Beef Up Your Communication Skills

Mon, Jan 9, 2012 --

Skill Sharpener

Think you don’t need to work on your communication skills? It’s time to do a reality check.

Having “good communication skills” can sound like an obscure trait, but you can develop them and open many doors for yourself in your career. Read on for ways to enhance your skills.

Have you ever gotten a review from your boss that stated you needed to improve your communication skills? Think back to when you were doing your job search. “Great communication skills” was one of the important qualities listed, right? Have you ever wondered exactly what your boss and other employers mean when they say that they want good communication skills? Here, Craig Harrison of brings clarity to what good communication skills are and how you can harness their power.

Listening skills: Most people don’t realize that great communication requires great listening skills. What does that mean? Let your coworkers speak without interrupting them, and don’t think about how you’re going to respond while they are talking. Listen to what they are saying; don’t strategize.

Think of your nonverbal cues as well. Show your coworker that you are in agreement or that you understand what he is saying by nodding your head. If you’re not sure what he means, furrow your brow. Your coworker will be able to tell if he needs to be clearer on the subject.

When your coworker is finished, repeat what he said back to him in your own words. This lets you both know that you’re coming out of the conversation with the same understanding.

Keep it short: Do you know your ABCs? No, not the song from your childhood. ABC stands for Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity, says Harrison. Do you find that you have a tendency to make simple directions or explanations complex and confusing for your coworkers? If so, you’re not paying attention to how you’re delivering the message. Mind your ABCs and keep it short and sweet. Your coworkers will appreciate it.

Contribute in meetings: Don’t come to meetings expecting the speaker to be the sole communicator in the group. It’s important for you to assert yourself and make comments or ask questions. Have problems coming up with the right thing to say? Take some time to look over the meeting materials, and practice comments you wish to make, suggests Harrison.

Be prepared: That is, be prepared to compensate for your coworkers’ lack of communication skills. Harrison offers the example of a boss who listens, but never asks questions, even though he knows that specific topics need clarification. Think of those points ahead of time, and ask those questions yourself.

This is especially handy in meetings. When you ask these important questions, your team benefits from the added knowledge, and you show your boss that you have planned and thought about the topic in detail.

Enhance writing skills: Most people think of speaking when they hear “communication,” but writing is a huge part of building your communication skills.

Write in a clear, organized fashion. This includes e-mails. When you’ve finished writing, take a detailed look at the document. Review it for spelling and grammar errors, which can be embarrassing. Check to make sure there’s enough white space in the document to allow for easy reading. Look at the paragraph structure: would it be better to use a list instead of a paragraph? It’s also helpful to set the document aside for a while and come back to it later.

When you come back to it, remove about 25 percent of the document content to ensure that it is concise as possible, suggests Harrison.

Boost speaking skills: Some people think that public speaking is a fate worse than death. You cannot afford to have that attitude about public speaking; it’s all too important in building your communication skills.

If the thought of presenting terrifies you, consider taking a public speaking class or joining your local toastmasters club, suggests Harrison. Or start slowly by doing a group presentation, in which all the focus isn’t on you. The key to great public speaking is to be prepared. Practice as much as possible, and you’ll be able to deliver a killer presentation.


Barnali is a medical coding and billing writer at TCI who has worked in the healthcare industry since 2009. She holds a master’s degree in English literature and a diploma in advertising and marketing. She enjoys writing about ICD-10 and Medicare compliance.

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