fields, to have your point of view understood, and to better understand the point of view of others.
Common communication skills are things like:
Many of these things come naturally to some.
However, whether you have the knack or not, there’s plenty of room for improvement, and there’s a lot to learn.
Suppose you’re committed to building successful relationships, both at work and on a personal level. In that case, a great place to start is to take a hard look at your communication skills and see where you have room to improve.
Communication can be complicated, that’s for sure.
That’s because there’s more to communication than just the words you’re saying.
In fact, there are four different kinds of communication you should know about.
Verbal communication is the most obvious form of communication: It’s the words we use to communicate our ideas and opinions.
Simple ways to improve your verbal communications skills include:
Practice speaking clearly and confidently
Use active listening (more on this soon)
Avoid using filler words (umm, ahh)
Try to avoid industry jargon (words that have little context outside of your industry circle, and that others might struggle to relate to)
Non-verbal communication involves things like your body language, facial expressions, and the aspect of communication that involves things like tone of voice, emotion, pitch, and volume.
To develop your non-verbal communication skills, focus on:
Paying attention to your emotions while communicating (such as not reacting with anger when someone says something that might upset you)
Your non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions
Mimicking non-verbal communications that you find effective. For example, if you notice that another person is great at communicating with a certain facial expression, you could practice using that same expression in future conversations
Visual communication includes videos, infographics, diagrams, and presentations.
It’s a powerful tool to use in situations such as presenting to a customer, or when your team needs to provide updates to your managers, like this:
Another great example of visual communication is the skills section of your resume:
Visual communication may be used as a substitute for other forms of communication.
For example if you’re trying to let your boss know that something that is broken in the store room, it might be more appropriate to send them a photo rather than a lengthy email or phone call.
Alternatively, visual communication may be used to complement verbal interactions, such as how a salesperson might use a slideshow to support an oral presentation to a customer.
Written communication is anything using the written word, like the majority of your resume.
In the workplace, examples of written communication can include things like:
Email (such as to a recruiter or hiring manager)
Documentation (such as an annual performance review)
Incident reports (if an accident happens at work)
Developing strong communication skills is a lifelong journey. It offers several benefits that apply to your work and your personal life.
For example, if you’re working toward earning a promotion within your company, you’ll need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with your managers to make your case.
The same goes for anyone on the hunt for a new job. Written communication skills are important when crafting a resume. Developing both verbal and non-verbal communication skills will help you nail that interview.
Now that we have an understanding of the 4 main types of communication, let’s apply these concepts to the workplace.
Every single person wants to be respected.
Showing respect in your communication is always important, but it’s particularly important when going for an interview or when on the job.
You should show respect by not interrupting others. Acknowledge what they’ve said by building upon it rather than responding with something entirely irrelevant (it happens more than it should).
Verbal mirroring is a technique used by expert negotiators. It involves repeating the last few words of the other person’s previous sentence in the form of a question.
Verbal mirroring is instrumental in negotiations and interview situations, because it allows you to diffuse negative emotion which can stop you from getting where you’re trying to go.
It’s pretty simple, too; you just repeat the last few words of the other person’s sentence in the form of a question.
Let’s say you’re negotiating salary with a potential employer, and they tell you:
“We can’t go that high.”
Using the verbal mirroring technique, you respond with:
“You can’t go that high?”
Which is an effective way of asking “Why not?” without putting them into a negative state, which ‘why’ questions often do.
It also keeps the tone of the conversation positive, which ups your chances of getting that job, raise, or promotion.
Developing your non-verbal communication skills involves paying attention to your facial expressions, reactions, and body language (whether your arms are crossed or your hands are in your pockets), all while maintaining eye contact (without being creepy).
Being concise means not waffling. That is, using as few words as possible to make your point.
For example, instead of saying “I’m actively seeking an opportunity to further develop my skill set” you can say “I’m looking to learn something new.”
It’s a form of empathy that involves recognizing the emotions that the other person is displaying.
Like this: “You sound concerned.”
It can help diffuse that feeling as the other person feels heard and understood.
If you’re applying for a new job, consider the fact that your prospective manager probably received tens or hundreds of emails a day.
Perhaps a phone call is a more suitable method to follow up.
Other times, email will be more appropriate, especially if you need to send documents such as an application form.
Sounding confident comes from being confident. If you want to grow your confidence, then the best place to start is to act confident. Appearing confident during an interview gives you a better shot at landing the job.
Empathy is all about understanding the feelings of others and demonstrating that you understand. When you ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ you’re trying to gain an appreciation for their perspective, making you a better team player.
Controlling your own body language is important, as others will understand a lot of what you mean by your physical actions.
If you have your arms crossed, for example, it may be taken as a sign that you are closed off to what they are saying. Alternatively, leaning forward slightly shows the other person that you’re interested in what they’re saying.
Physical mirroring is something that happens naturally and unconsciously in communication.
Notice the next time you’re in a group that others naturally imitate the body language of the person who is the ‘leader’ in the conversation.
You can take advantage of this effect by purposefully mirroring the body language of others, which is subconsciously telling them, “We are similar.”
This is a great technique to use during a job interview, as it makes it more likely that the hiring manager will feel that you’re a good fit for the company.
Here are our four top recommendations for improving your communication skills in the workplace:
There is a crucial difference between hearing and listening.
Many communicators (poor ones) simply hear what the other person is saying and respond with whatever their point of view is.
You’ll see this very often in fast-paced news interviews. The interviewer often isn’t listening at all to what the interviewee is saying. They are simply waiting for them to shut up so they can ask the next question.
Rather than listening to what the other person is saying simply to respond with your point of view, you should be listening to understand what they mean, how they feel, and why they feel that way.
You can (and should) practice your active listening skills in face-to-face situations.
A good way to do this is to engage in a conversation where each person must summarize the other person’s comments to that person’s satisfaction before moving on to their own point.
Approach conversations with a very open mind!
We all know that honesty is important in the workplace, but sometimes being honest can come across as mean.
Telling someone they smell might be brutal honesty, but explaining it to them with empathy and genuine concern displays kind candor.
By working on kind, genuine honesty, you’ll be seen as someone who is trustworthy and deliberate, and can be depended on to act in their best interests (a good situation to be in if you’re working toward a promotion.)
A good litmus test for kind candor is to ask yourself whether your honesty will actually help improve the other person’s life.
I know, it sounds a little cheesy, but smiling is one of the most effective ways to improve your non-verbal communication.
Having a smile on your face, even if you’re on the phone, lifts the tone of what you’re saying so that it seems more positive, and others are more likely to see your good intention.
This is an especially useful tip for those of you interviewing for jobs, whether in-person or virtually.
We told you there was a lot to learn!
Don’t worry; everyone is on the same journey.
But with a little effort and practice, you’ll find that your communication skills will improve greatly, and so will your shot at landing that dream job.
We’d recommend starting simple:
Focus on active listening by listening intensely to what the other person is saying so that you can respond appropriately
Paying close attention to your nonverbal communication (body language, hand gestures, the tone of your voice)
Speak clearly and concisely by preparing what you’re going to say before you say it, and using short sentences where possible
Focusing on these areas will lift the quality of your relationships with coworkers, managers, recruiters, and hiring managers.
Speaking of hiring managers, if you’re currently on the job hunt, why not check out the open positions in the Jobcase job search?