If you are good at your job, solve problems and can meet deadlines, you may think that is enough. According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey, there is something missing. Effective communication skills are vital and are at the top of their list.

They list the top 5: communication skills, analytical skills, teamwork skills, technical skills and strong work ethic that employers are looking for. Not that leaders and managers are doing so well on the communication skills battlefront either. They often have to deal with the rather nasty consequences of poor communication when productivity and morale plummet, not to mention lawsuits, some of which stem from a simple breakdown in communication.

“Communication heals most wounds, but when you are amongst those with hidden agendas, they are more like viruses and difficult to cure.”- Glenn Llopis, Forbes magazine contributor.

Here are 5 phrases that skillful communicators will use with maximum effect in the workplace.

1. “Have you had a situation where that strategy worked?”

This is ten thousand times more effective than “No, I honestly think that would not work.” An excellent communicator knows she has to show a certain openness to new ideas. Asking for details of past experience shows a desire to build a team and make joint decisions without destroying trust or morale.

2. “Tell me more, that sounds really interesting”

If the coworker says this, it shows a willingness to listen which is one of the pillars of effective communication. If he chooses to say “If you think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me,” he is sending a very strong signal that it is his turn to speak and he has a better idea/proposal/ example to talk about. It is also saying that he wants to dominate the discussion. All these are the telltale signs of a very poor communicator. You can tell that this person is hardly listening at all as he prepares his own perfect example.

3. “What do you mean when you say…?”

A manager or colleague can give feedback in many ways and they can also repeat exactly what the team member has just said. This sounds rather false. A much better approach is to use the above question and ask more questions to clarify other issues, outcomes and consequences. Also, show that you have really listened at the end by recalling a few of the points raised in a fresh sentence or in action points, if they are feasible.

Skilled communicators will be paying attention to the non-verbal signals they are sending as well. They will avoid crossed arms and look to maintain eye contact. They are not afraid to use appropriate touching. They know that touch is the most powerful of all the non verbal cues.

Did you know that body language conveys more meaning than the actual words we use? Albert Mehrabian is a psychologist who has done some interesting research on this. The message is not so much -watch your language as watch your body language.

4. “Let me know why you were behind on that deadline so that we can get back on track.”

The clever communicator knows that ticking off a person with “You should work harder at meeting deadlines” is missing the mark almost entirely and comes across as unhelpful. A much better idea is to offer a solution or help to find out what the real problem is. Making suggestions and offering advice is a great way to build bridges which is what communication is all about.

5. “Here are a few points you need to work on before the next sales presentation.”

Very often, critical comments such as “ I’m really disappointed your sales presentation went badly” will be taken as a personal attack and will cause resentment and poor performance. An excellent communicator knows that keeping emotion and opinions out of the equation are far more effective. She starts by praising any good points then gently suggests changes for the next time round. This works just as well when carrying out performance assessments too.

Finally, don’t forget that an over-reliance on email and technology may destroy the wonderful art of communication. Texts and emails are fine for conveying information but when it comes to actually dealing with more sensitive issues, you just cannot beat a face-to-face conversation. That is why no email Friday is such a great idea.

“No E-mail Friday helps us to remember we really could go over to that person sitting right over there and collaborate more.”- Sara Roberts, President, Roberts Golden Consulting, San Francisco.

Featured photo credit: VFS Digital Design Mexico Intensive/ Vancouver Film School via flickr.com

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