By Allison Doyle
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.
Top 10 Communication Skills
Want to stand out from the competition? These are some of the top communication skills that recruiters and hiring managers want to see in your resume and cover letter. Highlight these skills and demonstrate them during job interviews, and you’ll make a solid first impression. Continue to develop these skills once you’re hired, and you’ll impress your boss, teammates, and clients.
Being a good listener is one of the best ways to be a good communicator. No one likes communicating with someone who cares only 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 of voice 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 them 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 cues 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 verbal communication means saying just enough – don’t talk too much or too little. 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.
Through a friendly tone, a personal question, or simply a smile, you will encourage your co-workers to engage in open and honest communication with you. It's important to be polite in all your workplace communications. This is important in both face-to-face and written communication. When you can, personalize your emails to co-workers 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.
It is important to be confident in your interactions with others. Confidence shows your co-workers that you believe in what you’re saying and will follow through. 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.
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. Active listening can help you tune in to what your conversational partner is thinking and feeling, which will, in turn, make it easier to display empathy.
A good communicator should enter into 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.
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 that you do not respect her enough to think through your communication with her.
Being able to give and receive feedback appropriately 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.
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, resignation, 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 a very busy person (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 Make Your Skills Stand Out
1. Match your skills to the job. Analyze the job listing, paying special attention to the hard and soft skills that are highlighted in the job description. Then, personalize your resume and cover letter to match their requirements.
2. Familiarize yourself with other in-demand skills. Soft skills like communication may not get a direct nod in a job description, but they’re still highly desired by hiring managers.
3. Use job interviews to your advantage. Job interviews provide an opportunity to show the hiring manager that you have the verbal communication skills necessary to succeed in a job, rather than just telling them that you do. Prepare for your interview, practice beforehand, and don’t be afraid to pause before answering their questions – or to ask for clarification if you need it.
4. Don’t stop when you get the job. Want to make a lasting impression on your colleagues after you’re hired? Use your communication skills at work. Whether it's participating in a company meeting or talking with a client, you'll have many opportunities to show how well you communicate.
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