Communication Skills – Ultimate Guide – Effective Communication
By Nathan Simmonds
By Nathan Simmonds
Communication is the act of conveying meanings from one person or group to another. This happens through the use of understood signs, symbols, and semiotic rules. It applies to anyone, including those who don’t speak. Even babies communicate. It is always occurring. People take for granted that Communication Skills don’t just happen. Communication is viewed uniquely by each person based on experiences or understanding of the topic. The other person may hold a different impression of what you mean. This refers to a mental filter.
Good Communication Skills are the ability to convey information to others effectively and efficiently. These skills are verbal, non-verbal (body language) and written.
This Ultimate Guide to Communication Skills will deliver answers and understanding to the following. You can jump to the sections with the links below:
An example of a mental filter is what the receiver thinks about the sender. If the person receiving the message doesn’t trust the sender then there is a problem. For instance, we can perceive an honest and sincere message from the sender as bossy.
Avoid unintended communications by using a framework for messages. A profound and exciting story can grab your audience, or your audience can grab their phones and check the game highlights. The difference is all in the delivery.
To learn more about communication, watch our 1-minute video below:
‘The major mistake in communication is to believe that it happens.’ – George Shaw
The person starting the conversation (the sender) knows in their mind what they intend the message to be. By knowing the audience, the person can deliver the message in a format the receiver will know best. Then evaluate the other four elements before you deliver the message. The sender can give the message through text, email, verbal or non-verbal. Regardless of the channel, you still need to follow a framework for the message. This is important so that a message meant to be helpful doesn’t seem indecisive or the opposite, short or rude.
When deciding how to phrase the wording of the message, use the popular and effective Think-Feel-Do (TFD method).
The receiver of a message can be one person or a group. They should pay careful attention to the message. Listen and watch the sender’s body language. The receiver should give non-verbal signals to the sender, like nodding in agreement, and smiling if it applies.
The message is made from the channel (text, phone, email) and non-verbal communication such as written communication skills. The TFD method also plays a part in the message.
The context or channel involves the location, method, timing, and relationship.
You should consider the following:
Listening and giving feedback is important whether it is verbal or non-verbal. Open-ended questions can gauge your receiver’s understanding of the information. However, errors can occur with feedback, such as:
Do you ever think about HOW you interact with others and what effect it has? Each type of communication is used in different circumstances and to convey a different intent. The basic communication types are intended to persuade, inform, or educate.
The following are the 4 types of communication:
Reading or seeing is visual communication. It can be anything that shows a message, expresses an idea and gives information. For example, signs, gestures, postures, or other avenues that can be expressive. An example is the female or male looking stick figures on the door of many public toilets. These are basic symbols that we identify as signalling that this is a women’s or a men’s toilet. Another example is a thumb’s up gesture. This shows that things are okay.
This is often your first impression to another. It shows your ideas through written symbols. Written communication skills are the most common form of business communication and includes letters, emails, or text messages to name a few. What is your writing saying about you? What story are you telling?
Important: Whenever you send a written document, still follow the 5 elements as noted above.
Improving your written Communication Skills will improve how others perceive you. Always write without banter and ‘fluff’ but still keep it warm to develop rapport. Moreover, business writing should remove any information that does not add to the meaning. It should state the aim directly.
There are an estimated 246 billion emails worldwide sent and received daily. On average a manager or executive receives 200 emails per day. Every email you send is a chance to showcase your writing. People judge others based on their tone. The words you use send a message and you don’t want that message to incompetent or rude. Learn how to persuade, inform or educate your audience through writing. This shows confidence, knowledge and success!
Verbal communication is the process of presenting ideas through speech. This is a particularly important skill for people in sales, customer service and business roles. Positions working with customers and the public require excellent verbal Communication Skills.
Most people guess what non-verbal is, however, they might miss half the story. Non-verbal is as much about listening and observing as showing your non-verbal cues. In short, non-verbal communication tells the deeper story. An example of non-verbal communication is your response to an employee calling in sick on stock take day. This is the third year in a row it has happened. The night before you saw them at a football game with no visible sickness. You might say ‘okay, I hope you feel better’ but the tone of your voice conveys irritation and disbelief.
’60 % of all human communication is nonverbal body language; 30 % is your tone, so that means 90 % of what you are saying doesn’t come from your mouth.’ – Alex Hitchens
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Communication can be slowed or stopped due to barriers. Some are:
The cost of poor interaction can have a big impact. We often take small misunderstandings in stride and chalk them up to an error. When this happens, take time to reflect. Why did the disconnect happen to begin with? Furthermore, did you contribute to the problem? Often, it is not until large or complex problems come up do we stop to find the cause. Yet, the same primary faults create small problems as large ones.
The time and cost involved in daily interactions of workers are hard to measure. Areas that are not productive are addressed and resolved.
This mishap could increase the original cost of the interaction. Companies can help by investing in Communication Skills training course for their employees.
Employees cannot practice skills that they are not trained in. Even so, employees are held responsible for the problems. Finally, employers are starting to estimate more closely the loss of wages to the company. Therefore, companies are including Communication Skills courses in their training budget.
‘Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.’ – Ambrose Bierce
The skills you need today are evolving at a rapid pace. They need to in order to keep up with the rapidly changing business world. Companies create products in record time, make quick decisions involve many people. In-person discussion is becoming less and less common. In part because of the physical location of coworkers in a global market varies. Your job requires you to interact and collaborate with many types of people. Because Communication Skills are lacking in organisations, we need basic ways to work with one another.
Employers are moving away from slower methods of communications such as desk phones. This is in favour of artificial intelligence-based products such as apps, chatbots and voice assistants. The drive for productivity is leading the effort. There are countless technologies coming out at lightning speed. Yet, humans will need to still interact with clarity, despite barriers.
Global businesses give access to millions more people than would be possible of a local company. This requires adjustments that companies do not train their employees in. The lack of skills today can cause lost contracts, employee turnover, and frustrated customers. If your organisation is not global, it still impacts you because of global suppliers and customers. Training will help remain successful when interacting with others.
Examples of modern communication barriers:
Difficulties can happen when working with others in another time-zone. An example would be a coworker in the United Kingdom. They are working with someone in the United States. There is a five hour time difference. The start of business in the U.K. maybe 4:00 am in the U.S.
There is an increase in email usage even to give complex messages. We know complex topics are better discussed in person or by phone. This can lead to misunderstandings and delays. Everyday information is okay. When decisions are needed or participation is required, it is inconvenient. Not to mention it impacts the relationship of coworkers.
Talk over what working hours will work to contact the other person. The person in the U.S. may not mind being contacted at 6:00 am. However, to be nice, the U.K. does not contact the U.S. worker until the U.S. office hours. Remote worker situations can be a challenge. Furthermore, employees may not even be in a different time zone but located off-site. Yet, this can still isolate the employee and complicate communication.
Employees are working longer. Much longer. Recent studies suggest that workers aged 55 and older currently make up 16% of the total workforce in the European Union. For comparison, for every 10 Generation Z employees, there are 12 people aged 65 or older in the EU.
Workers are staying in jobs longer for many reasons, for example:
Regardless of the reason, working with multiple generations in the workforce requires consideration. Keep in mind that many ideas about older workers can often be stereotypes. These include slow pace, resistance to training and new ideas.
An example is older workers and technology:
Older workers rarely have technology skills that younger workers do. The communication style present today is not what the older generation was raised with. This changes with each generation. An example of this would be a direct message (DM) or instant message (IM). Many older workers prefer to contact by phone or email and may not be familiar with a DM or IM. They also may not see the benefit in it. Younger workers use it more often and the familiar tool is second nature as they have grown up with it. To a younger or middle-aged person, this is an effective and quick way to ask a question or inform. It is fast and doesn’t require a full-blown email or phone call.
working through age difference in the workforce
An obvious difference between employees being from different countries is language. We can misinterpret the intended meaning and cause offence and feelings of resentment. A frequent issue is using Google translate or something similar to translate a message. The semantics of the message are different from intended. Even if the other person gets the concept, more explanation is needed. Whether by personality or culture, some people are direct and to the point. This can be taken as cold and rude.
The virtual world and the global workplace are similar. In both places, a process of communication should be followed. This requires observing the other person. With technology, you may use the latest and greatest tools. However, if a coworker in an impoverished country cannot access these tools, then you need to make accommodations. Just as in person. If a person has a barrier to communication, then you need to adjust your style.
An example of this would make certain that everyone involved has access to the same technology. For instance, if five people use a team app such as Slack, however, two others can only use email. You need, therefore, to provide a summary of all discussions through Slack. Forwarded to the two individuals via email and request their feedback. Lastly, if this occurs, try to make efforts to find a programme that works for everyone.
To listen is to learn. Hearing is different from listening. You don’t become a better listener simply by hearing more. Listening is intentional and focused. There are many aspects to listening. When you practice focused listening, you start to realise those details. It is a skill. Your practice can be with strangers, friends, or coworkers.
Listening happens as much with your eyes as with your ears. Eye-rolling for annoyance, or head nodding in agreement. Non-verbally we can observe with our eyes. Exclamation marks or words written in all caps can signal anger or excitement. Any uncertain actions mean the sender needs to clarify the message. It is up to the sender to craft a message that the receiver is able to understand with clarity. Oversight because of the wrong context or channel should not be blamed on the receiver.
To help determine if a message was clear or to get further information, you can use questioning.
There are 6 Key Qualities of Focused Listening:
‘Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.’ – Roy T. Bennett
When you know your style of communication, then you can interact confidently when encountering the individual styles below:
The Five Basic Styles of Communication each using corresponding verbal and non-verbal characteristics. Each style has common words and phrases.
Is mentally and emotionally the healthiest of the styles; however, the fewest people use this style of communication. They advocate for themselves and state their needs. They address issues as they arise.
People express their emotions and opinions with a domineering attitude that can often be harmful to others.
Individuals seem calm and passive but bring down others in subtle ways. This is often because they cannot directly deal with their anger or resentment.
Is about pleasing other people. They believe other’s needs are more important than their own. They think others can contribute more than they can.
A type of person with their best interest in mind. They are cunning and good at influencing and controlling others. They ask indirectly for their needs to be met, making others feel sorry for them.
‘Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise, you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.’ – C.S. Lewis
The best way to communicate with others is not a guessing game. Follow the details below and you will have smooth interactions going forward. Communication problems will be helped if you understand where the process stopped working. Find where the misunderstanding occurred, and you resolve the issue quicker. Whether you can determine the point of communication problem or not, you need to open the communication channel. You can start this by using the following communication skills examples.
To establish dialogue can be scary and uncertain for both parties. Make the person comfortable and create a secure environment to share information. First, let them know you understand their message by practising methods of effective communication. Show you are a trusted individual by focused listening and using the best method for them. Lastly, let them know you would like to help solve the issue. This is done through verbal and non-verbal communication.
Use the questioning method of communication to ask good, relevant questions. Then evaluate additional details. Match the tone and pace of the other person so it does not appear that you are rapid-firing questions. Give the person enough space and time to convey information.
It is likely the person has come to you for help in solving the problem. Part of a leader’s role is working together to figure out the next best steps. Further investigation is often the next step. Brainstorm ideas together and detail what should happen next. Get answers from others if needed. Make it clear you would like to improve or solve the problem. The issue is important to them and to you.
Be certain the person knows when they will hear from you. Recap the overview of the conversation. The recap should be written and documented so they can correct any errors. Letter or email is appropriate to use. Anything wrong in the wording or meaning should be corrected and a new recap sent. Regardless if you are a manager, human resources, or an employee; set the tone and follow the process. It will reduce future communication problems and furthermore, headaches.
Watch our interview with Lee McDonald of the Said Business School Oxford, discussing how better communication can help improve office politics:
As mentioned, Communication Skills are a hot commodity. Human resource departments are actively seeking out high-end soft skills. To demonstrate, these skills show you are flexible and can be trained for future positions.
State your level of skills on your CV. Then during a phone interview, you can describe examples of how you have used the skills. When you get the in-person interview, show concrete examples. In particular, use body language that portrays self-confidence.
Take a cue from the job description. Ensure you, include areas from the company’s core values to tie into the culture.
Try searching on a job board for your best communication trait. For example, negotiation. As a result, you might be interested in the results. A wide range of opportunities and industries could be open to you. Your cover letter should lead with your solution to their problem. What problem can you fix that is a key component of the job?
This improves the skills and relationships you bring to a company. Companies now create assessments around this competency before hiring. Will you make the cut?
Low rates of unemployment. The high number of applicants for each job. This scenario makes networking imperative. It can help get your foot in the door for the interview.
Use a framework of pitching to create a successful request. Remember, you never know if you never ask.
Advice from LinkedIn Learning encourages us to Use the What – Why – How – format.
Be direct when you ask.
You sent out countless CVs but did not get a call. A position has opened up where an old acquaintance works but you are reluctant to reach out. It is uncomfortable to ask a favour from this person even though you had a good history.
This scenario should give a successful ask.
Take your questioning a step further with 5 Bums on a Rugby Post:
As you can see from the image we’ve extended it a bit further. Firstly, the rugby post forms an ‘H’. This is for ‘How’. Each of the bums is a ‘W’. These remind us of five open questions, ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘When’, ‘Where’, ‘Why’. You should think about your pitch and ask these questions. This is an easy way to remember all the questions you need to answer to be prepared for any eventuality.
An interview can be daunting. Use the five elements of the communication process and you are certain to look prepared!
Sender – You deliver solid, quantified examples.
Receiver – The interviewer uses proper communication methods to listen and understand your message.
Message – Through body language you portray self-confidence. Through the clarity of speech, you show capability. You have a logical order for your presentation. Your ideas are easy to understand.
Context – You present through the visual slideshow and physical products you have designed.
Feedback – You ask questions to make sure they understand your capabilities and interests. You receive their feedback. You get a callback!
The old ways of adding keywords to your CV would be enough to get a phone call. Now you need to go much further to get your name and CV in front of a decision-maker.
Applicant tracking systems are designed to find the best candidate, on paper. Your desirable traits can only be found by self-promotion. One area of self-promotion is to include keywords on your CV that match the primary job description or functions.
Match your skills to where the industry is going. Understand trends in the industry and keep up with major news in the field.
Meetings are a hot spot for communication difficulties. People from different countries or remote workers may chime in. The meeting could contain several departments and functions. Each department, such as accounting, human resources, and sales having different perspectives.
It is helpful in a meeting with a lot of information and various knowledge bases to have a facilitator. This person will direct the verbal traffic of the meeting.
The facilitator pays attention to comments, questions, and non-verbal cues. Paraphrase or recap the comment helps to know if the intent is understood. It also engages conversation.
Recap of non-verbal cues can sound something like:
‘Mike, it looks like you have concerns’ or ‘Jill, did you want to add something?’. This gives someone an open invitation to discuss. You are also receiving verbal affirmation of the other person’s views.
Reuse the same verbiage or subtle gestures as the person or group you are communicating with. Match the other person’s words, tone or gestures to give a sense of commonality. When someone identifies with another, they can share their ideas without fear.
The easiest way to improve Communication Skills is to attend a training session to help you to get your message across more succinctly and effectively. Formal training will help you understand the theoretical models in the classroom. Moreover, it will give you the chance to practice in a safe and comfortable space. We suggest taking our Communication Training Course, or a shorter course to refine your skills for a specific situation, for instance, meetings. It is then critical that you embed the skills by using them in your day to day role.
If you prefer a more personal and bespoke touch, we suggest you consider getting someone to coach you. Generally, this could be an external professional or someone you trust in the business to push you. The main purpose of executive coaching is to help you think about your behaviours and skills differently. Moreover, to make sure that you are being held accountable for using the skills you have. Importantly, you only become better by pushing yourself to use new models and challenge your existing behaviours.
For more information, please contact us or fill out the form at the end of this article. Our trainers are from your industry and can provide training on any one of our products, from Myers Briggs and GSCOP to Category Management, and HBDI. Furthermore, we use our unique Sticky Learning method, as a result it we guarantee to make your learning stick.
They improve relationships, seal deals, and help you to negotiate a pay rise. The importance of Communication Skills in life cannot be overstated. Consequently, they are vital to success in every relationship. Without a doubt, communication is the product of the future. Improving your Communication Skills through training is a great way to see real results in your personal and professional life.
‘Assumptions are the termites of relationships.’ – Henry Winkler
You can find further insight, detailed definitions and clarification of all the key Communication Skills terms mentioned in this guide in our Glossary of Terms.
‘We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak’. – Epictetus
‘Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.’ Zig Ziglar
‘Know when to email vs. when to meet. Logistics are best handled over a non-immediate communication channel like email or Asana tasks. Detailed status meetings will suck the life out of your day.’ – Justin Rosenstein
‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions.’ – Ken Blanchard
Take a look at Celeste Headlee discussing ways to have better conversations in her TED Talk:
Watch Lera Boroditsky exploring how language shapes how we think and communicate:
Nathan has over 20 years of leadership experience from multiple sectors across multiple continents. Starting in hospitality, moving through retail, into manufacturing and into call centres environments. A qualified coach – with the ILM, holding a Lvl 5 Diploma, further combined with various certificates in coaching, NLP and PermaCulture. Nathan is also, accredited coach for ICQ – GlobalDISC