What are verbal communication skills? (with tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Verbal communication skills refer to how we convey information to someone else. In most work environments, these skills are extremely important for communicating ideas and maintaining positive relationships within the office. Properly using verbal communication skills can ensure that you're speaking clearly to others and using proper etiquette in the workplace. In this article, we answer 'What are verbal communication skills?', provide examples of how we use them in different work situations and explore how to improve these skills.

What are verbal communication skills?

Verbal communication skills refer to the way you relay a message through talking. This can include things like regular speaking and noises like sighs and gasps. In the office, we need verbal communication skills to convey important information to others. Verbal communication also refers to how you receive and respond to those who communicate with you. Verbal communication is a soft skill that has an important role in most careers.

There are two fundamental ways we use verbal communication skills in a work environment: interpersonal communication and public speaking. Interpersonal communication means people communicating directly with one another, while public speaking involves one or more people presenting information to a larger group of people.

Related: Why Is Communication Important? (And How To Improve It)

Using verbal communication skills in the workplace

People employ verbal communication skills in a variety of ways, depending on the situation. Here are some situations where people use verbal communications skills in different contexts:

Speaking to employees

When supervisors speak with employees, they usually employ a formal and authoritative manner of verbal communication. When speaking to their employees, supervisors make sure they carefully choose what they're going to say so that the employees understand exactly what is being asked of them.

Other ways supervisors use these skills include:

  • Providing constructive criticism

  • Giving positive recognition to an employee

  • Advising employees on the best course of action

  • Speaking calmly during a stressful situation

  • Disciplining or firing an employee

  • Training new employees

Speaking to your supervisor

Employees employ a variety of formal verbal communication skills when speaking to their supervisors. Open lines of communication are extremely important so the supervisors are aware of the wants, needs and concerns of the employees. Employees must learn how to communicate with their supervisors in a way that is both familiar and respectful.

Other ways employees use verbal communication skills to speak with a supervisor include:

  • Asking for detailed instructions

  • Clearly stating objections to a task

  • Requesting leave

  • Requesting feedback on projects

  • Communicating interest in higher positions within the company

Speaking with clients

Some jobs require you to speak directly with clients. In this role, perfecting verbal communication skills is extremely important as a large part of the job includes convincing clients of the best course of action. Speaking with clients requires verbal communication skills that highlight friendliness, competence and understanding. A large part of speaking with clients includes being an active listener so that the client feels their ideas are being understood and considered.

Other ways these skills are used to speak with clients include:

  • Requesting clarification when necessary

  • Highlighting the benefits and outcomes of a specific course of action

  • Actively listening to a client's concerns

  • Asking the client open-ended questions to understand their point of view

  • Having friendly small talk conversations

  • Paying attention to any non-verbal cues from the client

Speaking with fellow employees

Having transparent communication is extremely important in any workplace. Utilising verbal communication skills ensures teams complete projects on time and avoid making mistakes, which leads to the overall success of a team. Employees must understand how to speak with their coworkers in a way that is both friendly and reflects the formality of the working environment.

Other ways these skills are used to speak with fellow employees include:

  • Politely objecting to another employee's point

  • Asking for help

  • Explaining a complex task

  • Requesting feedback

  • Giving constructive criticism

  • Clearly stating your ideas and opinions

Related: Forming Relationships With Work Colleagues

Speaking as a presenter

Sometimes, it's necessary to give a presentation at a job. You need an entirely new set of verbal communication skills to speak to a group of people. When speaking to a group, you must utilise such skills that help clearly highlight your ideas and overall reason for the presentation. This type of communication takes practice and preparation to articulate complex ideas and persuade audiences.

Other ways these skills are used to give a presentation include:

  • Enunciating words clearly

  • Speaking loudly so all can hear

  • Speaking at a comfortable and clear pace

  • Thoroughly explaining ideas

  • Speaking with confidence

  • Summarising the presentation

  • Capturing the audience's attention

Related: How To Give Constructive Criticism

How to improve verbal communication skills

Here are some tips for improving your verbal communication skills:

1. Decide what to say

Decide what you want to convey before beginning your next conversation or presentation. This might involve brainstorming or writing out a list of your ideas beforehand. By reviewing the information you want to give to someone else before you speak, you can ensure that you stay focused on the topic you want to discuss and identify any parts of the message that may require further explanation.

For example, if you need to discuss a project you're working on with a coworker, it's a good idea to write out important points and also what you ultimately want to achieve from this conversation. If you begin this conversation without thinking about what you want to say, it may lead to a disagreement, misunderstanding or simply no progress being made on the project.

2. Consider your audience

Identify who you're speaking to and consider their perspective. If you're talking with someone you know, you can prepare by mentally revisiting past conversations with the person and thinking about how they may view this conversation. If you're speaking with someone you have not met before, you can do some research and try to find out more about them. Considering your audience can help you decide on a tone, mannerisms and other aspects of verbal communication that can enhance the conversation or presentation.

For example, it's usually appropriate to use a warm and familiar tone with a coworker you've known for a while, as you have a shared experience and you're familiar with how they react to certain conversations. However, when talking to a new client or executive, you can adopt a more formal attitude.

3. Note nonverbal communication

As you're speaking, it's important to pay attention to any nonverbal cues that you might be portraying. This includes actions like eye contact, posture and facial expressions. Nonverbal communication is extremely important as it can help emphasise your point or it can lead to a misunderstanding. Staying aware of your nonverbal communication ensures that the message you convey through your actions or body language matches the message you convey through your words.

For example, if you're giving a presentation on a cheerful topic, you might consciously think of moments to smile, which can help convey happiness and associate it with your message. If you're having a serious talk with an employee about their disappointing performance, you don't want to smile or laugh as it can take away from the seriousness of the moment.

4. Actively listen to the response

An important part of employing verbal communication skills is understanding how to be an active listener. You must know when to stop speaking when you're 'the sender' and prepare to listen as you become 'the receiver'. Active listening can ensure that the sender and the receiver are equally exchanging messages and feedback.

For example, if you're giving a presentation, decide on moments when you can pause your speech and invite the audience to respond or ask questions. At this point, you become the audience, and you must actively listen so you can then answer questions or respond to feedback calmly and effectively.

Related: How To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

5. Make a plan

Make a plan for what you want to say. This can involve writing an outline or loose script for your presentation or conversation and including any major talking points you think are important for conveying your message. The plan can also consider any information about your audience, as you likely use a different tone and vocabulary with different members of the office or with customers, even when discussing the same subject.

For example, if you plan on having a conversation with your supervisor about an upcoming holiday you plan to take, it's a good idea to write out what projects you're working on currently. This way you can prepare an answer for how you plan to complete or pause these tasks while you're on holiday and reassure your supervisors that your absence won't negatively affect the company.


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