Reviewed by Julie Vandekreke
Effective communication skills are among the most valuable things you’ll learn. These skills will take you further than the technical knowledge you learn in your college courses. Effective communication skills help you make a stellar impression and enable you to engage in clear conversation—whether written or oral. Starting with the basics, learn what effective communication skills are, how to learn and master your skills and what the benefits can be.
What Are Effective Communication Skills?
The Business Directory defines communication as "The ability to convey information to another effectively and efficiently."
This includes both written and spoken communication. In a formal sense, speeches and presentations, reports and papers are forms of communication you may use in a work environment. Equally important is how you introduce yourself to others and how clear your written directions in an email may be.
Why are effective communication skills important?
- When you clearly communicate both in person and in writing, you're more productive and efficient. Less time is wasted in attempts to either figure out what is needed or clarify intent. The ability to communicate clearly means others will rely on you, especially in times of stress or crisis.
- You're a better team member because you strive to be understood and to understand your team mates. Part of communicating well is listening. Often overlooked, listening conveys to those around you that you care about their thoughts, ideas and contributions. Being an active listener will serve you well as you strive to advance your career.
- Eliminates confusion about work on projects. At its core, effective communication eliminates confusion about your idea, intent, or desired results. The ability to state what is needed or ask clarifying questions when faced with vague communication will set you apart and enable others to see you as a leader.
- Help you become a supervisor or manager. All of these things: productivity, active listening, and clarity are leadership traits. Intentionally developing these skills takes focus and effort, and the good news is that they can be learned, applied and valued both inside and outside of the work environment you choose.
How Can You Learn Effective Communication Skills?
Developing effective communication skills can be done in a variety of ways and produces measurable results that can enhance your career. How do you start honing these skills?
- Consider taking English Composition or English Literature to become a better writer. Both courses require students to learn the basics of written communication. You will learn sentence structure and essay structure and apply this knowledge to a variety of topics that interest you. Literature, especially, allows you to study how masterful communicators get their ideas across.
- Likewise, a public speaking course will teach you the ins and outs of giving a presentation from the ground floor. You will learn how to format a speech, how to prepare to speak in front of others, and tips and tricks that will allow you to overcome any fears, so you can shine when called upon to present.
- Enroll in a college debate and rhetoric class. Debate is a wonderful resource for those who wish to grow into excellent communicators. Debate and rhetoric allow you to focus on one side of a single topic, formulate your response in writing, and deliver your argument verbally.
- Take college classes that include presentations. If you think public speaking ends after one course, you’ll be surprised when presentations become a regular and integral part of other classes. As you delve into your major, both working in teams and giving presentations become regular requirements, and both serve to hone excellent communication skills.
Check out StraighterLine English Composition courses today.
The Benefits of Being an Effective Communicator
You understand the need to be an effective communicator, and you’re committed to learning how to do so because it can help you in your chosen career. While that’s a great reason to focus on this skill, there are other reasons that being an effective communicator will pay off in big ways.
- You'll be a better listener. Everyone wants to be heard. By using active listening, you'll connect and communicate better with everyone with whom you work and live. Active listening is a valuable life skill that you can use in your business and personal life, and, once learned, becomes second nature.
- Being clear in what you say and write reduces the chances of misunderstandings arising from your communications. This saves time, frustration, and on occasion embarrassment and money. Take the time to think before you speak and reread any communication that asks something of another person.
- You'll become more empathetic because you'll understand what the other person is going through. Empathy increases the connection you have with others and is the result of active listening as well as asking simple questions to clarify the speaker’s intent. People will feel they’ve truly been heard.
- Being able to communicate well in person and writing develops critical thinking skills. Being able to think through the reason for the issue as well as any possible consequences will help you boost your chances of being a supervisor or executive in any career field.
- You'll better understand instructions and guidance from your employer. Managers and supervisors value employees who listen well and ask clarifying questions when assigned work. In your discussions, you'll understand what they require of you and be able to produce stellar work.
- When you interview for a new job, being confident in your communication skills can position you above other applicants. By speaking clearly and confidently, asking probing questions and demonstrating good writing skills, you're showing prospective employers that you're a well-rounded applicant.
Seeking out and applying yourself in classes that encourage practicing good writing skills and public speaking will pay off in more ways than you can imagine in your career and personal life. If you’re seeking a good starting point, StraighterLine offers Communication (Public Speaking) and English Composition I & II courses. You can try two free lessons today of our most popular courses and start on a path of self-improvement that can benefit you for a lifetime.