Based on surveys undertaken by Microsoft, Target Jobs, the BBC, Prospects, NACE and AGR, verbal communication was found to be the most sought after skills by employers.
While poor communication skills promote misunderstanding and hinder professional success, good communication skills are essential for anyone looking for job nowadays; in fact, every professional job today requires communication skills.
What’s good to know is that communication skills can be learned and as what Brian Tracy said, “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
Now, what are these communication skills that you need to learn? According to Martin Yate in his Knock ‘em Dead Series, “communication embraces much more than listening and speaking.” But communication has many facets. “When the professional world talks about communication skills, it is referring to four primary skills and four supportive skills,” he added.
The Primary Communication Skills
1. Verbal skills
Verbal skill, also known as spoken communication, is a skill that covers what you say and how you say it. Improve your verbal skill by following the basic rules of etiquette.
2. Listening skills
Listen to understand, rather than just waiting for your turn to talk. You can learn a lot by listening. Just as your small talk can add value to an interaction, you have to learn to really listen and read between the lines when others are speaking to you. Well, it is indeed true that one of the most respected but least practiced polite behaviors is listening. Most of us would agree that problems could be solved more quickly and a lot more could be accomplished if people would just listen. So…what constitutes a good listener?
If you are not really interested, or it is just not a good time, say so. Show others the respect of not wasting their time. If you do initiate a conversation or ask a question, focus on the speaker and make a sincere effort to listen to the response.
Speak with your body language.
Use your body. Your body language should show interest. Make direct eye contact as you listen, and smile or nod if you agree with what is being said to encourage the speaker to go on. Don’t fold your arms across your chest or fidget as both these behaviors can signal close mindedness.
Ask intelligent, relevant questions.
Don’t pretend to understand something if you don’t and don’t let a speaker go on and on about something if you haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re trying to say. It’s far more courteous to stop the speaker and ask for clarification.
Do not interrupt unless absolutely necessary. As in the case of seeking clarification. If you must interrupt, make eye contact and say the speaker’s name and then your reason for interrupting. Make the interruption brief and do not take over the speaker’s role unless the interrupted speaker indicates it’s appropriate to do so. Keep in mind that inappropriate interruptions are not always verbal. Be careful not to sigh, groan, roll your eyes, shift your weight or change your posture in such a way as to indicate a nonverbal interruption.
Wait your turn to speak.
Take turns when communicating in a group discussion. Do not monopolize the speaker’s role. It is not always fundamental to take a turn speaking about every topic. Show consideration for others in the group by letting everyone share the limelight. If someone who is especially shy or rarely speaks up shows interest in a topic, maybe consider letting them have your speaking turn too.
You are not listening if you are responding in your head while the person is speaking. Pay attention next time someone is speaking to you. If you notice you have started speaking to yourself in your head, analyzing what they’ve said or formulating your next comment, you’re really not listening. Give yourself time to hear their complete thought and then formulate your response. This is a good way to avoid speaking in haste and saying the wrong thing too.
3. Writing skills
Clear written communication is essential for your success in any professional career because it creates a lasting impression of who you are.
4. Technological communication skills
The know-how on navigating the new communication media is essential nowadays. Data-entry, emailing and social networking skills are just few of the technological communication skills that you should learn in order to stay employable.
The Four Supportive Communication Skills
These skills are subtler, but, nevertheless, they impact every interaction you have with others.
1. Grooming and dress
To be able to function and fit in in today’s society, you must make sure your personal grooming is up to standard. Job opportunities, relationship possibilities, and invitations to parties and other social events are all inextricably linked to how you present yourself to the world.
2. Social graces
Social graces are demonstrated by how you behave around others. If your table manners are sketchy, odds are you’ll never sit at the CEO’s table or represent your organization at the higher levels.
3. Body language
This displays how you’re feeling deep inside. This is a form of communication that mankind learned before speech. For truly effective communication, what your mouth says must be in harmony with what your body says.
4. Emotional IQ
Emotional IQ or EQ is your emotional self-awareness, your maturity in dealing with others in the full range of human interaction.
Resources: Improve Your Communication Skills
Improve your Listening Skills: Mindtools
Improve your Social Graces: WindowsCollective
Improve your Emotional Intelligence: About.com