Mastering types of communication skills is the most important thing you can do if you want to stay relevant in today’s job market. That’s because employers today value soft skills as much as they do industry expertise.
In the following article, we’re going to dig deep into how we communicate in the business world. We’ve come up with 10 essential communication types you’ll need to learn to stay competitive.
But first, let’s look at the behaviors likely to keep you from them…
Roadblocks to Communication
Before you can acquire the communication skills needed, you need to learn the behaviors that’ll hold you back. And you need to look for signs of them in your own interactions. They are:
You haven’t put in enough work in the content or expertise area in which you’re trying to find employment. You think of communication as just great eye contact and knowing how to BS your way through a conversation. This may work for some jobs, but it’ll inevitably place you under a glass ceiling.
You haven’t surrounded yourself with much diversity. Neither in thought, education, nor human interaction. In the world of the 21st Century, you have to break out of that mindset and make as many friends or positive acquaintances as possible.
You also need to open yourself up to new ideas, both personally and professionally. Companies look for open-mindedness for reasons we’ll get into later in this article.
You think you’ve learned all there is to know. You won’t commit to continuing your education because you’ve either reached the pinnacle of your field (doctorate degree) or, “I’ve done well so far without that college degree, why bother?”
Big mistake. The job market changes so rapidly that you can’t afford to rest on your laurels. We always recommend looking at ways you could put your current self out of business and then exploring those technologies or skillsets that place you in professional danger.
Making It About You
People hate a one-upper. They don’t care about conversations that revolve around you-you-you.
They want value out of their interactions, so they’re looking to you to provide it. They won’t get that if you’re always droning on about yourself.
Now that you know the roadblocks likely to keep you where you are (or send you backward), let’s start learning the business-essential communication skills for the 21st Century. Here goes!
1. Active Listening
Active listening is different from simply hearing the words a speaker is telling you. By being “active,” you are trying to determine connections in what they’re saying.
That means questioning why the speaker said this-or-that. It means trying to predict what they might say next. It means engaging with them in a manner that shows you value their words even if you don’t agree with them.
In written form, this could be considered note-taking. But here, you’re doing it in your brain within the context of a conversation.
2. Body Language
Body language can be broken down into three facets. They are:
- Facial expressions, including eye contact and movement
- Hand gestures
When communicating in business, that means respectful, direct eye contact and even or positive facial movements. It means keeping shoulders squared, chest-out, whether standing or sitting. It means moving your hands when you speak in a controlled, conscious manner (i.e., no fidgeting).
A huge part of business communication is knowing what you’re talking about. So while research may or may not require you speaking to a physical person, you definitely need to put in the work necessary to attain a level of knowledge that shows people you belong in the conversation.
Skim headings and learn paragraph structure so you can read quickly and parse accurate meanings from the text. Listen carefully to audio and video materials. Watch the nonverbal communication skills of experts when you can.
Each of these skills will inform your education on a topic. And that’ll make you more effective when communicating with those higher up on the business ladder.
4. Public Speaking
You won’t go very far without this business communication skill. The ability to present your ideas and research to large groups, to answer questions and engage in dialogue, will set you apart as an expert of sorts. And that makes you all the more marketable as you progress in your career.
5. Multimedia Presentations
Don’t just be comfortable speaking in public. Learn how to use technology to your advantage. Get comfortable with a slideshow, projector, and remote.
Learn how to incorporate audio and video into your presentations as well to break up the monotony of someone having to hear you speak for hours-on-end. You can greatly advance your comfort level with these types of communication skills by incorporating business presentation training into your continuing education plan.
6. Proper Word Choice
Another of the most important skills to master in business is knowing what to say; when to say it; and which audience to say it to. Some groups can handle jargon better than others.
Factor the audience into all your communications – from one to several thousand. And choose words that will best communicate to that particular group’s least intelligent while keeping the most intelligent actively engaged.
In other words, friendliness. You don’t have to be friends with everyone you meet, but you should strive to make interactions as pleasant and non-threatening as possible, even with potentially tense situations. Smiling will take you a long way here.
8. Phone and Text
Learn who likes to speak on the phone versus who would more prefer texting. Communicate with those individuals in their preferred method if you can’t have a face-to-face.
Also, realize that language is different depending on the medium. Phone conversations rely more on conversational language while texting can get by on a more clinical shorthand approach, no emotions or inflections required.
9. Social Media
Each social media platform has a particular etiquette. Learn what those are, and realize that every time you communicate – whether on a personal account or as a representative of the business – everything can and will reflect on the company that employs you.
You may have a wickedly biting sense of humor that most people love. Try not to let it out on social media or you could risk alienating and offending those who don’t understand it.
10. Keeping an Open Mind
The 21st Century workforce is a diverse one, and that’s ultimately a great thing for business. But it may not be a great thing for you if you’re stuck in your own prejudices and ways of doing things.
So put that old “set-in-your-ways” version of yourself to bed and embrace technology and business practices, as well as people of all generations, races, religions, and sexual orientations.
Learning These Types of Communication Skills Will Set You Apart
These types of communication skills will keep you from getting swept into the professional dustbin, no matter what happens with machine learning, automation, and the changing workforce. Best of luck in the days ahead. And while you’re here, check out some of our other great advice on money, finance, and personal growth.