Improving Communication: Developing Effective Communication Skills

Effective communication is a fundamental skill in both personal relationships and the business world. Improving both written and verbal communication skills is essential to success in the workplace, as you will use these skills every day on the job. The benefits of effective communication skills are plentiful, and there are a few key components of effective communication that are important to keep in mind:

First, what you don’t say can be just as important as what you do say. Mastering the art of body language can make or break a conversation, interview, or presentation. Try to hold yourself in an open posture so as not to appear closed-off, defensive, or unconfident. Maintaining an appropriate level of eye contact is essential; just be careful not to overdo it! Not only is it important to be conscious of your own eye contact and posture, but learning to interpret the body language of others is also valuable. One of the biggest potential pitfalls of a conversation is failing to read what a person is trying to stay with their body.

Another absolutely essential communication skill is effective listening. Great listeners not only make sure they understand what the other person said, but they make it very clear to their conversation partner that they are being heard. Conversations are a two-way street; when it is not your turn to talk, make sure you are really absorbing what the other person is saying rather than focusing on what you want to say next. Be sure not to be distracted by other conversations or stimuli, and give the other person your undivided attention. Put that cell phone away! If you find yourself having trouble understanding what the other person is telling you, always ask for clarification. Never be afraid to ask questions: Not only does this avoid miscommunication, but the other person will feel all the more heard and valued.

A key component to being an effective listener and communicator is developing empathy. Being empathic allows you to consider the other person’s point of view without being judgmental or dismissive. Empathy and recognizing the validity of differing points of view is essential to resolving conflicts, whether in one’s personal life or the workplace. Conflicts do not have to become arguments; if every person feels that their point of view is being heard and respected, all parties can then move forward and work together to compromise on a solution that works for everyone.

When it comes time to speak, make sure to speak clearly and simply. Jargon, slang, and overly technical language complicate communication. Avoid “filler” words like “umm” and “like”; take time to think about what you want to say before you speak, and don’t be afraid of pauses. Most pauses in conversation sound much more natural to the listener than they do to the speaker. Treat everyone you speak to in a professional environment with equal consideration and respect, but make sure you tailor a presentation, conversation, or negotiation to your audience. For example, informal language, texting acronyms, or slang terms are appropriate for a casual conversation with friends but not for a business email. Finally, always have a positive attitude and smile. A winning smile can make all the difference!

Those who practice effective communication skills have proven to be more successful in the workplace: They are masters of the art of the interview, they speak publiclywith ease, and they write clear and concise business letters and professional emails. If communication is of particular interest to you as an academic topic or career aspiration, you might consider a college major in communications. A number of universities offer bachelor’s degrees in communications, which can be used as a great launching point for a career in business, journalism, multimedia, entertainment, technology, and more. Those who are especially adept in this field can specialize further, seeking a graduate degree in the field to polish their skills. Check your local area for colleges that offer a Master of Communication or a Master of Communication Management, online or on-campus.

Additional Resources

Online Master of Communication Management