The communication skills of effective communicators
Effective communicators are characterized by the right communication skills.
In essence, communication skills are soft skills that represent one’s ability to receive and provide different types of information, under different circumstances, and with different people. Strong communicative skills are essential for effective team communication at the workplace.
In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits associated with the right communication skills and list the 22 communicative skills you need to possess to be an effective communicator. We’ll also provide advice on how to obtain them — with examples that explain how these soft skills help individuals and their teams thrive in the workplace.
The importance of strong communication skills
Strong communication skills are so important at the workplace, that they may even trump experience — one GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey shows that as much as 69% of recruiters are confident in hiring graduates straight from business school, provided that they possess the right communication skills.
This number is well justified — after all, the right communication skills bring a number of benefits to any workplace.
Strong communication skills are the key to great teamwork
The #1 in-demand soft skill at the workplace is communication. Namely, one Linkedin research has shown that 57.9% of new hires pride themselves in great communication skills.
This is hardly unwarranted — after all, working in a team means you need to request/provide information, give instructions, discuss and solve problems, as well as interact with colleagues, superiors, and clients on a regular basis.
In line with that, possessing the right written and verbal communication skills will always increase your chances of getting the job you’ve applied to. Moreover, these skills will also help your career progress through promotions at the later stages of your employment.
Strong communication skills help your team thrive
If every teammate possesses the right communication skills, the team flourishes. This is tied to the fact that collaboration is the key to team success, while communication is the key to successful collaboration.
Teammates who possess the right communicative skills are able to:
- make decisions faster;
- solve problems easier;
- strengthen their professional relationships;
- build clearer, better-streamlined workflows.
Strong communication skills help you communicate your thoughts
At the workplace, you’ll need to know how to behave in different types of situations that require communication — meetings, public speeches, unplanned conversations, and negotiations are only the tip of the iceberg.
By possessing the right communicating skills, you’ll have everything you need to properly conduct yourself in whatever communication challenge you encounter — even more important, you’ll be able to express your thoughts, ideas, and opinions effectively.
Strong communication skills influence what/how you can learn
Good communication skills are what helps you seek, absorb, and provide information in the first place.
Once you learn how to speak, you gradually learn how to ask questions and express opinions.
Once you learn how to read, you gradually gain the ability to read books, instructions, and articles.
Once you learn how to write, you gradually gain the ability to write down important knowledge you learn from your teachers and parents in early life, and colleagues and superiors in later life.
Your interactions with other people help you think critically, learn how to be more open-minded, and better express yourself.
Strong communication skills enhance your professional image overall
Great communication skills are the key to a great first impression — they influence how the people you are working with will view you.
The more attentive and communicative you are when interacting with colleagues, superiors, and clients, the more professional will you appear to others.
The current overview of communication skills at the workplace
Despite the benefits strong communication skills bring both to the individuals who possess them and the teams they work with, employees, managers, and job candidates currently seem to lack prowess in communication — the current state of communication skills at the workplace seems deficient in several areas:
- Insufficient communication skills overall — As much as 60% of employers state that job applicants do not demonstrate sufficient communication skills to be considered for the jobs they apply to, according to Time;
- Money loss — companies lose as much as $62.4 million per year, because of faulty communication happening between employees or faulty communication aimed at employees, according to SHRM;
- Insufficient directions — As much as 57% of employees report they don’t get clear directions for their work, according to HR Technologist;
- Uneasy communication overall — As much as 69% of managers are simply uncomfortable while communicating with their teams, according to HR Technologist;
- Disorganization — The same number of managers fails to organize communication within their teams, according to Rallyware;
- A lack of official communication — As much as 70% of communication in an organization circulates in the form of rumors and unofficial information, according to Chron;
- Troubling feedback practices — 37% of managers are uncomfortable at the thought of providing feedback to an employee, because they fear a negative response, according to Harvard Business Review;
- Missed deadlines — 28% of employees cite poor communication as the key reason for late project delivery, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association.
What are communication skills you need to pursue?
To overcome the current challenges of poor workplace communication, and enjoy the benefits of effective team communication, everyone involved in team processes needs to perfect the right communication skills.
Here’s what these communication skills are and how you can work on them — with actionable advice and examples.
Active listening is a crucial form of communication.
By actively listening to someone, you’re not just hearing what they are saying, you’re also:
- paying active attention to their words;
- actively showing you are listening;
- providing timely feedback;
- deferring all judgment;
- responding appropriately, in a timely manner.
The types of active listening include:
- Informational listening its purpose is to take in new information, without further scrutinizing it;
- Critical listening its purpose is to understand and then evaluate what you’ve just heard;
- Empathic listening its purpose is to understand someone’s feelings;
- Rapport listening its purpose is to build rapport with someone;
- Reflecting its purpose is to restate what the other person is saying/feeling.
Techniques you can use to show that you are actively listening to someone include:
- Paying active attention to the speaker
- Maintain eye contact, nod, and smile;
- But, don’t just smile, nod, and tune out — make the effort to truly understand what the speaker is saying, and ask questions when you don’t understand something;
- Pay attention to the speaker’s body language, to pick up any additional meaning behind their words.
- Avoid distractions
- Try to tune out background noise;
- Don’t let thinking about what you want to say in response distract you from what you are listening to;
- Never interrupt the speaker mid-sentence, no matter how important and immediate you think your contribution would be.
- Encouraging the speaker to continue
- Have an open posture;
- Paraphrase what you hear;
- Repeat key phrases and words;
- Ask for confirmation of how you understood something;
- Be honest and open when replying.
🔸 Example of active listening
Gawen and Robb are a junior and a senior illustrator, working for a marketing agency that runs a blog about the latest marketing trends.
Gawen has an idea for an illustration for the latest blog post and wants to run his idea past Robb.
While listening to Gawen’s idea, Robb maintains eye contact, nods, and encourages Gawen to finish disclosing his plan by uttering an occasional “Uh-huh” or “Yes”.
Once Gawen is done speaking, Robb paraphrases the idea, repeats key phrases and words, asks a couple of questions, and seeks confirmation for whether he understood the idea correctly.
Gawen listens to the questions attentively, answers them, and confirms that Robb understood everything correctly.
Gawen’s idea is then greenlit and he starts working on the realization.
By actively listening to one another, both Robb and Gawen managed to quickly understand the idea is worth the effort — which saved them a lot of time.
Proper nonverbal communication
When talking with someone face-to-face, you usually focus on what you are saying — but, you may be unaware of the meaning your nonverbal cues may be adding to your words.
These nonverbal cues include nonverbal patterns such as facial expressions, body posture, gestures, tone of voice, pitch, and loudness.
It’s important you adjust them to fit with the norms of communication — but also with what you want to convey.
🔸 Example of proper nonverbal communication
Clara and Amy are two sales specialists who frequently need to communicate to get quality results from their lead and prospect processes.
Every time they meet up to talk about prospects and leads, they both take on an open stance, use a friendly tone and medium volume, and maintain eye contact.
As a result, they avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings.
Great chatting skills
To be able to effectively communicate with teammates about work, you’ll also need to feel comfortable about chatting with them about non-work matters.
So, make the effort to boost your chatting skills, build rapport with colleagues, and get to know them as real people.
For this skill, practice is key — you can:
- Initiate small talk
- Upon first arriving at work;
- Before a meeting;
- While making coffee;
- Before you leave home at the end of the day.
- Spend time together outside of work
- Make arrangements to volunteer for a cause;
- Go out for drinks;
- Go to the gym together;
- Find a hobby you share.
- Invite colleagues for lunch
- This can be a daily habit that involves having an organized lunch break where you all order from the same restaurant;
- Or, you can simply state your intentions to go to the nearby restaurant, and ask whether someone would like to come with you.
During these socialization moments, you can ask your colleagues the following questions:
- “How are you?”
- “What do you plan to do for the weekend?”
- “Where do you plan to go for vacation this year?”
- “What are your hobbies?”
- “What do you think about topic X?”
🔸 Example of great chatting skills
Jenna, Arthur, Kate, and Sarah are surgeons at a local hospital.
To build effective teamwork and communication at work, they’re making the effort to get to know each other better by going to the gym as a group, two times per week.
Through casual conversations at lunch breaks, they also discovered they share a passion for fantasy-themed board games.
So, they get together twice per month to indulge in game sessions, talk, and bond over their shared interests.
As a result, they get to know how each of them thinks and behaves — which proves useful during surgeries.
Responsiveness implies that the person in question is fast to reply and engage in conversation. As such, it is an important communication skill — especially for remote teams who usually need to rely solely on technology to communicate and collaborate.
In order to help their teams be responsive in communication, managers will first need to create an internal communication code — for example:
- Emails mean *low* urgency — Reply to emails within 24 hours;
- Messages in public/private channels and threads mean *medium* urgency — Reply to messages in public/private channels and threads as soon as convenient (e.g. ideally, within an hour);
- Direct messages and mentions mean *high* urgency — Reply to direct messages and mentions in a team chat app as soon as possible (e.g. ideally, within 10-15 minutes);
- Phone calls mean the *highest* urgency — Reply to phone calls during work hours (e.g. ideally, within 5 minutes);
A clear internal communication code will set expectations and boundaries in terms of team responsiveness.
🔸 Example of being responsive
Felix is a highly responsive project manager who works remotely. During work hours, he replies to:
- emails within 2 hours;
- relevant messages in private/public channels and threads of his team communication app within half an hour;
- mentions in private/public channels and direct messages within 5 minutes;
- phone calls immediately.
Even when he is not directly communicating with someone, he still shows his engagement with the team by adding emojis to the funny memes and videos his colleagues post in the #random channel of their chat app. He also adds emojis and comments to the general information managers and senior executives post in the #general channel.
He does so because he understands how important it is to stay in the loop and connected with the rest of the team while working remotely.
Whenever there is a problem or a challenge in the project, Felix’s colleagues and superiors know they can rely on him to answer and provide help as soon as possible.
Appropriate emotion control
Emotions play an important role in communication — especially if we take into account how often people jump into making decisions solely based on how they feel.
We distinguish between positive, negative, and two-fold emotions.
Types of emotions at the workplace
According to Fredrikson (2009), positive emotions include:
These positive emotions lead to several benefits at the workplace, including:
- better interpersonal relationships;
- improved social interactions;
- better creativity and innovation;
- increased job satisfaction;
- lower employee turnover.
On the other hand, according to Bond University professor of management Cynthia Fisher and her study, “Emotions at Work: What Do People Feel, and How Should We Measure It?“, the most common negative emotions at the workplace include:
They often push you to make ill-advised decisions or engage in conflict at the workplace.
However, some emotions are two-fold.
For example, fear can be good — at least for some teams, and in certain amounts. A lack of a healthy dose of fear in security firms or investment banks can make people act recklessly and make mistakes that affect their clients.
However, research by Berkeley professor emeritus Barry Staw and his colleagues shows fear can also negatively affect people’s executive functions — such as memory, impulse control, and even judgment.
Creating the right emotion culture
Because of this, it’s crucial managers endorse the right emotions, in the right amount — and, make a conscious effort to build the right emotion culture for their teams.
According to the definition by professors Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill, a well-established emotion culture for a team includes:
“The shared affective values, norms, artifacts, and assumptions that govern which emotions people have and express at work and which ones they are better off suppressing.”
To build an appropriate emotion culture, managers can:
- Encourage positive expression
Help people make the most of their moments of joy at work and transform their negative emotions into something positive (instead of bottling them up).
- Commit to communication
Help people connect with each other, and with the company as an institution — by allowing them to express their concerns and ask questions.
- Emphasize feedback
Help people express themselves through feedback sessions — during which they will be able to share their opinions and concerns.
🔸 Examples of appropriate emotion control
- A company culture in a marketing agency that prescribes people are free to express their concerns and opinions in a neutral, fact-based manner that is void of strong negative emotions.
- A financial services company that encourages a little fear when handling clients’ accounts, just to avoid employees being reckless when handling accounts.
Proper stress management
While stress management may not seem like a classical communication skill, it is still an ability that helps you build effective communication.
When you are stressed, you’re more likely to:
- Pay insufficient attention to a conversation;
- Misunderstand or miscommunicate something;
- Say something you’ll later regret;
- Enter into unproductive conflicts.
On the other hand, being less stressed helps you communicate better.
According to the American Psychological Association, to cope with stress at work, teammates and managers need to:
- Track stressors
- Identify the situations/people/settings causing you stress;
- Understand how you feel when you’re stressed;
- Understand how you act when you’re stressed.
- Establish boundaries
- Decide when you’ll be available/unavailable for work contacts (e.g. outside of work hours);
- Avoid checking emails and messages at night;
- If you work from home, create a work corner/home office, to strike a clear balance between your workstation and the rest of your life at home.
- Develop healthy responses
- Identify what helps you relax (e.g. yoga, exercise, hobbies, socializing, etc.).
- Take the time to recharge
- Manage workaholic tendencies;
- “Switch off” from work when you’re not working;
- Take breaks;
- Take vacation days.
- Meditate (e.g. deep breathing exercises and mindfulness).
- Get support
- Accept help from others who can help you manage stress;
- Accept stress management resources (e.g. online information, referrals to mental health professionals, etc.).
- Talk to supervisor
- Have conversations with superiors about employer-sponsored wellness resources.
🔸 Example of proper stress management
Stella is a history teacher at the local high school which currently focuses on providing virtual lessons.
She feels stressed on Mondays, which causes her to miscommunicate and misunderstand information during weekly faculty meetings she attends online.
One day, Stella takes the time to think about and manage her stress:
- Step#1: Track stressors
She realizes the faculty meetings occur immediately before her lessons with a particularly difficult group of students who tend to sabotage her classes — they pretend their internet connection is down, and then they send her messages about lessons before and after the lessons. This is probably the situation/people/setting that causes the stress that lowers her efficiency at the faculty meetings.
- Step #2: Establish boundaries
She decides she will instigate an official policy that prescribes the hours when students will be able to contact her — and thus limit this time. She also prescribes penalties for those who miss classes because their Internet connection was down, but they couldn’t prove it or were outright caught lying.
- Step #3: Develop healthy responses
She decides she will practice yoga for 10 minutes every day before she needs to meet with the group of students in question.
- Step #4: Take the time to recharge
She decides she will take her breaks and vacation days “more seriously” in the upcoming period — to better recharge overall.
- Step#5: Relax
She decides she will combine her 10-minute yoga exercises with mindful meditation, for a better effect.
- Step #6: Get support
She decides to share her troubles with her colleagues who also teach the same group of problematic students — together, they share insights and ideas for improvement.
- Step #7: Talk to the supervisor
She decides she will soon talk with the school’s dean about the situation, and educate herself about the employer-sponsored wellness resources she has heard the school offers, but has never tried them thus far.
As a result of the steps Stella has taken towards proper stress management, she manages to hold more productive lessons — but also pay full attention during the weekly virtual faculty meetings.
In linguistics and communication studies, appropriateness represents:
“The extent to which an utterance is perceived as suitable for a particular purpose and a particular audience in a particular social context.”
In line with that, appropriateness is an important communication skill at the workplace — it includes:
- proper grammar;
- proper pronunciation;
- proper vocabulary;
- proper pragmatics — i.e., how you use language in practical, concrete situations.
The question of whether you use the right words in the right situations, in front of the right people, determines whether you are appropriate or inappropriate.
It determines how your peers and superiors will view you.
So, always consider the following:
- Where are you talking?
Are you talking next to the water cooler, or in the meeting room?
Your communication should be more structured in meeting rooms.
- Who are you talking with?
Are you talking with a superior or a peer?
Your communication should be more formal when talking with a superior.
- Why are you talking?
Are you holding a presentation in front of your CEO or talking with a colleague about how you spent your weekend?
Your communication should be more structured and formal when holding a presentation in front of your CEO.
Apart from assessing the situation and adapting the way you communicate to the people you communicate with, there are also some general pointers you need to follow, regardless of the variables:
- Don’t swear too often;
- Don’t indulge in negative gossip;
- Don’t lie;
- Don’t overshare your problems;
- Don’t interrupt people, or talk over them.
Now, the problem of appropriateness may be even more complicated than that — at least for some teams, such as:
- Culturally diverse teams who need to communicate in a non-native language they all understand, but which may not be their mother tongue;
- Former in-office teams who’ve just switched to remote work.
According to Naomi Baron, such teams will need to decipher what is appropriate in digital writing — BUT, also, what is culturally appropriate in the English language and culture. Unless they do, they may seem rude or disrespectful to team members who ARE English native speakers.
🔸 Example of appropriateness
Tom is a client manager who participates in stand-up meetings with his team every day.
He never interrupts people when they are speaking.
When it’s his turn to speak, he is honest, straightforward, formal, and structured.
When the meeting officially ends and the team eases out of the meeting agenda by chatting for a couple of minutes, he becomes less formal — but doesn’t indulge in negative gossip or overshares about his problems.
As a result, his teammates view Tom as a trustworthy professional and have no hesitation in contacting him when they need his help with any client.
According to a study by Officevibes, 70% of employees say having friends at work is a key element of a happy, positive work environment. Moreover, as much as 58% of men and 74% of women claim they would refuse a higher paying job — if that meant they would need to work with people they don’t get along with.
So, being friendly emerges as an important work goal — and, being friendly while conversing is a great starting point for developing the right kind of friendships at work.
Friendliness in communication offers several benefits:
- It increases knowledge sharing;
- It increases team spirit;
- It increases morale;
- It makes you seem more approachable;
- It improves mental health issues;
- It makes individuals more satisfied at the workplace.
To be friendlier at work, you should:
- Mirror how people prefer to interact
For example, if other people use the company’s team chat app to communicate, don’t use emails just because you’re used to them.
- Greet colleagues
For example, say “Hello” or “Good Morning” when you arrive at the office.
- Be helpful (but not too pushy)
For example, if a colleague seems overwhelmed with his workload, show you are available to help him out if needed.
- Make the effort to engage with co-workers
For example, initiate conversations when having lunch at the same time as your colleagues.
- Recognize the accomplishments/contributions of others
For example, if a colleague helps you out with a task, publicly praise them for their help.
- Be kind
For example, repeat the positive feedback you heard about a colleague’s work if they weren’t there to hear it first-hand.
🔸 Example of friendliness
Lisa, an insurance agent, is new at her job.
To fit in and be friendly with her new teammates, she’s quick to adapt to the chat app the finance team uses on a daily basis.
She greets everyone when she arrives to work.
She tends to initiate conversations and engage with colleagues in a kind, helpful manner.
Because of this, her teammates start to see her as a helpful, professional, trustworthy person they can rely on.
According to Alessandra & Hunsaker (1993), directness is an important element in certain communication styles — such as the communication styles of Socializers and Directors.
But, it’s also an important communication skill:
- It lowers the possibility of misunderstandings and miscommunication;
- It helps you convey clear messages.
However, if not handled properly, directness in communication may make you come off as curt, rude, and disrespectful.
To avoid this, you’ll need to:
- Understand why you want to be direct
You can be direct because you’re annoyed with a colleague, without even being aware of this — but your colleague is likely to understand this hidden agenda behind your words.
This happens because your tone of voice, the words you chose, or your body language give you away.
To avoid being direct because you’re trying to express a negative emotion (and not because you’re trying to communicate effectively), pause before speaking, to give yourself a chance to reflect on your motives and intentions — and find a better alternative, if possible.
- Think about the message you want to deliver
Think and find clear, straightforward, and precise words — for whatever you want to say.
- Separate facts from opinions
If you have a specific opinion about something, state the facts first, and then declare your opinions on the matter — but be clear where the facts end and your opinion begins.
- Be extra direct with requests
When making a request, be clear about what you want to be accomplished, why you want it accomplished, and how.
- Be extra direct with replies to requests
When faced with a request, be clear about when you’ll be able to respond to it properly.
If it’s a task a colleague has asked you to help out with, be clear on whether you’ll be available.
A clear: “I’m sorry, but I’m swamped with work, and won’t have the time to help you out”, is more than a valid answer.
If you plan to act on the request, but find something unclear, ask additional questions that will clarify the matter.
🔸 Example of directness
Maya is a manager displeased with a member of her team, Patrick, because he keeps arriving 15-20 minutes late to work every day.
Instead of asking: “Why have you been late the past week? Is everything OK?”, Maya is polite, but direct.
She says: “I understand you may have some difficulties at home, but it’s not fair to the other teammates that you’re always 15-20 minutes late, while they all arrive on time. Please make the effort to arrive on time tomorrow.”
As a result of their talk, Patric does make the effort to arrive at work on time tomorrow, as a sign of respect towards his manager and teammates.
According to a study at the University of Massachusetts, as much as 60% of people lie at least once during a simple 10-minute conversation.
However, dishonesty is linked with several detrimental consequences — according to Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of books Influence and Pre-Suasion:
- Dishonesty disrupts employee performance — as stress that comes with lies increases, performance decreases;
- Dishonesty decreases turnover — stress that comes with dishonesty increases employee turnover;
- Dishonesty destroys team trust — you no longer feel like you can trust your teammates.
On the other hand, honesty offers a range of benefits:
- Honesty nullifies the negative effects of dishonesty — stress and its negative effects decrease;
- Honesty promotes authenticity — it gets easier to get to know people if they are honest about who they are;
- Honesty creates a safe space — it gets easier for people to form a connection in an honest environment;
- Honesty inspires honesty — if one teammate is honest, others will be inspired to follow suit.
To practice honesty, you’ll need to:
- Keep your word Always deliver on what you promise.
- Keep to your integrity Keep to your commitments, values, ethical principles, and morals.
- Take responsibility When you make a mistake, take responsibility for it, and propose solutions to fix it.
- Reserve judgment To inspire other people to be honest about their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, don’t dismiss whatever they have to say with no facts to support you — even if you do disagree with them.
🔸 Example of honesty
Leah is a senior product designer who values honesty.
When she says she will be at the office to talk with Eric about the color palettes for their new product at 10 am — she delivers on her promise.
She has certain values, morals, and ethical principles that fit with the values, morals, and ethical principles her company upholds as well — she always keeps to them.
She takes responsibility for less-than-stellar solutions in her designs and actively works on improving them, based on team feedback.
She reserves her judgments about the proposals of junior product designers — if she finds fault in their ideas, she proposes ways to build upon them.
As a result, Leah’s teammates know they can always count on her.
The habit of asking and answering questions when someone doesn’t understand something is important for teamwork success — especially if you operate in a work-from-home arrangement, where over-communication helps teammates stay on the same page.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John titled “The Surprising Power of Questions”, the trick to properly asking/answering questions is in identifying key challenges. And, then learning how to overcome them:
CHALLENGE 1 — ASKING QUESTIONS: The person you are asking is reluctant to share the information you need.
- To avoid evasive answers, ask simple “Yes”/”No” questions;
- Ask detailed follow-up questions;
- Frame tough questions as pessimistic assumptions (e.g. “We’re experiencing some declines in sales, aren’t we?”);
- Ask the most sensitive question first;
- Follow-up with less sensitive questions.
CHALLENGE 2 — ASKING QUESTIONS: The person you are asking is shying away from sharing bad news.
- Ask open-ended questions to get negative feedback;
- Build rapport through less-sensitive questions, and slowly build up to what you really want to know;
- Frame tough questions as pessimistic assumptions.
CHALLENGE 3 — ANSWERING QUESTIONS: Answering the question would bring you to a strategic disadvantage.
- Prepare in advance;
- Share all the same, to build trust.
CHALLENGE 4 — ANSWERING QUESTIONS: You fear you’ll speak too freely/You fear you’ll fail to make the conversation delightful and productive.
- Use storytelling to engage the other speaker;
- Be energetic and humorous;
- Don’t talk too much about yourself;
- Ask questions about others;
- Divert the more difficult questions by answering a different question;
- Divert the more difficult questions by telling a joke.
🔸 Example of asking/answering questions
Katie is a customer report specialist and Rose is the customer support director — they work on a scheduling app.
An important company has recently canceled the app’s enterprise plan, and rumor has it that it had something to do with Katie ignoring their requests for a video call.
To get the truth, Rose arranges a 1-to-1 meeting with Katie, and asks a couple of simple “Yes”/”No” questions:
- “Did company X contact you?”
- “Did company X request a video call?”
- “Did you reply to company X’s request as soon as possible?”
- “Did you solve company X’s problem?”
- “Did you know company X is a priority client?”
After receiving answers to the above-listed questions, Rose expands her approach.
She asks follow-up questions, and she starts with the most sensitive question: “Why didn’t you reply to company X’s request as soon as possible?”
Rose frames tough questions as pessimistic assumptions:
- “Were you afraid you wouldn’t be able to answer company X’s questions?”
She then follows up with less intrusive, but still vital questions:
- “Why didn’t you ask a fellow customer support specialist to help you with the more difficult questions?”
- “Why didn’t you ask one of the developers to join you on the call?”
Rose eventually finds out that it was Katie who contributed to the loss of the priority client — but, only because a more experienced customer support specialist advised her to ignore their requests.
In communication, confidence helps you convey what you want in an efficient manner — it is one of the seven “Cs” of effective communication.
After all, one Indeed survey shows 98% of workers say they perform better when they feel confident.
To appear confident while communicating, you’ll need to:
- have a clear tone of voice;
- make eye contact during conversations;
- speak honestly;
- be assertive;
- express gratitude when appropriate.
🔸 Example of confidence
Lexie is a confident product manager.
She makes eye contact when getting her points across.
She maintains a clear tone of voice, even during arguments.
She stands up for what she believes in, but doesn’t feel threatened by the opinions of others, even if they are wildly different from her own.
She speaks honestly, and expresses gratitude publicly, when someone helps her out in important matters.
As a result of her confidence, Lexie commands respect among her colleagues and superiors.
Clarity is the second “C” of effective communication — in communication, clarity ensures there are no misunderstandings.
To maintain clarity in communication, you’ll need to:
- ensure what you are saying makes sense;
- ensure the other person understands what you’re saying;
- ensure YOU understand what the other person is saying;
- use short, direct sentences;
- avoid jargon (e.g. “baked in”, “corner case”, etc.);
- avoid absolute language (e.g. “never”, “always”, etc.);
- avoid filler words (e.g. “uh”, “um”, etc.);
- be specific;
- be detail-oriented.
🔸 Example of clarity
Nathan is an internist.
He usually needs to consult with other specialists when diagnosing patients.
During these consultations, he is always as specific and detailed as possible when describing symptoms.
He uses short, direct sentences, and avoids using filler words, to ensure maximum clarity of thoughts.
He double-checks whether he has understood his colleagues, by repeating key phrases they’ve just uttered — he also double-checks whether his colleagues have understood him, by asking them follow-up questions.
As a result, he and his colleagues are quick to diagnose patients correctly.
The third “C” of effective communication, conciseness, implies you are communicating complete information about a particular topic — but, in fewer words.
It is usually tied to written communication.
To be concise when communicating, you’ll need to:
- exchange passive voice with an active voice as much as you can;
- replace overused, vague phrases (e.g. “bad”, “good”, “know”, “very”, etc.) with more substantial alternatives that fit the context (e.g. “faulty” instead of “bad”, “admirable” instead of “good”, “understand” instead of “know”, “strikingly” instead of “very”, etc.);
- remove redundant qualifiers (e.g. “quite”, “rather”, “really”, etc.);
- use action verbs instead of overusing forms of “to be ”(e.g. “attempts” instead of “is an attempt”, “exemplifies” instead of “is an example”).
🔸 Examples of conciseness
- Instead of saying: “I’m am very much focused on an attempt to solve the problem”, say: “I’m attempting to solve the problem”;
- Instead of saying: “This process is seen as a positive change to our usual workflows”, say: “The teams sees this process as a positive change to our usual workflows“;
- Instead of saying: “There are indications of Jacob’s misunderstanding of the workflow in his argument”, say: “Jacob’s argument indicates his misunderstanding of the workflow”.
As reported by one Accountempts survey, as much as 85% of respondents believe being courteous to coworkers has an impact on one’s career prospects.
Turns out, they’re right — the fourth “C” of effective communication, courteousness, is an important communication skill that helps you build a professional relationship with your colleagues.
To be courteous in communication, you should:
- say “Good morning!” when you arrive to work;
- say thank you when someone helps you;
- show respect to the people you are communicating with;
- listen to people without interrupting them;
- say “Goodbye!” or “See you tomorrow!” when you leave the office for the day.
🔸 Example of courteousness
Helen is a software developer who’s famed for her courtesy amongst teammates. She always says “Hello!”, “Goodbye!”, and “Thank you!” at the appropriate times. She never interrupts people while talking, respects diverse opinions, and aims to communicate her thoughts as clearly as possible.
As a result, her colleagues start mirroring her courteousness — which ultimately makes the workplace a friendlier, more comfortable environment to work in.
The fifth “C” of effective communication, concreteness, is a vital communicative skill in most forms of communication — be it visual, written, or verbal.
To be concrete in communication, you’ll need to:
- use facts and figures when applicable;
- use specific, definite, and vivid language;
- use precise modifiers;
- avoid generalizations.
🔸 Examples of concreteness
- Instead of saying: “Our storage facility is suitable for large units”, say: “Our storage unit is suitable for 30-feet units.”;
- Instead of saying: “The majority of the class has failed math”, say “60% of the class has failed math.”;
- Instead of saying: “You should not eat anything on the night and morning before you test your lipid profile”, say “You should not eat anything 15 hours before you test your lipid profile.”
- Instead of saying: “We offer a more beneficial plan for our long-time clients”, say “We offer a $299 plan to our 10-year clients.”
The sixth “C” of effective communication, correctness, gives credibility to your words.
The people listening to what you are saying/reading your messages are likely to form a subconscious connection between your usage of grammar and the value of your words.
To ensure what you write or say is grammatically correct, you can enlist the help of:
- a reputable English grammar book;
- an online dictionary;
- a writing app (e.g. Grammarly, Hemingway app, Sentence Checker, etc.).
🔸 Example of correctness
Charlie is a copywriter in a marketing agency that specializes in Social Media for restaurant chains. It’s imperative that Charlie’s copy proposals are grammatically correct.
So, apart from having a fellow copywriter proofread his proposals, he also uses an online dictionary with thesaurus options and a writing app.
As a result, his copy is usually the one selected for client proposals.
The seventh and final “C” of effective communication, coherence, refers to the smooth flow of your ideas — if your communication is coherent, then your ideas are logical and consistent.
To be coherent in communication, you’ll need to:
- Stick to your topic — don’t try to cover several unrelated matters at once, just to save time;
- Cover similar topics together — in case you do have several issues to attend to, compartmentalize them, for easier management;
- Order ideas in a logical manner — list items/steps/actions in chronological or spatial order;
- Use transition words/phrases — these words/phrases connect ideas, and help your readers/listeners go from one thought to the next with greater ease.
🔸 Example of coherence
Nicole and Anna are a Q&A specialist and customer support specialist in a SaaS company — to identify bugs and solve user issues, they need to communicate and collaborate on a regular basis.
Because of this, they put extra effort into making thoughts and opinions coherent:
- when providing data for bug reproduction, Anna stick to the topic until Nicole has all the information she needs;
- when providing data for bug reproduction, Anna orders the steps that led the clients to the app problems chronologically;
- Nicole groups bugs by type, and labels tickets accordingly;
- both Anna and Nicole use transition words to help the flow of their conversations and connect processes (e.g. “as a result”, “because”, ‘next’, etc.).
As a result, they are the most productive Q&A/customer support duo in the team.
A study about the “2020 State of Workplace Empathy” shows that as much as 51% of employees struggle to demonstrate empathy at work on a daily basis.
However, empathy IS something worth pursuing, as evident by the benefits it brings to a workplace — according to Businessolver’s 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor report:
- 92% of HR specialist believe that a compassionate workplace is a crucial factor for higher employee retention;
- 80% of millennials and 66% of baby boomers would leave their current job if their workplaces were to become less empathic;
- 77% of employees would be willing to work more hours and 60% would be willing to accept a salary cut — if they were working in an empathic workplace, to begin with.
Other benefits empathy brings include:
- An overall boost in productivity;
- improved understanding of other people;
- Increased cultural competence;
- Improved professional relationships.
To be empathic in communication, you’ll need to:
- practice listening, openness, and understanding;
- watch out for signs of burnout, overwork, and workaholism in others;
- show interest in colleague’s ideas and challenges;
- demonstrate the willingness to help out where you can;
- support colleagues who are going through a personal loss.
🔸 Example of empathy
Xavier has been the chemistry teacher at the local elementary school for five years now — and, he’s just lost his twin brother in a car accident. His colleagues understand that this is a difficult time for Xavier, and are empathizing with him.
The math and music teachers have experienced similar personal losses in the past year, so they offered to take Xavier out for lunch and talk about anything he wants/needs to talk about — to better process the loss.
Other colleagues have been similarly understanding and open to talk — whenever Xavier wanted to talk about his loss, they’d listen.
The dean of the school has even sent an open invitation to Xavier, in case he wants to discuss taking a vacation.
The school’s psychologist has extended her condolences and said Xavier can come over to her office any time if he wishes to talk.
Xavier feels appreciative of the fact that his colleagues have been so supportive of him during this difficult time — he feels glad that he took the position in this school instead of going abroad five years ago.
Assertive communicators are able to:
- present both positive and negative feelings and ideas in a direct, honest, and open way;
- assert their rights and opinions, while also respecting the rights and opinions of others;
- take responsibility for their actions without blaming others.
As a result, people graced with this communicative skill are able to foster a work environment that involves:
- less stress;
- more trust;
- more confidence;
- better communication overall.
To be more assertive in communication, you’ll need to follow the 3 C’s of assertive communication:
- Be confident — believe that you can handle any situation;
- Be clear — ensure the message you are conveying is clear and easy to understand;
- Be controlled — ensure you deliver and respond to information in a controlled and calm manner.
Other ways you can become more assertive while communicating with others include:
- Using “I” statements;
- Setting boundaries by exercising your ability to say “No” to some requests;
- Planning responses ahead of time;
- Embodying an assertive stance.
🔸 Example of assertiveness
Cho is a project manager at a large company that takes on 50 client projects per year.
Her boss wants her to take on the company’s most important project for that year — he says he believes she is more than capable of handling the project.
Cho agrees to take on the project — but, when she gets the materials and the deadlines, she immediately feels overwhelmed.
She wants to perform well and doesn’t want to let down her client or boss — but, she finds that she cannot finish all her assigned work by herself.
So, she sets up a meeting with her boss to discuss matters and explain her position — at the meeting, she says:
“I want this project to succeed, but I am afraid that I might not have enough time and resources to finish everything as expected — considering that I already have several other projects whose quality I also don’t want compromised.”
The boss agrees that the workload is unrealistic — he admires Cho’s determination to finish a smaller number of projects with higher quality, rather than to dive into a larger number of projects and leave half of them unfinished because she doesn’t have the time.
Together, they identify the project the boss can delegate to another project manager, thus freeing Cho’s time to focus on her newest project, and a couple of key earlier projects.
Respect is an important element in communication — according to the report, “The Human Era @ Work”, as much as 63% of employees state being treated with respect by their leaders makes them more satisfied with their jobs. However, research that covered 20,000 employees across the globe has shown that half of the employees don’t feel respected by their bosses.
Respect from colleagues can also go a long way.
To show respect towards others at work, while communicating, you’ll need to:
- Be polite and kind
Good manners are always a must, so don’t let a bad day influence how you treat others.
- Listen attentively
Communication is a two-way street, so don’t forget to listen as much as you talk.
- Avoid negativity
Never insult or make fun of other people’s ideas, even if you do feel frustrated with them for some reason.
- Talk to people (not about them)
If you have a problem with an idea, discuss it head-on with the person who had the idea, not behind their back.
- Refrain from criticizing
Disagreeing with an idea is fine — but nit-picking an idea and patronizing the person who had it can only damage your professional relationship with this person.
- Treat people equally
It doesn’t matter whether someone is a seasoned senior executive or a junior specialist who just arrived to the company — if both are invited to a meeting to share ideas, listen to both with equal respect.
🔸 Example of respect
Connor is a young software developer who’s new to the company — but, he has worked on 5 successful products thus far, and has a great deal of experience to share.
While at a stand-up meeting, the team starts talking about a recurring bug they can’t seem to fix.
Connor speaks up because he has experienced similar issues while working on his previous products.
But, most of the team rebuffs him before he can form a full idea, because they don’t know him and because he is young. So, they assume he is “just a new guy” who’s decided to talk to have others take note of him.
But, the team leader is familiar with Connor’s background, so he halts the discussion, to let Connor speak his mind.
Led by the example of the team leader and ultimately impressed with what Connor has to offer, the rest of the team listens in silence, and refrains from criticizing what they don’t understand about his idea. When Connor is done explaining his idea for the fix, the team lead points out a smaller logistics problem in Connor’s plan — but, together, the team finds a solution for the bug.
Being open-minded at work chiefly means that you are open to new ideas and opinions — but, it also means being tolerant and receptive to attitudes, actions, ideas, and opinions that are vastly different from what you’ve come to expect.
In communication, open-mindedness is a great foundation for innovation. When teammates are open-minded, everyone will feel at ease to explore new ideas and propose innovative solutions to old challenges.
To be more open-minded at the workplace, you’ll need to:
- Fight the impulse to react negatively if someone has a different opinion than yours;
- Get out of your comfort zone while looking for solutions to a problem;
- Listen to colleagues with patience, and refrain from rebuking their suggestions from the start;
- Try to understand someone’s point of view, especially if it’s different than yours;
- Ask questions about what you don’t understand, to free yourself from judgments, stereotypes, and biases;
- Accept that you may sometimes be in the wrong — either because your starting point is off, or because you have the wrong data;
- Make the effort to learn from others.
🔸 Example of being open-minded
Denise is an open-minded graphic designer working in a marketing agency.
In brainstorming meetings, she tends to propose ideas and solutions actively.
But, she is open to suggestions that build upon her ideas and solutions, and improve them.
She listens to her colleagues’ ideas and solutions attentively — she loves it when someone has a different opinion than her, because she sees it as an opportunity to learn something new. Whenever she doesn’t understand something, she asks questions — this tactic helps her better understand her colleagues, and sometimes even gain enough new, important information to change her own opinion for the better.
As a result of her open-mindedness, Denise makes the most of all her opportunities for personal and professional growth.
When striving for effective communication, the benefits of having the right communication skills are multifold.
Active listening, respect, great chatting skills, friendliness, honesty, courteousness, and empathy help you better understand others and build positive professional relationships.
Proper nonverbal communication, directness, clarity, conciseness, concreteness, correctness, and coherence help you convey your thoughts without misunderstandings.
Appropriate emotion control, proper stress management, appropriateness, confidence, assertiveness, asking/answering questions, responsiveness, and open-mindedness help you better function as a team.
Overall, these skills help job applicants land new jobs. They help current employees progress their careers. They help teams collaborate, no matter the circumstances. In the end, strong communication skills emerge as the foundation for successful teamwork and effective communication — as such, they are always worth pursuing, both by individual teammates, and the teams they constitute.
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