What you need to know about communication skills
Communication skills are an important component of being successful in nearly any career. Whether you're a project manager, a financial advisor, or anything in between, effective communication is necessary to perform many job duties. Good skills in this area can also enhance your resume and set you apart from other candidates when making a career switch. Learn what communication skills are, how to overcome common communication skills barriers, and 12 of the most important communication skills that are transferable across a variety of professions.
What are communication skills?
Communication skills, sometimes referred to as interpersonal skills, are skills that help you effectively receive and give various types of information. Examples of common skills necessary in a professional setting include friendliness, active listening, and respect. Having strong interpersonal skills enables you to successfully convey information to coworkers, clients, management, and others in the workplace as well as understand the information being conveyed to you in a concise and clear way.
Many communication skills are transferable across professions, so spending time developing your interpersonal skills will likely support your current and future career path.
How to overcome communication skills barriers in the workplace
While interpersonal skills are important in most workplace settings, effectively communicating can sometimes be challenging due to communication barriers. Common communication barriers seen in a professional setting include emotional barriers (how your and others’ emotions affect communication), language barriers (how the language used in communicating impacts its effectiveness), and physical barriers (how the office is set up as well as any perceived physical barriers.)
The following are steps you can take to overcome barriers within the workplace to ensure more productive communication efforts:
- Be aware of your tone of voice and body language. Nonverbal cues like tone of voice and body language play a significant role in how your communication is perceived. Take time to become familiar with your common body language cues and the tone you use when speaking with others and work to ensure these cues line up with what you’re trying to convey.
- Ask for feedback. Requesting and offering feedback is a great way to get an accurate idea of how others are receiving your communication and allows you to let colleagues know how you are interpreting their methods of communicating. This is a great opportunity to discuss any current barriers that are preventing you and others from effectively relaying information to each other.
- Eliminate distractions. When you are communicating with someone else, it’s important to remove distractions such as your phone or email alerts so you can focus entirely on what the person is saying. This shows respect and conveys the message that you are truly listening.
Communication skills examples
Active listening is a communication skill that defines the ability to focus completely on the person speaking, accurately understand what they are saying, and respond appropriately. This skill requires non-verbal and verbal techniques to demonstrate your focus on the speaker. Examples of active listening skills include:
- Offering verbal affirmations.
- Asking specific questions.
- Paraphrasing the information being conveyed.
- Maintaining eye contact.
Empathy refers to your ability to share and understand another individual’s emotions and experience. Being able to emphasize with others allows you to better interpret what they’re trying to communicate. An example of empathy in the workplace would be considering the other person’s point of view and respecting it even when you don’t agree with it.
Emotional intelligence is your ability to manage your emotions in a way that ensures they don’t interfere with your ability to communicate. The four main components of emotional intelligence include relationship management, social awareness, self-awareness, and self-management.
Friendliness is an important communication skill and helps others receive your message more readily. An example of practicing friendliness in the workplace is including personalized messages, such as wishing someone a good evening, when communicating.
Nonverbal communication plays a major role in how your message is received. Facial expressions, body language, and eye contact are all ways in which we communicate nonverbally with others. Being aware of your nonverbal cues and the cues others portray when communicating will encourage more effective communication efforts and help you better understand what’s being said.
People often respond better to those who communicate in a confident manner than those who don’t appear confident. Practice good posture, eye contact, and an even tone of voice to ensure you’re being perceived as confident when receiving or relaying information.
Being open to feedback is critical to improving your interpersonal skills. Make it a point to ask for feedback from others in the workplace and use this feedback to strengthen your ability to convey and interpret information.
Going into a conversation with an open mind is essential to ensuring you’re able to understand the other person’s point of view and communicate effectively with them.
When someone feels they are respected, they’re often more open to communicating and sharing their ideas and concerns. Taking time to actively listen, maintain eye contact, and avoid distractions are great ways to show your respect when interacting with others.
Communicating what you mean clearly and directly is imperative to ensure that others understand what you’re expressing. Try to ensure you’re not speaking too much or too little and that the words you use are necessary for getting your point across and aren’t just ‘fluff’ that confuses or distracts the other person.
People who respond quickly are often considered more effective at communicating than those who take several hours or days to respond. Even if a response will take longer than the time you have at the moment, letting the other person know you received their message and will get back to them can go a long way towards more efficient communication.
Stress can have a negative impact on your ability to communicate as it affects your emotions, mood, and often how you convey and receive information. Practice good stress management skills, such as breathing exercises and being physically active, can make you a better communicator.