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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, Online Career Tips
The request for good written and oral communication skills appears in a number of job ads. Unfortunately, many people lack the ability to communicate clearly, whether in writing or in speech.
Imagine going to a company meeting where the main speaker was so focused on speaking in business jargon that you had no idea what he or she said. Similarly, think about the times you’ve had to send an extra email to a coworker requesting clarification of what was just said in an email to you. Or have you ever looked up a company website and read hard-to-understand text that caused you to leave the site, wondering what the organization actually does?
The Effects of Poor Communication Skills
Employees with poor communication skills are frustrating for many employers. When you can’t communicate information clearly, you can:
- Waste time for yourself and your coworkers
- Cause stress because others need extra time and attention to figure out what you said or wrote
- Displease customers who are relying on your company
- Cause customers to gravitate to other vendors
All of these problems lower company productivity and morale. Also, they can cause your organization to lose income, which could allow local or international competitors to gain an advantage over your company.
Social Media Has Made Good Communication Skills Highly Important
In today’s social media age, good communication skills are more important than ever before. Social media sites allow all of us with a computer or smartphone to be published and read worldwide.
Your online content is judged not only on basic skills such as grammar, spelling and punctuation, but also on clarity and professionalism. Many companies have suffered public relations problems by saying or writing the wrong thing and being tone-deaf to their customers and public opinion.
How to Develop Communication Skills
Whether you’re a front-line worker, a manager or a C-level executive, you still need the right kind of communication skills. But if you’re not a good communicator, how can you improve your skills? Here are some tips:
- Rehearse your speaking skills by recording yourself with a smartphone or video camera and analyzing the video.
- Give a practice speech in front of a trusted friend or family member and ask that person to give you feedback.
- After you finish writing an email or a document, take a few minutes to read aloud what you wrote and analyze it from your reader’s point of view. Is there anything wrong with your spelling or grammar? Are there any statements that are unclear or could be misinterpreted?
- Adjust what you say depending upon your intended audience. Highly educated C-level executives may be more comfortable with high-level language, but you’ll need to simplify what you say for children or adults with a lower level of education.
- Read well-written newspapers and books. Learning by example from individuals who are skilled in communication is a valuable and inexpensive way to improve your writing abilities.
Well-developed communication skills can be useful not only at work, but also in job interviews and business relationships. They are well worth the extra time you need to perfect them.