10 Communication Skills for Your Life and Career Success

Updated August 2, 2023

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Two individuals speak to each other with a poster in between them that lists "top communication skills." Skills on the list include

  • Active listening

  • Communication method

  • Friendliness

  • Confidence

  • Sharing feedback

  • Volume and clarity

  • Empathy

  • Respect

  • Responsiveness

Employers consistently included communication skills as one of the most commonly requested skills in job postings. Improving and showcasing your communication skills can help you advance in your career and stay competitive in today's job market. Learning about these skills can also help you focus on specific areas of your communication.

In this article, we discuss 10 communication skills, discuss ways you can improve them and explain ways to highlight communication skills on your resume and during an interview.

Nonverbal communication is one of many tools that can help you make a good impression in interviews and in your professional life. However, candidate assessments should be based on skills and qualifications, and workplaces should strive to be inclusive and understanding of individual differences in communication styles.

What are communication skills?

Communication skills are abilities you use when giving and receiving different kinds of information. While these skills may be a regular part of your day-to-day work life, communicating in a clear, effective and efficient way is an extremely critical and useful skill. Learning from great communicators around you and actively practicing ways to improve your communications over time can certainly support your efforts to achieve various personal and professional goals.

Communication skills involve listening, speaking, observing and empathizing. It's also helpful to understand the differences in how to communicate through face-to-face interactions, phone conversations and digital communications, like email and social media.

Types of communication

Communication Types
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Types of Communication

  1. Verbal

  • Use a strong, confident speaking voice.

  • Use active listening.

  • Avoid filler words.

  • Avoid industry jargon when appropriate.

2. Nonverbal

  • Notice how your emotions feel physically.

  • Be intentional about your nonverbal communications.

  • Mimic nonverbal communications you find effective.

3. Visual

  • Ask others before including visuals.

  • Consider your audience.

  • Only use visuals if they add value.

  • Make them clear and easy to understand.

4. Written

  • Strive for simplicity.

  • Don’t rely on tone.

  • Take time to review your written communications.

  • Keep a file of writing you find effective or enjoyable.

There are four main types of communication you might use on a daily basis, including:

  1. Verbal: Communicating by way of a spoken language

  2. Nonverbal: Communicating through body language, facial expressions and tone

  3. Written: Communicating with written language, symbols and numbers

  4. Visual: Communication by way of photography, art, drawings, sketches, charts and graphs

Read more: 4 Types of Communication and How To Improve Them

Top 10 communication skills

Here are the top communication skills employers and recruiters want to see in your resume and cover letter, interviews and career development:

1. Active listening

Active listening, sometimes called appreciative listening or mindful listening, means paying close attention to who you're communicating with by engaging with them, asking questions and rephrasing. Practicing active listening can build respect with your colleagues and increase understanding in the workplace. As you actively listen, focus on the speaker and avoid distractions like cell phones and laptops.

Improve your active listening skills by paying attention to other people's facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. Instead of preparing what you plan to say next, focus on what the other person is saying and how they're speaking. If you want to clarify something, ask follow-up questions or rephrase what they've said to confirm that you understood them correctly.

Read more: 11 Active Listening Skills To Practice (With Examples)

2. Using the right communication method

Using the right way to communicate is an important skill. There are benefits and disadvantages to communicating through emails, letters, phone calls, in-person meetings or instant messages. Communicating is better when you consider your audience, what information you want to share and the best way to share it.

For example, if you're communicating with a potential employer, it may be better to send a formal email or call them on the phone. In the workplace, you may find it easier to communicate complex information in person or via a video conference than by email. Building remote workplace friendships is easier when you can communicate through instant messages.

Read more: 4 Different Ways To Communicate Effectively in the Workplace

3. Friendliness

Friendly traits like honesty and kindness can help foster trust and understanding when communicating at work. Try to communicate with a positive attitude, keep an open mind and ask questions to help you understand where they're coming from. Small gestures such as asking someone how they're doing, smiling as they speak or offering praise for work well done can help you foster productive relationships with colleagues and managers.

You can practice friendliness by remembering small, thoughtful details about your colleagues or past conversations. For example, if a colleague tells you their child's birthday is soon and you connect with them again later, you might ask them how the birthday party went.

4. Confidence

In the workplace, people are more likely to respond to ideas that are presented with confidence. There are many ways to appear confident, including by making eye contact when you're addressing someone, sitting up straight with your shoulders open and preparing ahead of time so your thoughts are clear and you're able to answer any questions. Confident communication is useful not just on the job but also during the job interview process. Additionally, to display confidence, avoid adding filler words.

Related: 11 Strategies for Developing Your Confidence at Work

5. Sharing feedback

The key to effective feedback is sharing specific examples of the issue, and the consequences of the issue and asking questions to formulate solutions to the issues. Strong communicators can accept constructive feedback and provide constructive input to others. Feedback can answer questions, provide solutions or help strengthen the project or topic at hand. Providing and accepting feedback is an essential workplace skill, as it can help both you and the people around you make meaningful improvements to their work and their professional development.

A great way to learn how to give feedback is to take notes from others on the feedback they offer you. When you come across a well-explained piece of feedback, take some time to observe and analyze why it was good, why it resonated with you and how you might apply those skills in the future.

Related: 10 Tips To Give Useful Performance Reviews (With Examples)

6. Volume and tone

When you're speaking, be clear and audible. Adjusting your speaking voice so others can hear you in a variety of settings is a skill, and it's critical to communicating effectively. Speaking too loudly may be disrespectful or awkward in certain settings. If you're unsure, read the room to see how others are communicating.

Another aspect of verbal communication is vocals and tonality. This involves how your tone moves up and down, your pitch, which words you place emphasis and the pauses you place between phrases. Such details can be effective in communicating emotions and offer your audience insights into how others interpret your message.

7. Empathy

Having empathy means that you can not only understand but also share in the emotions of others. This communication skill is important in both team and one-on-one settings. In both cases, you attempt to effectively read and translate other people's emotions and select an appropriate response.

For example, if someone is expressing anger or frustration, empathy can help you acknowledge and diffuse their emotion. At the same time, being able to understand when someone is feeling positive and enthusiastic can help you get support for your ideas and projects.

Related: How To Be Empathetic in the Workplace in 7 Steps

8. Respect

A key aspect of respect is knowing when to initiate communication and respond. In a team or group setting, allowing others to speak without interruption is seen as a necessary communication skill tied to respectfulness. Respectfully communicating also means using your time with someone else wisely—staying on topic, asking clear questions and responding fully to any questions they've asked you.

Related: How To Treat Others with Respect in the Workplace

9. Nonverbal cues

Some amount of communication happens through nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions and eye contact. When you're listening to someone, you may choose to attention to what they're saying and their nonverbal language. It's essential to not judge others based on their body language, as not all people display the same physical gestures due to cultural or ability differences.

Related: 9 Examples of Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace

10. Responsiveness

Whether you're returning a phone call or sending a reply to an email, employers often view fast communicators as more effective than those who are slow to respond. One method is to consider how long your response takes. Is this a request or question you can answer in the next five minutes? If so, it may be a good idea to address it as soon as you see it. If it's a more complex request or question, you can still acknowledge that you've received the message and let the other person know you're going to respond in full later.

How to highlight communication skills on your resume

Here are a few ways you can highlight your communication skills in your resume, cover letter and job interview:

Communication skills on your resume

A well-written resume is itself a demonstration of strong communication skills. Ensure that your resume has n effective and professional structure and is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Additionally, you may also want to include some positive communication skills in your resume skills section, especially if the job post calls for specific communication skills in the description. You can add skills to your Indeed Resume for employers searching for candidates with your skill set.

Read more: 10 Top Communication Skills To Add to Your Resume

Communication skills on your cover letter

Your cover letter is a great opportunity to elaborate on your communication skills. You may want to make your cover letter brief, well-written, free from typos and spelling errors and tailored to the position for which you're applying.

Related: 7 Powerful Ways to Start a Cover Letter (With Examples)

Communication skills in your job interview

The first way you can communicate in your interview is through how you present yourself. Show up for the interview 10–15 minutes early and dressed appropriately for the job for which you're applying. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues you're displaying through body language.

Avoid actions such as slouching or looking at your phone during the interview. Looking your interviewer in the eye, employing active listening skills and displaying confidence are all positive ways to communicate in your interview. Almost everything you do—both on the job and in life—is a form of communication. By identifying your strengths and weaknesses and regularly practicing good habits, you can improve the way you connect and communicate with others.

How to improve your communication skills

With experience and practice, you can learn and improve your communication skills. Start by identifying your strengths and then practice and develop those areas.

  • Observe good communicators around you: Identify individuals, family and friends who consistently communicate ideas and information clearly with respect, empathy and confidence. Observe and take notes on the specific ways they communicate with others.

  • Ask a close friend or colleague for constructive feedback: To get an objective opinion, ask a trusted friend for their honest feedback. Understanding your areas of improvement for communication can help you identify what to focus on.

  • Practice improving communication habits: You can improve those skills by practicing new habits that make you a better communicator. That might include being more responsive to communications, reminding yourself to give eye contact, practicing giving positive feedback and asking questions in conversations.

  • Attend communication skills workshops or classes: There are several online and offline seminars, workshops and classes that can help you be a better communicator. These classes may include instruction, roleplay, written assignments and open discussions.

  • Seek opportunities to communicate: Seek out opportunities both on and off the job that require you to use communication skills. This may help you keep good skills fresh while also allowing you the opportunity to practice new skills.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills in the Workplace

Communicating effectively in the workplace

While there are several communication skills you may use in different scenarios, there are a few ways you can be an effective communicator at work:

Be clear and concise

Making your message as easy to consume as possible reduces the chance of misunderstandings, speeds up projects and helps others quickly understand your goals. Instead of speaking in long, detailed sentences, practice reducing your message down to its core meaning. While providing context is helpful, it's best to give the most necessary information when trying to communicate your idea, instruction or message.

Practice empathy

Understanding your colleague's feelings, ideas and goals can help you when communicating with them. For example, you might need help from other departments to get a project started. If they're not willing to help or have concerns, practicing empathy can help you position your message in a way that addresses their apprehension.

Assert yourself

At times, it's necessary to be assertive to reach your goals whether you're asking for a raise, seeking project opportunities or resisting an idea you don't think is going to be beneficial. While presenting with confidence is an important part of the workplace, always be respectful in conversation. Keeping an even tone and providing sound reasons for your assertions may help others be receptive to your thoughts.

Be calm and consistent

When there's a disagreement or conflict, it can be easy to bring emotion into your communications. Remain calm when communicating with others in the workplace. Maintain a calm attitude and keep an even tone of voice so you can reach a conclusion peacefully and productively.

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