Communication: The Most Important Soft Skill

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We all know that soft skills are just as important as hard skills when it comes to career success. If there’s one soft skill you should master, it’s communication. Great leaders all have one thing in common – excellent communication skills. Unfortunately this skill is overlooked in many industries and companies. But poor communication skills can set you back professionally or be detrimental to your business.

Communication Basics

Communication in a professional setting will differ from personal communication. In order to brush up on your professional communication skills, practice writing professional emails and memos as much as possible. You can find examples of these online. Your communications should be polite, well organized, and free from grammatical or spelling errors. Make the purpose of the communication clear and concise. Others should not have to guess what you want after reading your emails or letters.

When speaking to colleagues or others in a professional capacity, try not to stray from the main point. Follow-up important conversations with an email outlining what was discussed so that you and the other party will be on the same page. In group settings, make an outline of talking points so that you stay on topic and keep the conversation professional.

Professional Emails

It’s easy to shoot a quick email to a colleague or client. However, before hitting send make sure your email includes the following:

  • A salutation. What type of salutation you use will depend upon the recipient. If its a close colleague, “Hello” may be sufficient. But it’s better to be too formal than too informal.
  • A clear message. The body of your email should make the purpose of your email clear. What do you need from the person? Always ask politely. Do not use aggressive or informal language. Words matter in text communications because the other party cannot hear tone of voice or read body language. Double check to ensure you are not coming across as rude or demanding.
  • A closing. Thank the person for their time. What else you write in the closing depends upon the topic. You may want to sum up the body of the email. Common closings include ” I look forward to hearing from you.” and ” If you have any questions please let me know.” But be polite. Being polite goes a long way.
  • A signature. Whether you’re a college student or seasoned professional, you should have a salutation for emails. It should at least include your name, job title and additional contact information.

If you are following up with someone about a job opportunity or partnership, make sure to thank the person for their time and re-iterate your interest in the job, partnership, etc. If you do not get a response after following up once, move on.

Phone Communications

Communicating via phone can be difficult because you have no time to formulate responses. If you are speaking with a client or customer, be polite and listen. Take notes so you don’t forget important information. Always follow up with an email to ensure you didn’t miss anything. When speaking with colleagues or your superiors, ask questions and show interest. Take notes and follow-up with an email so that there is a record of what was said and what needs to be done.

If you’re a job seeker, plan for phone interviews by making a list of common interview questions and preparing answers ahead of time. Do research on the company and find ways to bring your findings into the conversation. Also create a list of questions to ask interviewers so they know you are truly interested in the position. Follow up with a thank you email, again expressing your interest in the position.

Communication Tips for Leaders

If you own a business or oversee others, communication could mean the difference between success and failure. Communicate often and be consistent with communication. Make sure everyone receives important information in a timely manner. Don’t rely on others to relay key information. Know how to communicate well verbally and in writing. Follow up verbal communications with emails or memos so that people don’t forget important points. Make agendas for meetings so that everyone stays on topic and time isn’t wasted.

When communicating with customers or clients, always be polite. If a person is rude or upset, look into why rather than immediately defending yourself, an employee or the company. Apologize for misunderstandings and attempt to diffuse the situation. Often, simply listening with intent to understand will turn an angry client into a satisfied one. Don’t forget to teach your employees how to communicate professionally and politely with unhappy clients.

5 Keys to Successful Communication

  • Clarity – Your message should be clear to the recipient. Don’t leave room for interpretation or assume others know something crucial to the topic.
  • Conciseness – Be detailed in communications but don’t include more information than is necessary. If you don’t get to the point your main message could be lost.
  • Consistency – Communicate on a regular basis with coworkers, customers, clients and employees. Keep people updated on projects and other issues as things progress. And use the same methods of communication (email, phone, etc.) in your communications with individuals so they know how to information will be received.
  • Politeness – Always be polite. Thank people for their time. Use please when requesting something, even if it is a colleague or employee. You are much more likely to get what you want when you take the extra steps to be polite.
  • Follow-up – If you do not hear from someone in a timely manner, follow up with a polite request for updates or information. Also follow-up via email after important conversations or meetings so that nothing is forgotten or overlooked.

Individuals and companies often fail to place enough emphasis on good communication. However, communication can make or break one’s career or business.

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