Nowadays, the demand for people comfortable with teamwork and cooperative skills is growing more and more. No matter the position or work field, some essential communication skills will make you stand out. It can even give you a head start when applying for job offers, or when asking for a promotion.
We’re seeing the rise of so-called “soft-skills” against the more well-known “hard-skills”. The latter are technical skills, such as computer programming, or machine operating. Hard skills are great and necessary for work, but there’s more than just that. Employers nowadays do not only look for people with the right technical knowledge for the job, but people with abilities for teamwork, persuasion, and leadership. In other words, people with communication skills.
The correct balance between interpersonal skills and the required technical knowledge for the position is becoming more and more important. According to Linkedin, over 57% of the leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills. As such, people with great certifications and studies, but unable to become team-players, can get the short-straw in hiring processes.
These essential communication skills can be the key to differentiating yourself from hundreds of other people applying for the same job. Being able to express yourself in a clear, engaging way is a vital part of building a bond between you and your client. Improving your communication skills can help you become a more versatile, better-rounded professional.
Communication is a two-way process, meaning, it always involves two (or more) people. A monologue all by yourself without letting other people contribute is not a very effective way of communication. This is why listening is such a vital part of a fruitful conversation.
For effective communication to happen, you need to be able to let the other person participate. Only then a true conversation where both parties give and receive information can take place. It is important to approach the conversation not thinking yourself as the only informant, or believing that you have all the answers. Allow yourself to enter the conversation with an open mind and an open disposition to learn something new.
But what does ‘active’ listening mean? It is simple: think of it as the difference between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’. Hearing refers to just perceiving a sound. Listening, on the other hand, requires concentration. You can hear noises and sounds of a person talking, but it is the act of listening that will turn them into words and sentences with meaning. It implies comprehending the content, retaining the valuable information, and responding accordingly. Active listening is what will allow you to have true two-sided, productive conversations.
Openness to feedback
This point is directly related to the ability to listen. Approaching work with humility and an open-minded disposition is vital for growing and learning. While it is natural to feel a little put off by critiques, try to avoid over-defensive stances. Face feedback not as an attack, but as an opportunity to grow and improve. It will allow you to learn new things and to grow as a professional.
Openness to feedback also means being willing to give feedback. Whether as a leader or just a member of the team, giving feedback is essential to ensure that things do not only work but become better and better every time. Sometimes, something as simple as a “good job” from a working partner can improve communication in the workplace and make the whole team grow. Be careful about giving unsolicited feedback, as it can be received as aggressive criticism. The key is to give and receive feedback with kindness and a growth mindset.
When thinking about communication, the most immediate things that come to mind are usually verbal: writing, reading, talking. A big part of communication, however, is the non-verbal component of it. The tone and volume of voice, for example, can change the way a phrase is said and give it a completely different meaning.
Body language can be pivotal in engaging with customers and clients, to sell an idea to your boss, or simply to make yourself look confident. Voice modulation, eye contact, and gestures are processed by our subconscious and can affect the way our messages convey to others.
Empathy and trust
This point may not seem an essential communication skill, or even related to communication, but it is linked to both listening and openness. Ideally, everyone would be friends, and things will always go smoothly and peacefully in the work field. This is not always possible, as you may know, and that is why is so important to build a workspace that will allow professional trust.
Even if you are not close with your coworkers on a personal level, you should aspire to achieve a high level of professional trust that goes both ways. You should be able to trust your team to make their part of their job, but you should also work on building trust for your own work. Your team should feel confident that what you do will maintain quality and their objectives. You are working with people, not machines. Knowing that you can trust each other to do a good job can boost the team’s performance as a whole.
People make mistakes, and that is why empathy is important as well as trust. Not everyone is going to be at their 100% every single time. Making mistakes is only human, and understanding that is the first step in learning from them. Being empathic with your coworkers and understanding that mistakes are inevitable will improve communication in the work field, as it will be easier to admit them and work on fixing them.
Asking the right questions
Again, this point is directly related to being able to listen and understand your coworkers. When listening with attention, you should be able to understand the information they are giving you. But besides that, it is also useful to understand what information is lacking. Acknowledging not only what you are understanding but what you are not understanding is vital to be able to do useful and insightful questions.
Nowadays, when teamwork is so important and common, asking the right questions can be the key to success. Many times people will work in parallel, doing different things each. In these cases, asking questions in the early stages can make a big difference for working smartly in groups. Things as defining precisely what each team member will do, or what guidelines and criteria all will follow, can save time and effort later.
Most people think they meet the essential communication skills with just being able to read and write. Truth is, average reading and writing skills rarely mean good enough. Communication always implies more people. That is why interpersonal skills such as empathy and an open mind to other’s ideas can make a difference in how effective you are at work. When is the last time you received feedback? When was the last time you gave it? Paying attention to small details such as these can boost your career.
Also, remember that communication is not always verbal! You can check out this article about how to get your point across non-verbally during presentations to learn how to excel in non-verbal communication.