Top 10 Communication Skills (For Your Life & Career)

15 July
10 min read

Communication skills are among recruiters’ favorites, no matter the industry. 

Pretty normal, considering that communication skills have a huge impact on your work. 

They define how you convey and receive information, interact with others and even tackle issues such as potential conflicts in the workplace. 

In the digital age, communication skills are even more essential. 

Workers today should learn how to effectively exchange information through email, Zoom meetings, and social media as well as in-person, if they want to keep up with the shifting work dynamics.  

So, do you want to improve your communication skills, and portray them in such a way that’ll land you any job?

Read on to learn:

  • Top 10 Communication Skills for Any Job
  • What Are Communication Skills, Exactly?
  • How to Improve Communication Skills
  • How to Make Your Communication Skills Stand Out

So, let’s dive right in!

Top 10 Communication Skills for Any Job

Communication is a core skill involving a wide range of “sub-skills” essential for the workplace and for the hiring process that will get you there. 

Here are the top 10 communication sub-skills that are most in-demand in 2021:

#1. Written And Oral Communication

Verbal communication is using words to convey information and it includes both written and oral communication

Oral communication skills mean that you can speak clearly, concisely, and without misinterpretation. That’s essential even if your job isn’t centered around speaking. Say, you’re the server at a restaurant. Having oral communication skills is a must if you want to establish rapport with your customers and provide a good service.

Written communication is just as important. While there may be a few jobs that don’t require writing a single word, in 90% of cases you’ll need to write when:

  • Writing emails to your colleagues
  • Drafting a report for your boss
  • Communicating with customers via email

If you’re skilled at a particular kind of writing, such as copywriting, or editing, make sure to mention that on your resume or your job interview.  

#2. Presentation 

No, having “presentation skills” doesn't just mean you’re good at presenting a PPT presentation in front of your colleagues.

Presentation skills are also about how you present your ideas and intentions in the workplace, or about how you present yourself in a job interview. As such, it’s another must-have communication skill for your resume, whatever your field of work might be.

Presentation skills are useful for all sorts of situations, including:

  • Software engineers explaining how their code works.
  • Statistician presenting their findings to other employees
  • Sales manager explaining to a client why they need a product

 #3. Active Listening

Active listening requires paying close attention to the speaker by engaging with them to ensure you’re getting the essence of the conversation. It additionally involves removing all other distractions and asking clarifying questions, thus making them feel heard. 

Active listening doesn’t come in handy only in jobs like customer service, or design, where understanding and making clients feel heard is integral. Active listening is also needed if you are to successfully interact with your colleagues, succeed in the workplace, or even ace your job interview.   

If you ask us, active listening skills give you extra points as a candidate no matter your profession (and you should definitely add it to your resume).

#4. Nonverbal Communication 

Communication consists of much more than just speaking. It involves body language, posture, gestures, eye contact patterns, and facial expressions, among others. 

This type of communication often helps more in inciting trust among your coworkers, or from clients, than verbal communication. At the same time, it makes it possible for you to see beyond what a person is saying and right into what they mean, or feel. 

As you can imagine, nonverbal communication is a skill that comes in handy for the vast majority of professions (especially sales or leadership roles), not just the world of business. 

Instead of adding it to your resume, aim to demonstrate your nonverbal communication skills during your job interviews. This includes maintaining eye contact, avoiding hand gestures, or controlling your facial emotions.  

#5. Feedback 

Feedback - both providing and accepting it - is a skill that goes hand in hand with several other communication components such as active listening, respect, open-mindedness, and teamwork. Truly encouraging feedback isn’t possible without really understanding what the speaker means, respecting their opinion, and keeping an open mind.     

So, for example, if you were receiving feedback from a supervisor, you’d listen and accept the evaluation without judgment - even if you didn’t agree. You wouldn’t interrupt them, but you’d wait until the end to ask clarifying questions to make the process as constructive as possible.  

On the other hand, if you were the one giving feedback to a colleague, you’d do so through a fact-based evaluation and you’d offer them time to respond. You’d additionally consider their needs and offer negative feedback discreetly. 

Being able to give/take feedback is pretty much a guarantee for career success. That’s because it’s tied with the willingness to learn, the ability to adapt, the openness to accept constructive criticism, and the critical reasoning that it takes to provide it.  

#6. Respect  

Respect is one of the fundamentals of successful communication and the communication skill to bring along on the job interview. It involves active listening and patience (among others) and it’s vital if you are to be considered for - or keep - any type of job.  

Being respectful is about letting others speak and knowing when to initiate conversation or respond. Little gestures can go a long way to respecting recruiters and colleagues alike - staying focused and removing all distractions or being polite are just two among many. 

When it comes to the job interview, interrupting recruiters or wasting their time by going off-topic are signs of rudeness and will most likely cost you the job. 

#7. Confidence

Confidence is the next skill in line necessary for a good first impression during your job interview. And if you’re wondering - yes, you can be respectful and confident at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive, just equally important. 

Confidence is a character trait that shows you’re sure about your words, actions, and decisions - and that’s something people respond to positively. 

If you’re not naturally confident, worry not - there are methods to appear confident even if you don’t feel like it.

Some ways to appear more confident include:

  • Maintaining eye contact during the job interview 
  • Sitting up straight with open shoulders
  • Speaking in a friendly - but firm - tone of voice 
  • Preparing in advance so you don’t stumble on your words

If, on the other hand, you’re the naturally confident type, keep in mind not to overdo it with bravado. Sometimes, too much confidence can come across as arrogance or rudeness and that’s not going to sit right with most people. 

#8. Clarity 

Clarity is an indispensable part of oral communication. It involves structuring your thoughts logically and using the right words to convey them as effectively as possible. 

If you can’t communicate clearly, be it due to a hectic thought pattern or inappropriate language, your job interviews will suffer. 

Imagine, for example, giving a complicated answer to a simple question, or using street jargon (“hey interview fam, nice to meetcha”). 

#9. Honesty 

Honesty is a communication skill you should strive to incorporate in all aspects of your professional life. 

As a rule of thumb, honesty should characterize your work ethic for obvious reasons, the most important being that lying about your skills and qualifications is the least dependable method for success. You can rest assured that, at some point, the truth will come out. 

Being honest with your colleagues and supervisors about anything work-related, on the other hand, shows that you value transparency. It also proves that you are confident to accept your mistakes and take responsibility for your actions. 

#10. Friendliness 

You might be wondering how one can be both friendly and professional during a job interview. Well, friendliness doesn’t have to stand in the way of your professionalism, just like confidence doesn’t stand in the way of politeness.   

Friendliness during your interview will show recruiters that you are cooperative, open-minded, and a good team member - something sought after in all employees. More importantly, you don’t have to go overboard to convey that you are a friendly person; a warm smile, a genuine greeting, or wishing a good day are enough to show it!

There’s a wide range of skills out there! Explore which might be of use to you with our guide to 101+ essential skills to put on a resume

What Are Communication Skills? 

Communication is defined as the ability to convey or share ideas and feelings effectively.  

Several experts agree that communication skills include: 

  • Conveying messages without misinterpretation or misleading others
  • Effectively communicating with a range of people from all walks of life 
  • Navigating from casual or informal communication to formal communication
  • Showing language mastery and command 

It is not surprising, then, that effective communication and interpersonal competencies continue to be among the top skills employers seek, listing them as lifelines for workplace success. 

But what exactly does effective communication in the workplace mean? 

Effective Communication in the Workplace 

Effective communication in the workplace is the ability to exchange and create a free flow of information with and among various stakeholders at all organizational levels to produce impactful outcomes. 

The benefits of effective workplace communication include: 

  • Improved productivity 
  • Increased morale
  • Higher employee satisfaction
  • Greater trust in management 
  • Stronger teamwork
  • Higher employee engagement 

A global study from Towers Watson even calculated the numbers, finding that companies with effective internal communication strategies are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. 

So, when employers hire good communicators, they are also investing in their long-term success. Undoubtedly, effective communication is and will continue to be essential - which means you should start working on improving yours ASAP!

How to Improve Your Communication Skills? 

Just like pretty much everything else in life, communication skills can also improve with practice. So if you’re worried about yours not being up to par, just follow the tips we’ve listed and keep in mind that practice makes perfect. 

#1. Learn to Listen

Were you ever in a conversation that felt as if you were talking to a brick wall? Then you know how frustrating it is when someone just won’t - or doesn’t know how to - listen.

Listening is literally half of the communication process - just like it takes two to tango, it takes a clear speaker and an active listener for effective communication to happen. 

However, listening takes way more patience than talking, while actually listening instead of pretending to listen is something very few people do. This puts a strain on communication. 

Well, just like you’d choose a friend who’s a good listener over someone who just wants to put in their two cents, you should practice active listening as much as possible to improve your communication.  

Here are some tips to improve your listening skills:

  • Focus on the speaker by giving them your full attention 
  • Avoid all other distractions, like your phone, laptop, or another project
  • Ask clarifying questions in case you don’t understand what’s being said - that’ll also show that the conversation is engaging 
  • Paraphrase the speaker’s words to ensure nothing gets lost in translation, by using phrases like “so, what you’re saying is…” or “let me see if I get this right, you mean that…” 

Following these tips will improve the quality of your communication even outside the workplace.

#2. Notice Nonverbal Cues 

Studies have claimed that nonverbal communication accounts for up to 93% of the impact of any verbal message. This means that when someone is talking, they’re saying much more through their body language. 

Knowing how to read the different types of nonverbal communication will significantly improve the quality of your communication. 

It’s not an easy task, of course - people take classes to learn how to read body language. But you can begin improving by paying attention to your own nonverbal cues when you speak, and to those of the people around you. 

For example:

When observing yourself: 

  • Do you make and keep eye contact with the speaker? 
  • How do you position yourself? 
  • Does your position and tone of voice depend on who you talk to?

When observing others: 

  • Do certain people make you feel heard more than others? 
  • What do those people do to make you feel that way?
  • Do certain people make communication unpleasant and what is it they do to make you feel that way?

These observations can help you pinpoint the nonverbal cues that have a positive and negative effect on communication and can be a good starting point for you to improve your nonverbal communication skills. 

Finally, here are some additional tips on how to improve: 

  • Be still when you speak. As a rule of thumb, fidgeting makes you look unsure of yourself or wary of the environment. 
  • Establish eye contact. Usually, avoiding eye contact shows you have something to hide. What you want to do is focus on people when you want to make a point, and look them in the eye both when you speak and listen. 
  • Be non-reactive. During stressful or intense situations, it’s optimal to keep your emotions in check. This means maintaining a calm tone of voice and a poker face. 

#3. Practice Oral Communication 

You can never be too good at speaking. This is mainly because we take our oral skills for granted. 

Having used words our entire lives, we rarely stop to wonder whether our verbal communication is effective. Instead, we tend to blame the listener for not understanding or just assume that we have different opinions.  

This is why you should never cease to improve your verbal communication. Again, the first step involves observing yourself and others. 

Then, start paying attention to the content of what you say:

Do you make your point effectively? Do you take too long to get to the point? Do you convey your thoughts clearly? 

In addition, follow these tips: 

  • Think before you speak. Especially in the workplace, but also during your job interview, it’s important to know what you want to say in advance. We don’t mean following a script, but having a clear idea can significantly help to get your point across. And yes - it’s totally OK to tell your interviewer, “hmm, give me a minute to think about this.”
  • Be concise. Time is the most valuable asset and in many cases, we waste it unnecessarily. A good verbal communicator is someone who can be brief, yet specific. This means giving just the right amount of information for the other person to understand, without taking too much of their time. 
  • Consider other perspectives. The better you can play devil’s advocate, the more convincing your arguments can get. Being able to take other perspectives into account can do wonders for your verbal communication, especially when you try to persuade or convince someone. 

Tips to Make Your Communication Skills Stand Out

Being a good communicator is one thing. Making sure prospective employers know this and appreciate you for it, though, is something else entirely.

Here are some of our top tips on having your communication skills stand out in a job application: 

  • Match your communication skills to the job. Check the job description with an eye out for any communication skills highlighted in the requirements. Out of the many communication sub-skills, only list the ones that are relevant to the job you’re applying for on your resume. Personalize the cover letter accordingly too.  
  • Use the job interview to your advantage. The thing with most communication skills is, they’re more convincing when you show instead of just tell. So, listing “confidence,” “friendliness” or “oral communication” on your resume won’t yield as many results as being confident and reasonably friendly during the interview, or proving that your oral communication is on-point. So, make sure to prepare in advance and bring your A-game to your job interview.  
  • Keep it up after you’re hired. Getting the job doesn’t mean you stop working on your communication skills. On the contrary, the workplace is where they will really be put to the test - by colleagues, supervisors, and clients/customers alike. So keep practicing your communication skills at work and don’t miss a chance to showcase them by being an active listener at meetings, respectful towards your colleagues, and open to accepting and providing feedback!

Key Takeaways

  • Communication is defined as the ability to convey or share ideas and feelings effectively.
  • Effective communication in the workplace is the ability to effectively exchange and create a free flow of information with and among various stakeholders at all organizational levels to produce impactful outcomes. 
  • Some of the most important communication skills for any job are presentation, active listening, nonverbal communication, giving/taking feedback, and others.
  • Improve your communication skills by learning how to listen, noticing nonverbal cues, and practicing oral communication.

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