Graduate Management News

September 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Make it Happen: Effective Communication Skills Pay Dividends in the Workplace

Developing effective communication skills takes some time and effort, but the more you practice, the more natural and spontaneous they will become in your professional life.

Professional Development Tips

Effective communication is not just about delivering information. It’s an exchange that facilitates connection, builds trust, and ensures that we are understood. In this sense, communication is all about words, but also about non-verbal actions, engaged listening, and the capacity to understand our emotions and those of the person with whom we’re communicating. The benefits of effective communication can positively impact other aspects of our work life, including our ability to work within a team, our decision-making ability, and our ability to solve problems.

Consider these five tips to get you started on the road to becoming an engaged and impactful communicator.

  1. Break down the barriers of ineffective communication.  Be cognizant of your emotional state. When we’re stressed, distracted, or overwhelmed, we’re more likely to lack focus. That lack of focus can result in misreading others, sending confusing messages, or projecting negative body language, such as avoiding eye contact, crossing arms, or tapping feet. Effective communication calls for staying focused, engaged, and in the moment.

  2. Practice engaged listening. Yes, effective communication is certainly about what you want to say, but it’s also about listening and grasping what’s being said to you, and understanding the emotion behind what’s being said. Engaged listening will help you build a stronger, deeper connection between you and the person or people with whom you’re communicating. Some tips for being engaged, include focusing fully on the speaker and their body language, tone of voice, and nonverbal cues. Avoid redirecting the conversation to your own agenda. Rather, show interest and empathy in what’s being said, as well as provide feedback.

  3. Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, and even the tone of your voice. A roll of the eyes, foot tapping, or folded arms often tell more about how we’re feeling than the words that come out of our mouth. Understanding and using nonverbal communication can help us connect with others more effectively. For example, using open body language – uncrossed arms, an open stance, eye contact – projects a more inviting cue for the person with whom we’re talking.

  4. Be assertive. This doesn’t mean being rude or aggressive. It means that direct expression makes for clear communication, which can help boost self-esteem and decision-making. You can improve your assertiveness by knowing what you want to say before you enter a conversation, expressing your ideas in a positive, respectful way, and receiving feedback openly.

  5. Display empathy. One way to show empathy is to ask engaging questions. Asking meaningful questions shows that you’re interested in a conversation and that you are participating fully in understanding the other person’s experience. Communication is a two-way street. Developing empathy helps you understand what others are saying and helps you respond more effectively.