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. It may 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.
The Importance of Good Communication Skills
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. Communication skills are needed 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. Many of these are essential skills that employers seek.
Verbal communication skills are ranked first among a job candidate’s ‘must have’ skills and qualities.
According to a 2016 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.
For a good general introduction to the topic of interpersonal communication skills, you may like to read our pages on Interpersonal Communication Skills, What is Communication? and Principles of Communication.
Our pages on Barriers to Communication and The Ladder of Inference, and Improving Communication give you some ideas about what may be going wrong in your personal communication processes, and how to address those issues. There may, in particular, be issues relating to Intercultural communication.
Our more specific pages on interpersonal communication skills are divided broadly into Verbal Communication, Non-Verbal Communication and Listening.
Verbal communication is all about what we say, which is an important way of getting our message across.
The words that we choose can make a big difference to whether other people understand us. Consider for example, communicating with a young child, or with someone who does not speak our own language very well. You need to use simple language, short sentences, and check understanding regularly. It is quite different from a conversation with an old friend whom you have known for years, and with whom you may not even need to finish your sentences.
See our pages on Verbal Communication and Effective Speaking.
Reflection and clarification are both common techniques used in verbal communication to ensure that what you have heard and understood is what was intended - you can find out more on our pages on Reflection and Clarification.
Questioning skills are one very important area of verbal communication, often used in clarification, but also to extract more information, and as a way to maintain a conversation. Find out more in our pages on Questioning Skills and Types of Questions.
Using our voice is only the tip of the iceberg. We actually communicate far more information using Non-verbal Communication. This includes non-verbal signals, gestures, facial expression, body language, tone of voice, and even our appearance.
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.
Using Communication Skills
Interpersonal communication skills are important in a wide range of circumstances and environments: probably, in fact, anywhere where we may meet and interact with other people.
They are essential for starting to build relationships, both professionally and at home. You may find our page on Building Rapport helpful, and also advice on being interviewed (Interview Skills) and interviewing others (Interviewing Skills). Good communication skills can also help you to provide feedback effectively, and in a way that will not cause offence: a vital skill throughout life.
Good interpersonal communication skills enable us to work more effectively in groups and teams, which may be either formal or informal. Our pages on Groups and Teams explain more about working in groups, and the skills required.
Other Communication Skills
Communication skills encompass far more than simple verbal and non-verbal communication, even in a wide range of circumstances.
Other instances of communication include:
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.
Start your journey on our Presentation Skills main page.
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, and 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 pages on Writing Skills to help you to understand and overcome common mistakes, and improve how you communicate using the written word.
You may also be interested in our pages on 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 are the skills that we use to maintain a healthy body and mind. But they can also enhance communication.
For example, Improving Your Self-Esteem and Building Your Confidence can help you to feel more positive about yourself and your abilities - including your ability to communicate. And feeling positive is the first step to acting more positively, and effectively.
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 explains more.
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 in our pages What is Stress? and What is Anger? You may also be interested in 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.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
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.