The skill of sound communication with superiors, team members, and staff is critical, no matter what field or industry that you might work in. We are regularly judged by the quality and content of our communication and how effectively we convey and receive messages in person as well as via phone, email and social media.

Below are my top communication skills or tools for effective leadership.

1. Body Language and Other Non-verbal

Communication

Your body language, eye contact, hand gestures, and tone all reflect the information that you are trying to convey. An open and relaxed stance arms open, body relaxed, and a friendly tone of voice will make you appear approachable, and will encourage others to speak openly with you. Eye contact is also important; you want to look the person in the eye to reinforce that you are focused on the person and the conversation.

2. Confidence

It is important to be confident in all of your interactions with others. Confidence ensures your employees will believe in you and will follow through with what you are telling them. Showing confidence can be as simple as making eye contact or using a firm but friendly tone. Of course, be careful not to sound arrogant or aggressive. Be sure you are always listening to and empathizing with the other person.

3. Clarity and Preparation

Try to convey your message in as few words as possible. Say what you want clearly and directly, whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone, or via email. If you ramble on, your listener will either tune you out or will be unsure of exactly what you are telling them. Think about what you want to say before you say it; this will help you to avoid talking excessively and/or above the understanding of your audience.

4. Friendliness

Through a friendly tone, a personal question, or a sincere smile, you will encourage your employees to engage in open and honest communication with you. This is important in both face-to-face and written communication. When you can, personalize your emails to peers and/or employees — a quick “I hope you all had a good weekend” at the start of an email can personalize the message and make the recipient feel more appreciated.

5. Listen

Being a good listener is one of the best ways to be a good communicator. No one likes communicating with someone who only cares about their opinion/perspective, and does not take the time to listen to the other person. Instead, practice active listening. Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing what the person says to ensure understanding “So, what you’re saying is…”.

6. Empathy

Even when you disagree with a customer, co-worker, or supervisor, it is important for you to understand and respect their point of view. Using phrases as simple as “I understand where you are coming from” demonstrate that you have been listening to the other person and respect their opinions.

7. Open-Mindedness

A good communicator should enter any conversation with an open mind. Be receptive to listening to and understanding the other person’s point of view, rather than simply getting your message across. When you are willing to enter into a dialogue, even with people with whom you disagree, you will be able to have more honest, productive conversations.

8. Respect

Others may be more open to communicating with you if you convey respect for them and their ideas. Simple actions like using a person’s name, making eye contact, and actively listening when a person speaks will make the person feel appreciated. On the phone, avoid distractions and stay focused on the conversation.

9. Feedback

Being able to appropriately give and receive feedback is an important communication skill. Managers and supervisors should continuously look for ways to provide employees with constructive feedback, be it through email, phone calls, or weekly status updates. Giving feedback involves giving praise as well — something as simple as saying “good job” to an employee can greatly increase motivation.

An important aspect is to simply know what form of communication to use. Some sensitive conversations layoffs, changes in salary, etc. are always best when done in person. You should also think about the person with whom you wish to speak; if they are very busy people such as your boss, you might want to convey your message in a brief and concise manner. People will appreciate your thoughtful means of communication, and will be more likely to respond positively to you.