HandshakeCommunication isn't just one skill: It's a combination of how you listen, speak, write and express yourself with body language. Discover why each of these aspects of communication is important to employers and learn about reasonable accommodations that may help you develop your communications skills in the workplace.

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Soft Skills: An Intro to Effective Communication

Jul 23, 2019

HandshakeRecently, we've written about the importance of developing soft skills to succeed during your job search and in the workplace. We've shared why employers find these "people skills," in combination with technical skills, important when making hiring decisions and revisited some success stories where soft skills played a role on the path to success.

In the next several blog posts about soft skills, we'll focus on 6 specific skills and provide tips to help you develop and polish them.

Let's start with communication. Communication is probably the most important soft skill to develop and demonstrate. But communication isn't just one skill; it's a combination of how you listen, speak and write as well as your body language.

We understand that some disabilities affect a person's communication skills, be they verbal, body language or written. Today, we'll also provide advice on how reasonable accommodations may be useful and how working with a Ticket to Work service provider can help you feel more confident on the job.


Communication is a two-way process — it's sending and receiving information. One of the best ways to be a good communicator is to be a good listener. You need to pay close attention to what the other person is saying, ask clarifying questions when you need more information, and sometimes even rephrase what the person says so you can be sure you understand the message.

A good listener focuses on the speaker, isn't distracted and avoids interrupting. Taking notes can help you remember items you'd like to respond to later or ask questions to clarify any information you didn't understand. Notes will also help you with the next step, which is taking time to think about what the person is saying or trying to accomplish and reflect on what you've learned so you can respond appropriately.

If you need an accommodation to help with listening, be sure to let the individual or your employer know ahead of time. They may be able to offer written notes for you to refer to, arrange for an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for an in-person meeting, or arrange a TTY call. 


To be an effective speaker, you need to be understood. When you choose your words, consider the audience, the situation and the goals of your message.

For example, you likely use different words when talking with a child than when you talk with his or her parents. Similarly, you would speak more formally to a potential employer than you would to an old friend.

If you're able to, keep your tone in mind, too. Friendly, positive and enthusiastic tones may be better received.

If you need an accommodation to convey your message, you can discuss what options would work best for you, including: an ASL interpreter, text-to-speech technology, or even job restructuring. With job restructuring, your employer may be able to reassign a non-essential task to another individual.


Writing allows more time to think about what your goal and message is and what language and words will best communicate them to your audience. You also have time to re-read what you've written and check grammar and spelling.

Having another person read what you've written and using the spell-check feature on your computer can also help. As an accommodation, your employer may offer you access to proofreading services to make sure your reports are professional, communicate your message and use correct grammar and spelling.

You already know that it's essential to make sure that your resume is error free, but it's just as important whether you're writing a report, a blog post or even an email message once you're working.

Body Language

People's gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, posture and eye contact are all forms of non-verbal communication. It's a signal as to how people are feeling.

If you're able to, be mindful of this and adjust your body language to match what message you're trying to send. This may include nodding along and smiling when someone else is speaking to signal that you're listening. If you're speaking, standing or sitting up straight can communicate confidence and make eye contact with your audience.

Ticket to Work and Soft Skills

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI/SSI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Through the Ticket program, you can connect with service providers to help you learn more about soft skills, how you can learn and polish these skills and even think about the accommodations that may help you improve them.

Even once you start working, a Ticket to Work service provider, like an Employment Network, may be able to help you navigate situations that arise in the workplace that involve communication skills and help you find solutions or help you self-advocate to receive accommodations to help you succeed. They could practice mock interviews with you or connect you with a job coach once you’re on the job.

Remember — no one is born a good communicator, but with practice everyone can polish this important skill.

Learn More

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Learn More

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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