What are communication skills?
Why are communication skills important?
You have been communicating since you were born. Babies cry to get their parents’ attention, and as we grow we develop more sophisticated ways of letting people know what we want, as well as listening to others.
Most of us know how to communicate, but not everyone is good at communication. However, you can grow your communication skills over time.
To be a good communicator you need to get across your ideas and opinions well, but also listen to others and take their ideas into consideration. Effective communication means that everyone is on the same page.
Communication skills in school and education
Reading, writing, expressing yourself well and listening carefully are four of the most important communication skills you can learn while you’re in school.
Building communication skills in school will help you:
- Understand and take in what’s been said and taught
- Present your work in a clear way to teachers, from homework to reports
- Make presentations and speeches with more confidence
- Ask questions that help you boost your understanding
- Share your ideas or thoughts in a way that makes people want to listen to them.
Communication skills in work
In work, communication skills are important for getting the best results at meetings.
Good communication skills help everyone at the meeting feel informed, because they know what needs to be done and why. Communication skills can also make people in the meeting feel good about taking on responsibility to help a project.
Building communication skills at work will help you:
- Give presentations and do reports with increased confidence
- Have a great phone manner if you are talking to customers or clients on the phone
- Send typo-free emails that match the professional tone of where you work
- Get on with your manager and people in your team (see team working)
- Listen carefully to what you need to do, so you understand what’s needed
- Share your ideas in a way that will be appreciated by co-workers
- Network to find new opportunities.
Good communication is important in the world of work. To perform successfully alongside your colleagues, understand your role, and promote the organisation in a positive manner you will need to communicate in many ways.
Effective communication will give you more chances to move forward in your career, too. Networking is one of the best ways to find new opportunities. Good networkers are good communicators!
How to build and improve communication skills
Communication is one of those life skills that will help you in all kinds of ways. Here are just a few examples of ways you can build up the communication skills you’ve already got:
Volunteer to give a presentation
Public speaking might seem daunting but it is a great way to develop confidence. Look at TED talks for good examples.
Write a blog
Writing articles or blogs is a great way to develop written communication skills.
Watch and learn from the body language of others
You can often tell if people get on or not by watching their body language.
Contribute ideas to a team project
It might seem hard to speak up but if you have a good idea to share then speaking up can help the project and help you build confidence, too.
Do practice job interviews at home
If you have a job interview coming up, practice with someone you know first so you can think about questions being asked and how you come across.
Demonstrating communication skills
Creating a good CV
Your CV is a communication tool, so it’s important to show your written communication skills at their best.
When writing emails or talking to people ensure you use appropriate language and tone.
During job interviews use positive body language such as a firm handshake, eye contact and show that you are friendly and confident by smiling. Communication skills also cover the signals you give people without even realising it. Body language says a lot about you. To be a great communicator you need to be aware of how your body language comes across, not just in job interviews but in day-to-day life and work situations.
When you’re at a job interview or writing a covering letter you have already shown a prospective employer your communication skills. Make sure you are prepared and take some time to think about what exactly you want to communicate about yourself. If you’ve practised answering potential interview questions and checked out your body language, then you should be well on your way to showing off great communication skills!
In a job interview you may also be asked about specific types of communication. For example, if you’re going for a role where you will deal with customers you will probably be asked if you’ve dealt with customers in the past, or dealt with difficult people in general, and how you handled it. It’s good to have a think before the interview about some examples where you’ve communicated well in different settings and with different types of people.
As always remember the STARRS method – it’s an expansion on the popular STARR method by one of our own Youth Ambassadors. It helps you think about what went well in a past situation and what you would do better next time.
Communication is a life skill. You can grow it over time.
There are so many different methods of communicating, and also many ways you can strengthen your communication skills.
From writing great emails to delivering fantastic presentations, take the time to practise, especially in the areas you’re less confident in.
Try asking a friend, teacher, or family member how well they think you communicate in different ways like writing, speaking, body language, etc. and if they have any pointers to help you improve.
Remember, some of the best communicators weren’t naturally great at communicating but they took the time to learn and build their skills. You can do that too.
Activity - test yourself!
See if you can think about the questions below. It’s useful to you to come up with actual examples. It’s especially useful to come up with examples from your own life and work experience.
- What are the main types of communication? Name three.
- How could you develop your communication skills? Give an example.
- How can you demonstrate good communication skills? Give an example.
- Apply the STARRS method to a past situation where communication was important. What did you do well? How could you do better next time?