I have attempted to address all facets of your multi-part question(s).
Concept(s) of Communication Skills:
Communications skills is a broad term that encompasses how we speak to
each other; listen (or not listen) to each other; our gestures and
other body language, and how we interpret others' body language and
facial expressions, and the power of the written word.
Effective communication can heighten one's popularity socially, and
increase one's standing and authority in the workplace.
Good communication skills allow us to fully interact with friends,
spouses, and children, bringing greater emotional fulfillment and
stability to our personal lives.
Effective communication in business intrigues prospective customers,
closes deals, and persuades coworkers and supervisors to see, and do,
things "your way," without having to crack the whip, bully, or plead.
Communications is about how you present yourself to others, while
understanding how you're influencing (or, frankly, downright
manipulating) how others view you and respond to you.
These concepts can be broken down into categories such as
"office/work/business communications"; inter-personal communications;
body language; and verbal and written communications.
Effective Office/Work/Business Communications (Guidelines & Details):
In business, nothing is more vital than the "first impression."
Getting off on the wrong foot can kill a potential business deal, or
create friction with a new coworker, possibly creating contentious
ripple effects that can reverberate throughout an entire department or
Upon meeting someone, smile (and make sure that smile extends to your
eyes; any intelligent person can recognize a "fake" smile), and extend
*When a man and woman meet, it is still common courtesy for the woman
to extend *her hand* to the gentleman.
* Use a *fairly* firm grip; don't take off the other person's arm and
don't hold onto their hand for eternity.
*Some people simply don't like to shake hands because of fear of
germs. When body language makes that clear, quickly move your extended
hand toward a chair or couch, and politely invite the person to sit
*Try to be attuned to body language and facial expression for signs of
boredom, or, conversely, pronounced interest.
*Communication extends beyond words: be aware of the dynamics -- the
feel or vibe -- of the conversation, as well as the dynamics of your
working relationship with everyone around you.
Much of effective communications is rooted in sheer politeness: Don't
stand or sit too close to another person. When asking about a person's
personal life, don't overstep boundaries. If someone, say, volunteers
the fact that they're recently divorced, don't mine for details or let
yourself appear rattled. Instead, shift to a more pleasant topic, "Do
you have children? How old are they?"
See this Sept. 1,1999, Salon article, "Personal Space Invaders," by Jon Bowen:
Respect Cultural Differences:
If you're going to be meeting with a client or associate from another
country, get online and search for "[name of country] etiquette."
For example: here's a guide for Americans doing business with the
British and the English: "Business & Social Etiquette -- United
Kingdom" (found at State of Oregon, Economic and Community Development
"Good manners are very important to the English. They often find
Americans to be too casual, particularly with the English language.
Doors are held open for women. The English are reserved people and as
a rule disapprove of loud or demonstrative behavior (except in very
informal situations). While the English find Americans 'friendly,'
they do take offence at early familiarity. Personal space is important
and people can feel uncomfortable if someone stands too close to them.
Touching is generally avoided. . . .The terms 'British' and 'English'
should not be used interchangeably. . . . 'British' refers to the
citizens of Great Britain and 'English' refers to natives of England."
Eyes & Ears:
Look (but don't stare!) at the other person while he/she is speaking.
Concentrate. If this person is a potential client you need to
understand precisely why they've come to your company and just what
their needs are -- listen to them.
Looking someone in the eye says: "I'm sincerely interested in you and
your concerns." Checking your watch or playing with knick-knacks on
your desk will almost certainly cost you this client.
Speak clearly and at a volume at which you can be easily heard. (Not
too loud, not too soft.) Use proper English: avoid being overly
formal, but also avoid slang. Never use foul or rough language in a
business environment. (Or at least not until you know if rough and
foul language is standard practice. If your new work environment is
the Merchant Marines, swearing may work to your advantage and help you
blend into the group!)
A key component of communications is being aware of your environment
and what's a "do" and what's a "don't."
Anyone in business should know proper English usage. Poor grammar can
make a devastating impression on clients and associates who know, and
value, proper language usage. To avoid such grievous sins as "Between
you and I," check out
"English Grammar For Dummies" (Author: Woods, Geraldine; Publisher:
For Dummies; July 1, 2001):
Also see "Better Business English Exercises & Quizzes":
Making Presentations To Clients & Colleagues:
See the article "Handle Difficult Questions and Objections Effectively
and Close More Business," by Judith Filek, from Impact Communications:
From Alliant Solutions site: "The Art of Communicating Effectively:
Tips about all aspects of pulling off a successful presentation!," by
"One researched 'fact' of presenting that has been around for a while
is that most people attending a presentation will 'remember' no more
than five key points. What has not been confirmed is what are the key
points? Ideally, the presenter should have a list of the five most
important points/concepts/facts that should be remembered . . . .To
present the most professional image, you need to know your
presentation. It's OK to occasionally leave the main "script" but,
wandering presentations that lack focus, or those too dependent on
working from notes, or long pauses to compose your thoughts are never
"Rehearsing the presentation includes more than just going over what
you will be saying. Rehearsing includes the entire presentation. Use
the same tools too. If you are using slides, or a projector, and have
access to the room you will be presenting in, rehearse there. Using a
remote mouse and laser pointer for the presentation, a microphone?
Rehearse the presentation with these devices."
Being Called Into Your Boss's Office:
When meeting with a supervisor maintain eye contact, even when the
subject matter isn't particularly pleasant. (Say, your supervisor is
criticizing how you handled something.) This is grace under pressure
and you'll need it to succeed in business. Even if you're reeling
inside, strive to appear unflappable and calm. If you messed up, fess
up, then assure your boss you'll learn from your error. People who
become defensive and emotional rarely get promotions.
What you need to communicate in a situation like this is that you're
honest enough to admit you made a mistake, and conscientious enough to
remedy it and to strive not to repeat the mistake.
How To Approach Job Interviews:
Wetfeet.com is a leading executive job site:
with numerous helpful articles on how to succeed in business.
Here's an especially insightful piece, "How to Seize Control of Your
Next Interview," by Jake Jamieson:
"Your Body Language Might Give You away
No, this isn't a description of some rare tropical disease. It's what
it feels like when you're about to go into an interview and you're
struck by fear and shyness. Shyness is generally defined as discomfort
in interpersonal situations that interferes with one's interpersonal
or professional goals; fear is often what triggers it. This discomfort
can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from mumbling to fidgeting
to staring at your shoes, and it can radically affect the image you
project in the interview chair."
The interviewer knows you're nervous. Try to remember that the
interviewer wants to like you. He/she (and notice how I stayed "gender
neutral here -- another key point in good business writing) doesn't
want to have to interview 300 people for this job. The more you fidget
or avoid eye contact the greater your chances that you're
communicating indecisiveness and lack of confidence -- and you're not
going to get this job.
A few years ago, I interviewed Frank Marquardt, managing editor of
Wetfeet.com, for an article about how to handle job interviews. I
wrote it for an online magazine that folded before my article could be
published. Here's some advice I offered in that article, including
Here's some of what Marquardt told me: " 'Interviewing is a two-way
street: you're gathering information about whether you want to work at
the company, and the hiring manager is trying to find out if you have
the skills to do the job. The most effective way to prove you have
those skills is by demonstrating through past work experience that
you've used them before.'"
Take control of the interview:
"Establish your credentials at every opportunity: "I was responsible
for ---- when I was at . . . " "That's similar to what I did at . . .
Show you've researched this company: "I'm very impressed with your
new widget design." Ask questions that convey genuine interest in the
job being offered.
Give brief anecdotes about trouble-shooting you performed on your own,
or by banding with coworkers to solve problems that erupted at
previous jobs. Make it clear you won't flinch in the face of a
challenge or crumble when something goes wrong.
What To Wear To A Job Interview:
Be very aware that how you dress, along with your facial expressions,
body language, and attitude, combine to make a strong impression. The
wrong fashion statement can cost you a job before you've even answered
the first question.
When deciding what to wear, go with contemporary but conservative;
clean and pressed. Hair should be groomed, no heavy fragrances; women
should go easy on makeup. Men who wear earrings shouldn't wear them to
interviews, and this is a good time to dress to cover tattoos. IF you
get the job, you can then alter what you wear to conform to the
accepted standards in that workplace. Some employers really don't care
about piercings, etc., while others most certainly do.
What it all boils down to is the image the company wishes to project.
Give the prospective employer the impression that you take pride in
your appearance, but that you'll be more focused on doing your work
rather than dressing to get attention from coworkers and clients.
Basically, the day of your big job interview is the day you wear the
outfit your mother thinks looks so nice on you.
Remember the importance of non-verbal communication during a job
interview: maintain eye contact with the interviewer; smile and do
your best to look at ease. Try to project that you're confident and
capable, but not overbearing, and that you're a pleasant person to
work with, as well as an efficient worker. Resist all impulses to
fidget; sit up straight, but try not to look like Al Gore. Take every
opportunity to turn the discussion toward your strengths and away from
What To Say:
Be conversational, but don't ramble or digress. Speak in a clear tone.
Keep your sentences short (but not to the point where you sound like
you're on a witness stand) and try to answer questions directly. Use
proper grammar and avoid slang.
Earlier in my answer I discussed the importance of listening from the
perspective of a company representative meeting with a prospective
client. During a job interview, one big reason to stay as relaxed as
possible is so that you'll listen carefully to the interviewer. It is
almost certain that a theme will emerge from the interviewer's
questions: this is a position that demands attention to detail, or the
ability to delegate, etc. As the theme for the job emerges, contour
your answers to address those needs, preferably by citing how you
performed similar tasks at previous jobs.
Listening to the person who is interviewing you makes clear that you
care about what this employer expects of you and that you care about
what this company's priorities are. You're not just looking for a
steady paycheck; you're committed to being part of a team at this
company and you will focus on this company's goals.
For More Information:
See Management Assistance Programs For Non-Profits' site
"Communication Skills: Face-To-Face":
"The Secrets To Listening Well":
"Non-Verbal, Interpersonal Communications":
Written Communications in the Workplace, Including Letters & Résumés:
The first resource to turn to is "The Elements Of Style," by Strunk &
White. (Publisher: Pearson Higher Education; 4th edition; January 15,
First published circa 1920, and a mere 105 pages, this book remains
THE classic among guides to good writing. Its sage advice: "Do not
affect a breezy tone", "Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity,"
etc., remain as applicable today as ever in business communications.
In fact, most professional writers, like myself (be they journalists,
copywriters or business writers, or novelists), have a dog-eared copy
of Strunk & White within easy reach at all times.
The Opening Salute:
First and foremost, if you're writing a letter and you don't have a
well-established relationship with that person, ALWAYS address them by
title: "Dear Ms. Jones:" not "Dear Susan." Use a colon ":" in that
Don't use a comma or first name until you're at a point where you're
absolutely certain you can address that person more casually:
I greatly enjoyed our discussion over lunch today, and want to
re-emphasize that our firm is perfectly suited to meet your company's
advertising needs . . . ."
The above example also applies to e-mail correspondence.
Much business writing suffers from too much baffling shop talk, run-on
sentences, and tortured English. Strive for clarity and brevity when
writing a business letter or memo.
Use the "active voice":
"After much discussion, analysis, and deliberation, management has
determined that it would be more advantageous and cost productive to
have the second shift end at 5:00 p.m. This change will be implemented
and become effective starting April 12, 2004."
"Management has decided the second shift will end at 5:00 p.m. This
change will become effective on April 12, 2004."
Get to the point:
"The upcoming business writing seminar, which is intended to
facilitate better writing and communicating skills for employees in
the company's Communications office, will address, among other things,
what the reader wants, understanding who is the target audience,
writing clearer sentences, and learning the rules of grammar."
"The upcoming writing seminar for the Communications Department will
focus on audience analysis, style, and clarity."
The single-most valuable online resource for business writing advice
is Purdue University's "Online Writing Lab":
Writing Business Letters:
Writing Résumés & Cover Letters:
Use these outstanding résumés and cover letters as guides:
From JobWeb.com, see samples for résumés for virtually every type of company:
Another batch of great résumés can be found at JobStar.org:
Group Behaviors & Communications
See a great site setup by Northeastern College of Business (which is
located in Boston): "The Importance Of Effective Communication":
"People in organizations typically spend over 75% of their time in an
interpersonal situation; thus it is no surprise to find that at the
root of a large number of organizational problems is poor
communications. Effective communication is an essential component of
organizational success whether it is at the interpersonal, intergroup,
intragroup, organizational, or external levels . . . ."
There are many clickable links here, including "Keys To Active Listening":
Also see Northeastern's case study sample on "Feedback" sessions:
Many companies find it productive to hold sessions in which workers
may vent frustrations or offer suggestions. These sessions can be
empowering for employees and enlightening for management. The
above-cited page offers good guidelines for one-on-one sessions that
can be extended to group discussions.
Some companies also bring in outside mentoring/coaching firms to
facilitate group communications and cooperation within the company.
See DMW Communications site for some other good ideas:
Also see Turning Point's "Facilitating Results:
(At left, click "What We Do," then " transforming teams" to bring up:
"Our process is to first share knowledge and best practices
surrounding team development. Each person is asked to complete a
self-assessment of their communication and personality styles, their
preferences and their values.
This information becomes the foundation upon which the team will build:
Recognition of individual and collective strengths
Discovery of numerous complementary ways to work together
Strategies to accomplish goals
We then coach the team to achieve their goals."
General Group Communication & Communication Technologies Resources:
Facilitating Implementation of Technology For a Group:
Teamwork.com's "Web-based Project Management & Software Collaboration":
Writing As A Group:
Education Queensland's (Australia) page: "Writing As A Group":
(Check boxes in menu at left to bring up various topics.)
I think the most valuable thing you can do is register (for free) at BNet:
which has a comprehensive assortment of articles pertaining to
electronic communications, including the impact of, and use of,
electronic communications in business, both from a marketing and from
an intra-company perspective, such as "The Golden Age of Intranet
Life: Retrofit or Rebuild," at:
See ESL GO's guide to writing business e-mails:
A few years ago I was lucky enough to take a course with Kimberly
Hill, who teaches at Kent State where she is a doctoral student. Ms.
Hill is a widely recognized expert in business writing, including
business writing for the Web:
Along with the Purdue Writing Lab, here's another valuable resource
Ms. Hill encouraged us to use for our class assignments:
Here's a partial list of suggested techniques for business-related Web sites:
" Write links that don't have to be followed:
Providing summary information at the link site can convey enough
information to save the reader from following links they would
otherwise have to follow just to find out a small amount of
Use heads, subheads, and summaries"
Let the reader know the bottom line up front. Offer a brief
introduction that lets the reader know what information is being
Write newspaper style:
Write in an inverted-pyramid style, with the conclusion first, details later.
Lists are easy to skim, and work well with links.
Write in a minimalist style, and be to the point.
Link to extra information. This works much better with a computer
document than a paper one.
Use typography and layout for skimming
Bold fonts, short paragraphs, and borders help the reader quickly find
Web documents should always be about 25% shorter than hard copy
documents. People scan their computer screens even faster than they
scan printed materials.
See "How To Improve Your Telephone Voice" by Judith Filek, at Impact
(Basically, pretend that the person you're speaking with on the phone
is sitting in the room with you.)
Overview of Human Communications Concepts/ Academic Research:
For a good overview of the study of human communications, see the
"Human Communications Research Centre (HCRC), an interdisciplinary
research centre at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow ":
Be sure to click on "Publications" to bring up:
which is an extensive directory of communications topics such as, "The
Function of Intonation in Task-Oriented Dialogue" and "Requirements
for Belief Models in Cooperative Dialogue."
For a good overview of workplace communications issues, see the
"Communications Program" from the Organizational Productivity
"Most companies have problems that can be traced to poor
communications. We hear employees complain: Why don?t I know what is
going on? What are the priorities? Why are there so many problems? Why
can?t people get along? Why are things constantly changing? Many
employees have experienced or witnessed others questioning what they
are told to do, only to be flattened by critical feedback. This
stresses the importance of clear information and feedback from
management. Poor communications between departments, between
organizational layers, with vendors, suppliers and customers is
measured by lost profits, productivity and sales. With the cost of
business rising and the challenge of doing more in less time, with
less staff ? the first problem to address is COMMUNICATION. We no
longer have the luxury of time or money to spend needlessly on
communication problems. Poor communications costs you money, increases
rework, lowers morale and gives your competitors an opening to your
current and potential customers
The venerable "How To Win Friends and Influence People" (Pocket
Books; Reissue edition: February 15, 1990), by Dale Carnegie remains,
not too arguably, the single best-known, most effective approach to
concept +of communication skills
face-to-face business communications
written communications business
handle job interviews
personal space AND body language
importance +of listening
group communications business
group AND communications OR discussions AND business
facilitating group communications at work
Writing business e-mails
using electronic equipment in Business Communication
I hope my research is of help to you. If you have trouble navigating
any of these links, or if you need me to clarify anything, please post
a "Request For Clarification" prior to rating my answer.