22 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills in the Workplace

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Improving your communication skills in the workplace and your personal life includes verbal and non-verbal communication. Follow these 22 tips for improving your communication skills, from body language to eye contact to active listening skills.

[Featured image] Woman giving a presentation in front of whiteboard

Communication skills are essential to positive professional and personal relationships. When you interact with your family, make a presentation at work, or address a problem with your boss, you use communication skills. 

While it’s easy to think of communication simply as talking, there’s more to it. Everything from your facial expressions and word choice to presentation graphics and tone of voice plays a part in communication. Learn about the critical areas for improving your communication skills and 22 helpful tips for becoming a more effective communicator. 

What are communication skills, and why are they important? 

We're communicating any time we transfer information from one place to another via voice, written words, visuals, or non-verbal gestures. And we use our communication skills in a variety of ways in our personal and professional lives, in conversations, emails and written documents, presentations, and visuals like graphics or charts. 

Communication skills are essential, especially in the workplace, because they can:

 

  • Improve your relationships with your manager and coworkers

  • Build connections with customers 

  • Help you convey your point quickly and clearly

  • Enhance your professional image

  • Encourage active listening and open-mindedness

  • Help advance your career

4 types of communication

Becoming a better communicator often means focusing on improving in each of the four main areas of communication. This means focusing on listening skills and non-verbal communication, practicing emotional awareness, building empathy and professionalism, and developing questioning skills. Let's take a closer look at each area. 

1. Listening skills

To communicate well, you need to listen. Give a person your full attention, hear what they’re saying verbally and non-verbally, and consider their thoughts. As an active listener, you can develop strategies that help you ask follow-up questions and gain clarity on someone’s thoughts. 

2. Non-verbal communication

The message a person communicates isn’t just spoken. It’s non-verbal too. To improve communication, you need to pay attention to your and the other person's body language, tone of voice, eye contact, posture, and facial expressions. Verbal communication and body language must be in sync to convey a message clearly.  

3. Emotional awareness

Improving communication means working toward emotional intelligence, or a keen understanding of your emotions and the emotions of those around you. You need to identify emotional situations, be aware of your feelings, show empathy, and keep your feelings in check.  

4. Questioning skills 

To create a two-way flow of communication, it’s important to develop questioning skills. When communicating with someone, ask succinct questions that can clarify the conversation’s main points. 

Why communication matters at work: 5 key stats

Research provides a snapshot of employee perspectives on communication in the workplace. Consider these facts [1]:

1. The pandemic increased the number of remote workers, and in turn, 33 percent of employees now find communication more of a struggle.

2. Only 20 percent of workers say their business is efficient due to a lack of communication.

3. As many as 65 percent of workers say they waste time in meetings. 

4. Poor communication is cited as the cause of 35 percent of businesses losing an employee. 

5. The majority of employees—95 percent—say their business could improve its communication skills.

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22 ways to improve your communications skills in the workplace

Communicating effectively in the workplace is a practiced skill. While communication comes more naturally to some, everyone can improve their workplace communication skills. To do so, you need to understand the importance of listening, monitor non-verbal communication, elevate your verbal communication, enhance your written communication, and spend some time on visual communication. These 22 tips provide actionable steps you can take to improve all areas of workplace communication. 

1. Prepare what you’re going to say.

If you’re presenting an idea or having a meaningful talk with your supervisor, take some time to prepare what you’ll say. By organizing your thoughts, your conversation should be clearer and lead to a more productive interaction. 

2. Simplify and stay on message.

Proofread and eliminate anything that strays from your message as you prepare your thoughts. One of the best ways to improve communication is to work on creating concise and clear conversations, emails, and presentations. 

3. Record yourself communicating.

Use your smartphone to record yourself giving a presentation or practicing a tough conversation you need to have with a teammate about their lack of participation. Review the recording and look for places to improve. 

4. Engage your listeners. 

Keep your listeners engaged in the conversation. Effective communicators ask questions and encourage participation. An interactive conversation is an ideal way to keep everyone’s attention. 

5. Take time to respond.

Take time to create a thoughtful response. Often, you feel obligated to respond quickly, but it’s important to take a moment to compose your thoughts so you can have a meaningful conversation. 

6. Make sure you understand.

Before ending a conversation, take a moment to ask a few follow-up questions and then recap the conversation. You can finish by explaining the next actionable steps.

7. Work on your body language.

Keep a straight posture, avoid slouching, and use natural hand gestures when you speak. Make eye contact with everyone who’s listening to you. It can be helpful to move around the room, too, when space allows. It can help listeners feel more included. 

8. Maintain eye contact.

During a conversation or presentation, try to hold a person’s gaze in four- to five-second intervals before looking at another person. You can also use natural hand gestures while you speak, which can help you feel more confident and look people in the eye.

9. Be respectful. 

When you finish communicating, you want your audience to feel you've respected their needs, and they, in turn, will more likely form respect for you. To earn that respect, thank them for their time, keep your presentation within its set timeframe, and keep your jokes appropriate and to a minimum. 

10. Make communication a priority.

Elevating your communication skills is something to work on every day. Consider making a communication to-do list with a few things you’d like to work on for the day, like recognizing body language, asking follow-up questions, or practicing active listening.

11. Learn to manage your emotions.

When you’re in a professional setting, it’s necessary to keep your emotions in check. If you have trouble managing your emotions, take a moment for a few deep breaths before speaking or writing an email. Take a moment alone at your desk or a break outside when possible.   

12. Prioritize workplace skills. 

Improving additional workplace skills like problem-solving, collaboration, and time management can also enhance your communication efforts. These skills require listening, patience, and organization, which all play a role in sound communication. 

Read more:What Are Job Skills and Why Do They Matter?

13. Get rid of conversation fillers.

To aid in your conversational improvement, work to eliminate fillers like “um,” and “ah.” Start listening for these fillers so you can use them less and convey more confidence when you speak. Often these phrases are used to fill the silence, which is a natural part of conversation, so try to embrace the silence rather than fill it. 

14. Have a plan for small talk. 

Small talk is its own conversation challenge. To provide inspiration, focus on topics included in the FORD method: family, occupation, recreation, and dreams.

15. Tell a story.

When you can, include stories in your communication. A story helps keep your audience engaged and makes it easier for people to relate to the topic. 

16. Ask questions and summarize the other person's main points.

Part of being an active listener is asking relevant questions and repeating pieces of the conversation to show that you understand a point. Listening makes communication a two-way street. 

17. Be receptive to feedback.

As you’re working to improve your communication skills, ask for feedback and be receptive to it. Asking your colleagues for feedback can help you pinpoint challenges and demonstrate a commitment to your job. Try incorporating the feedback into your next chat, brainstorming session, or video conference. 

18. Be ready for different answers.

Listen without judgment. That’s the goal of every conversation, but especially if you hear responses that are unexpected or different than you anticipate. Listen to the person openly, be mindful of your body language, and don’t interrupt. 

19. Put away distractions.

Communicating well means being fully present. Put away anything that can distract you, like your phone or tablet. It shows others that you’re respectfully listening and helps you respond thoughtfully to the conversation.  

20. Tailor your message to your audience.

Your communication should change based on your audience. Just as you personalize an email, personalize all of your communications. Your message, tone, and body language, for example, should be authentic yet adapted if you’re talking with your manager as opposed to talking with an intern. 

21. Be brief yet specific.

Use the acronym BRIEF (background, reason, information, end, follow-up) to help guide your conversation. Think of it as a conversation outline meant to keep you on track. 

22. Up your empathy.

Consider the feelings of others as you speak with them. Part of having a meaningful conversation is being empathetic to others. If you try to put yourself in their shoes, you can better understand how to help. 

Next steps

Further enhance your communication skills with Improving Communication Skills, part of the Achieving Personal and Professional Success Specialization from the University of Pennsylvania, or the Dynamic Public Speaking Specialization from the University of Washington. 

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Article sources

1. Project.co. “Business Communication Report 2022, https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/project.co/PDFs/Projectco-Communications-Stats-2022.pdf.” Accessed March 25, 2022. 

2. TopResume. “9 Soft Skills Employers Are Looking For in 2021, https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/6-soft-skills-employers-are-looking-for.” Accessed March 25, 2022.  

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