How to Improve Your Communications Skills - Soft Skills Guide (2023)

Improve Communications Skills

Personal and business communications skills are critical soft skills

Improve Communications Skills

Personal and business communications skills are critical soft skills

How to Improve Your Communications Skills - Soft Skills Guide (1)

How to Improve Your Communications Skills - Soft Skills Guide (2)

Improving Your Communications Skills Matters

Good business communication skills are a key factor in every aspect of your career – from being hired, closing a sale, working well within your organization to earning a promotion or finding a better job. Here’s examples of soft skills to help you in your career. Or,access the communications skills guide for 2022 here.
Even if you outperform in every other area, being marked poor in communications may greatly reduce your likelihood of career advancement.

Practicing good communication skills on an ongoing basis can help you develop professionally and reach your business goals.

How to Improve Your Communications Skills

Learning or improving soft skills requires taking action. Make the commitment to get started today – we can help you make that happen.

(Video) Communication Skills - How To Improve Communication Skills - 7 Unique Tips!

86%

of corporate executives, educators, and employees cite ineffective communication and poor collaboration as reasons for failures in the workplace.

Steps to Improve Your Communication Skills

The following five steps are critical to kick-start your learning in communication and interpersonal skills. Set aside time (e.g. one step per week or month) to take action.

Listen

If you want others to listen to you, you must start by listening to them. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and we need to use them in that ratio. It’s cliché, but true.

Imagine having a brilliant, well articulated solution to the wrong problem, all because you misunderstood what your boss wanted. Most people know in theory to listen – we just need to remember to actually do it. Actively listening is the first step to effective communication.

So What

Every slide, every voicemail, conversation, or email must have a so what in it. A so what is your summary of:

  • Why you are talking or writing to a person or group of people
  • Why they should listen
  • What is your conclusion
  • What you want your audience to do as a result of your communication.

You should articulate your “so what” early on. On a couple of C-suite encounters, we were told that if we don’t say what we need in the first 10 – 15 seconds of a voicemail to a manager or partner, he or she will most likely delete it without listening to the rest. Most people are busy, so when you communicate, know your key points and get to them early.

Set Context

Have you ever called a friend, launched into full detail about something, and a few minutes later they ask, “Wait, back up. I’m lost. What are you talking about?” We have all done it, and we often do this at work.

We are so immersed with our work that many times we launch into a business conversation without providing any background or context. Unlike our friends, however, co-workers and bosses don’t always tell you that they are lost and don’t know what you’re talking about. They will either pepper you with frustrating questions based on their own assumptions, or they’ll be completely detached and won’t hear anything you say.

When you set the context, you’ll sound much clearer to them. As a rule, default to providing context for what you’re talking about. Even if you think they should already know it, don’t assume that they remember.

Structure/Simplify

We rarely talk in bullet points, because it’s not natural. In business, however, it’s important to have structure. Using bullet points is the simplest structure that will help your audience understand you quickly, and they give a marker as to where you are in your communication. Verbally, using bullet points sounds like this: “There are three reasons why we should do x y z. First, xxx. Second, xxx. Lastly, xxx.”

Two to five bullets is the magic range; McKinsey consultants usually error on the side of three bullets. Most humans cannot remember more than three things at once, anyway.

Also, it’s important to keep your communication simple — just because you have a lot of detail, doesn’t mean you should include everything. It will be too overwhelming, and your listeners will get lost. Keep it simple, and communicate only what you need to support your so-what statements.

Story is Best

This is especially true for presentations and job interviews. You’ll be remembered if you tell a good story, instead of just dull out cold facts and logical reasons.

People are inundated with information every day, and it’s hard to remember much or stay interested for very long. Guy Kawasaki, in his book Reality Check, said that your job in a presentation is to entertain, and if they learn something as a result – even better.

Those who tell stories make people want to listen, and they are remembered for that reason. So, next time you are going to present or need to influence a major decision, ask yourself — “What story am I going to tell?”

These communication skills take time to develop, but what’s really important is that you can start today. Imagine having the ability to influence any audience to want to listen and respond to you. We can all do it with practice.

How to Improve Your Communications Skills - Soft Skills Guide (3)

(Video) How to Improve Your Communication Skills - 4 Steps

86% of corporate executives, educators, and employees cite ineffective communication and poor collaboration as reasons for failures in the workplace.

97%

of workers believe that communication impacts tasks every day.

What are Interpersonal Communication Skills

Common definition for “communication”: “the process that we use to communicate our ideas, thoughts, and feelings to another person.” Though we agree with this definition, we find it a bit vague.

Here’s a modification: Interpersonal communication is the process we use to build relationships with others through communication by effectively doing the following:

Understanding the other’s situation

In order to build a relationship with someone, we need to be aware of where the other person is coming from.

Communicating in the right manner

It’s not just what we say that matters but also the tone we use and how we say it. Additionally, by considering our understanding of the other person, we figure out how to best our intentions and ideas to that particular individual.

Influencing them to listen and/or take action as needed

People are more likely to listen to us when we listen first to them and make efforts to establish common grounds. When we approach any communication with the intention to create a win-win situation, that’s when we will maximize our influence on others and inspire them to action.

At the end of the day, the purpose of communication is to reach a common understanding, build a better relationship, and/or agree on what to do next if action is required.

How to Improve Your Communications Skills - Soft Skills Guide (4)

97% of workers believe that communication impacts tasks every day.

3 Most Common Myths about Interpersonal Communication

Myth #1

Only focus on the facts: Facts are important in a conversation but can’t be the only focus. Often we spend too much time figuring out what facts we want to communicate and too little time on how we want to communicate them. Every person we speak to is human with insecurities, ambitions, and biases. So remember the common adage: “It’s not what you say, but how you make people feel that matters.”

Myth #2

If I’m right, I can say so: It’s never a good idea to kick someone when they’re down. If someone on your team makes a mistake, communicate that but focus the conversation more on where to go from there and allow them to recover. If your customer overbilled you, you still don’t want to overstep in your communication. Approach the situation gently and patiently. It’s always better for the relationship if you give others the benefit of the doubt.

Myth #3

Sugarcoat bad news: Bad news like a layoff message or a message to your boss about a mistake you made at work is difficult to deliver. It’s important to deliver the message tactfully, but this is not the same as sugarcoating. Sugarcoating implies being not direct or clear about the gravity of the message. While sugarcoating a message may make you feel more comfortable, it could confuse the other person or make the listener feel patronized. Sincerity and a focus on moving forward will help more. Whatever happened already happened. So be straightforward and focus on next steps.

69%

of managers are not comfortable communicating with their employees in general.

Interpersonal Communication Skills are More Important than Hard Skills (Some examples)

Have you ever wondered why having the best answer to a business problem sometimes makes no impact at all? In school, we were always incentivized to give the best answer – the best answer leads to good grades, which lead to job offers. So, naturally we brought that mentality to work. We would work tirelessly to get the perfect, best answer, but were often disappointed when nobody seemed too interested in hearing it.

However, the best answer is not as good as a practical answer that has executive buy-in and champions who are willing to implement the solution.

This is just one example of why interpersonal skills are more important than hard skills. We think of hard skills as what it takes to develop the perfect solution to a business issue. We define interpersonal skills as our ability to build relationships with others, to effectively understand their circumstances, communicate our proposed solution based on their business reality, and persuade them to take action. Only when we combine soft skills, like interpersonal skills, with our hard skills can we become more effective in business.

View some examples of interpersonal skills. Here’s another example of why interpersonal skills are more important than hard skills:

One of our colleagues was assigned a new dentist but at the same office as the old one. As soon as the dentist started examining her, she started “scolding” them for waiting too long on a cleaning (it’s been a year) and not flossing enough. It made them tense, but they said nothing.

Then she told them that they may have the beginnings of cavities on three teeth (no actual cavities yet), and she started scolding them again for waiting too long to get a cleaning. After “scolding” them three times, they asked her to stop repeating herself. After the cleaning, they promptly told the front desk to always give them their old dentist for future appointments, even if they have to wait longer to get an appointment.

Was their cleaning well done this time? Yes. Did the new dentist give them the best diagnosis? Probably. The dentist had all the hard skills to give them their best, but it left our colleague with a “bad taste” in her mouth because of her interpersonal skills. People don’t want to feel stupid or wrong during a business transaction, even if they were.

The business world is not too different. People and companies value good customer experience, practical solutions, and tactful communication methods. We may think that business decisions are made mainly based on logic, but that would be a naïve assumption. Here are three more examples about interpersonal skills which illustrate their importance in business:

Major deals are signed on golf courses

Why are so many deals negotiated on golf courses? Interpersonal skills are used to build close relationships (through a common interest, like golf), and the trust built using these interpersonal skills lead to signed deals. Another, more subtle reason, has to do with the role of body language and negotiation skills.

All logical factors being equal (like price, convenience, delivery time, etc.), people usually choose the vendor with groups that they’ve had good experiences with

Sometimes, people will even choose a higher price with their current vendor because they value the existing experience, rather than wanting to risk having a bad experience with a new, lower priced one.

A mediocre solution that has executive buy-in will get implemented over a more perfect solution created in a black box

This is the lesson I learned in consulting: It’s great to be smart (hard skills), but if I don’t have the interpersonal skills to understand my clients, what’s practical to implement in the company’s current circumstances, and how to best persuade them to take action, I will not be able to make any impact.

These examples all teach an important lesson, especially for those with exceptional hard skills, like engineers, programmers, accountants, scientists, etc.

How to Improve Your Communications Skills - Soft Skills Guide (5)

69% of managers are not comfortable communicating with their employees in general.

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Section: Improve Communications Skills

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ADVANCE YOUR CAREER

“Given the critical need for soft skills now and in the future, training current employees is not enough. It is also crucial to ensure that new talent coming in the door is ready with the most critical skills on day one.”

– McKinsey & Company

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FAQs

How can I improve my 7 communication skills? ›

7 Tips to Improve Verbal Communication Skills
  1. Think before you speak. ...
  2. Be clear and concise. ...
  3. Speak with confidence. ...
  4. Vary your vocal tone. ...
  5. Be an active listener. ...
  6. Be aware of non-verbal communication cues. ...
  7. Think about the perspective of your audience.
10 Mar 2020

How can I evolve my communication skills? ›

6 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills at Work
  1. Learn How to Listen. Most people underestimate the role of nonverbal communication, or body language. ...
  2. Perk Up Your Presentations. ...
  3. Master Talking on the Telephone. ...
  4. Write More Effective Emails. ...
  5. Collaborate Well with Remote Teams. ...
  6. Don't Neglect Critical Software Skills.
5 Jun 2019

How can I improve my communication skills answers? ›

How to improve your personal communication skills
  1. Understand your emotional quotient. ...
  2. Develop the ability to observe and listen. ...
  3. Make eye contact. ...
  4. Be clear in your speech. ...
  5. Be tactful. ...
  6. Be positive and cooperative in attitude. ...
  7. Watch your body language. ...
  8. Talk without distractions.

What are 6 tips for good communication? ›

6 expert tips for being an effective communicator
  • Be succinct. ...
  • Be specific. ...
  • Be pleasant and approachable. ...
  • Listen actively. ...
  • Observe others who are good at communication - then copy them. ...
  • Always enter a conversation with two things clear in your mind.

How can I be a better communicator? ›

How to Be an Effective Communicator in 7 Easy Steps
  1. Identify Your Objectives. What do you hope to accomplish, either immediately or long term? ...
  2. Listen Actively. Communication isn't just about what you say. ...
  3. Note Your Body Language. ...
  4. Know Your Audience. ...
  5. Pace Yourself. ...
  6. Choose the Right Time. ...
  7. Be Clear.

What are the 5 keys to effective communication? ›

5 Keys to Effective Communication
  • Choose your words wisely.
  • Listen to what others say.
  • Consider your tone, inflection and body language.
  • Write less, say more.
  • Know when to stop!
19 Feb 2020

What are the 7 elements of communication skills? ›

Here are 7 elements that are essential to successful communication.
  • Sender. The sender is the person who is trying to communicate a message. ...
  • Receiver. ...
  • Message. ...
  • Channel. ...
  • Noise. ...
  • Feedback. ...
  • Context.

What are 10 effective communication skills? ›

Top 10 communication skills
  • Active listening. Active listening means paying close attention to who you're communicating with by engaging with them, asking questions and rephrasing. ...
  • Communication method. ...
  • Friendliness. ...
  • Confidence. ...
  • Sharing feedback. ...
  • Volume and clarity. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Respect.

What are the 10 golden rules of communication? ›

Just 10 Golden Rules I have learned over many years of trial and error.
  • Communicate early and often. ...
  • Tell them everything or tell them nothing. ...
  • Empathize before you communicate. ...
  • Deliver on commitments that you communicate or do not make those commitments. ...
  • Use informal and formal channels.
16 Jun 2021

What are the 3 rules of good communication? ›

Here are three rules for effective communication:
  • Contact should be consistent, frequent, and specific. ...
  • Communication should be easily tracked, archived, and referenced. ...
  • Communication must be dual purposed: business and community.

What are the 10 important elements of communication? ›

This model has been built up upon ten clearly explained elements that are as follows: 1) Sender; 2) Objective; 3) Message; 4) Dispatching; 5) Time-Place Factor; 6) Medium; 7) Reception; 8) Receiver; 9) Understanding; and 10) Response.

What makes a strong communicator? ›

An effective communicator is someone who conveys their message thoroughly and is receptive and responsive to others' input. Those who are strong communicators speak in a clear, direct manner, using easily understood language.

What are the 4 C's of communication? ›

They give us the four C's of effective communication: clarity, coherence, control and credibility. If you want the reader to follow your thought, you need to do three things: Tell the reader where you're going, present your information or explain your thinking and offer your conclusion.

What are the 9 Elements of effective communication? ›

It is important to remember and use the following nine C's when communicating with your team:
  • Congruency. Make sure your words, tone of voice and body language all convey the same message. ...
  • Concise. ...
  • Clarity. ...
  • Consistency. ...
  • Consider Your Audience. ...
  • Content. ...
  • Check for Understanding. ...
  • Choose the Right Medium for the Message.
1 Nov 2019

Which are the Six C's of good communicator? ›

The 6 Cs of Style
  • Clear.
  • Concise.
  • Coherent.
  • Correct.
  • Courteous.
  • Convincing.

What are the 7 types of communication strategies? ›

Here are seven communication strategies that any business or firm can use.
  • Understand the Full Spectrum of Communication Skills. ...
  • Talk in Person. ...
  • Encourage Participation in Speaking-Focused Organizations. ...
  • Focus on Listening. ...
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions. ...
  • Pay Attention to Body Language and Tone of Voice.
28 Mar 2017

What are the 7 essential soft skills? ›

The seven soft skills that are commonly requested by employers are: teamwork, problem solving, communication, adaptability, critical thinking, time management and interpersonal. Below, we explore these in detail.

What activities can improve communication skills? ›

5 Communication Activities for Adults
  • Card Pieces. This exercise from the team at MindTools is a good way to help participants develop more empathy, consider other perspectives, build their communication and negotiation skills. ...
  • Listen and Draw. ...
  • Communication Origami. ...
  • Guess the Emotion. ...
  • The Guessing Game.
27 May 2019

What is the number 1 soft skill? ›

Communication. Communication is the ability to convey or share ideas and feelings effectively and it's among the top soft skills employers require across all fields. The most common communication skills are: Verbal communication.

What are the 10 key soft skills? ›

Top 10 soft skills (plus examples of each for your resume)
  • Communication. Communication skills allow you to express yourself and your ideas when interacting with others. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Problem solving. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Work ethic. ...
  • Interpersonal skills.
25 Nov 2022

What is the strongest soft skill? ›

Strong work ethic

Show your employer you care about your job by working to the best of your ability. No matter your role or industry, having a strong work ethic is extremely valuable. Employers want to hire people that will work to the best of their abilities.

Videos

1. How I started improving my Communication Skills (and the journey so far...)
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