Communication Skills

Also See: What is Communication?

Being able to communicate effectively is the most important of all life skills.

Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another, whether this be vocally (using voice), written (using printed or digital media such as books, magazines, websites or emails), visually (using logos, maps, charts or graphs) or non-verbally (using body language, gestures and the tone and pitch of voice). 

How well this information can be transmitted and received is a measure of how good our communication skills are.

Developing your communication skills can help all aspects of your life, from your professional life to social gatherings and everything in between.  The ability to communicate information accurately, clearly and as intended, is a vital life skill and something that should not be overlooked.  It’s never too late to work on your communication skills and by doing so improve your quality of life.

Professionally, if you are applying for jobs or looking for a promotion with your current employer, you will almost certainly need to demonstrate good communication skills. For example, the ability to: speak appropriately with a wide variety of people whilst maintaining good eye contact, demonstrate a varied vocabulary and tailor your language to your audience, listen effectively, present your ideas appropriately, write clearly and concisely and work well in a group all require good communication skills. Many of these are essential skills that employers seek.

Communication skills are ranked first among a job candidate’s 'must have' skills and qualities

According to a 2010 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

As your career progresses, the importance of communication skills increases; the ability to speak, listen, question and write with clarity and conciseness are essential for most managers and leaders.

Here at SkillsYouNeed you’ll find lots of articles designed to help you understand and improve your communication skills.

You’ll find sections on:

Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal Skills are the skills we use when engaged in face-to-face communication with one or more other people.

What we say is an important way of getting our message across - see Verbal Communication and Effective Speaking - but using our voice is only the tip of the iceberg. We actually communicate more information using non-verbal signals, gestures, facial expression, body language even our appearance - see our pages: Non-verbal Communication, Personal Presentation and Personal Appearance for more information.

Listening is a vital interpersonal communication skill. When we communicate we spend 45% of our time listening. Most people take listening for granted but it is not the same as hearing and should be thought of as a skill. Our Listening Skills page acts as an introduction to the subject and lists the ten principles of listening. Active Listening provides a lot more information about how to listen effectively and can help you to avoid misunderstandings. We also have a page on Ineffective Listening, you may recognise some of the bad habits you or other people have picked up when listening.

Reflection and clarification are both common techniques used to ensure that what you have heard and understood is what was intended - you can find out more on our pages Reflecting and Clarification.

Good interpersonal communication skills enable us to work more effectively in groups and teams, which may be either formal, like at work, or informally - in social situations. Our pages What are Groups and Teams? and Group Roles explain the importance of group interactions. We also have a page on Meetings and some guidelines about How to Conduct a Meeting. It is often desirable to build strong relationships with others, which can in turn lead to better communication and understanding - see Building Rapport for help with understanding how to develop interpersonal relationships and What is Empathy? to find out how you can take these principles further and develop empathy for others.

Interpersonal communication skills are essential to developing other key life skills. Being able to communicate well with others is often essential to solving problems that inevitably occur both in our private and professional lives. Our section on Problem Solving provides information and advice to aid constructive and effective problem solving. Decision making is another area which can benefit from good communication skills as it often requires communicating complex information so that the most appropriate decision can be made. See our section: Decision Making for more information.

Interpersonal communication is a large subject area; our page Barriers to Effective Communication details some of the common barriers that may mean our communication fails or is less effective than it should be. Learn to avoid such barriers and allow your messages to be sent and received with greater accuracy. We also provide some more specific pages that may be of interest, examples include: Interpersonal Skills for Children, Principles of Interpersonal Communication and Dealing with Criticism.

Presentation Skills

Although, for many of us, presentation skills are used infrequently, there will probably be times in your life when you need to present information to a group of people, either in a formal or informal setting.

The thought of giving a presentation or talk to a group of people can be very alarming to the novice; even hardened professionals can feel nervous.  Good planning and practise, however, can help to alleviate these fears and enable you to present information clearly and effectively.  We provide a step-by-step guide to help you through the process of giving an effective presentation.

Start your journey on our Presentation Skills main page.

Writing Skills

Communication skills are not limited to direct interaction with other people and the spoken word.

The ability to be able to write clearly and effectively is key to communication, this set of skills should not be limited to journalists or professional authors. Poor written communication can be frustrating for the reader and potentially damaging for the author – would you buy a product from a website peppered with spelling mistakes?  Browse our articles on writing skills to help you to understand and overcome common mistakes and improve how you communicate using the written word. Our Writing Skills section includes pages on Spelling, Grammar, The Importance of Structure and Formal and Informal Writing Styles. Also see our pages covering Study Skills - not just for students, these are the skills you need to enable you to learn, communicate your ideas and understand the ideas of others more effectively.

Personal Skills

Personal Skills are the skills that we use to maintain a healthy body and mind they can enhance communication.

Developing your personal skills can help with communication processes. For example our pages: Improving Self-Esteem and Building Confidence can help you to feel more positive about yourself and your abilities - including your ability to communicate.

Our pages, Personal Appearance and Personal Presentation describe how you look and how you behave can have a bearing on other people's perception of you, which in turn affects communication.

By having a deeper understanding of yourself and a more relaxed and positive outlook on life you are more likely to be charismatic - a trait that can further aid the communication process. Our page What is Charisma? explains this in more detail. Good communication is also linked to assertiveness - that is, standing up for what you believe. Our section on assertiveness provides lots of tips, help and advice about ways that you can become more assertive. See Assertiveness for an introduction.

During times of stress, or when we are angry, we may communicate less effectively. Learn more about these emotions and how to control, reduce and manage them. See our pages What is Stress? and What is Anger? for introductions to both areas. Further reading includes Avoiding Stress and Tips for Dealing with Stress as well as Anger Management, we even have pages to help you deal with more difficult situations such as Dealing with Aggression and Communicating in Difficult Situations.

Communication is a complex subject with many areas and skills to consider.

We're here to help - we have lots of content which will help you to further your understanding of communication and develop your communication skills.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Our Communication Skills eBooks

Learn more about the key communication skills you need to be an effective communicator.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their communication skills, and are full of easy-to-follow practical information and exercises.