Look around you. You’ll probably see people with eyes pasted to their phone screens or fingers dancing over computer keyboards like professional tap dancers, communicating with others at lightning speed. Our world resembles a swifter version of The Hunger Games. You need to develop your communication skills before others can out-communicate you and that cannon goes off saying the job went to another tribute. You might master a specific skill like Peeta did with camouflage, the art of public speaking as if you reincarnated Gorgias himself or the voodoo of masterful writing. No matter what type of skill you can master, you can only succeed in the workplace by effectively expressing your message.
Check out the 15 communication skills you need to succeed in the professional world.
1. Ask questions
Can you efffectively use your communication skills if you don’t know what you want to say? We gather information as part of our second nature: We use it to learn, solve problems, understand the people around us and even to help us make the right decisions. And if you think about it, every conversation becomes a never ending sequence of questions through which we gather more and more information. But we must not forget to consider how to ask them. “It is important to know what is the right question to ask in a specific setting and to a specific group of people,” sophomore communications major Thali Boruchovitch said.
2. Know how to answer a question
Questions are a two-way street. You must know how to ask them, but more importantly, you should know the best way to answer them. Oftentimes, we might give our stream of consciousness a microphone so that we can ramble about something completely different than what we were asked, leaving the actual answer to the end (if we don’t forget about it by then). “The most effective communications skills for success in the workplace are being able to answer questions directly, concisely and abstractly,” Boston College communications professor Vincent Rocchio said.
3. Analyze your social experience
Communication is more about what we say. Don’t overlook social context when evaluating and expressing messages to others. Whether in a face-to-face conversation, sending emails to your boss or working in groups, each situation calls for something different. “The ability to analyze social phenomena is an important communication skill because if you don’t have something significant to talk about, it doesn’t matter how well you speak, you still have nothing to say,” Rocchio said.
4. Don’t forget how to interact face-to-face
From the moment we wake up in the coziness of your blankets to the moment we go back to bed, we constantly interact with other people through our screens. But people tend to forget the importance of our ability to convey emotions in our interpersonal encounters. “It makes you stand out from everyone else who is just meeting the basic requirements of workplace politeness,” Boston College senior communications major Kim Choo said.
5. Be spontaneous
“We have a privilege that generations before us did not have. We have the luxury of able to overthink and plan out our messages before actually delivering them,” Choo said. But every rose has its thorn. It has turned into a habit to have things so precisely calculated, that when something deviates from our plans, we feel that clueless. In that moment, we might feel our hands shake, our brains stop working and our tongues enter a state of paralysis. Instead, learn how to think on the spot so you don’t end up gaping and stuttering. Talk about awkward.
6. Master the art of the phone call
The vibration of your phone against your jeans brings your inner peace to an end. Our anxiety takes over us and we ignore the phone call, only to respond by text a few minutes later. “Students need to have an effective telephone style of communicating,” Boston College communications professor Donald Fishman said. We have been so consumed by digital technology that carrying out a conversation over the phone becomes a fear most people can’t escape. They can’t bite you over the phone; talk calmly and clearly as if you’re speaking to a familiar professor during office hours.
7. Pay attention to your body language
Bodies speak louder than words. The body never stops communicating, making it the greatest source of information. “Your body language, facial expression, tone of voice, all convey a powerful message to those you’re communicating with, and it often feels as though these skills have taken a back seat to all the recommendations of honing one’s digital communication skills,” Choo said. You must pay as much attention to what people don’t say as to what they say, in order to accurately interpret their message.
8. Don’t just hear
Turn off your inner voice and ignore the cute puppy in the corner of your eye. Now you need to listen. No worse feeling exists than when you put your heart and soul into what you say, only to see the other person staring blankly at you from the clouds of their thoughts. Although this can seem like a very easy task, it actually takes a lot of concentration and effort. Pay attention to what the speaker says (i.e. actually listening and not daydreaming) and ask questions to show your interest and to encourage them to expand on their ideas.
9. Be understanding
Disagreements aren’t fun and confrontation might make you nauseous. But it can and will happen so you need to learn how to do it healthily and effectively. Ask questions and listen. People must emotionally connect to your message in order for them to understand it. Make your feelings and ambitions known to your co-workers and you’ll form an emotional connection that leads to cooperative understanding.
10. Be assertive
Don’t wear a crown over your head or overwhelm people by trying to impress them with how much you know. Instead avoid broad answers sandwiched between seconds of filler sounds such as “um.” Brace yourself and make yourself stand tall. What you have to say and bring to your job has value. Otherwise your boss wouldn’t have hired you in the first place.
11. Stick to your role
Friendliness composes most of your DNA, but you must learn to stand your ground. Read your script and own your role. Avoid being too personal, since you might lose credibility or jeopardize your professional identity. Don’t leave your friendly habits behind, but keep them professional.
12. Practice public speaking
No matter how much you try to escape actual conversation, you can never truly avoid them. Electronic communication, though convenient, has proved to have detrimental effects in every communication setting. “You will still need to deliver a speech. Sometimes it is to launch a new product, or sometimes to summarize events for the company you are working for,” Fishman said. But public speaking should not give you anxiety. Just make sure to plan in advance, practice what you’ll say and keep your audience engaged.
13. Learn to work together
We’ve all heard it before, “Two heads are better than one.” Communication always involves more than one person. Group work fosters creativity, combines multiple strengths and builds trust among every member involved. Take the initiative to offer ideas, but accept and invite the ideas of others. After all, building connections between ideas and individuals needs communication.
14. Accept the fact that not everyone will pay attention
See that lady with her arms crossed and the guy behind her who can’t take his eyes off his phone? Ignore the people who don’t pay attention to you, and focus on the ones who do. Look for the people who take notes or smile as you speak. Don’t let the others distract you into loosing the engagement of the people who care about what you have to say.
15. Stay positive
“What if I forget what I have to say?” “What if they disagree?” These questions haunt us before we even get to actually do our tasks. It already takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and into a work scene. Get rid of all that negative self talk. Instead, focus on what could go right, to receive positive responses. Tackle your nerves of achieving an effective communication by keeping a positive mindset.