If you’re just entering the workforce or contemplating doing so in the next few years, building strong communication skills are essential. They can help build the foundation for career success that you can enjoy for decades. While Millennials and Gen Z are often given a hard time with their communication skills due to their frequent use of social media and other internet-based communication platforms, good communication is a skill that can be learned just like any other.
While Gen Z is on track to be the best-educated generation so far, there is more to succeeding in your career than your degrees. They might look good on your resume, but they won’t help you make an impression in your first sit-down, face-to-face interview.
Are you wondering how to improve communication skills? Looking for ways to communicate more effectively to help you achieve your career and education goals?
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know!
Want to Improve Yourself Each Day?
Sign up to Goodwall!
- Connect with improvement-focused people from 150+ countries
- Build valuable skills and experience
- Ask questions and get support when you need it
Download the app now to get started for FREE!
The Number One Rule of How to Improve Communication Skills: Start Listening
One of the most important aspects of good communication is being a good listener. When you really listen to someone, it means that you can actually meaningfully answer their question to respond to the point they are making. If you’re only half-heartedly listening, you’re doing everyone in the situation a disservice.
Don’t be the person that is just waiting for a brief pause in the conversation to pounce in there and start ranting. Those people are always more concerned with what they want to say next rather than what the person currently talking is saying. This means that whatever they’re saying is only going to be partially relevant (if at all) to what they are supposedly responding to.
Learn to be comfortable with a short period of silence after someone finishes speaking. Before you work on other ways to improve your communication skills, first focus on learning to listen.
Always Know Your Audience
The way you interact with your best friend is going to be different than the way you interact with your boss. Understanding who your audience is can help you understand how to best communicate with them.
(Are you trying to start your own business and avoid being an office drone? Check out this article about the entrepreneurial mindset.)
Learn the Basics of Nonverbal Communication
Body language is an important aspect of good communication. Having open body language when in work situations is considered good form, as a general rule of thumb. This means not crossing your arms, relaxing your posture, and looking at people in the eyes when you are talking to them.
When it’s time to give a talk in front of a group, speak in a clear voice and stand up straight. Also, slow down. It’s easy to go into fast-forward mode when you’re nervous, but you’ll get your points across more effectively if you take it down a notch and relax.
Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
We all know people who just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. On and on endlessly. You ask them a question and you’re even more confused when they’re done answering than you were to begin with.
When you’re talking, share actual, specific information. The goal of communication is often to clarify something or to explain something clearly. Don’t muddy the waters by talking about things that are off-topic or going on at length about a simple issue.
While this might sound like it completely contradicts the previous point, it doesn’t.
Over communicating is about making sure that the person you’re talking to understands the most essential pieces of information you shared. Don’t assume that by saying something once in an off-handed comment means that the other person understood what you were saying. If there is an important point that needs to be made, over-communication is often the way to go.
Maintain Eye Contact
This is true whether you’re giving a presentation in front of dozens of people or in a one-on-one meeting. When you maintain eye contact, it shows that you’re paying attention and that you care. It also builds credibility.
Of course, if you stare into someone’s eyes 100% of the time, it starts to come off as a little creepy. Luckily, there is a formula you can use if the sense of when to look away isn’t coming naturally to you.
The 50/70 rule helps you understand how to maintain eye contact without appearing to be staring or making things uncomfortable. This means that when you’re speaking to someone, maintain eye contact 50% of the time. If you’re listening to someone, maintain eye contact 70% of the time.
When you have established eye contact with someone, it’s best to hold it for roughly four or five seconds before glancing to the side. Then, you can reestablish eye contact once again.
When you do look away, do so calmly and slowly rather than darting your eyes. Otherwise, you can come across as nervous or shy. Remember to look from side to side rather than down, as looking down can make you seem unconfident.
When you’re meeting with someone, it’s best to establish eye contact right away before you start talking.
If you’re listening to someone else who is talking, you can listen with your eyes. Maintain eye contact, look interested, relax your face and smile when appropriate to do so.
Before You Hit Send, Give Your Message a Once Over
In our digital world, communication skills aren’t just important in person. It’s also important to be able to communicate effectively online as well.
Grammar and spell checkers aren’t totally foolproof. When you’re sending an email, give it a once-over and make sure it all looks good. Remember that the other person has no sense of your tone, and try to make sure that your words are conveying the message you want to send in the way you want to send it.
Take a Breather
Many of us aren’t that comfortable with silences and worry that pausing before responding makes it look like we don’t know what to say. In reality, though, it’s always best to take a pause before you start talking. Don’t say the first thing that comes to your mind, but rather deliberately decide what you’re going to say.
Treat Everyone Equally
This is a good rule in life in general, but it’s particularly important in a business context. Make sure that you aren’t ever speaking down to people. Treat everyone you meet, no matter how far below you they are on the corporate ladder with respect.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
If you’re grumpy all the time, you’ll find other people seem grumpy too. If you maintain a positive attitude, you’ll find that people start to respond positively to the things you say.
One important note is that authenticity is always important. No one likes that person who is always happy-go-lucky but that is obviously holding back how they really feel. Work on cultivating a genuinely positive attitude and it will shine through in all you do.
Sometimes it’s hard to know how we come off to other people. Consider recording some of your communications with others so that you can analyze them and determine where you could make improvements.
You can also look back through past emails and look at your written communication skills. Rather than cringing and being hard on yourself in these exercises, try to view it as valuable learning experiences.
Work on Emotional Development
In our modern world, we tend to assume everything is rational and logical. In reality, though, the world of human communication is emotional and much messier than we might hope.
The term emotional intelligence refers to our understanding of our own emotions as well as those of others. Empathy and self-awareness are two important aspects of emotional intelligence. You can find resources online about how to build emotional intelligence, and working on this skill will undoubtedly help with your communication skills.
(Psst… you might want to check out this article on interpersonal skills next.)
Improving Your Communication Skills Will Benefit You In All Aspects of Life
We are constantly interacting with other people and relying on them for what we need. Whether you’re talking to the plumber about the weird noise your toilet makes when it flushes or interviewing for your dream job, communication is what creates fluidity and harmony in the world. When you aren’t able to communicate what you’re trying to say, it is messy, chaotic, and unpleasant.
All business transactions result from communication. If your communication skills are poor, you’re likely going to deal with a lot of frustration and misunderstanding down the line. For this reason, one survey conducted on LinkedIn found that employers find communication skills to be the most valuable soft-skill, beating out organization, teamwork, and punctuality.
Know that you know how to improve communication skills, you’re on the right track to success! And remember, all skills take practice. Take the opportunity wherever you see it to communicate respectfully and articulately, even if you’re just ordering take-out.