Communication Skills for Workplace Success

The ability to communicate effectively with superiors, colleagues, and staff is essential, no matter what industry you work in. Workers in the digital age must know how to effectively convey and receive messages in person as well as via phone, email, and social media. What skills do employers look for? Which communication skills will help ensure your success?

Top 10 Communication Skills

Here are the top 10 communication skills that will help you stand out in today’s job market.

1. Listening
Being a good listener is one of the best ways to be a good communicator. No one likes communicating with someone who only cares about putting in her two cents, and does not take the time to listen to the other person. If you’re not a good listener, it’s going to be hard to comprehend what you’re being asked to do.

Take the time to practice active listening. Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing what the person says to ensure understanding (“So, what you’re saying is…”). Through active listening, you can better understand what the other person is trying to say, and can respond appropriately.

2. Nonverbal Communication
Your body language, eye contact, hand gestures, and tone all color the message you are trying to convey. A relaxed, open stance (arms open, legs relaxed), and a friendly tone will make you appear approachable, and will encourage others to speak openly with you.

Eye contact is also important; you want to look the person in the eye to demonstrate that you are focused on the person and the conversation (however, be sure not to stare at the person, which can make him or her uncomfortable).

Also pay attention to other people’s nonverbal signals while you are talking.

Often, nonverbal signals convey how a person is really feeling. For example, if the person is not looking you in the eye, he or she might be uncomfortable or hiding the truth.

3. Clarity and Concision
Good communication means saying just enough – don’t say too little or talk too much. Try to convey your message in as few words as possible. Say what you want clearly and directly, whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone, or via email. If you ramble on, your listener will either tune you out or will be unsure of exactly what you want. Think about what you want to say before you say it; this will help you to avoid talking excessively and/or confusing your audience.

4. Friendliness
Through a friendly tone, a personal question, or simply a smile, you will encourage your coworkers to engage in open and honest communication with you. It’s important to be nice and polite in all your workplace communications. This is important in both face-to-face and written communication. When you can, personalize your emails to coworkers and/or employees – a quick “I hope you all had a good weekend” at the start of an email can personalize a message and make the recipient feel more appreciated

5. Confidence
It is important to be confident in all of your interactions with others. Confidence ensures your coworkers that you believe in and will follow through with what you are saying. Exuding confidence can be as simple as making eye contact or using a firm but friendly tone (avoid making statements sound like questions). Of course, be careful not to sound arrogant or aggressive. Be sure you are always listening to and empathizing with the other person.

6. Empathy
Even when you disagree with an employer, coworker, or employee, it is important for you to understand and respect their point of view. Using phrases as simple as “I understand where you are coming from” demonstrate that you have been listening to the other person and respect their opinions.

7. Open-Mindedness
A good communicator should enter any conversation with a flexible, open mind. Be open to listening to and understanding the other person’s point of view, rather than simply getting your message across. By being willing to enter into a dialogue, even with people with whom you disagree, you will be able to have more honest, productive conversations.

8. Respect
People will be more open to communicating with you if you convey respect for them and their ideas. Simple actions like using a person’s name, making eye contact, and actively listening when a person speaks will make the person feel appreciated. On the phone, avoid distractions and stay focused on the conversation.

Convey respect through email by taking the time to edit your message. If you send a sloppily written, confusing email, the recipient will think you do not respect her enough to think through your communication with her.

9. Feedback
Being able to appropriately give and receive feedback is an important communication skill. Managers and supervisors should continuously look for ways to provide employees with constructive feedback, be it through email, phone calls, or weekly status updates. Giving feedback involves giving praise as well – something as simple as saying “good job” or “thanks for taking care of that” to an employee can greatly increase motivation.

Similarly, you should be able to accept, and even encourage, feedback from others. Listen to the feedback you are given, ask clarifying questions if you are unsure of the issue, and make efforts to implement the feedback

10. Picking the Right Medium
An important communication skill is to simply know what form of communication to use. For example, some serious conversations (layoffs, changes in salary, etc.) are almost always best done in person.

You should also think about the person with whom you wish to speak – if they are very busy people (such as your boss, perhaps), you might want to convey your message through email. People will appreciate your thoughtful means of communication, and will be more likely to respond positively to you.

How to Best Communicate Online

When you’re speaking to someone face to face, it’s easy to understand what they’re saying. After all, we don’t only speak with our mouths; we actually communicate using our bodies too. When face to face, you can read someone’s hand gestures, body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. All of this makes it very easy to understand what the person is saying.

Online it’s a whole different ballgame. When you’re communicating with someone via email, forums or even webcasts it’s not always so easy. You can’t after all read any of the above mentioned expressions.

However, by following a few simple rules you can make communicating on the net a whole lot easier.

  • Write clearly. It’s often difficult to write down what is actually quite easy to say. But writing in a long-winded way can be confusing to the reader. Instead, think about what you mean to say and write in short, clear sentences. Sentences dotted with punctuation can be read in a variety of ways and may confuse the reader – again, stick to short, clear sentences.

It also helps to close your message with a little humor or other “nicety.” This will help stop your overall message from appearing dry. It’s very easy for people to confuse direct and to the point with brashness when reading.

  • Learn netiquette. Online there are different rules of politeness. Did you know that writing in all capitals means your shouting? This is an easy mistake for a novice to make and one you’ll want to avoid.

Also, using too many exclamation marks can make your message appear irrational or a bit over the top, too. And on the other hand, very overly direct sentences without the use of humor may appear harsh or unemotional. Try to strike the balance between using expressive punctuation like exclamation marks and not using them at all.You can also use emoticons online to express how you’re feeling – a happy face at the end of a direct message can make a big difference to the overall impression of the reader. However, if you’re writing in a more professional manner or would like your message to be taken seriously, too many emoticons, such as happy faces, may make you appear unprofessional or someone not to be taken seriously. Again, it’s all about striking the right balance.

  • Explain yourself. Particularly when dealing with colleagues and subcontractors it’s important for them to know right from the start that when you’re writing a business message you may do so in a very direct way. Ask them not to take it to mean anything other than what is written on the message.

This is a particularly effective strategy when dealing with virtual helpers such as writers or VAs. You simply may not have time to include a chatty message with each and every email. Explain that your direct messages don’t mean that you’re upset or anything – you’re just communicating about the job at hand.These three rules will hopefully help you avoid many pitfalls of online communication. It also helps to keep in mind that sometimes you may read a message differently to what the writer intended. It’s always best to approach these situations with caution by simply asking the writer to please explain what they meant. The worst thing to do would be to go in all guns blazing and then realizing that you actually misunderstood their message – oops.

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