Key communication skills
Here are some of the most crucial components that make up good communication skills. Include them in your work habits and be conscious of them as your career grows.
- Clarity and concision When you’re giving a team or your coworkers instructions, it’s important to speak clearly and concisely. This means using words that are easy to understand by everyone and saying what you need directly, whether in person, on the phone, via email, or via Zoom call.
- Body language Also known as nonverbal communication, body language, such as hand gestures or stance, adds depth to the message you’re saying. For example, if your body is relaxed and you’re holding eye contact, you’ll appear more approachable and others will feel comfortable speaking with you.
- Active listening Engage with others by paying attention to what they’re saying and asking questions or responding. Try to avoid distractions, like looking at your emails or typing on your computer while they’re speaking with you, and focus on them. This will help you build a respectful connection with them.
- Emotional intelligence When you’re emotionally intelligent, you can perceive, understand and manage your own emotions without jeopardizing your work or others. It helps you find positive ways to release stress, create positive social interactions and empathize with others.
- Friendliness Friendliness ties in with characteristics such as kindness and helpfulness. Using a friendly tone when talking or simply appearing at ease will likely encourage your coworkers to engage in conversation with you. You can also go the extra mile and start your messages by wishing someone they had a good weekend or volunteering to help them out on a project.
- Respect Using a person’s name, taking the time to edit your email before sending it and arriving at meetings on time goes a long way. The person at the receiving end of your conversation will feel appreciated and the people joining you at the meeting will thank you for considering their time.
- Empathy Empathy allows you to put yourself “in someone else’s shoes.” Having this ability means that not only can you understand what they’re feeling and going through, but you can effectively respect their point of view and be there to lend a hand, even if you disagree with them.
- Cultural Awareness In an increasingly global world, being culturally aware is an essential part of communicating effectively. You might encounter people from different backgrounds and beliefs in your job — remaining respectful and accepting of these differences is crucial. Cultural awareness is all about understanding and being sensitive to the values brought about by diverse cultural backgrounds.
- Confidence You can walk the walk and you can talk the talk. When you’re confident, everything about the way you talk, stand and behave changes — and people notice. Confidence shows employers (and clients) that you wholeheartedly believe what you’re saying and doing.
How communication skills are used at work
Good communication skills are important in every job. These are some examples of how the communication skills listed above come into play in different jobs:
For nurses (and other health care professionals), good communication skills are essential. Nurses should approach every patient interaction with the intention of understanding their concerns and experiences to provide the best care.
- Empathy allows nurses to have a stronger connection with their patients, as they can also view things from their point of view.
- Emotional intelligence improves communication so that nurses can cope with conflict more effectively.
- Cultural awareness prepares nurses to be aware and sensitive upon caring (or working) for people from a wide range of social, cultural and educational backgrounds. For example, a patient might not speak English fluently, in which case they should be patient and bring in a translator if possible.
As the direct line between clients and marketing agencies, account managers are tasked with making the client’s request clear to the creative department and presenting the final strategy to the client.
- Clarity and concision ensure that instructions are stated clearly and that all the parties involved in the project understand what needs to be done.
- Active listening comes in handy when talking to a client. They chose your agency to promote their service or product, so it’s important to make them feel heard.
Great customer service can make clients feel comfortable and willing to come back to the store. Sales associates assist customers every day, so having excellent communication skills is crucial.
- Body language can either prompt a customer to stay away or invite them in. Sales associates should appear welcoming in their stance and, of course, smile when talking to customers
- Friendliness helps sales associates sound and appear more approachable.
Office managers make sure that operations in the office are running smoothly and the team has everything they need to complete their job. They will more than likely manage a team and report to their supervisor, making communication an essential part of their day.
- Confidence allows office managers to convey what they want clearly and efficiently, effectively leading their team.
- Respect goes both ways. When office managers communicate respectfully with everyone, they’re setting a standard on how to treat others.
How to highlight your communication skills
Show your potential employer that you have the right communication skills by following these tips:
It goes without saying that you should tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for. A good way to feature the right communication skills in your resume is by basing them on the job description. For example, if the employer is looking for a sales associate with excellent communication skills, you can include in your work history how you effectively enrolled over 50 people in the store’s rewards program.
For details on how to include skills in your resume, see our resume skills page.
Your cover letter
Determine what particular communication skill is a good match with the job and explain in detail how you’ve used it at a previous position. If you’re applying for a job that will require you to give presentations, you can talk about your experience confidently presenting new projects or a product to an important client.
To learn how to choose the best skills to highlight in your cover letter, read this article.
Your job interview
Harvard Business Review states that the first 30 seconds of an interview are very important. They emphasize the importance of appearing confident and speaking clearly but slowly. So when the time comes to get interviewed by a recruiter or hiring manager, remember to think before speaking and look them in the eye.
Check out our other interview tips.
4 steps to improve your communication skills
Being a good communicator takes practice, even if it comes naturally to you. Here are different ways you can improve the way you communicate:
- Be self-aware. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is the first step to identifying any areas where you need to work on your communication skills. You can start by asking people you trust, especially those you work with, for feedback.
- Learn how to listen. It’s important to be present in your conversations with other people or during meetings. Slouching, looking at other things (like your phone!), or sighing mid-conversation shows disinterest. Be mindful of your body language and focus on one thing: the person you’re talking with.
- Think clearly about what you will say. Some things are better left unsaid, while others need to be carefully worded. Before you say the first thing that comes to mind, take a moment to think it through and ask yourself if what you’re saying is helpful, worded correctly and appropriate for the workspace.
- Prepare for meetings. Everyone should get ready to participate in a meeting, especially people who are not comfortable with public speaking. Gather your notes, read the meeting objective and come with the mindset needed for it — it will help you be an active participant.
As you move on to write on your resume how you applied your communication skills or actively improve them by following one of the steps on this guide, look at our other career resources. You can navigate our library of resume examples and cover letter examples to use as foundation for your own or read more articles dedicated to helping you be a better professional.
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