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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Flakes, PE

Six Essential Skills Professionals Need to Communicate Better and Build Stronger Work Relationships

Black coworkers communicating in the workplace
Illustration courtesy of Black Illustrations

In the United States, students attend college to acquire the skills they need to succeed in their chosen careers. However, many colleges focus more on academic study than practical and social skills, which are also essential for success in the workplace.

To be successful in the workplace today, professionals need more than the learned education from academic study. This is underscored by a 2019 survey by Morning Consult of more than 650 employers which found that 73 percent of employers believe “it’s very or somewhat difficult finding qualified candidates.” The survey also revealed that employers highly demand soft skills, even more than technical ones.

Technical skills are no less important than ever, but a greater emphasis should be placed on noncognitive skills such as communication and relationships with peers in a work environment. Below are six essential skills to help younger professionals better communicate ideas, become more impactful leaders, and develop better relationships at work.

Emotional Intelligence

Professionals with high emotional intelligence (EQ) understand their emotions and the emotions of their team members. This often leads to better collaboration, increased trust, and greater productivity from team members.

Develop the Skill: There are four main elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Below are some tips for growing your emotional intelligence.

  • Know Your Stressors (Self-Awareness)

  • Think Before You Speak (Self-Management)

  • Practice active listening (Social Awareness)

  • Observe others (Social Awareness)

  • Learn to take feedback and criticism well (Relationship Management)

  • Acknowledge other people’s feelings (Relationship Management)

Further Reading: Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Jean Greaves and Travis Bradberry

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts within teams sometimes occur over work assignments, personality clashes, style differences, and values. Conflict resolution skills can lead to better team collaboration and improved work relationships.

Develop the Skill: Embrace conflict; Practice active listening; Practice empathy; Work together to find common goals; Focus on the future and do not hold grudges.


Most decisions require a compromise between both internal and external parties. Also, many work opportunities are negotiated. Good negotiation skills will lead to more decisions resulting in your favor.

Develop the Skill: Do your research; Clearly state your request. Be patient; Listen actively. Be prepared to say no, respectively.


Professionals must communicate their thoughts and ideas both verbally and in writing. Persuasion is key to convincing management and team members to believe in your ideas or perform the requested action. Professionals must be clear and organized in their writing and produce easy-to-read and understandable documents.

Develop the Skill: Establish trust; Be credible; Be confident; Use the correct tone. Be persistent without being impatient.

Further Readings: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Public Speaking

Professionals are expected to verbally communicate their ideas and opinions in front of audiences. An audience could be as small as a few team members or in front of a group in a conference setting. Professionals who are confident public speakers can clearly present their thoughts in a logical and organized manner.

Develop the Skill: Become active in a public speaking organization such as Toastmasters International or volunteer with an organization, society, or fraternity where you must speak in front of an audience.

Microsoft Applications

While knowledge of Microsoft's products is typically considered a technical skill, Microsoft also offers a variety of applications that can aid communication. Surprisingly, few professionals have more than a basic understanding of these applications. However, advanced knowledge of Microsoft’s products makes professionals more efficient and productive.

Below are Microsoft applications that are great for communicating ideas and examples of advanced features to master.

  • Word: Control formatting using styles; Properly track changes to control revisions.

  • PowerPoint: Use of slide master slide to create consistent slides; Selective use of transitions and animations; Proper use of color and images.

  • Outlook: Managing inboxes such as archiving, filtering, and searching.

  • Visio: Proper use of layers; Work with diagrams, themes, and custom shapes.

Develop the Skill: There are many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), such as Coursera, edX, LinkedIn Learning, Udacity, and Udemy, that provide instruction in this area.

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