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Five Ways to Improve Your Conversation Skills in the Workplace

Updated on June 5, 2018
denise.w.anderson profile image

An Education Specialist, Denise teaches the principles of Emotional Health for the establishment and maintenance of high quality families.

Conversations skills are essential for success in the workplace. It is in and through conversation that relationships with co-workers, supervisors, and clients are developed. The ability of a person to converse readily and easily often determines where they work, how much they are paid, and how they are treated. The five skills listed below are the basis for good conversation:

  1. Use eye contact
  2. Speak with an appropriate tone of voice
  3. Use "I" statements to express feelings or opinions
  4. State the source of facts
  5. Listen actively

Making eye contact with the person you are greeting allows you to keep your focus during the conversation with that person.
Making eye contact with the person you are greeting allows you to keep your focus during the conversation with that person. | Source

Use eye contact

In most cultures, eye contact connects people in preparation for the exchange of information. If you need to get the attention of another person to establish eye contact with them, say their name. If you do not know their name, a simple "Excuse me" will suffice. If they are speaking with someone else, wait until they have finished and they turn their attention to you. Then establish eye contact before you speak.

During the conversation, continue with direct eye contact as much as possible. If the other person breaks eye contact with you, or appears to be distracted (i.e. looking at their watch, shuffling papers, or in some other way indicating that they are not listening) suggest another time for communicating with them when they are able to focus on what you have to say.

When you are approached by another person who appears to want a conversation with you, acknowledge their presence with eye contact. Show them respect by stopping what you are doing and listening to what they have to say. Acknowledge by summarizing or making comments that pertain to the information. If you want the conversation to continue, bring in information of your own that will contribute. If you want to end the conversation, tell the other person that you need to get back to what you are doing. Let them know that you appreciate them talking to you and that you are open to hearing from them again in the future.

Speak with an appropriate tone of voice

Vocal tone is determined by the amount of air allowed to pass through the vocal chords during speech. An airy tone means that too much air is escaping around the vocal chords during vibration, and should be reserved for more intimate settings where whispering is appropriate. Normal vocal tone is not too loud and not to soft, but is pleasant to the ear.

A good way to tell if you are using the appropriate vocal tone is to watch the facial expressions of the person to whom you are speaking. If your vocal tone is too loud, the person may think that you are angry or upset, and they will most likely become defensive. If the tone is too soft and airy, they may lean forward because they are not able to hear what you are saying.

Vocal tone determines whether a person sounds "bossy" or "wimpy" to the hearer. The person who is frequently loud and demanding is often avoided by co-workers. A person who acts embarrassed when spoken to will also be avoided. Confidence in conversation is shown when a normal tone of voice is used and words are said clearly so that they are easily understood.

Feelings of low self worth may get in the way of using proper vocal tone in conversation. In order to overcome these feelings, think of yourself as equal to those in your workplace. As fellow human beings, we all have infinite worth. There is no one better or worse. We all have different talents and abilities, and can learn from each other and our experiences together.

When conversing with others, using "I" statements to express feelings or opinions keeps them in check.
When conversing with others, using "I" statements to express feelings or opinions keeps them in check. | Source

Use "I" statements to express feelings or opinions

When starting conversations, use "I" statements to express feelings and opinions. For example, "I appreciate you coming to my office so promptly" or "I believe that John already turned in his letter of resignation as I overheard him mention it to Jean."

Even if your feelings are the result of something the other person has done, be careful to state them in such a way that you indicate ownership of them. For example, "I became very angry when I realized that you had left the office door open after I had specifically requested that you close it." Indicating ownership of your feelings gives you permission to change them once they are resolved. There is no need to save face or hold a grudge. The slate is wiped clean, and your relationship can continue as before.

Taking the time to express yourself with "I" statements gives others permission to express themselves openly when they are in your presence. It allows them to speak freely about what they think and feel, and how things in their world affect them. You will find that you learn much about those you work with as you take ownership of your feelings and opinions.

State the source of facts and give details

Take the time to get your facts and figures straight and indicate where you got them. For example, "An article in the January issue of Time Magazine by John Brown showed that the S&P 500 dropped 2 points in December." You give credence to information passed on to others when you tell where you obtained it.

Professionalism shows when knowledge gained is used for the benefit of those in the workplace, as well as the company. If you find something to be true by your experience, find a source that substantiates it that you can use as a backup if you are questioned about where you obtained the information. The level of trust others have for you will increase, and you will be considered to be an expert in your field.

The person who brings up little known facts or details simply to show how smart they are is often avoided in conversation. The flaunting of knowledge by telling others what to do is also considered to be unprofessional. Rather use your knowledge and understand to increase your effectiveness in your current position As you show that you know what you are doing, others will ask for your help when they need information.

Taking the time to actively listen will endear others to you in conversation. Everyone wants to feel that they are important, and listening helps them feel that you care about them.
Taking the time to actively listen will endear others to you in conversation. Everyone wants to feel that they are important, and listening helps them feel that you care about them. | Source

Take the time to listen actively

Conversations are best when they are reciprocal. Take turns speaking and listening. While the other person is speaking, retain eye contact, and listen to what the other person is saying. Avoid thinking ahead to your next statement, rather keep yourself actively focused on the other person.

Rephrase what they said to check for understanding. Whether you reflect back to the person the feelings you heard, or a summary of what was said, you are indicating that you understand the communication initiated. Simple statements such as "Oh," "Hm-mm," or "Wow!" also give indication that you are listening.

Non-verbal cues such as nodding the head and changing facial expressions according to the content also indicate that listening is taking place. If you find your mind wandering, perhaps you have allowed the other person to dominate the conversation too long, and it is time to recap and end it. Excuse yourself politely, and leave an open invitation to converse in the future, however, keep in mind that the next time, you will need to be more actively involved with the conversation by interjecting some information of your own.

If you find that there are certain people who tend to dominate the conversation whenever you talk to them, seek out times when you are the one on the initiating end, and be the one to set the pace for the flow of information. As you do so, you will be less likely to be on the receiving end when they decide they want to ramble.

Your conversation skills will improve as you keep eye contact, an appropriate tone of voice, use "I" statements when expressing feelings or opinions, state the source of facts and give details, and take the time to actively listen.

These skills will help you in becoming more proficient with people in the workplace, as well as in your own home and in the community. You will find that you are more able to obtain and keep friendships with others, as well as enjoying your relationships with others more.

© 2013 Denise W Anderson


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    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, ldtodd1947. I would love to have a link to that article, as I am writing about that very issue right now, and would like to see what you have to say. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

    • lctodd1947 profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      Yes, this is a great articles and you and I are on the same page. We love this stuff; right? Very good information and to the point. I have an articles somewhere, can't remember where (lol) on "are you listening." I will be giving this article a boost.

      Thanks for sharing,


    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, rambansal, master of language is highly important in communication. It is a vital part of our ability to express ourselves with others. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, Purpose Embraced, communication is key to any relationship. Our jobs depend on our ability to understand and work with others. Each person has their own perspective on what is happening, and we can learn much through our communications with each other. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Denise communication is a key ingredient in our relationships, and the job situation it's no different. It is through good conversation, which includes active listening, that we gain a better understanding of each other's perspectives. A great hub, thanks for sharing.

    • rambansal profile image

      Ram Bansal 

      5 years ago from India

      Mastery over language of conversation matters the most for success in the purpose of the communication.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I appreciate your comments, toknowinfo. In my work as a School Psychologist, I assessed students who struggled academically. The majority also had issues with social skills, communication, and knowing how to get their own needs met. I also trained teachers and other school personnel in working with these children. I found that these suggestions were very helpful.

    • toknowinfo profile image


      5 years ago

      Wonderful article. There are always improvements we can make, and you give a commonsense approach to this. You bring out many times about being aware of body language and facial expressions. This is such an important aspect of connecting with others. Thanks for your very smart advice and a well done hub.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for reading and commenting, RonElFran. You are right. It is unfortunate that many are left to learn through sad, and sometimes even tragic, experience. Hopefully, those who understand this information will take the time to mentor newcomers and help them be more successful rather than standing by and watching them struggle.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      6 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      These are great lessons for young workers to learn (some older ones, too!). They should be taught more often. Instead, newcomers in the workplace are usually left to struggle and eventually find out some of these things by trial and error. Good teaching!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, Purpose Embraced. Listening is a vital skill that is needed in all aspects of our lives. It helps our relationships to be reciprocal and allows us to really communicate with others. Thanks for reading!

    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks Denise, a very timely reminder on improving our communication skills. I particularly like the section on listening actively. When we do this, the people who are speaking to us, feel that we are interested in what they are saying, and we better understand their point of view.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for reading teaches12345. Professional development is a great way to teach these important life skills. My own learning came from additional schooling after already being in the workplace as an older adult. It is amazing how our experiences give us reasons to learn things that we should have known previously. Best wishes in your future endeavors in this area.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Good pointers for speaking effectively in the business place. These skills are ones I teach in my professional development class and they do help one to speak with confidence. Voted up and useful.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for reading, Ms Dora and Eliza. Conversation is such an important part of life. When we listen actively to others, we find that we learn so much more about them. Take care!

    • profile image

      Eliza Anderson 

      6 years ago

      I like these steps. I now have them written down in my journal for me to look back at so I can prepare myself for conversations of any kind when I come across other people.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      I like the phrase "listen actively," but all five skills are important. You discussed them appropriately, and I'm sure that we can all learn from them. Thanks and Voted Up.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks Careermommy. Your experiences have no doubt taught you that relationships are number one. No matter what happens in the home or workplace, how you treat others makes all the difference in the world. Best wishes to you!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Denise, this is such a great article, and very well written. I work in corporate america and meet with customers weekly. I learned some great tips on improving my skills while out in the field. Thank you.


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