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How to Build Essential Communication Skills

Solid communication skills are essential to professional success as we all know. Whether you communicate primarily over the phone, via email, IM, texting, video conference, or in person, knowing how to communicate effectively will enable you to continue to progress as a professional, whether you want a management role or not. Enhancing your communication skills helps you build better relationships with your coworkers, clients, supervisor, other managers, and enables you to accomplish your tasks more professionally. Effective communication is critical to establishing goals with your team, setting expectations for employees, providing context for projects, and communicating the vision for your department and organization, to name a few.

Not all of us are naturally great communicators, however, which can be a problem for some professionals. If this is you, follow the tips below for ways to start working on your communication skills.

Practice your listening skills. Two-way communication is critical in the workplace since it affects efficiency and effectiveness. Not everyone knows how to listen well, even when they think they do. It takes focus and being fully present to listen to the other person, to not only their words but their nonverbal communication. It takes even more effort to pick up on the mood and tone of the conversation. One of the exercises we recommend is practicing your listening skills for one full week, and conducting an active listening exercise during your meetings or your coffee breaks. Listen to what a coworker is saying and limit yourself to reflecting what they say to you or paraphrasing, but that’s it. Do not ask questions or give advice. Then rate yourself on how well you were able to listen actively and effectively. Practice this several times a week until you feel more effective at listening to others.

Meet new people. Meeting new people is a great way to practice your communication skills since you have to make small talk and make more of an effort to connect with them. Attending networking events in your industry or university alumni events are great opportunities to do this. You can also take the initiative to get to know people outside of your department. Introduce yourself and compliment them on a positive aspect of their department. Try to find some common ground and ways you can collaborate.

Stay in touch with your network. It’s important to actively communicate with your network on a regular basis. They can provide you with career advice and tips during a job search, yes, but it’s important to stay in touch with your network when you’re not conducting a search as well. You can learn from each other, find ways to collaborate, and identify connections for each other you can benefit from. With your LinkedIn connections, look for ways to stay in touch. For example, write a small message to let them know you were thinking about them. Include an article or event that you think that they would appreciate. To make a new connection, you must include a personal note with your connection request. Let the person know why you want to connect: their impressive professional accomplishments, they have a position you would like to learn more about or a common interest. Practicing your communication skills in this different environment, the world of networking, so to speak, will increase your confidence in your ability to establish and manage new relationships which will translate into your work with clients, new employees, and co-workers.