Having effective communication is one of the most important attributes for an employee to have in the workplace, as it encourages collaboration and improves efficiency.
Positive communication skills generally include written, verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as active listening and interaction. By understanding what makes a good communicator and how you can get there, you can become a much more positive force within the environment.
In this article, we explore what communication skills are, how to improve your communication skills and why they’re important.
What are Communication Skills?
Whether you realise it or not, you use communication skills whenever you give or receive information. You’ll typically use communication skills at work or in a group learning setting as these spaces require sharing ideas or feelings with a variety of people with different agendas and goals.
Communication skills generally include things such as listening, speaking, observing and empathising. It’s important to remember that communication skills don’t just stop at verbal and written communication – you also need to understand how your body language contributes to the situation.
9 Examples of Communication Skills
There are a variety of different communication skills that you can make use of and improve in a professional capacity. If you actively think about these communication skills and how you can use them in your day-to-day work life, you’ll quickly become a more confident communicator.
Remember that these different skills work in tandem with each other and if you practice all of them – whether you’re at home or work – you can become a much more effective colleague, employee or employer. Our top 9 examples of communication skills are:
1. Active listening
2. Constructive feedback
3. Volume and clarity
4. Empathy and respect
8. Body language
9. Adapting how you communicate
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Active listening is the skill of listening to someone speaking and paying close attention, asking follow-up questions or helping the speaker to process idea and thoughts. Active listening is useful as it helps you better understand what the speaker is saying but also helps you earn the respect of the speaker.
Active listening can be difficult to improve but the first step is to avoid distractions and practice coming up with ways of continuing the conversation or offering comments based on what you’ve heard.
A professional with strong communication skills will deal better with receiving and providing constructive feedback. Feedback in the workplace should alway be constructive and avoid targeting personal attributes or processes.
If you’re providing feedback, it’s important to focus on the issue but also provide potential solutions or alternative approaches. If you’re receiving feedback, you should try to avoid becoming defensive and realise that there may be other ways to achieve your goal.
Volume and clarity
Understanding and modifying the volume you speak at – plus how clear you are – is a great communication skill. It’s an important skill to have and is critical to effectively communicating within the workplace.
If you speak too loud, you may be seen as aggressive, disrespectful or obnoxious. Likewise, if you speak too quietly, people may miss important details or lose interest in what you’re saying. The key is to modify the volume you speak at depending on the situation, the people around you and what the setting calls for.
Empathy and respect
Empathy is important when you communicate as it helps you understand the feelings and emotions that other people around you are having. If you can understand these feelings, you’ll be in a better place to communicate effectively.
If someone is showing frustration, empathy can help you diffuse the issue. If someone is showing positive emotions or enthusiasm, you can maintain that positivity and turn it into action. Another key part of communicating is being respectful and understanding when you need to be a part of a conversation or not.
Having confidence can help you communicate more efficiently and ensure that the people listening to you are engaged. This is extremely important in the workplace, especially if you’re delivering a presentation or responding to ideas. To improve confidence, consider maintaining eye contact when you’re speaking with people, keep a good posture and prepare ahead of time – this will ensure that you seem less flustered.
A positive, open and trustworthy demeanour is an essential part of being a good communicator. When you have an open mind, you can get a better understanding of why colleagues are doing the things they’re doing and build positive relationships. Developing a positive demeanour can be as easy as asking someone how they are, smiling or offering praise when it’s deserved.
Being responsive in the workplace – whether you’re speaking to suppliers or responding to colleagues – is an exceptional communication skill and one you’ll use often. Fast communicators are often seen as more effective and if you can’t respond, make sure that you provide an idea of when you’ll be able to. This lets people know that you’re taking the response or question seriously and you respect their time.
When you work with the same people day-in-day-out, you’ll quickly realise that a lot of communication is non-verbal and includes facial expressions, eye contact and reactive gestures. When you listen to people, make sure you’re looking at them and giving them your full attention. Don’t slouch, fidget or mess with distractions. Likewise, when you’re speaking, think about how your body language is coming across and avoid things like folded arms or pointing.
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How to Improve Your Communication Skills
By actively thinking about how you communicate with other people, including where your strengths are and which areas you need to improve on, you’re already well on your way to understanding how to improve your communication skills.
Some quick tips on improving your communication include:
Ask someone you trust – at work or that you know personally – which areas of communication they feel you could improve on. Break down the examples of communication skills mentioned above and you’ll have a better idea of where to start.
Try and make a habit of thinking about your communication skills when you’re presented with certain opportunities – such as providing constructive feedback. If you can make good communication a habit, it’s more likely you’ve developed your skills over time.
Encourage group exercises that make use of and improve your communication skills. Exercises such as these not only improve the bond between a team but can be a great opportunity to recognise where these skills are used and put them into action.
Using Communication Skills in the Workplace
One of the most common spaces where you’ll use a whole range of communication skills is at work. There are a few different ways you can be an effective communicator in the workplace:
Be clear: Clarity is one of the most important considerations at work – it reduces the chance of misunderstandings, helps others understand what you’re trying to achieve and streamlines a project – vital if you’re trying to meet a deadline.
Be empathetic: Understanding where a colleague is coming from and taking the time to read their point of view can build more trust, which helps communication flow better between you.
Be assertive: While this can be difficult for certain personality types, being assertive can help you reach your goals. This doesn’t mean you need to be aggressive, you just need to let others know what you want and where you stand. This is important if you’re resisting against an idea that doesn’t seem beneficial or trying to get a point across.
Be calm: If you experience a conflict in the workplace, it’s easy to let emotion take over, which can hinder communication. It’s important to stay as calm as possible and be aware of how your tone of voice is coming across to others.
Use body language: Body language is a vital part of communication in general, not just the workplace. While people may say something vocally, their body language may say something else entirely.