Core Communications Skills Every Business Should Use

There are six Core Communication Skills, each with a separate function. These skills are used in different degrees, at different stages throughout the communication process. Although most of us have a good understanding of each skill, the highest-performing supervisors and managers use all of them at a high skill level.

Skill and Function

  • Rapport Building to establish a personal connection with the other person
  • Acknowledging to keep the other person actively participating in the meeting or discussion
  • Questioning to get information about the issues, situation, problems, and needs of the other person
  • Clarifying to confirm important elements of the discussion or meeting
  • Presenting to present information, solutions, ideas or alternatives to the listener
  • Listening to show the other person that you have received and “heard” their message

Rapport Building establishes a personal connection with the other person.

Aligning – adapting your body language, speech patterns and tone of voice to the other person

Looking for Common Ground – searching for issues or topics of shared interest. This could be sports, children, hobbies, politics, or any other subject.

Certain training programs have described this skill as “ice breaking,” occurring only at the beginning of a conversation before the real issues are discussed. Although an “ice breaker” is a form of Rapport Building, Rapport Building should occur throughout the conversation. It “personalizes” the conversation.

Acknowledging is intended to keep the conversation flowing.

Empathizing – showing that you understand how the other person feels

Example: “That’s quite an accomplishment. You should feel proud.” or “That must have been very difficult.”

Receiving – demonstrating that you have heard the other person. This does not necessarily mean that you agree, merely that you understand his or her point of view.

Example: “I understand your position.” or “That’s an interesting idea.”

Highlighting – showing that you want to hear more about a particular topic.

Example: “Can you tell me more about that?” or “That’s interesting; I’d like to hear more about it.”

Acknowledging is intended to maintain the other person’s air time, either to get information or merely to increase the other person’s sense of contribution or importance.

Questioning gets information about the circumstances, position, desires, wants, wishes, needs, problems and perceptions of the other person.

Closed – are those which can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”

Example: “Is this a delivery problem?” or “Does this issue require a meeting with maintenance?”

Open – are those which contain a what, where, when, why, who, which or how. Their advantage in getting information is that they require the other person to give you a more complete response.

Example: “What delivery problems are you having?” or “Who will that involve?”

Clarifying confirms important points of the discussion

Agenda Setting – lists topics or issues to be discussed

Example: “I called this meeting to discuss two things.”

Confirming – summarizes important points that have been made, are resolved, or require clarification. This skill is also used to list next steps or the agenda for the next meeting.

Example: “It seems that we’d better look at lead-times at our next meeting.”

Closed questions are often used at this point to get the other person’s agreement.

Examples: “Is this in line with your understanding?” or “Are there additional items that we should add to this list?”

Presenting provides information, solutions, options or alternatives.

Reacting – means giving brief statements about your position, reaction or role.

Example: “I don’t think that we can agree to that.” or “I’ll be responsible for this project.”

Providing – means giving longer statements and answers that provide your or the company’s position. They are often used in goal setting or outlining policies and procedures.

Example: “The company’s new policy is to . . . .”

Giving Alternatives – means giving options that may be solutions or resolutions of conflict and disagreement.

Example: “It seems that two possible solutions might solve this problem.” or “I think that we might be able to meet that request if we can figure out a solution to ‘a’ and ‘b’.”

Listening shows that you have “received” and “heard” the other person. You can show it in a number of ways by using the five other communication skills.

Rapport Building – making eye contact

Acknowledging – nodding or saying “Uh-huh”

Questioning – asking follow-up questions

Clarifying – confirming that you “received” the message by repeating important points

Presenting – providing a response to the other person’s question or situation.

These six skills can occur in every discussion. It is our choice whether we use these skills or not. Research shows that although it is not necessary to use every skill in every conversation, the most effective supervisors and managers have developed skill in each of these areas – and are skillful in using them when they will have maximum impact.