Communication Skills


School to Work Unit 5

The dictionary defines communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behaviors. Skill is defined as a learned power of doing something competently. Communications skills can be learned.

Communication Goals for the student entering the work force are

  • express one's need, wants, opinions, and preferences without offending the sensitivities of others
  • identify and communicate value judgments effectively
  • describe objects or events with few errors
  • convey a positive self image to others
  • listen with objectivity and paraphrase the content of a message

Begin with identifying the basic forms or communication.

      1. Listening
      2. Speaking
      3. Reading
      4. Writing
      5. Non Verbal, Body Language, Sign Language

      * Assertive Communication



 Listening is a skill that many people take for granted. Every job requires that you have the ability to listen well. It doesn't matter if you are getting instructions or taking a message, you need to work at being a good listener.

    Good listeners make eye contact with the person who is speaking to them. This helps you focus on what the speaker is saying and your mind has less of an opportunity to wander. When you listen, concentrate on what the speaker is saying. Ask questions if you do not understand what  the speaker is saying.

    One way to show that you have heard the speaker is to paraphrase (repeat back) what you heard. Not only does this give the speaker a chance to correct any misunderstanding, it also shows that you have been actively listening.

    Many listeners anticipate what the speaker is going to say and stop listening. Others start thinking about how they will respond. In both cases, you've stopped listening and the message can be missed.

Common Barriers to Effective Listening- from  the Newsletter: Communication Matters To be on the mailing list, contact Paula Marie Blunck by email:

    •           Reacting too strongly to a topic
    •           Daydreaming
    •           Judging the speaker or delivery
    •           Listening only for facts and details rather than the main idea
    •           Faking attention
    •           Refusing to consider new ideas

Listening Activity: After talking for about five minutes, stop and ask students to write down whatever they were thinking about while you were talking. Tell them you will not collect their papers. Then ask students to listen for another couple of minutes as though they were going to be tested over the material. This time ask students what skills they used to listen. Ask them to get into groups and discuss the difference between the first and second listening experiences. Brainstorm some barriers to effective listening. Then discuss behaviors of effective listening such as: physically paying attention, taking notes, asking questions if the material does not make sense, listening for main ideas, keeping open to new ideas, mentally summarizing, relating, or evaluating ideas, etc.

Follow these rules to be a good listener. Procedure Sheet

  • Have good eye contact with the speaker. Do not look around the room. Look directly at the person speaking.
  •  Face the speaker if you can. Do not sit or stand to the side of the speaker.
  •  Keep your fingers and feet still. Do not tap your fingers or move your feet or hands.

Benefits of Good Listening:

  •   You will know what's happening around you.
  •   You will know what to do at work, at school or wherever.
  •   You will know how to do things.
  •   You will be a good friend to those who depend on you.
  •   You will enjoy yourself, whether you're listening to music, learning something new, or taking part in a conversation.
  • Other people will enjoy your company.

Guide Sheets for Conversation and Communication


Nonverbal communications skills are required in many social situations. These involve reading the emotions revealed in a tone of voice, sensing how close to stand when talking to someone, facial expressions, assessing the mood of others. Where such skills are lacking, possibly because of disruption in the socialization process, this may sufficiently important to impair their social or academic functioning. When trying to make friends, any approach made without such skills, may be rejected. Unpopular people may not even realize that they are initiating many of the negative reactions they receive from their peers. They may even inadvertently communicate over eagerness that their peers interpret as aggression. Since most emotional messages between people are communicated non verbally, by gesture or tone of voice, the inability to read such messages adeptly is a major social handicap. Source: Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

These 6 role playing activities, from the LCCE curriculum, will provide practice in identifying non-verbal cues, and making decisions on how to correct inappropriate work behaviors. Have students form groups, practice acting out the situations,  present them to the class for evaluation and answer the 3 questions. In some of the situations specific jobs are stated. Be sure that the students understand the nature ( place of work, job responsibilities) of the given job.    Work Scenarios for Role Playing - activity
Spend time on non-verbal communication with students with learning disabilities, TBI, language processing problems..., they do not always interpret non-verbal communication they way we would expect them to.

* Do group activities with a list of non-verbal actions and have the students write down what they thought the person was demonstrating by that action, (ex. tapping your fingers, hands on hips...). Some students will be extremely concrete in their interpretations. Stress that there are no right or wrong answers, just discuss the different interpretations to help students understand how each of us (students and staff) viewed the behaviors differently.

* Do role playing of work situations where the students interpret types of non-verbal behavior on the job and how to react to the non verbal communication. Example: staying calm with an angry co-worker or customer.


What is Body Language? Body Language is the unspoken communication that goes on in every Face-to-Face encounter with another human being. It tells you their true feelings towards you and how well your words are being received.

Between 60-80% of our message is communicated through our Body Language, only 7-10% is attributable to the actual words of a conversation. Your ability to read and understand another person's Body Language can mean the difference between making a great impression or a very bad one! It could help you in that job interview, that meeting, that business function, or special date!

Whenever there is a conflict between the words that someone says and their body signals and movements, we almost always believe their body! From:


Assertive Communication is the ability to express oneself honestly and directly while respecting one's own rights and the rights of others. This essential skill is used throughout the workplace in day-to-day dealings with other people. from:

    You are behaving ASSERTIVELY when you express your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in direct, honest ways that do not violate another person's integrity. Assertion involves respect both for your own needs and feelings and for those of the other person.

    You are behaving AGGRESSIVELY when you express your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in ways that humiliate, degrade, belittle, or overpower the other person. Little or no respect is shown for the needs or feelings of others.

    You are behaving NON ASSERTIVELY ( or PASSIVELY)  when you fail to express honest feelings, thoughts, and beliefs -- or express them in such an apologetic, or self-effacing way that others can easily disregard them.

Three Barriers to Self Assertiveness

1. Many people do not believe that they have the right to be assertive.
2. Many people are highly anxious/fearful about being assertive.
3. Many people lack the social skills for effective self-expression.

Practice worksheet- #1 -This activity will help students assess situations and decide whether the given communication styles were passive, aggressive, or assertive. Expand on this by providing examples directly related to the students school, home, and work environment.

Practice worksheet #2- This activity gives the students practice in taking passive and aggressive situations and turning them into assertive statements and actions. Again expand by using social situations pertinent to the students life.

Go to this site for the Components of Assertive Behavior. Teachers go here for background information on Assertive Communication.



Reading and Writing

Reading and Writing are presented as forms of communication at the introduction of the unit. These skill areas are addressed in all aspects of education so I don't spend a lot of time on them in this unit. Although identifying accommodations a non reader will need in the workplace should be addressed at this point.


Telephone Skills- a skill based program.