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Top 5 Communication Skills Everyone Should Know

We can all strive to become better at communication.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

These are the top 5 communication skills everyone should use.

I’ve been working with strategic communication since 2005. Before that, I studied Public Relations and Linguistics at the university for five years.

One might say that I’m fascinated by communication skills.

Based on my experience, I’ve carefully selected five accessible communication skills that are useful for everyone. Also, these are five skills that, with only a little consideration and practice, will make the largest impact.

Here we go:

Top 5 Communication Skills

The top 5 communications skills that bring the most benefit:

  • Know your agenda.
  • Listen first.
  • Ask questions.
  • Quid pro quo.
  • Use your words.

Here I describe each communication skill in more detail:

1. Know Your Agenda

Knowing your agenda beforehand is something almost anyone can improve. If you have an idea of what you’re seeking to accomplish, you could strive to narrow your focus to maximise your chances. 1”Agenda” is a multi-faceted word. It’s associated with business meetings. It’s associated with politics. It’s associated with the news media. It’s associated with … Continue reading

Many people interact with others without an idea of which agenda to push. Some people think it’s devious to always be entering into conversation with a clear aim. Others find it exhausting.

Please note: Knowing your agenda isn’t the same as pushing hard for desired outcomes. Knowing your agenda alone will make you more clear, assertive, and confident. Clarity, assertiveness, and confidence will give you the most results relative to your effort.

2. Listen First

Here’s the thing: Most people leak vast amounts of valuable information about themselves while talking. To communicate successfully, you’ll need all that information.

It’s counter-intuitive, but keeping your mouth shut when you know exactly what outcome you seek requires character. And being an active listener requires discipline. Many people say they’re good listeners, but few are.

Although listening is generally more valuable to the listener, most people like being heard. So, you’re not likely to experience pushback for being a good listener.

3. Ask Questions

Asking questions is a Socratic communication skill known to be valuable. Still, few embrace the art of asking great questions.

  • You should ask questions with the intent of understanding, not seek flaws in your opponent’s argument.
  • You should ask questions to make the conversation productive, not to signal anything about yourself.
  • You should ask questions to open new pathways of exploration, not to close down roads.

The difference between asking questions badly and greatly is massive. If you’ve never thought about how to ask questions, a little extra consideration and practice are likely to improve your communication skills significantly.

4. Quid Pro Quo

If you get your way, what will you be prepared to give? What do you have to offer that would be of value to someone else?

Eager to get their way, people often forget their personal value proposition. Sometimes, the people you interact with only want to be seen, heard, and appreciated. How can you expect to communicate successfully if you’re not prepared to fulfil such basic human needs?

Everyone has something to offer in a conversation. It can anything, like knowledge, gossip, or psychological validation. If you don’t think that you have anything that’s of value to other people, you must begin by examining your self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

5. Use Your Words

Some people will communicate unfairly. This might be due to malice or unconscious biases. It doesn’t matter. It’s how they communicate, not you. You should stick to your words.

Others will always use their words, arguments, and perspectives. This is okay as long as you always use yours. Especially when someone asks a loaded question or makes a blanket statement. 

Never assimilate the vocabulary used by others. Even if you can turn someone’s words, arguments, or perspectives against them, your points will be cheap. Long-term, your communication will be unproductive.

And remember:

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
— George Bernard Shaw

Thank you for reading this article. Please consider supporting my work by sharing it with other PR- and communication professionals. For questions or PR support, contact me via [email protected].

1 ”Agenda” is a multi-faceted word. It’s associated with business meetings. It’s associated with politics. It’s associated with the news media. It’s associated with ulterior motives. But an agenda can also be what you have in mind before entering into a conversation. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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