Effective Communication Skills

Gaining the technical and practical skills required to excel as an Administrative Professional is important, however, these technical skills alone are not sufficient.  It’s important that you cultivate effective communication skills as these skills will determine your success as an Administrative Professional and will enhance your personal satisfaction in your job.  Communication is one of the most important soft skills you can possess.

In the workplace, communication is a way of making sure the job gets done and is the responsibility of every employee in the organization.  As an administrative professional, you will be communicating externally with your company’s clients and internally with many of the employees of the organization.

Regardless of the industry you work in or the position you hold, it’s essential to communicate effectively with those around you.  More than ever in our digital age, it’s important to know how to effectively convey and receive messages in person (verbally) as well as via phone, email, chat, and social media.

Communication Methods

At one time, most of the communication done in an office was done verbally.  While verbal communication still remains one of the most effective ways to communicate, companies are now using many different methods of communication in the workplace.

  • Verbal
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Interactive, Mobile and Instant Communication (Computer and telephone)
  • Chat and Social media
  • Email Communication
  • Written Communication (letter, memo or report)

Let’s take a closer look at these various methods of communication.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is when you use words to answer incoming calls to your company or make a call to an employee or client.  You also communicate verbally when you meet and greet visitors to your company or interface with internal employees.

The Communication Process

The verbal communication process involves a sender, a receiver and the path the message follows: This is explained in the Communication Process video below which is an example of how verbal communication works:

Non-Verbal Communication

There are several types on non-verbal communication with body language playing a huge part. Body language is more powerful than verbal communication so being aware of the messages your body language sends is key to good communication.  Many scenarios come into play from the way you dress, your posture, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice to making eye contact.  So how can you non-verbally communicate a positive impression?

Non Verbal Communication Examples

  • Dress appropriately so you come across as a professional.  Remember that first impressions are important, which is why experts suggest that job seekers dress appropriately for interviews with potential employers.
  • Making eye contact, at least in the US, shows that you are confident and interested in the other person.  Your eyes are how you interpret another person’s body language and how you convey your nonverbal message to others.
  • Be aware of your posture.  How you sit, stand and walk can convey a lot about you and your level of confidence.
  • Smile – Smiling is one of the most powerful nonverbal communication tools you can possess as it shows you are happy, warm, open, friendly and confident.

Written Communication Skills

Written communication is still extremely important in today’s modern office.  As an administrative professional, at some point in your career, you may be required to interpret and follow very specific directions to produce different kinds of documents for your job. Your boss may ask you to produce business letters, memorandums, business reports and flyers all requiring specific formatting that you will need to follow.

The two most commonly used letter formats are the block style and the modified block style.  The most “popular style used in business today is the block style where the entire letter is left justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.

While it may seem unimportant to you as to whether a business letter is left aligned block style, keep in mind that these standards were developed to project professionalism, improve communication and people’s comprehension when reading the message. When creating business documents, you do not have the benefit of verbal and visual cues to convey your message.  Therefore, your writing should be clearly communicated, concise, courteous and correct.

While this may seem overwhelming at first, mastering how to interpret directions and follow them will enhance your career as you will be able to produce professional and properly formatted documents whenever the need arises.

Social Media Communication

Communication Skills
Administrative professionals are sometimes given the responsibility of handling their company social media accounts.

Administrative professionals are sometimes given the responsibility of handling their company social media accounts.  These responsibilities may include updating and responding to all Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media posts.  Your communication skills will be key if you are asked to track posts and contribute fresh social content ideas.

Communication skills on social media follows similar business guidelines to sending email requiring you to be as professional as you would be in any business communication.  In particular, don’t use short abbreviations like OMG or LOL and avoid the use of emoticons. Always take the time you need to make sure your posts are correct instead of rushing to send them out, as once they’re out there, they’re available for the whole world to see.

Email Communication

Email is one of the most common channels of communication in a busy office environment, yet many office professionals don’t know how to properly compose an effective business email.  Keep in mind that composing a business email is completely different than sending a personal email to friends and family where our tone is more casual and little attention is paid to spelling, punctuation, grammar or format.

Writing a business email requires a much more formal approach.  Essentially, you treat it similar to writing a business letter, therefore, knowing how to properly format the email and communicate with proper email etiquette is essential in business.

Four Types of Communication

  1. Listen carefully – Listening is an important part of communicating. Here are some of the main points:
    • To hear – The ability to focus all of your attention on what the caller or client is saying.
    • To Understand – This is the ability to comprehend what the customer means.
    • To Evaluate – Don’t be afraid to ask questions to gain more information on points you need to clarify.
    • To Give Feedback – whether in person or on the phone.
  2. Extend Common Courtesy – Use words commonly used to extend courtesy to your callers and to let them know they are appreciated and important to your organization:  These phrases are: Thank-you, May I, Please and using the customers name. For example:    “Thank-you for calling ABC Cloud Computing”  “May I put you on hold while I look up the information for you?” .“Thank-you for calling Mr. Marsh. We very much appreciate your business”
  3. Leave a Positive Impression – Do not involve the caller in office politics or internal department problems. Avoid saying statements like these:  “Betty in Customer Service is new and not quite up to speed yet”.  “Sorry for the long hold time but we have a lot of staff out sick today”.   Instead, try to put a positive spin on your remarks if a customer complains by saying something like this:  “I believe Betty in Customer Service will be able to help you” or  “Sorry for the long hold time but we have been experiencing a larger than normal call volume today”.
  4. Communicate Clearly and Effectively. – Don’t confuse customers by using a lot of technical jargon or internal language they are not familiar with. When communicating with a customer, say just enough to get your point across. It’s best to try to convey your message in as few words as possible. Say what you want clearly and directly, whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone, or via email. Don’t ramble on or your listener will start to lose concentration and eventually tune you out or will be unsure of exactly what you want.

Overcoming Barriers to Communication

Anything that prevents understanding of what the customer or employee is saying is a barrier to communication.  Here are some common barriers and how to overcome them.

  1. Mis-interpreting information – Sometimes we just assume that someone knows what we mean but that’s not always the case.  What may be very clear in your mind may be a complete mystery to someone else.  Always explain what you mean in complete detail to avoid missing the meaning.  We all interpret things in different ways to it’s important to understand others viewpoints to avoid this barrier.
  2. Using unfamiliar words – Do not use a lot of technical or internal words that the customer doesn’t understand.
  3. Emotional or Physical Distractions – When you’re stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, you’re more likely to misread the other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals and lapse into unhealthy types of behavior. Take a moment to calm down before continuing a conversation.
  4. Not Listening properly.  Listening is one of the most important skills you can have as an administrative professional.  How well you listen will have a major impact on your job effectiveness and ability to do your job efficiently.  If you develop good listening skills, you will be able to solve problems more effectively.
  5. Lack of focus. You can’t communicate effectively when you’re multitasking. If you’re planning what you’re going to say next, daydreaming, checking text messages, or thinking about something else, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. You need to stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience.
  6. Inconsistent or negative body language. Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel you’re being dishonest. For example, you can’t say “yes” while shaking your head no.  Pay attention to your body language when you are talking or listening to someone.  Show that you are communicating honestly by making eye contact, nodding occasionally and maintaining a relaxed posture.  Avoid behaviors like crossing your arms, staring at the floor or refusing to make eye contact.  This sends a message to your listener that you are bored or not listening to them.

Whether communicating with a customer in person, on the phone or via chat or other channels, it’s important to have excellent communication skills.

Being a good communicator is just one of the many important soft skills required in business today.  Improve your office skills by taking the course, Soft Skills for Administrative Professionals, a soft skills training course offered on officeskills.org.


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