One of the simplest yet most essential attributes you’ll need to succeed in your career will be strong communication skills. It’s interesting how little attention is paid to this, either  through scholastic education or tertiary career training. Being able to make yourself heard and understood is a practical need at every level – and an obvious factor of success throughout history, if you care to take a look.

And it doesn’t just mean being a good orator – it is specifically about getting your ideas, feelings and opinions across in a way that others listen, but also with a view to making changes that will be beneficial to yourself, a business or a community.

Good communication skills you will need to develop

Language: One of the most pleasurable and easiest ways of developing your language skills is to read. The more you read, the more you will naturally develop both your vocabulary and your comprehension abilities. Learn to vocalise your thinking, likewise learn to understand the meaning of the other person’s engagement. You will learn a wider variety of expressive language that will improve your ability to get your ideas across, and equally improve your writing skills and ability to engage effectively with people.

Listening: Here’s a difficult one. So many people miss this vital function and end up  misinterpreting another person’s point of view. Learn to slow down and listen. Give patience to the fact that your opinion can be heard later; the most important thing is to hear the other person out first. Pay attention. People will respect the fact you have given them time, and will in turn give time to you.

Perspective: Listening gives us the opportunity to gain fresh perspectives; it gives us time to think. Listening also gives you time to develop better interpersonal skills, what triggers opinions, and what questions you should be asking. Do not just assume what someone else means, make an effort to understand. If you truly comprehend what you’ve heard, you will know better how to reply in a way that will both satisfy and influence your listener.

Response: This doesn’t mean talking over the top of others before they have finished, it means responding to their communication needs with respect. Do you return phone calls? Are you quick to reply to an email? Do you give the details they are asking for? And are you polite? Lack of response or poor response is not only rude, it is a form of negative communication in its own right. Being fully responsive and on time creates trust and appreciation. If you’ve promised to get back with information, then do so within a reasonable time frame. Always respond, always activate action.

Emotional intelligence: Not everyone is going to communicate in your style; everyone thinks and processes information differently. You may be as patient and open as possible, but there will still be people who want their point of view in your face and up your nose. Reading the personality  and emotions of other people, and their individual attributes is a key factor to communicating better. There will always be those who remain aggressive and domineering, or reticent, or just deliberately difficult. Awareness will help you build better coping mechanisms. Learn how to deal with different responses from people, and how to become assertive while embracing empathy: be honest, even-tempered, and remain firm and in control without emotional melt-down.

Writing: If you expand your vocabulary through reading, it is also a great help in improving your writing skills. Effective written communication in business is vital. Clarity and conciseness are important in getting an idea across quickly without presenting opportunities for misinterpretation.  Writing well makes the exchange of ideas more fluid and gives you the time and space (without interruption) to craft the best response. Don’t be wordy and flamboyant, ensure you explain fully but keep to brevity and the point.

How you will benefit your career

Job application: Right at the top is that all-important job interview. Being confident and articulate in both verbal and written communications is quickly evident to any employer. And that impression will follow you throughout your career, affecting promotions and management capabilities. This the soft skill that is important no matter the type of job for which you are applying.

Influence: There is no doubt that good communication skills will see you move upward in your career. Good communicators make their ideas clear, they have greater influence, carry greater respect, are able to train and lead with greater skill. And they listen with active perception. They hear issues, and take note of feedback.

Mentoring: Being able to transfer your skills is as important as successfully directing your staff. Show interest rather than criticism, patience rather than annoyance. Good communication helps to bring out the best performance in others.

Relationships: Across the board communication rules in relationships. Whether dealing with personal issues, fellow colleagues, management, customers or staff, people invariably respond favourably to communication that is offered without judgement, that is consistent and fair without the trappings of emotion. If you want to motivate your team, positive reinforcement for work well done is essential for building strong teams and better employee relations.

Presentation skills: Persuasive speaking is a skill worth learning and pursuing – and only possible if you have first honed your general communication abilities. Apart from helping to further company goals, the ability to engage, consider other opinions, and genuinely earn trust, can lead the way to top management responsibility. Success in any sphere depends on what you’re prepared to learn with regard to the simple skills of good communication.

Learn early, learn well – and you’re set for life!