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Apr. 17, 2014

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Career Article 132:
Basic Communication Skills Everyone Needs

By Tamara Dowling, CPRW

Basic communication skills are required for nearly every job or relationship you pursue. What if you don't have time to take a writing course, or you are just too shy to speak up in meetings? That is OK. There are small steps that each of us can take with a little time, and little or no money. Let's take a look at the basic requirement most employers look for, and ways you can improve those skills.

Verbal Communication

The ability to speak clearly and concisely, and to convey information or articulate an opinion is essential for most jobs with internal or external customer contact. A good communicator is comfortable speaking to an individual or to groups.

If you wish to improve your verbal skills, you are not alone. Is it your speech, your language choice, or presentation style that you want to work on? To help you pinpoint it, ask a trusted colleague or manager to give you some feedback.

Speaking or diction courses at community colleges or adult schools will help you speak with confidence. You may also consider an acting or improvisation workshop, especially if fear of speaking is an issue for you. Many people join Toastmasters to take their speaking and presentation skills to a new level.

Speaking skill is just as important when you're talking one on one as it is when you addressing one hundred. There are dozens of seminars on the subject of effective communication, relationship building, sales calling or serving customers. In one day you can begin to change the way you communicate with individuals.

Written Communication

The ability to convey your message in writing using proper grammar is a basic requisite for nearly every job. Once you have control of grammar, you can work to enhance your style.

Most community colleges offer evening courses on the subject of grammar or writing. Many offer both creative writing as well as business writing.

Go to your local teachers supply store for grammar or writing self-study workbooks. They may be geared toward high school students; however, they are inexpensive, self-paced, and portable. I have used these workbooks in training courses, and they are highly effective for building basic skills.

Find someone who is an excellent writer, and ask them to be your writing coach. Meet to review one of your writing samples and re-write it together. With a good coach, you will make quick progress.

Go online and search for online writing courses. Check your favorite search engine using keywords such as 'distance learning', 'writing', 'online courses'.


The ability to listen carefully and understand the speaker's message is key to building relationships and succeeding at work.

Focusing your full attention on the speaker is a good start. However, if you want to develop your listening skills, we suggest you check out audiotapes or videotapes from your local library. There are quite a variety of tapes in this category. You may also check out 'books on tapes' establishments.

Sharing Your Opinion or Analysis

At some point you'll be asked to share your opinion and explain how you came to that opinion. You may even need to defend your opinion in a cool, concise way.

Listen to others, and pay attention to how they express themselves. Be aware of your company culture, and stay within that framework.

A fun way to improve this skill is to listen to talk radio shows that feature controversial issues. If you scan your AM dial during drive time, you're sure to come across one. You'll hear many articulate people sharing and defending their view. You may even feel compelled to call in and try your skills with the host.

Find a mentor. Role play with your mentor and ask for candid feedback.

Most times when you are asked your opinion at work, it is regarding a subject you are close to. Relax and share your experience. Be confident in yourself because you are the expert on what you do.

All forms of communication are a reflection of your professionalism, your intellect, your preparedness, and your character. You'll never be sorry you took the time to develop your communication skills.

Copyright © 2000-14 Tamara Dowling