Top 10 communication skills for workplace success

There isn’t any way of getting around the need for communication in the workplace. Even in isolated positions and have little interaction with others, some level of communication is still necessary. The better you can communicate verbally and in writing with colleagues, superiors, and subordinates, the more effective and successful you’ll be at work – which leads to the question: What are the top 10 communication skills?

Businesswoman leans over desk, pointing in an accusatory way at a seated male worker.
Knowing how to make your point should not involve pointing fingers.

Top 10 communication skills

There are a variety of ways you communicate for work, including in-person, through video, on the phone, by text, over email, and through social media. You want to showcase your ability to communicate well through all of these mediums. To help you stand out from the competition, below are some key communication skills you want to hone in on and highlight to help you get hired, get promoted, and secure professional relationships throughout your career.

Active listening

Listening is one of the best ways to be a strong communicator. When people give you directions or information to help you do your job, it’s difficult to follow through if you’re not a good listener.

Also, people who actively listen well can pick up on underlying meanings in others’ words while also picking up on tonality and other cues that provide context around what someone is saying and why they’re saying it. Listening also means being present while someone is talking instead of being reactive or interrupting them while they are speaking.

You can show someone you’re actively listening by asking clarifying questions and rephrasing what they’re telling you to ensure you understand each other.

Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication includes everything from eye contact and how you hold your body to hand gestures, tone of voice, and nodding or shaking your head. Your body language provides context to the message you’re attempting to convey.

It is also important to note the nonverbal cues of who you’re communicating with; they are a sign of how the person is receiving your information, including how they feel about it. For example, a person who doesn’t make eye contact might be uncomfortable with the communication. Someone who is furrowing their brow might not understand you. You can respond accordingly based on the nonverbal communication they show.


Politeness in workplace communications can go a long way in making others feel comfortable. By being personable and friendly toward others, you’ll be encouraging them to do the same toward you and engage in open and honest conversations with you. Taking the time to show you care in verbal and written communications helps others feel considered and appreciated.

Brevity, conciseness, and clarity

Strong verbal communication means communicating your message clearly, with the right amount of words to convey the message. You don’t want to share too little and not make sense, and conversely, you don’t want to overshare or say too much and risk losing the attention and understanding of your audience — rambling runs the risk of prompting the receiver to tune out.

Pro Tip: Think about what you say before you say it. Writing out important communications before speaking them out loud can also help.


Empathy shows someone that you understand their point of view and where they are coming from, even if you don’t agree with it or share the same perspective. Phrases like “I understand what you are saying” and “I hear where you’re coming from” indicate empathy.


You want to appear confident in your communication without coming across as arrogant or cocky. Confidence with a firm and personable tone indicates you know what you are talking about and how to get a job done well. It also encourages others to trust you and what you say more easily.


Respecting the opinions, thoughts, and ideas of others is vital to having a productive working environment. Individuals will be more likely to communicate with you when you show them respect. Signs of respect during verbal communications include:

  • Actively listening
  • Asking follow-up questions for clarity
  • Making eye contact
  • Using a person’s name
  • Showing interest

For written communication, it’s important to reread and edit your emails or texts before sending them to avoid providing confusing and sloppy communications that can come off as disrespectful.


A strong communicator knows to enter into conversations with an open mind, even if it’s with people you don’t generally get along with or agree with. By doing so, you increase the chances of productive communication and the ability to hear a variety of valid perspectives and possibilities.

Constructive criticism

Being able to give and receive feedback is an essential skill for a good communicator. Managers, supervisors, and team leads need to regularly provide clear, constructive feedback to their teams. Conversely, it’s vital for each employee, regardless of level, to be open to receiving feedback from their peers, supervisors, customers, and subordinates. Providing feedback includes communicating praise and areas for improvement.

Discernment of communication medium

Using discernment to determine which medium of communication is most appropriate when speaking with others is an important element of effective communication. For difficult or serious conversations, in-person typically works best, even if they are hard conversations to have, such as terminations and layoffs or salary negotiations.

You should also consider the person with whom you’re communicating as well. If you’re communicating with a busy member of senior leadership or the executive team, you might opt for an email first and follow-up with a phone call if necessary.

Pro Tip: Ask your manager and coworkers what form of communication they tend to respond to best or prefer so you can communicate with them in that way when possible.

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Getting it right is good for business and good for life.

Tips to make your communication skills stand out

  • Beef up your resume. Be sure to highlight the communication skills you excel at on your resume and optimize your resume so that it is itself an example of strong communication.
  • Refer to the job description. When applying for jobs, refer to the job description and identify the communication skills referenced; also include them on your resume and in your cover letter when appropriate. Some relevant soft skills might not always be highlighted in the job description (still include them), though it will list other hard and soft skills that you can incorporate.
  • Take advantage of the interview. The interview is the perfect time to showcase your verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Use it as an opportunity to show vs. tell.
  • Continue after getting hired. Once you’re hired, continue to showcase your great communication skills when speaking with your supervisor, colleagues, employees, and anyone you come in contact with professionally.

To impress potential employers, hone in on the above communication skills and highlight them during your job application. From there, show the interviewers that you’re a solid communicator and keep the good impression going after you land the job.