Communication skills appear to be the most wanted skill set by employers. In nearly all job postings I’ve seen, “Excellent communication skills” (or similar words) were listed as a job requirement. Companies need employees who can communicate well with others, to ensure that their business will thrive in today’s competitive global economy. The ripple affect of hiring people with excellent communication skills produces ongoing business from clients and harmony among employees.

Let’s look at’s definition of communication: “to give or interchange thoughts, feelings, information, or the like, by writing, speaking, etc; or to express thoughts, feelings, or information easily or effectively.” Besides speaking and writing, the deeper skills of listening and interpersonal exchange can increase our ability to understand and be understood by others.

You may believe you already have excellent communication skills. Even so, it can be good for your career to “kick it up a notch,” as renowned chef Emeril Lagasse would say. So, here are some ways you can improve your skills in all four communication areas:

1) Listening: Here’s a quiz I took in coaching school, which can help you evaluate your listening skills. Respond “yes” or “no” to each statement, and give yourself a gold star for each yes.

  • Allow others to finish their question before responding.
  • Restrain negative emotions, like anger or frustration.
  • Keep my mind from wandering or shifting to the next task on my “to-do” list.
  • Ask for clarification, if something isn’t clear.
  • Pay attention, even if the subject is not interesting.
  • Take note of the speaker’s key points.
  • Listen for the speaker’s concerns or needs.
  • Hear the speaker’s perspective and message content.
  • Avoid being distracted if annoyed by a speaker’s appearance, speech pattern, or beliefs.
  • Seek to understand before being understood.

2) Speaking:

  • Say the person’s name you’re speaking with as often as appropriate; avoid overuse.
  • Rehearse your presentations before delivering them at work.
  • Record yourself speaking and be honest about how you sound; if necessary, hire a speech coach to help you improve your delivery and intonation.
  • Utilize voice mail playback features to preview and re-record your message before sending.
  • Use eye contact and open body language when communicating in person.
  • Join Toastmasters to give you a safe place to practice your public speaking skills.

3) Writing:

  • Treat all emails as if the company president might see them.
  • Keep all messages short and succinct.
  • Include “please” and “thank you” in emails and memos.
  • Use email features to indicate the urgency of your messages.
  • Avoid using ALL CAPS in email messages, which indicates “shouting.”
  • Proofread documents before sending; ask for help if you struggle with grammar and spelling issues.

4) Interpersonal exchange:

  • Show that you care about the success of your company, co-workers and customers.
  • Be sensitive to other people’s emotions; listen for the message behind the emotions.
  • Build trusting business friendships with your colleagues and co-workers.
  • Share articles or contacts with your colleagues to help them expand their knowledge and network.
  • Send cards for birthdays and special occasions.
  • Be nice to people even behind their backs; gossip and negative remarks about others is an absolute no-no.
  • Lower your expectations of others; if they are unable to meet your needs, this is usually about their limitations and not about you.

Whether you’re in a job search or striving to improve in the job you already have, effective communication skills are the key to success!

© Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, 2014 All Rights Reserved.