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If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

Albert Einstein

Verbal communication is sharing information with the use of speech or language. More simply stated, verbal communication is talking. Now I know you’re probably thinking, ‘I already know how to talk, why do I need to learn about talking?’ While that’s true, there are verbal communication skills that go beyond talking. These skills will help you succeed in the workplace.

If verbal communication was really that simple, there wouldn’t be nearly as many arguments in the workplace. That’s because a lot of arguments happen as a result of misunderstandings, originally caused by poor communication. For example, maybe a word you used offended a customer, but you didn’t even realize you offended the person. If you had chosen your words more carefully, the misunderstanding might not have happened.

If you’ve never thought about verbal communication skills before now, it will take some time and practice to learn. Start by focusing on these five verbal communication skills:

1. Speak Clearly
2. Choose your Words Carefully
3. Using the Appropriate Tone
4. Considering your Audience
5. Responding Appropriately

Speak Clearly

A great place to start when learning verbal communication skills is speaking clearly. It doesn’t matter what words you say if you don’t say them clearly enough for someone else to understand them. In order to speak clearly, talk loudly enough for the other person to hear you easily. The second part of speaking clearly requires that you pronounce, or say, your words completely. Sometimes we get lazy in our speech and forget to fully or correctly pronounce words. When you’re in the workplace, focus on sounding out each syllable so that the person you’re talking to can understand you easily.

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Choose your Words Carefully

Now that you’ve learned to speak clearly it’s time to start focusing on your words. It’s always important to put thought into the words that you say, but it’s especially important in the workplace. The words you use should be appropriate by anyone’s standards. If you ever find yourself wondering whether or not a word is appropriate for the workplace, it’s probably best not to use it. Practice using words that show your intelligence and professionalism. Learn and understand the buzz words, or words that are important in your industry. Use these buzz words when talking with your coworkers, supervisor and customers when it is appropriate.

Use the Appropriate Tone

Your tone, or sound of your voice, says a lot about what you’re saying and how you feel. Even if the words you use are nice, if your tone isn’t nice, your message might sound angry. For example, if you tell your coworker “Good job,” but you say it in an angry tone, she might think you don’t really mean what you say. When thinking about an appropriate tone, think about how you’re feeling. Also think about how you want the person you’re talking with to feel.

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Consider your Audience

Sometimes you might want to change your communication style or how you communicate, depending on who you are talking with. The people you are talking to are called your audience. When you consider your audience, think about characteristics of that person or persons and their relationship with you.

For example, you will probably use different language and tone when talking to a 7-year-old customer than you would use when talking to your manager. When talking to a 7-year-old, you probably want to use more simple words so that they can understand you. You might also use a nice, happy tone to make the child feel comfortable. When talking to your manager, you can use more advanced words, and you’ll want your tone to be more professional.

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Respond Appropriately An important part of communication is listening to someone speak and then responding to what the person says. Responding appropriately requires that you think before you speak. When you respond automatically, you risk saying something you don’t mean and possibly offending the other person.

In the workplace, you will have some difficult conversations. For example, your manager might give you some negative feedback, or criticism about your work. It’s especially important to think about your response in conversations like this. Your emotions are probably telling you to respond defensively, or angrily. But, if you stop and think about your response before you say it, you can respond in a more professional manner.

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