How to master communication in problem solving

May 11, 2023 The path from problem to solution is not linear. In fast-moving, complex times, decision-makers can’t effectively act alone when it comes to solving complicated workplace problems; diverse perspectives and rigorous debate are crucial to determining the best steps to take. What’s missing in many companies is the use of “contributory dissent,” or the capabilities required to engage in healthy if divergent discussions about critical business problems, write Ben Fletcher , Chris Hartley , Rupert Hoskin , and Dana Maor  in a recent article . Contributory dissent allows individuals and groups to air their differences in a way that moves the discussion toward a positive outcome and doesn’t undermine leadership or group cohesion. Check out these insights to learn how to establish cultures and structures where individuals and teams feel free to bring innovative—and often better—alternative solutions to the table, and dive into the best ways to master communication in problem solving.

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Effective communication skills: resolving conflicts .

Couple in conflict

Even the happiest of relationships experience conflicts and problems (Markman, Stanley, Blumberg, Jenkins & Whiteley, 2004). If handled well, issues provide opportunities for personal and relationship growth. There are many skills that can help individuals seeking to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. One of the greatest skills that aids in conflict resolution is effective communication.

Common Conflicts

Issues, or conflicts, in relationships consist of any situation, event or experience that is of concern or importance to those involved. A variety of factors lead to conflict, some of which include topics such as money, children, and in-laws, personal issues such as selfesteem, values, expectations, or goals, or relational issues such as the amount of together time versus alone time, support versus control, affection, and communication (Miller & Miller, 1997). While there are seemingly endless reasons for conflicts, they generally surround the underlying needs of all humans including physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual (Miller & Miller, 1997; Townsend, 2010). Most importantly, how we approach and communicate about these issues often determines the outcome.

Conflicts in Communication

Most people know that in order to resolve conflicts, we need to communicate about the issue; but negative patterns of communication can often lead to greater frustration and escalation of conflict. Consider the following communication challenges:

Body Language/Tone of Voice

Communication is more than the words we choose to use. In fact, our body language and tone of voice often speak louder than our words. For example, shouting “I’m not angry” is not a very convincing message! When we give an incongruent message where our tone of voice and body language does not match our message, confusion and frustration often follow (Gottman & DeClaire, 2001). In order to overcome this communication challenge, we need to be aware of what messages our body language and tone of voice may be sending others. Speak calmly, give eye contact, smile when appropriate, and maintain an open and relaxed posture (Paterson, 2000).

Differences in Style

Each of us has a unique way of communicating, often based on our family experiences, culture, gender and many other factors (Markman et al., 2004; Miller & Miller, 1997). For example, we may tend to be more loud, outgoing, or emotional when compared to our partner. While there is no right or wrong style, our past experiences often lead to expectations that are not usually verbally communicated with others, which can cause tension and misunderstandings in relationships. For example, if we came from a large family that tended to shout in order to be heard, we may think that speaking loudly is normal. But if our partner came from a calmer family environment, he/she may be uncomfortable or even frightened by a raised voice (Markman et al., 2004).

Discussing our backgrounds and perceptions can help to clarify expectations to ourselves and others and can also help our partner to understand our point of view. Knowing this information can often help in the problem solving process.

Communication Roadblocks

Communication roadblocks occur when two people talk in such a way that neither one feels understood. Research has found four particularly negative styles of communication, often referred to as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” (Gottman, 1999, p.27) because if left unchecked, these styles of interaction can eventually become lethal to relationships. These styles are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (Gottman, 1999).

  • Criticism attacks the character or personality of another. While it is normal to have complaints about another’s specific actions, it is very different to put them down as a person because of those actions. For example, a complaint might be, “I felt worried when you did not call to tell me that you were going to be home late.” A criticism in the same situation would be expressed as “You are so inconsiderate, you never call me when you are going to be late.” Critiques focus on certain behaviors; criticism negatively focuses on the person’s intentions and character.
  • Contempt portrays disgust and a lack of respect for the other person through body language, such as eye rolling or sneering, or by name calling, sarcasm and cutting remarks.
  • Defensiveness is a seemingly understandable reaction that individuals take to criticism and contempt; however, it often escalates the conflict. When we are defensive, we tend to stop listening to the other’s viewpoint and communication is shut down.
  • Stonewalling is withdrawing from communication and refusing to engage in discussion. In other words, it is the adult version of the “silent treatment” that young children utilize when they are upset. Conflict resolution is impossible without communication!

Some additional examples of communication roadblocks include (Miller & Miller, 1997):

  • Ordering (“Stop complaining!”)
  • Warning (“If you do that, you’ll be sorry.”)
  • Preaching (“You shouldn’t act like that.”)
  • Advising (“Just wait a couple of years before deciding.”)
  • Lecturing (“If you do this now, you won’t grow up to be a responsible adult.”)
  • Agreeing, just to keep the peace (“I think you’re right.”)
  • Ridiculing (“OK, little baby.”)
  • Interpreting (“You don’t really believe that.”)
  • Sympathizing (“Don’t worry, it’ll all work out.”)
  • Questioning (“Who put that idea into your head?”)
  • Diverting (“Let’s talk about something more pleasant.”)

Communication roadblocks are very common; however, they do not promote healthy conflict resolution and often lead to escalation of the conflict. Recognizing these roadblocks and making efforts to effectively communicate can help individuals overcome roadblocks.

Tips to Resolve Conflict

Soften the startup.

One of the skills to overcome communication roadblocks includes a soft startup to the conversation by starting with something positive, expressing appreciation, focusing on problems one at a time and taking responsibility for thoughts and feelings (Gottman, 1999; Gottman & Declaire, 2001; Patterson, 2000). In addition, when expressing the problem, starting the message with “I” instead of “You” can decrease defensiveness and promote positive interactions with others (Darrington & Brower, 2012). For example, “I want to stay more involved in making decisions about money” rather than “You never include me in financial decisions.”

Make and Receive Repair Attempts.

Another important skill in overcoming communication roadblocks is learning to make and receive repair attempts (Gottman, 1999). Repair attempts are efforts to keep an increasingly negative interaction from going any further by taking a break or making efforts to calm the situation. This is important because when conflicts arise, we often experience intense emotional and physical stress that can impact our ability to think and reason, which can lead to communication roadblocks (Gottman & DeClaire, 2001). Taking time away from the conflict (at least 20 minutes) to calm down can help us be more prepared to discuss the issue (Gottman, 1999; Gottman & DeClaire, 2001; Markman et al, 2004).

Effective Speaking and Listening Skills

Overcoming communication roadblocks requires effective speaking and listening skills. Markman, Stanley and Blumberg (2010) share what they call the “speaker-listener” technique to help individuals more effectively communicate. Each partner takes turns being the speaker and the listener.    

The rules for the speaker include (Markman et al., 2004; Markman, Stanley & Blumberg, 2010):

  • The speaker should share his/her own thoughts, feelings and concerns—not what he/she thinks the listener’s concerns are.
  • Use “I” statements when speaking to accurately express thoughts and feelings.
  • Keep statements short, to ensure the listener does not get overwhelmed with information.
  • Stop after each short statement so that the listener can paraphrase, or repeat back in his/her own words, what was said to ensure he/she understands. If the paraphrase is not quite right, gently rephrase the statement again to help the listener understand.

The rules for the listener include:

  • Paraphrase what the speaker is saying. If unclear, ask for clarification. Continue until the speaker indicates the message was received correctly.
  • Don’t argue or give opinion about what the speaker says—wait to do this until you are the speaker, and then do so in a respectful manner.
  • While the speaker is talking, the listener should not talk or interrupt except to paraphrase after the speaker.

The speaker and listener should take turns in each role so that each has a chance to express his/her thoughts and feelings. Either can call for a time out at any time. The goal of this activity is not to solve a particular problem, but rather to have a safe and meaningful discussion and to understand each other’s point of view. While we may not always agree with the other’s point of view, understanding and validating other’s thoughts and feelings can improve relationships and help us build on common ground, which may lead to more effective negotiation and problem resolution (Gottman, 1999).

Dealing with conflict can take varying amounts of mental, emotional, and physical energy (Miller & Miller, 1997). It can be work! However, learning and implementing a few simple communication skills can increase positive interactions with others. The opportunities for personal and relationship growth are well worth the effort.

For more information or for classes and workshops:

  • Go to for tips, articles, and to find relationship education classes near you.
  • Check out your local Extension office for relationship education classes and events. 
  • Darrington, J., & Brower, N. (2012). Effective communication skills: “I” messages and beyond. Utah State University Extension. cation=14541
  • Gottman, J. M., & DeClaire, J. (2001). The relationship cure: A 5 step guide to strengthening your marriage, family, and friendships. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
  • Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
  • Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2010). Fighting for your marriage. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  • Markman, H. J, Stanley, S. M., Blumberg, S. L., Jenkins, N. H., & Whiteley, C. (2004). 12 hours to a great marriage: A step-by-step guide for making love last. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  • Miller, S., & Miller, P. A. (1997). Core communication: Skills and processes. Evergreen, Co: Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc.
  • Paterson, R. J. (2000). The assertiveness workbook: How to express your ideas and stand up for yourself at work and in relationships. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, Inc.
  • Townsend, M. (2010). Starved stuff: Feeding the 7 basic needs of healthy relationships. Townsend Relationship Center.

Naomi Brower,  MFHD, CFLE, Extension Assistant Professor; Jana Darrington,  MS, Extension Assistant Professor

Naomi Brower

Naomi Brower

Extension Professor | Couple and Family Relationships | Weber County Director

Home and Community Department

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What is effective communication?

Effective communication skill 1: become an engaged listener, skill 2: pay attention to nonverbal signals, skill 3: keep stress in check, skill 4: assert yourself, effective communication.

Want to communicate better? These tips will help you avoid misunderstandings, grasp the real meaning of what’s being communicated, and greatly improve your work and personal relationships.

good communication skills and problem solving

Effective communication is about more than just exchanging information. It's about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. As well as being able to clearly convey a message, you need to also listen in a way that gains the full meaning of what's being said and makes the other person feel heard and understood.

Effective communication sounds like it should be instinctive. But all too often, when we try to communicate with others something goes astray. We say one thing, the other person hears something else, and misunderstandings, frustration, and conflicts ensue. This can cause problems in your home, school, and work relationships.

For many of us, communicating more clearly and effectively requires learning some important skills. Whether you’re trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or coworkers, learning these skills can deepen your connections to others, build greater trust and respect, and improve teamwork, problem solving, and your overall social and emotional health.

What's stopping you from communicating effectively?

Common barriers to effective communication include:

Stress and out-of-control emotion.  When you're stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, you're more likely to misread other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior. To avoid conflict and misunderstandings, you can learn how to quickly calm down before continuing a conversation.

Lack of focus.  You can't communicate effectively when you're multitasking. If you're checking your phone , planning what you're going to say next, or daydreaming, you're almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. To communicate effectively, you need to avoid distractions and stay focused.

Inconsistent body language.  Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel that you're being dishonest. For example, you can't say “yes” while shaking your head no.

[Read: Nonverbal Communication and Body Language]

Negative body language.  If you disagree with or dislike what's being said, you might use negative body language to rebuff the other person's message, such as crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or tapping your feet. You don't have to agree with, or even like what's being said, but to communicate effectively and not put the other person on the defensive, it's important to avoid sending negative signals.

When communicating with others, we often focus on what we should say. However, effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to convey.

There's a big difference between engaged listening and simply hearing. When you really listen—when you're engaged with what's being said—you'll hear the subtle intonations in someone's voice that tell you how that person is feeling and the emotions they're trying to communicate. When you're an engaged listener, not only will you better understand the other person, you'll also make that person feel heard and understood, which can help build a stronger, deeper connection between you.

By communicating in this way, you'll also experience a process that  lowers stress and supports physical and emotional well-being. If the person you're talking to is calm, for example, listening in an engaged way will help to calm you, too. Similarly, if the person is agitated, you can help calm them by listening in an attentive way and making the person feel understood.

If your goal is to fully understand and connect with the other person, listening in an engaged way will often come naturally. If it doesn't, try the following tips. The more you practice them, the more satisfying and rewarding your interactions with others will become.

Tips for becoming an engaged listener

Focus fully on the speaker.  You can't listen in an engaged way if you're  constantly checking your phone or thinking about something else. You need to stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience in order to pick up the subtle nuances and important nonverbal cues in a conversation. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating their words over in your head—it'll reinforce their message and help you stay focused.

Favor your right ear.  As strange as it sounds, the left side of the brain contains the primary processing centers for both speech comprehension and emotions. Since the left side of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, favoring your right ear can help you better detect the emotional nuances of what someone is saying.

Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns.  By saying something like, “If you think that's bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You can't concentrate on what someone's saying if you're forming what you're going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind's elsewhere.

Show your interest in what's being said.  Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.”

Try to set aside judgment.  In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don't have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand them. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can often lead to an unlikely connection with someone.

[Read: Improving Emotional Intelligence (EQ)]

Provide feedback. If there seems to be a disconnect, reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I'm hearing is,” or “Sounds like you are saying,” are great ways to reflect back. Don't simply repeat what the speaker has said verbatim, though—you'll sound insincere or unintelligent. Instead, express what the speaker's words mean to you. Ask questions to clarify certain points: “What do you mean when you say…” or “Is this what you mean?”

Hear the emotion behind the words . It's the higher frequencies of human speech that impart emotion. You can become more attuned to these frequencies—and thus better able to understand what others are really saying—by exercising the tiny muscles of your middle ear (the smallest in the body). You can do this by singing, playing a wind instrument, or listening to certain types of high-frequency music (a Mozart symphony or violin concerto, for example, rather than low-frequency rock, pop, or hip-hop).

The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you're feeling than words alone ever can. Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing.

Developing the ability to understand and use nonverbal communication can help you connect with others, express what you really mean, navigate challenging situations, and build better relationships at home and work.

  • You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you're talking to.
  • You can also use body language to emphasize or enhance your verbal message—patting a friend on the back while complimenting him on his success, for example, or pounding your fists to underline your message.

Improve how you  read nonverbal communication

Be aware of individual differences. People from different countries and cultures tend to use different nonverbal communication gestures, so it's important to take age, culture, religion, gender, and emotional state into account when reading body language signals. An American teen, a grieving widow, and an Asian businessman, for example, are likely to use nonverbal signals differently.

Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don't read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you receive, from eye contact to tone of voice to body language. Anyone can slip up occasionally and let eye contact go, for example, or briefly cross their arms without meaning to. Consider the signals as a whole to get a better “read” on a person.

Improve how you  deliver nonverbal communication

Use nonverbal signals that match up with your words rather than contradict them. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will feel confused or suspect that you're being dishonest. For example, sitting with your arms crossed and shaking your head doesn't match words telling the other person that you agree with what they're saying.

Adjust your nonverbal signals according to the context. The tone of your voice, for example, should be different when you're addressing a child than when you're addressing a group of adults. Similarly, take into account the emotional state and cultural background of the person you're interacting with.

Avoid negative body language. Instead, use body language to convey positive feelings, even when you're not actually experiencing them. If you're nervous about a situation—a job interview, important presentation, or first date, for example—you can use positive body language to signal confidence, even though you're not feeling it. Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact, and delivering a firm handshake. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to put the other person at ease.

How many times have you felt stressed during a disagreement with your spouse, kids, boss, friends, or coworkers and then said or done something you later regretted? If you can quickly relieve stress and return to a calm state, you'll not only avoid such regrets, but in many cases you'll also help to calm the other person as well. It's only when you're in a calm, relaxed state that you'll be able to know whether the situation requires a response, or whether the other person's signals indicate it would be better to remain silent.

In situations such as a job interview, business presentation, high-pressure meeting, or introduction to a loved one's family, for example, it's important to manage your emotions, think on your feet, and effectively communicate under pressure.

Communicate effectively by staying calm under pressure

Use stalling tactics to give yourself time to think. Ask for a question to be repeated or for clarification of a statement before you respond.

Pause to collect your thoughts. Silence isn't necessarily a bad thing—pausing can make you seem more in control than rushing your response.

Make one point and provide an example or supporting piece of information. If your response is too long or you waffle about a number of points, you risk losing the listener's interest. Follow one point with an example and then gauge the listener's reaction to tell if you should make a second point.

Deliver your words clearly. In many cases, how you say something can be as important as what you say. Speak clearly, maintain an even tone, and make eye contact. Keep your body language relaxed and open.

Wrap up with a summary and then stop. Summarize your response and then stop talking, even if it leaves a silence in the room. You don't have to fill the silence by continuing to talk.

Quick stress relief for effective communication

When a conversation starts to get heated, you need something quick and immediate to bring down the emotional intensity. By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, you can safely take stock of any strong emotions you're experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately.

Recognize when you're becoming stressed. Your body will let you know if you're stressed as you communicate. Are your muscles or stomach tight? Are your hands clenched? Is your breath shallow? Are you “forgetting” to breathe?

Take a moment to calm down before deciding to continue a conversation or postpone it.

Bring your senses to the rescue. The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell—or movement. For example, you could pop a peppermint in your mouth, squeeze a stress ball in your pocket, take a few deep breaths, clench and relax your muscles, or simply recall a soothing, sensory-rich image. Each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find a coping mechanism that is soothing to you.

[Read: Quick Stress Relief]

Look for humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress when communicating . When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or an amusing story.

Be willing to compromise. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you'll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned. If you realize that the other person cares much more about an issue than you do, compromise may be easier for you and a good investment for the future of the relationship.

Agree to disagree, if necessary, and take time away from the situation so everyone can calm down. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes meditating. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress.

Find your space for healing and growth

Regain is an online couples counseling service. Whether you're facing problems with communication, intimacy, or trust, Regain's licensed, accredited therapists can help you improve your relationship.

Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost your self-esteem and decision-making skills. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.

To improve your assertiveness

Value yourself and your options. They are as important as anyone else's.

Know your needs and wants. Learn to express them without infringing on the rights of others.

Express negative thoughts in a positive way. It's  okay to be angry , but you must remain respectful as well.

Receive feedback positively. Accept compliments graciously, learn from your mistakes, ask for help when needed.

Learn to say “no.” Know your limits and don't let others take advantage of you. Look for alternatives so everyone feels good about the outcome.

Developing assertive communication techniques

Empathetic assertion conveys sensitivity to the other person. First, recognize the other person's situation or feelings, then state your needs or opinion. “I know you've been very busy at work, but I want you to make time for us as well.”

Escalating assertion can be employed when your first attempts are not successful. You become increasingly firm as time progresses, which may include outlining consequences if your needs are not met. For example, “If you don't abide by the contract, I'll be forced to pursue legal action.”

Practice assertiveness in lower risk situations to help build up your confidence. Or ask friends or family if you can practice assertiveness techniques on them first.

More Information

  • Effective Communication: Improving Your Social Skills - Communicate more effectively, improve your conversation skills, and become more assertive. (AnxietyCanada)
  • Core Listening Skills - How to be a better listener. (
  • Effective Communication - How to communicate in groups using nonverbal communication and active listening techniques. (University of Maine)
  • Some Common Communication Mistakes - And how to avoid them. (
  • 3aPPa3 – When cognitive demand increases, does the right ear have an advantage? – Danielle Sacchinell | . (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2022, from Link
  • How to Behave More Assertively . (n.d.). 10. Weger, H., Castle Bell, G., Minei, E. M., & Robinson, M. C. (2014). The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions.  International Journal of Listening , 28(1), 13–31. Link

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Improving Problem Solving Skills


Problem-solving skills are an important part of our lives. Be it a mundane daily activity or at work, most of the time our work is centred around problems and how to solve them. In a managerial set up, most of the work is problem-centric. Be it solving a problem for a client, supporting someone who is solving a problem or searching for new problems to be solved, problems define our activities. Problem-solving skills are, thus, important in the workplace.

Improving Problem Solving Skills

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Skills for Problem Solving

Different problems require different set of skills to be solved. For example, solving a problem for a client requires not just knowledge but also good verbal, listening and persuasion skills. Solving a problem within the organization with other employees require teamwork, coordination and effective communication among them. Hence, to improve problem-solving skills there needs to be effective communication and understanding of the situation.

Efficient Methods of Problem Solving

Problem-solving skills can be improved in many ways. There are four basic steps to efficient problem solving in any situation. They are:

  • Defining and understanding the problem
  • Searching for alternatives
  • Evaluating and selecting alternatives
  • Executing the solution

Defining and understanding the problem is the first step to problem-solving. It is important to look deeper into the problem beyond what might seem like the obvious.

For example :  The substandard performance of the employees might be seen as a result of laziness or an unwillingness to work and improve oneself. However, the real reason could be that the employees are untrained and unskilled at their jobs. Understanding the roots of the problem makes way for efficient search for solutions.

Now that the core of the problem has been identified, we need to search for alternative solutions to fix the problem. The aim is to find the most efficient and rational solution that is agreeable to all the parties involved.

Thus, if there is a difference in opinion regarding the implementation of a certain standard or protocol, the manager can either take a survey to understand the opinions of the employees or call a meeting to discuss and, if necessary, bring changes to the proposal.

Once all the alternatives are considered, we need to evaluate each and every single alternative so that we can come to a conclusion by selecting the most rational solution. Selecting the solution also requires the opinion of the employees and staff, what they consider to be the best option and how the executives in higher positions would react to it.

For example : Choosing between cheaper alternatives or low production due to a reduced budget depends on the situation of the firm. The cheaper alternatives for production will ensure the same number of units are produced, albeit low quality and hence, lower prices. Reduction in production, however, will ensure that the quality is good and the price of the product will be maintained or even raised.

Executing the solution requires the leadership of the manager and good and efficient coordination and communication with all the employees and entities. The problem will be directly handled at this stage and efforts will be made to change it.

For example : If the decision to use cheaper alternatives for production is made, then changes are made in the manner of production, networks are set up to get access to the cheaper alternative, bargaining and networking is made etc.

Thus, improving problem-solving skills require a basic knowledge of the situation as well as having the creativity and resources to solve it.

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Communication Theory



Communication, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving: A Suggested Course for All High School Students in the 21st Century

  • Published: 05 December 2013
  • Volume 44 , pages 63–81, ( 2013 )

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  • Terresa Carlgren 1  

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The skills of communication, critical thinking, and problem solving are essential to thriving as a citizen in the 21st century. These skills are required in order to contribute as a member of society, operate effectively in post-secondary institutions, and be competitive in the global market. Unfortunately they are not always intuitive or simple in nature. Instead these skills require both effort and time be devoted to identifying, learning, exploring, synthesizing, and applying them to different contexts and problems. This article argues that current high school students are hindered in their learning of communication, critical thinking, and problem solving by three factors: the structure of the current western education system, the complexity of the skills themselves, and the competence of the teachers to teach these skills in conjunction with their course material. The article will further advocate that all current high school students need the opportunity to develop these skills. Finally, it will posit that a course be offered to explicitly teach students these skills within a slightly modified western model of education.

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A model of education as organized from western countries such as Canada, Great Britain, the United States, and some European nations by way of organizational structure (identified curricular outcomes, assessment strategies, hierarchical administrative levels).

Immersion in terms of critical thinking instruction refers to “deep, thoughtful, well understood subject-matter instruction in which the students are encouraged to think critically in the subject … but in which general critical thinking principles are not made explicit” (Ennis 1989 , p. 5).

Infusion as it refers to critical thinking involves the explicit instruction of critical thinking principles and strategies in conjunction with the subject material (Ennis 1989 , p. 5).

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Terresa Carlgren

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Course Syllabus and Outline

Title: Communication, Critical Thinking, and Problem Solving (an introduction)

Course Components

No exclusionary, discriminatory, or derogatory material will be taught in this course, nor will the content in this course be deemed controversial in any way.

Philosophy and Rationale

Much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uniformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated (Paul and Elder 2008 , p. 2).

The skills required of today’s youth are more pronounced than that of the past. Students are required to have basic knowledge of content in areas of Science, Math, and English; as well as technological skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and the ability to communicate (Sahlberg 2006 ). However, with the time constraints placed on teachers, knowledge outcomes taking priority on learning due to the high stakes standardized achievement tests, and an understanding that the particular skills of communication, critical thinking, and problem solving require explicit instruction (Rosefsky and Opfer 2012 ); students are not mastering these skills to an acceptable standard.

In order for students to acquire and master the skills necessary to compete and be successful in the work force, post secondary education, and life; students must have the opportunity to engage by learning these skills through practice, application, and devoted explicit attention. Furthermore, students must explore these skills without fear of failure but rather with hope that they can improve and move forward from the learning experience. In this way, learning these skills as a secondary item within the context of another content based course will not do the students justice.

Historically, the skills of sewing, cooking, woodworking, and mechanics where offered in high school as application based courses that required hands on and explorative learning with teacher guidance. More recently computer courses, and digital citizenship are taking hold in schools to teach students these skills. There is no reason why the skills of communication, critical thinking, and problem solving should be treated any differently.

Without the structure and organization of education making drastic changes to mandate these skills be made more of a priority in the classroom, it is feared that the teaching and learning of these skills will remain an oversight. It is unfortunate that the students; citizens, economic and market contributors of our future, will be underserved. It is with these reasons that this course offering takes place; such that an opportunity within the current educational structure can provide students the opportunity to guard themselves with new foundational skills for the future.

General Learner Expectations

By the end of this course, it is expected learners will have developed and ascertained explicit knowledge of communication, critical thinking and problem solving. More importantly, students will have acquired the skills of communication, critical thinking, and problem solving through application, exploration, and trial and error, such that they can utilize these skills in different contexts of their lives in preparation for the work force or post-secondary education.

Specific Learner Expectations

The following is a list of specific learner expectations for the course. Please note that the units identified for this course are titled ‘Skill-sets’ for a reason as they are not discrete topics to be taught in isolation, but rather guides toward the encompassing theme of acquiring these skills. This course is in no way designed as a check the outcome box course, nor is it organized in order by skill or outcome number. Rather, the outcomes and skill-sets must be taught in conjunction with each other through the duration of the course with trust being given to the fact that through student exploration and leadership; along side teacher guidance and facilitation, students will improve on their existing skill-set for these skills.

Skill Set A: Critical Thinking Skills Footnote 6

Knowledge Outcomes: (Students will be able to)

A.K.1 Define the difference between fact and inference.

A.K.2 Derive criteria for which to judge a problem or predicament.

A.K.3 List the elements of thought associated with critical thinking as per one critical thinking model (Paul and Elder, Rusten and Schuman).

A.K.4 Identify inherent and hidden bias in an argument.

A.K.5 Identify faults in thinking due to oversimplifying or over generalizing issues or problems.

A.K.6 Identify and state the purpose of thinking.

Skill Outcomes: (Students will be able to)

A.S.1 Utilize background knowledge to solve a problem or predicament.

A.S.2 Apply evidence to solve a problem or predicament.

A.S.3 Express an argument that is logical, clear, and concise.

A.S.4 Derive and model a process by which to critically analyze, think, and solve a problem or predicament that involves a reasonable, logical, and relevant thinking strategy.

A.S.5 Explore alternative options and methods before drawing a conclusion.

A.S.6 Illustrate and explore the consequences and implications following the solution of a problem or issue.

A.S.7 Model, display, or perform the ability to think critically through verbal, written, and physical means.

Attitudes Outcomes: (Students will)

A.A.1 Believe that it is possible for themselves to solve problems with a reasonable level of confidence.

A.A.2 Have confidence that they are able to ascertain information needed to help themselves think critically about a problem or issue.

A.A.3 Respect the diverse nature of thinking and problem solving that allows for others’ opinions and arguments to be taken into account without discrimination.

Skill Set B: Problem Solving Skills

B.K.1 Define convergent and divergent thinking.

B.K.2 State that for any given problem there is more than one problem solving strategy.

B.K.3 List possible problem solving strategies that exist.

B.K.4 State that problem solving strategies are used in context and explore the types of contexts that might exist.

B.K.5 Identify that for any problem solving strategy there must be an evaluative component and an ability to modify the strategy to fit a new context or problem.

B.S.1 Derive and model, illustrate, or describe a problem solving strategy that is context specific.

B.S.2 Derive and model a personal problem solving strategy to solve a personal problem.

B.S.3 Solve problems using mathematical reasoning.

B.S.4 Solve problems using technological means or supports.

B.S.5 Solve problems by modeling existing economic structures.

B.S.6 Solve problems by modeling existing political structures.

B.A.1 Have improved self-confidence in attempting to solve problems in a number of different contexts.

B.A.2 Be proud of the problem solving ability they have acquired.

B.A.3 Feel empowered to attempt new problem solving methods that are logical and relevant without fear of failure.

Skill Set C: Decision Making Skills

C.K.1 Identify that decision making is a process toward problem solving.

C.K.2 Identify personal bias in an argument.

C.K.3 State the difference between dialectic and rhetorical arguments.

C.K.4 Illustrate the types of decisions expected in personal, professional, and civic lives.

C.K.5 Describe the difference between rational and emotional expressions.

C.K.6 State and explain the difference between normative and naturalistic decision making.

C.K.7 Define the term dilemma.

C.K.8 State that the primary purpose of decision making is to decide on the best option, or provide maximum utility.

C.K.9 State that decision making can be made based on what is most consistent with personal beliefs or past experiences.

C.K.10 Identify that there is uncertainty and risk associated with every decision.

C.S.1 Construct a decision making process that includes identification, evidence, evaluation and modification of a problem.

C.S.2 Construct and apply a method of decision making to solve personal problems.

C.S.3 Construct and apply a method of decision making to solve professional problems.

C.S.4 Construct and apply a method of decision making to solve civic problems.

C.S.5 Examine positive and negative methods of modifying and changing decisions after they have been made.

C.S.6 Examine circumstances by which to modify, change, or renegotiate a decision.

Attitude Outcomes: (Students will)

C.A.1 Acknowledge that a commitment needs to be made upon making a decision.

C.A.2 Take ownership of decisions made using the decision making skills.

C.A.3 Understand that decisions require a course of action that is intended to yield results that are satisfying for special individuals.

C.A.4 Reflect on decisions made in their life and decide if they were appropriate or not.

Skill Set D: Communication Skills

Knowledge outcomes: (students will be able to).

D.K.1 Identify factors affecting communication.

D.K.2 State that communication involves more than one person.

D.K.3 Identify and explore the roles of speaker and listener in any conversation.

D.K.4 List and explore different environments involving communication (i.e.; formal language vs. slang, workplace vs. home life).

D.K.5 Describe the difference between teamwork and collaboration.

D.K.6 Describe what effective and ineffective communication looks, sounds, and feels like.

D.K.7 Explain the role of respect, honesty, fairness, and reason in any communication interaction.

D.S.1 Model and illustrate different conflict resolution strategies.

D.S.2 Identify and illustrate factors affecting teamwork.

D.S.3 Communicate effectively with peers while working collaboratively as a team.

D.S.4 Communicate effectively with teachers and parents regarding conflicts and successes.

D.S.5 Communicate clearly, logically, and precisely in verbal and written modes.

D.S.6 Ask and accept help in communicating when needed.

D.A.1 Feel empowered to communicate with peers.

D.A.2 Have confidence in the skill of communicating to discuss difficult issues with parents, teachers, and employers.

D.A.3 Feel empowered to ask and accept help by communicating in an appropriate fashion without fear of rejection or judgment.

Course Assessment

The assessment for this course is by way of individual student improvement in conjunction with final skill aptitude of the above stated skill sets by course end. This improvement and aptitude can be measured through a number of different means and will depend on the structure of the course as arranged and organized by the teacher. Outlined below are some classroom activities and possible assessments that might be of benefit to teachers planning this course.


A pre and post written statement of the intention for being in the course and the problems and skills a student would like to solve and understand.

Assessed formatively (both pre and post) for critical thinking skills such as clarity of work, logic, reasoning, and evidence provided.

Pre and post formative assessments then evaluated for level of improvement.

Debate as a form of argument, decision making, communication and problem solving.

Following and respecting debate rules and roles of speaker/listener.

Utilizing rubrics for argument, decision making, communication and problem solving.

Market modeling—modeling the course as a competitive market with students given roles based on an application from them on their expertise and motivation toward the given problem. The roles would dictate a level of income for the student as well as a level of responsibility and leadership for them.

Assessed by way of improvement and movement ‘up the market ladder’—i.e.—what by way of promotion, what conflict resolution strategies or problems needed to be overcome, how long did it take to resolve or solve the problem?

Take into account rationale for why students have chosen their particular role (provided this rationale is given in a clear, appropriate, relevant, and significant manner)—i.e. standard of living, other priorities at the time etc.

Socratic Seminar on issue at hand to interpret and illustrate improvement in speaking and communicating an argument.

Assessed by way of quality and strength of participation and argument.

Resume of students skills ascertained and improved on through the course.

Cross curricular problems and projects modeling real life i.e. effects of globalization, and marketization on students by multinational companies. Projects to be displayed and presented to the class.

Assessed by way of rubrics (teacher and peer).

Likert scale survey for teacher and student on level of improvement of outcomes throughout the course.

Utilization of pre-existing rubrics i.e. Decision Making (Jonassen 2012 ).

Cornell CT Test level X for critical thinking as a pre and post test? (a quantitative assessment ordered from ) (Ennis and Millman 1985 ).

Assessment strategies as well as possible outcomes for skill-sets can be found in Greenstein’s ( 2012 ), Assessing 21st Century Skills: A guide to evaluating mastery and authentic learning .

It is expected that all students will learn skill-set outcomes through the duration of the course. The question is how much will be learned? The answer depends on the individual student as well as their incoming skill level in each given area. In this case equal does not mean equitable and the goal of assessment for this course is to ascertain what improvement as well as final level of understanding an individual student has.

It should be stated that the nature of the course is student-centered and driven by the student. The teacher, however, is responsible for setting up the course and providing students an opportunity to explore this learning. Therefore, the teacher must come up with valid, rich, open activities for students to work within while at the same time ideally allowing the students to come up with the problems, scenarios, and arguments with which to discuss and solve. Explicit instruction may be necessary but should be severely limited allowing students ample opportunity for application and practice.

It is highly recommended that students work the duration of this course in groups (and differing groups) as it is here that communication, collaboration, and teamwork skills will be developed. It is further recommended that students be a part of the assessment process in deciding on the nature of the assessments, the criteria for the assessment, and in self and peer assessment. Allowing students to direct and lead requires trust and openness on the part of the teacher but is in fact part of the learning process.

Learning Resources

Since the premise of this course is for the teacher to be a ‘guide on the side’ and not a ‘sage on the stage’, there are no required learning resources for this course. However, it is recommended that teachers undertake professional development in the skill-set areas to ensure they have developed the necessary skills to pass on. Books such as: Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher by Brookfield, Learning to Solve Problems: A Handbook for Designing Problem - Solving Learning Environments by Jonassen, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , Crucial Conversations, and The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking would be an introduction. Journal articles and professional publications regarding 21st century skills and the development of these would be helpful. Finally, professional development seminars or sessions by leading experts such as Richard Paul from The Foundation for Critical Thinking would be almost necessary.

From this learning, the teacher will need to develop a tool kit of resources at their disposal in which to best help their students. The nature of the course being student-centered will require a teacher to be flexible in the work that is undertaken. The teacher will also have to be reactive to issues, problems, and learning scenarios that take place in the classroom. However, as this is a course in allowing the students to ascertain skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and communication, it must be mentioned that it is the students who are doing the brunt of the work and actually doing the problem solving and critical thinking themselves. For instance, it would not be sufficient for a question to be: What book should we read to learn critical thinking? And have the answer to the problem be: go ask the teacher and he/she will tell us. Rather the answer should be: let us go to the library or use the internet and find out which book is the best book. What options are available? What type of critical thinking are we looking at? What is critical thinking? Who are the leading experts in the field? What bias do they have? Where can I actually find or order these books? What cost and what is my budget? In the end, a seemingly simple question—is wrought with learning experiences by the student provided the teacher take a backburner to the work and allow the student to take the reins.

Course Evaluation

The open nature of this course allows for a teacher at any time to make changes to the structure, organization, and assessment of the course due to evaluation and reflection. The evaluation and reflection of this course should therefore be ongoing by the student and teacher immersed in the learning environment. The teacher is responsible for periodically seeking feedback from students regarding the nature of the course, as well as professionally reflecting themselves on the presentation of the course to their students.

The teacher is also responsible for keeping records of the course, as well as feedback collected that identifies the (a) strengths and weaknesses of the course as it is being facilitated, (b) activities and assessments being implemented in the course, and (c) improvements to the course for a later date. The teacher should ideally create a long range plan (or running calendar) that becomes more descriptive as the course proceeds, about the level of difficulty, quality of problems, activities, resources, feedback, and assessments being utilized in the course to reference at a later date. Finally, the teacher should be able to provide evidence to the local school authority at any time in order for the authority to monitor, evaluate, and report progress should it be required.

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Carlgren, T. Communication, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving: A Suggested Course for All High School Students in the 21st Century. Interchange 44 , 63–81 (2013).

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Received : 19 April 2013

Accepted : 21 November 2013

Published : 05 December 2013

Issue Date : December 2013


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Updated November, 2022 File C6-56

Good communication can help solve problems.

When organizing and operating a value-added business, disagreements can arise among committee members or project managers over how to solve problems facing the project or business. Using good communication skills can help the group find solutions. Practice the suggestions below to improve your communication skills during problem solving discussions.

The following communication rules can improve problem solving:

  • State your problem and interests. Acknowledge others' problems and interests. Avoid name calling and answering a complaint with another complaint.
  • Listen to the other parties and know their interests.  Ask “why,” “why not” and “what if” questions to better understand. Use silence to demonstrate you are willing to listen or to help move the other side into a position to listen more effectively to you.
  • Offer an apology when appropriate.
  • Stay in the present and the future. The past has already been lived.
  • Stick to the present topic.
  • Look for areas of agreement.
  • Set the time for the next discussion and take a time out if the discussion deteriorates.
  • Use mutual restating until a party who continues to feel misunderstood feels understood appropriately.
  • State requests for change in behavioral terms. Don’t ask for changes in attitude or feeling just to be different.
  • Consistently express verbal and body messages. If negative feelings must be expressed, only use words. Show confidence in the process, relax, use good eye contact and show interest.

Nonverbal communication is important. The persuasiveness of a message depends on:

  • Nonverbal communication - includes facial expression, movement and gestures.
  • Voice communication - includes the tone with which the message is conveyed such as confidence, desperation, anger or condescension.
  • Data communication - includes the actual meaning of words and any supporting information.

You can listen to each other and still have differences. These characteristics apply:

  • Listen to understand.
  • Accept that what the other person is saying is true for him/her. Respect the others’ feelings.
  • Repeat for clarification.
  • Find a point of agreement.
  • State or restate your own opinion.
  • Acknowledge another’s statements and state, “I will give it serious consideration before I take further action.”

When you receive feedback:

  • Listen carefully and repeat what you heard.
  • Ask to fully understand.
  • Say thank you and state that you will consider their comments before taking further action.
  • Seriously reflect on what you heard before taking further action.

When you give feedback:

  • Separate the behavior from the person. Be specific and factual about behaviors. Avoid value judgments and demands for a change in attitude or emotion.
  • Describe how you feel.
  • Describe how this affected you.
  • Be sensitive and respectful. Present this feedback as a gift, then leave it behind.

Mary Holz-Clause, former co-director, Ag Marketing Resource Center , former associate vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach

Mary Holz-Clause

Former co-director, ag marketing resource center former associate vice president for isu extension and outreach view more from this author.

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Communication Skills, Problem-Solving Ability, Understanding of Patients’ Conditions, and Nurse’s Perception of Professionalism among Clinical Nurses: A Structural Equation Model Analysis

This study was intended to confirm the structural relationship between clinical nurse communication skills, problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ conditions, and nurse’s perception of professionalism. Due to changes in the healthcare environment, it is becoming difficult to meet the needs of patients, and it is becoming very important to improve the ability to perform professional nursing jobs to meet expectations. In this study method, structural model analysis was applied to identify factors influencing the perception of professionalism in nurses. The subjects of this study were 171 nurses working at general hospitals in city of Se, Ga, and Geu. Data analysis included frequency analysis, identification factor analysis, reliability analysis, measurement model analysis, model fit, and intervention effects. In the results of the study, nurse’s perception of professionalism was influenced by factors of communication skills and understanding of the patient’s condition, but not by their ability to solve problems. Understanding of patient’s condition had a mediating effect on communication skills and nursing awareness. Communication skills and understanding of the patient’s condition greatly influenced the nurse’s perception of professionalism. To improve the professionalism of clinical nurses, nursing managers need to emphasize communication skills and understanding of the patient’s condition. The purpose of this study was to provide a rationale for developing a program to improve job skills by strengthening the awareness of professional positions of clinical nurses to develop nursing quality of community.

1. Introduction

Changes in the environment related to climate and pollution are causing health problems and various diseases such as respiratory and circulatory problems, metabolic disorders, and chronic diseases. Moreover, access to modern healthcare facilities has created greater expectations among patients receiving personalized healthcare and high-quality healthcare. As the difficulty of satisfying the demands of patients increases, enhancing nursing capabilities has become increasingly important [ 1 ]. To improve this, hospitals are making efforts to change the internal and external environments so as to increase the number of nurses, reduce the length of hospital stays, and enable efficient nursing practice. Despite these efforts, the workloads of nurses and the demand for clinical nurses are continuously increasing [ 2 , 3 ]. As a result, nurses are developing negative attitudes and prejudices toward patients, as well as negative perceptions of professionalism. To address this, the cultivation and strengthening of nursing professionals’ capabilities is essential.

Nurses’ perception of professionalism is an important element influencing their ability to perform independent nursing, and a good perception of their profession results in a positive approach to solving patients’ problems [ 4 , 5 ]. In addition, the characteristics and abilities of individual nurses can influence the level of care and enable them to understand patients, solve problems, and provide holistic care, which is the ultimate goal of the nursing process [ 6 , 7 ]. Thus, patients expect nurses to not only have medical knowledge of the disease but to also be able to comprehensively assess the patient’s problems and be independent and creative in nursing [ 8 ]. This attitude can have a major impact on the quality of nursing services and can inspire pride in the nursing occupation and professional achievement. These findings can also be used by nurses to prevent burnout and maintain professionalism [ 9 , 10 ].

To respond to the increasing demands for diverse qualitative and quantitative nursing services and to strengthen the capabilities of nursing professionals, efforts have been made to move nursing education toward scientific and creative education. However, in point-of-care environments, not only are nurses prevented from making independent decisions regarding nursing, but also the diverse personal capabilities necessary for such independent behavior are not sufficiently developed [ 11 ]. Therefore, it is important to enhance clinical nurses’ perceptions of the nursing profession; maintain a balance of nursing capabilities; provide novel, high-quality nursing services; and identify assistive nursing education methods and obstructive environmental factors [ 10 ].

Communication skills involve a person’s ability to accurately understand (through both verbal and non-verbal indications) another person, and sufficiently deliver what the person desires [ 12 , 13 ]. Good communication skills are a primary requirement for providing professional nursing services because they enable an in-depth understanding of patients, solving of complicated problems, and reasonable and logical analysis of situations [ 14 , 15 , 16 ]. When effective communication takes place, nurses’ problem-solving abilities and perceived professionalism strengthen [ 17 , 18 ].

According to Park [ 19 ], nurses have difficulties in interpersonal relationships when social tension and interaction skills are low and communication is poor. In addition, these factors are negatively affected not only in the work of the nurse but also in the perception of the profession. Communication skills are associated with both the formation of relationships with patients and the ability to perform holistic nursing [ 20 ]. In order to improve and develop the overall nursing function of a clinical nurse like this, it is important to complement the relevant integrated nursing abilities [ 21 , 22 ].

Previous studies have investigated the importance of communication skills for nurses, and the relationships between nurses’ problem-solving ability and their understanding of the patients’ conditions. Nonetheless, data that can comprehensively explain the structural relationships between these qualities and how they affect the job perception of nurses remains insufficient.

Therefore, the present study aims to identify the structural model for the relationships between nurses’ communication skills, problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ conditions, and nurse’s perception of professionalism. Additionally, the study provides basic data necessary for developing programs for improving nursing abilities.

The purpose of this study is to construct a theoretical model that explains the structural relationships among nurses’ communication skills, problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ conditions, and nurse’s perception of professionalism. In addition, the study aimed to verify this model using empirical data.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. study design.

To create and analyze the structural model for clinical nurses’ communication skills, problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ conditions, and nurse’s perception of professionalism, the theoretical relationships among the variables were developed based on related theories.

In this study, communication skills were set as the exogenous variables, whereas problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ conditions, and perception of the nursing occupation were set as the endogenous variables. In addition, communication skills were set as the independent variables and nursing job perceptions as the dependent variable. This is because the ability of communication helps to maintain an intimate relationship with the patient and to assess the patient’s condition through each other’s relationship and to solve problems and develop correct understanding. Communication skills, problem-solving ability, and understanding of patients’ conditions were set as the parameters for determining causality. The research model is shown in Figure 1 .

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Study model.

2.2. Study Participants

The structural equation model has less than 12 measurement variables. The sample size usually requires 200 to 400 participants [ 23 ]. A total of 250 participants were selected for the study. In line with ethical standards and practices, participants received a full explanation on the purpose of the study. They were briefed that the information collected would be used for research purposes only. Furthermore, they were informed that they could withdraw from the study at any time.

2.3. Data Collection Method

Data collection for this study was performed by two researchers unrelated to the hospital from April 20 to May 1, 2019. A questionnaire was used to collect data from clinical nurses working in five hospitals in Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Gangwon provinces. Of the 250 questionnaires disseminated, we received 225 completed returns. However, 54 were considered inaccurate, inconsistent, or unsatisfactory for coding purposes. Thus, 171 fully completed valid questionnaires comprised the final dataset for analysis.

2.4. Research Instruments

2.4.1. communication skills.

In this study, the communication skill instrument developed by Lee and Jang [ 24 ] was used. Its contents were modified and supplemented to clearly understand the communication skills of nurses. Our questionnaire comprised 20 questions with five questions each concerning “interpretation ability,” “self-reveal,” “leading communication,” and “understanding others’ perspectives.” The answers were rated on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 0 = “strongly disagree” to 4 = “strongly agree.” For this study, the Cronbach’s alpha value was 0.81.

2.4.2. Problem-Solving Ability

The tool developed by Lee [ 25 ] was used to measure the problem-solving ability of clinical nurses. The survey comprised 25 questions, with five questions each concerning “problem recognition,” “information-gathering,” “divergent thinking,” “planning power,” and “evaluation.” Items were scored on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 0 = “strongly disagree” to 4 = “strongly agree.” The internal consistency confidence value Cronbach’s alpha was 0.79.

2.4.3. Understanding Patients’ Condition

To measure nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions, we developed 10 questions by revising and supplementing items from an existing understanding-measurement tool [ 26 ]. With a total of ten questions, we measured “diagnostic name,” “patient-treatment planning,” and “nursing intervention processes.” Items were scored using a five-point Likert scale ranging from 0 = “strongly disagree” to 4 = “strongly agree.” The internal consistency confidence value Cronbach’s alpha was 0.81.

2.4.4. Nurse’s Perception of Professionalism

Nurse’s perception of professionalism was measured using a tool developed by revising the 25 questions created by Kang et al. [ 1 ]. With a total of ten questions, we measured “vocation” and “autonomy.” Items were scored using a five-point Likert scale. The internal consistency confidence value Cronbach’s alpha was 0.81.

2.5. Data Analysis

To identify the relationships among the set variables, the data were computed statistically using the program included in IBM SPSS 24.0 and AMOS 23.0. (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA). The analysis methods were as follows:

  • Frequency analysis was conducted to identify the subjects’ demographic and general characteristics.
  • The reliability of the questionnaire was verified using Cronbach’s α coefficients.
  • Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was performed to verify the convergent validity of the selected measurement tool.
  • The normality of the data was determined through analyzing the skewness and kurtosis of the measurement variables.
  • The fitness of the model was verified using structural equation modeling (SEM).
  • Bootstrapping was utilized to verify the mediating effect in the set study model, as well as the mediating effects of the nurses’ problem-solving ability and understanding of patients’ conditions.

3.1. Demographic Characteristics

The demographic and general characteristics of the study subjects are shown in Table 1 . Overall, 71 respondents were aged 25–29 years (41.5%), representing the most numerous age group. University graduates comprised 113 (66.1%) of the sample, while 50 (29.2%) held graduate degrees, with eight (4.7%) holding master’s degrees. Fifty-three respondents (31.0%) had over seven years of clinical experience, 43 (25.1%) had two to three years of experience, 42 (24.6%) had four to six years of experience, and 33 (19.3%) had less than two years of experience. Additionally, 121 respondents (70.8%) worked at secondary hospitals, while 50 (29.2%) worked at tertiary hospitals; 159 respondents (93.0%) reported that they were general nurses.

Participants’ general characteristics ( N = 171, %).

3.2. Technical Metrics of the Measurement Variables

The multivariate normality of the findings related to the factors of the latent variables was verified through standard deviations, skewness, and kurtosis. The present study meets the criteria for the skewness and kurtosis values mentioned by Hu and Bentler [ 27 ].

All sub-factors of the latent variables secured normality.

In this study, a normal distribution was obtained for each of the four sub-factors of communication skills, five sub-factors of problem-solving ability, three sub-factors for understanding the patient’s condition, and two sub-factors of the nurse’s perception of professionalism as shown in Table 2 .

Technical metrics of the measurement variables ( N = 171).

3.3. Correlations between the Measured Variables

The correlations between the measurement variables were analyzed using Pearson’s product–moment correlation coefficient analysis ( Table 3 ). The correlations among all individual measurement variables were found to show a positive correlation.

Correlations between the observed variables.

3.4. Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Measurement Model

This study examined how well the measurement variables represented the latent variables in the measurement model. Each set path coefficient was evaluated using non-standardization factors, standardization factors, and standard errors. The path coefficients refer to the factor loadings in CFA. The standardization factors of the individual paths were shown to be at least 0.50 (except for vocation: 0.36), and the critical ratio (CR) was at least 1.96. This indicated that the measurement tool had good convergent validity ( Table 4 ).

Confirmatory factor analysis of the measurement model.

*** p < 0.001; CR: critical ratio.

3.5. Verification of the Structural Model

The structural model for relationships among clinical nurses’ communication skills, problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ condition, and nurse’s perception of professionalism that would be suitable for predicting the influencing relationships was verified. Since the fitness index of the modified model was shown to be higher than that of the initial model, the final model for this study was set as shown in Figure 2 .

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Final model. * χ 2 = 124.074 (df = 61, p <0.001), GFI(Goodness of Fit Index)= 0.90, RMSEA(Root Mean Square Error Approximation)=0.07, NFI(Normed Fit Index)=0.87, IFI(Incremental Fit Index)= 0.93, TLI(Tucker-Lewis Index)= 0.91, CFI(Comparative Fit Index)= 0.92.

3.6. Influencing Relationships between Variables of the Study Model

The standardization factors and CR values of the final model were examined to determine whether there were direct relationships between communication skills, problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ conditions, and nurse’s perception of professionalism. The results are shown

For the relationship between communication ski in Table 5 .lls and problem-solving ability, the standardization factor was 0.85 and the CR value was 7.37; communication skills showed a statistically significant effect. Consequently. The relationship between communication skills and understanding of patients’ conditions also showed a statistically significant effect. Consequently, Hypothesis 1 was supported.

The relationships between the human effects of the measurement model.

* p < 0.05, *** p < 0.001; CR: critical ratio.

For the relationship between communication skills and nurse’s perception of professionalism, the standardization factor was 0.54, and the CR value was 2.02. Communication skills showed a statistically significant effect. Consequently. For the relationship between problem-solving ability and nurse’s perception of professionalism, the standardization factor was −0.056, and the CR value was −0.39. Problem-solving ability had no statistically significant effect. Consequently.

The relationship between nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions and nurse’s perception of professionalism had a statistically significant effect. Consequently Figure 2 shows the influencing relationships between the study variables of the final study model, considering non-standardization and standardization factors of the relationships between the study variables.

3.7. Direct and Indirect Effects of the Variables

To grasp the significance of the mediating effect in the final study model, the direct and indirect effects of each variable were examined. To examine the mediating effect of the problem-solving ability and understanding of patients’ conditions variables, the bootstrapping method provided by the AMOS 23.0 program included in IBM was utilized. The results are shown in Table 6 .

Mediating effect analysis.

* p < 0.05, *** p < 0.001

The indirect effect of communication skills on nurse’s perception of professionalism through nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions was statistically significant. That is, clinical nurses’ communication skills have an indirect positive effect on their nurse’s perception of professionalism, with nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions acting as a parameter. We also found that the effect of communication skills on nurse’s perception of professionalism was statistically significant. Therefore, communication skills have a partially mediated effect on nurse’s perception of professionalism, with understanding of patients’ conditions acting as a parameter. However, communication skills were found to have no indirect positive effect on nurse’s perception of professionalism when problem-solving ability was set as a parameter.

4. Discussion

In this study, we developed and analyzed a hypothetical model regarding clinical nurses’ communication skills, problem-solving ability, and understanding of patients’ conditions, and how these factors influence their nurse’s perception of professionalism.

4.1. Effect of Communication Skills on Nurses’ Perception of Professionalism

Communication skills were found to have statistically significant effects on their relationship with nurses’ problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ conditions, and nurse’s perception of professionalism. Nurses’ communication skills not only affected their problem-solving ability but also their understanding of patients’ conditions and nurse’s perception of professionalism. Good communication among nurses can reduce uncomfortable situations and improve interactions with patients, which can consequently enhance problem-solving [ 28 ]. Supporting our findings, Ancel [ 17 ] reported that communication skills afford the maintenance of amicable cooperative relationships with patients across diverse medical classes, thereby enhancing the efficiency of nursing-related problem-solving.

Nurses’ communication is also closely related to their understanding of patients’ conditions, particularly regarding the treatment processes. Nurses frequently experience difficulties as a result of poor communication with not only patients and their family members but also other medical personnel. Further, poor delivery of explanations and questions affects nurses’ understanding of patients’ situations and problems, and patients can also feel concern regarding whether nurses accurately understand their problems [ 29 ]. Nurses frequently experience psychological abuse when communicating with patients and develop stress or discomfort [ 30 ]; this can lead to distrustful relationships with and inhibited understanding of patients [ 31 , 32 ]. Vermeir et al. [ 18 ] reported that scientific approaches are required to understand patients in-depth. To accurately understand both oneself and others, the most important method is successful communication. Such findings support the present study’s indication that nurses’ communication is a basic means of solving nursing problems, with both actions being interrelated.

Our finding that nurses’ communication skills are structurally related to their nurse’s perception of professionalism supports the findings of many previous studies. Regarding nurse’s perception of professionalism, Adams et al. [ 33 ] as well as Lee and Kim [ 34 ] explained that a good perception leads to higher-level capabilities, fostering high-level nursing of patients and the development of autonomous vocation. The above studies reported that, since nurses’ communication skills are related to their nurse’s perception of professionalism, communication skills should be considered a predictor of success. Further, McGlynn et al. [ 35 ] recommended positively reinforcing communication skills to improve nurse’s perception of professionalism. This supports the findings of the present study, indicating that communication and nursing professional perception are interrelated.

Thus, communication skills are important for nursing patients. They enable nurses to accurately understand patients’ problems, serve (by forming patient trust) an important function in the process of administering nursing interventions, and positively affect nurses’ perception of their profession. As such, each concept is important. However, nurses working in the clinic are critically aware of their professionalism. In order to reinforce this, communication skills are required, and the emphasis is placed on strengthening the nurses’ ability to solve problems as well as assess and understand patients. As a result, communication skills play an important role in helping nurses understand patients’ problems accurately, build patient trust in nursing interventions, and create structural relationships that have a positive impact on the perception of nursing occupations. Therefore, efforts to improve nurses’ communication skills not only improve their problem-solving abilities and understanding of patients’ conditions but also improve their nurse’s perception of professionalism. To maintain the professionalism of nurses, “competency development programs” would be helpful, thereby emphasizing the need for their application in nursing colleges and clinical practice.

4.2. Relationship between Nurses’ Problem-Solving Ability and Nurse’s Perception of Professionalism

We found clinical nurses’ problem-solving ability to have no positive effect on their perception of professionalism. This contrasts with previous studies, which reported that problem-solving ability is helpful for such perception of professionalism [ 36 ]. We also found that problem-solving ability does not affect nursing professional perception through a mediating effect.

The present findings indicate that the distinctiveness of the fields of nursing should not be overlooked. In nursing organizations that have a culture of discouraging diversity, when negative results are obtained from attempts to solve nursing problems, confusion regarding the identity of nursing professionals means perception of the profession is not reinforced; in many cases, the opposite perception is formed. Furthermore, for those in lower-level positions, nurse’s perception of professionalism is thought to be low because they cannot voice their opinions and have difficulties such as excessive workloads. Although few previous studies have directly examined this, Vermeir et al. [ 18 ] explained that, as the role expectation for nurses increases, factors for job turnover increase as a result of a sense of confusion regarding the nurses’ role and increases in stress. These findings indicate that factors that degrade nurses’ problem-solving ability induce skepticism regarding nursing and possibly career change, thereby supporting the findings of this study.

However, in the present study, positive results with low levels of relevancy in the structural model but high correlations were found. It is expected that, if nurses’ environmental conditions are improved and their nursing capabilities are developed so that they can solve nursing problems with confidence, their nursing professional perception will improve.

4.3. Relationship between Nurses’ Understanding of Patients’ Conditions and Nurse’s Perception of Professionalism

Our findings indicated that the relationship between nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions and nurse’s perception of professionalism was statistically significant. This supports Nilsson et al. [ 21 ] and Philip et al. [ 29 ], who reported that, in the fields of nursing, when patients accurately understand nurses’ instructions or explanations and health information, they can participate in, independently adjust, and engage in creative decision-making related to self-nursing.

McGlynn et al. [ 35 ] suggested that understanding patient problems is an important element in resolving negative situations; meanwhile, Heo and Lim [ 37 ] indicated that clinical nurses provide high-quality nursing services and develop self-efficacy when they apply professional knowledge and a desire to understand patients’ problems. These study findings accord with our own findings.

The aforementioned findings suggest that the development and application of programs that can enhance nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions should be emphasized, and that studies of various patient types, the characteristics of patients by age group and hospital areas, as well as the introduction of simulation education programs to improve nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions should be continuously implemented.

5. Conclusions

This study aimed to verify the structural relationships between clinical nurses’ communication skills and their problem-solving ability, understanding of patients’ conditions, and nurse’s perception of professionalism. We also aimed to identify, through a structural model, the mediating effects of nurses’ problem-solving ability and understanding of patients’ conditions in the relationship between communication skills and nurse’s perception of professionalism.

The findings of this study are as follows (all significance levels = 0.05). In the relationship between communication skills and problem-solving ability, the value of the standardization factor was 0.85 and the CR value was 7.37, indicating that communication skills had a statistically significant effect. In the relationship between nurses’ communication skills and understanding of patients’ conditions, the value of the standardization factor was 0.61 and the CR value was 6.35, indicating that communication skills had a statistically significant effect. In the relationship between communication skills and nurse’s perception of professionalism, the value of the standardization factor was 0.54 and the CR value was 2.02, indicating that communication skills had a statistically significant effect. However, in the relationship between problem-solving ability and nurse’s perception of professionalism, the value of the standardization factor was −0.05 and the CR value was −0.39, indicating that problem-solving ability has no statistically significant effect. Finally, in the relationship between nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions and nurse’s perception of professionalism, the value of the standardization factor was 0.56, and the CR value was 2.14, indicating that nurses’ understanding of patients’ conditions has a statistically significant effect.

There are some limitations to this study. First, as we only examined nurses at secondary and tertiary university hospitals, our findings may not be generalizable to all clinical nurses. Replication studies examining a range of levels of medical institutions and associated workers are necessary. Second, the structural relationship between problem-solving ability and the nurse’s perception of professionalism turned out to be insignificant or mediated. Subsequent studies on the various approaches to revisit this structural relationship should be performed. Third, theories should be systematically developed to establish the values of the nursing profession, and additional studies are necessary to explore other variables.


We would like to thank the staff nurses who participated in the survey and took the time to complete the initial assessment.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.Y.K. and I.O.S.; methodology, A.Y.K.; software, I.O.S.; validation, A.Y.K. and I.O.S.; formal analysis, A.Y.K. and I.O.S.; investigation, A.Y.K.; resources, A.Y.K.; data curation, A.Y.K.; writing—original draft preparation, A.Y.K.; writing—review and editing, A.Y.K. and I.O.S.; visualization, A.Y.K. and I.O.S.; supervision, I.O.S.; project administration, I.O.S. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Critical Thinking and Effective Communication: Enhancing Interpersonal Skills for Success

communication and critical thinking

In today’s fast-paced world, effective communication and critical thinking have become increasingly important skills for both personal and professional success. Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze situations, gather information, and make sound judgments, while effective communication involves not only conveying ideas clearly but also actively listening and responding to others. These two crucial abilities are intertwined, as critical thinking often mediates information processing, leading to a more comprehensive understanding and ultimately enhancing communication.

The importance of critical thinking and effective communication cannot be overstated, as they are essential in various aspects of life, including problem-solving, decision-making, and relationship-building. Additionally, these skills are indispensable in the workplace, as they contribute to overall productivity and foster a positive and collaborative environment. Developing and nurturing critical thinking and effective communication abilities can significantly improve both personal and professional experiences, leading to increased success in various realms of life.

Key Takeaways

  • Critical thinking and effective communication are essential skills for personal and professional success.
  • These abilities play a vital role in various aspects of life, including problem-solving, decision-making, and relationship-building.
  • Developing and honing critical thinking and communication skills can lead to increased productivity and a more positive, collaborative environment.

Critical Thinking Fundamentals

Skill and knowledge.

Critical thinking is an essential cognitive skill that individuals should cultivate in order to master effective communication. It is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understand the logical connections between ideas, identify and construct arguments, and evaluate information to make better decisions in personal and professional life [1] . A well-developed foundation of knowledge is crucial for critical thinkers, as it enables them to analyze situations, evaluate arguments, and draw, inferences from the information they process.

Analysis and Evidence

A key component of critical thinking is the ability to analyze information, which involves breaking down complex problems or arguments into manageable parts to understand their underlying structure [2] . Analyzing evidence is essential in order to ascertain the validity and credibility of the information, which leads to better decision-making. Critical thinkers must consider factors like the source’s credibility, the existence of potential biases, and any relevant areas of expertise before forming judgments.

Clarity of Thought

Clarity of thought is an integral element of critical thinking and effective communication. Being able to articulate ideas clearly and concisely is crucial for efficient communication [3] . Critical thinkers are skilled at organizing their thoughts and communicating them in a structured manner, which is vital for ensuring the transmission of accurate and relevant information.

In summary, mastering critical thinking fundamentals, including skill and knowledge, analysis of evidence, and clarity of thought, is essential for effective communication. Cultivating these abilities will enable individuals to better navigate their personal and professional lives, fostering stronger, more efficient connections with others.

Importance of Critical Thinking

Workplace and leadership.

Critical thinking is a vital skill for individuals in the workplace, particularly for those in leadership roles. It contributes to effective communication, enabling individuals to articulate their thoughts clearly and understand the perspectives of others. Furthermore, critical thinking allows leaders to make informed decisions by evaluating available information and considering potential consequences. Developing this skill can also empower team members to solve complex problems by exploring alternative solutions and applying rational thinking.

Decisions and Problem-Solving

In both personal and professional contexts, decision-making and problem-solving are crucial aspects of daily life. Critical thinking enables individuals to analyze situations, identify possible options, and weigh the pros and cons of each choice. By employing critical thinking skills, individuals can arrive at well-informed decisions that lead to better outcomes. Moreover, applying these skills can help to identify the root cause of a problem and devise innovative solutions, thereby contributing to overall success and growth.

Confidence and Emotions

Critical thinking plays a significant role in managing one’s emotions and cultivating self-confidence. By engaging in rational and objective thinking, individuals can develop a clearer understanding of their own beliefs and values. This awareness can lead to increased self-assurance and the ability to effectively articulate one’s thoughts and opinions. Additionally, critical thinking can help individuals navigate emotionally-charged situations by promoting logical analysis and appropriate emotional responses. Ultimately, honing critical thinking skills can establish a strong foundation for effective communication and emotional intelligence.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is essential in building strong relationships and achieving desired outcomes. It involves the exchange of thoughts, opinions, and information so that the intended message is received and understood with clarity and purpose. This section will focus on three key aspects of effective communication: Verbal Communication, Nonverbal Communication, and Visual Communication.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is the use of spoken or written words to convey messages. It is vital to choose the right words, tone, and structure when engaging in verbal communication. Some elements to consider for effective verbal communication include:

  • Being clear and concise: Focus on the main points and avoid unnecessary information.
  • Active listening: Give full attention to the speaker and ask questions for clarification.
  • Appropriate language: Use language that is easily understood by the audience.
  • Emotional intelligence: Understand and manage emotions during communication.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication involves gestures, body language, facial expressions, and other visual cues that complement verbal messages. It plays a crucial role in conveying emotions and intentions, and can often have a significant impact on the effectiveness of communication. Some key aspects of nonverbal communication are:

  • Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact shows that you are attentive and engaged.
  • Posture: Good posture indicates confidence and credibility.
  • Gestures and facial expressions: Use appropriate gestures and facial expressions to support your message.
  • Proximity: Maintain a comfortable distance from your audience to establish rapport.

Visual Communication

Visual communication involves the use of visual aids such as images, graphs, charts, and diagrams to support or enhance verbal messages. It can help to make complex information more understandable and engaging. To maximize the effectiveness of visual communication, consider the following tips:

  • Relevance: Ensure that the visual aids are relevant to the message and audience.
  • Simplicity: Keep the design and content simple for easy comprehension.
  • Consistency: Use a consistent style, format, and color scheme throughout the presentation.
  • Accessibility: Make sure that the visual aids are visible and clear to all audience members.

In conclusion, understanding and implementing verbal, nonverbal, and visual communication skills are essential for effective communication. By combining these elements, individuals can establish strong connections, and successfully relay their messages to others.

Critical Thinking Skills in Communication

Listening and analyzing.

Developing strong listening and analyzing skills is crucial for critical thinking in communication. This involves actively paying attention to what others are saying and sifting through the information to identify key points. Taking a step back to analyze and evaluate messages helps ensure a clear understanding of the topic.

By improving your listening and analyzing abilities, you become more aware of how people communicate their thoughts and ideas. Active listening helps you dig deeper and discover the underlying connections between concepts. This skill enhances your ability to grasp the core meaning and identify any ambiguities or inconsistencies.

Biases and Perspective

Recognizing biases and considering different perspectives are essential components of critical thinking in communication. Everyone has preconceived notions and beliefs that can influence their understanding of information. By being aware of your biases and actively questioning them, you can strengthen your ability to communicate more effectively.

Considering other people’s perspectives allows you to view an issue from multiple angles, eventually leading to a more thorough understanding. Approaching communications with an open and receptive mind gives you a greater ability to relate and empathize with others, which in turn enhances the overall effectiveness of communication.

Problem-Solving and Questions

Critical thinking is intrinsically linked to problem-solving and asking questions. By incorporating these skills into the communication process, you become more adept at identifying issues, formulating solutions, and adapting the way you communicate to different situations.

Asking well-crafted questions helps you uncover valuable insights and points of view that may be hidden or not immediately apparent. Inquiring minds foster a more dynamic and interactive communication; promoting continuous learning, growth, and development.

Ultimately, enhancing your critical thinking skills in communication leads to better understanding, stronger connections, and more effective communication. By combining active listening, awareness of biases and perspectives, and problem-solving through questioning, you can significantly improve your ability to navigate even the most complex communications with confidence and clarity.

Improving Critical Thinking and Communication

Methods and techniques.

One approach to improve critical thinking and communication is by incorporating various methods and techniques into your daily practice. Some of these methods include:

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Analyzing information from multiple perspectives
  • Employing logical reasoning

By honing these skills, individuals can better navigate the complexities of modern life and develop more effective communication capabilities.

Problem-Solving Skills

Developing problem-solving skills is also essential for enhancing critical thinking and communication. This involves adopting a systematic framework that helps in identifying, analyzing, and addressing problems. A typical problem-solving framework includes:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Gathering relevant information
  • Evaluating possible solutions
  • Choosing the best solution
  • Implementing the chosen solution
  • Assessing the outcome and adjusting accordingly

By mastering this framework, individuals can tackle problems more effectively and communicate their solutions with clarity and confidence.

Staying on Point and Focused

Staying on point and focused is a critical aspect of effective communication. To ensure that your message is concise and clear, it is crucial to:

  • Determine the main purpose of your communication
  • Consider the needs and expectations of your audience
  • Use precise language to convey your thoughts

By maintaining focus throughout your communication, you can improve your ability to think critically and communicate more effectively.

In summary, enhancing one’s critical thinking and communication skills involves adopting various techniques, honing problem-solving skills, and staying focused during communication. By incorporating these practices into daily life, individuals can become more confident, knowledgeable, and capable communicators.

Teaching and Training Critical Thinking

Content and curriculum.

Implementing critical thinking in educational settings requires a well-designed curriculum that challenges learners to think deeply on various topics. To foster critical thinking, the content should comprise of complex problems, real-life situations, and thought-provoking questions. By using this type of content , educators can enable students to analyze, evaluate, and create their own understandings, ultimately improving their ability to communicate effectively.

Instructors and Teachers

The role of instructors and teachers in promoting critical thinking cannot be underestimated. They should be trained and equipped with strategies to stimulate thinking, provoke curiosity, and encourage students to question assumptions. Additionally, they must create a learning environment that supports the development of critical thinking by being patient, open-minded, and accepting of diverse perspectives.

Engaging Conversations

Conversations play a significant role in the development of critical thinking and effective communication skills. Instructors should facilitate engaging discussions, prompt students to explain their reasoning, and ask open-ended questions that promote deeper analysis. By doing so, learners will be able to refine their ideas, understand various viewpoints, and build their argumentation skills, leading to more effective communication overall.

Critical thinking and effective communication are two interrelated skills that significantly contribute to personal and professional success. Through the application of critical thinking , individuals can create well-structured, clear, and impactful messages.

  • Clarity of Thought : Critical thinking helps in organizing thoughts logically and coherently. When engaging in communication, this clarity provides a strong foundation for conveying ideas and opinions.
  • Active Listening : A crucial aspect of effective communication involves actively listening to the messages from others. This allows for better understanding and consideration of multiple perspectives, strengthening the critical thinking process.
  • Concise and Precise Language : Utilizing appropriate language and avoiding unnecessary jargon ensures that the message is easily understood by the target audience.

Individuals who excel in both critical thinking and communication are better equipped to navigate complex situations and collaborate with others to achieve common goals. By continuously honing these skills, one can improve their decision-making abilities and enhance their relationships, both personally and professionally. In a world where effective communication is paramount, mastering critical thinking is essential to ensuring one’s thoughts and ideas are received and understood by others.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the essential aspects of critical thinking.

Critical thinking involves the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information in order to make sound decisions and solve problems. Essential aspects of critical thinking include asking better questions , identifying and challenging assumptions, understanding different perspectives, and recognizing biases.

How do communication skills impact problem-solving?

Effective communication skills are crucial in problem-solving, as they facilitate the exchange of information, ideas, and perspectives. Clear and concise communication helps ensure that all team members understand the problem, the proposed solutions, and their roles in the process. Additionally, strong listening skills enable better comprehension of others’ viewpoints and foster collaboration.

How does language influence critical thinking?

Language plays a key role in critical thinking, as it shapes the way we interpret and express information. The choice of words, phrases, and structures can either clarify or obscure meaning. A well-structured communication promotes a better understanding of complex ideas, making it easier for individuals to think critically and apply the concepts to problem-solving.

What strategies can enhance communication in critical thinking?

To enhance communication during critical thinking, individuals should be clear and concise in expressing their thoughts, listen actively to others’ perspectives, and use critical thinking skills to analyze and evaluate the information provided. Encouraging open dialogue, asking probing questions, and being receptive to feedback can also foster a conducive environment for critical thinking.

What are the benefits of critical thinking in communication?

Critical thinking enhances communication by promoting clarity, objectivity, and logical reasoning. When we engage in critical thinking, we question assumptions, consider multiple viewpoints, and evaluate the strength of arguments. As a result, our communication becomes more thoughtful, persuasive, and effective at conveying the intended message .

How do critical thinking skills contribute to effective communication?

Critical thinking skills contribute to effective communication by ensuring that individuals are able to analyze, comprehend, and interpret the information being shared. This allows for more nuanced understanding of complex ideas and helps to present arguments logically and coherently. Additionally, critical thinking skills can aid in identifying any underlying biases or assumptions in the communicated information, thus enhancing overall clarity and effectiveness.

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Interview Questions

Comprehensive Interview Guide: 60+ Professions Explored in Detail

26 Good Examples of Problem Solving (Interview Answers)

By Biron Clark

Published: November 15, 2023

Employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure. A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers will be more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical in your approach.

But how do they measure this?

They’re going to ask you interview questions about these problem solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem solving on your resume and cover letter. So coming up, I’m going to share a list of examples of problem solving, whether you’re an experienced job seeker or recent graduate.

Then I’ll share sample interview answers to, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?”

Problem-Solving Defined

It is the ability to identify the problem, prioritize based on gravity and urgency, analyze the root cause, gather relevant information, develop and evaluate viable solutions, decide on the most effective and logical solution, and plan and execute implementation. 

Problem-solving also involves critical thinking, communication, listening, creativity, research, data gathering, risk assessment, continuous learning, decision-making, and other soft and technical skills.

Solving problems not only prevent losses or damages but also boosts self-confidence and reputation when you successfully execute it. The spotlight shines on you when people see you handle issues with ease and savvy despite the challenges. Your ability and potential to be a future leader that can take on more significant roles and tackle bigger setbacks shine through. Problem-solving is a skill you can master by learning from others and acquiring wisdom from their and your own experiences. 

It takes a village to come up with solutions, but a good problem solver can steer the team towards the best choice and implement it to achieve the desired result.

Watch: 26 Good Examples of Problem Solving

Examples of problem solving scenarios in the workplace.

  • Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else
  • Overcoming a delay at work through problem solving and communication
  • Resolving an issue with a difficult or upset customer
  • Overcoming issues related to a limited budget, and still delivering good work through the use of creative problem solving
  • Overcoming a scheduling/staffing shortage in the department to still deliver excellent work
  • Troubleshooting and resolving technical issues
  • Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker
  • Solving any problems related to money, customer billing, accounting and bookkeeping, etc.
  • Taking initiative when another team member overlooked or missed something important
  • Taking initiative to meet with your superior to discuss a problem before it became potentially worse
  • Solving a safety issue at work or reporting the issue to those who could solve it
  • Using problem solving abilities to reduce/eliminate a company expense
  • Finding a way to make the company more profitable through new service or product offerings, new pricing ideas, promotion and sale ideas, etc.
  • Changing how a process, team, or task is organized to make it more efficient
  • Using creative thinking to come up with a solution that the company hasn’t used before
  • Performing research to collect data and information to find a new solution to a problem
  • Boosting a company or team’s performance by improving some aspect of communication among employees
  • Finding a new piece of data that can guide a company’s decisions or strategy better in a certain area

Problem Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry Level Job Seekers

  • Coordinating work between team members in a class project
  • Reassigning a missing team member’s work to other group members in a class project
  • Adjusting your workflow on a project to accommodate a tight deadline
  • Speaking to your professor to get help when you were struggling or unsure about a project
  • Asking classmates, peers, or professors for help in an area of struggle
  • Talking to your academic advisor to brainstorm solutions to a problem you were facing
  • Researching solutions to an academic problem online, via Google or other methods
  • Using problem solving and creative thinking to obtain an internship or other work opportunity during school after struggling at first

You can share all of the examples above when you’re asked questions about problem solving in your interview. As you can see, even if you have no professional work experience, it’s possible to think back to problems and unexpected challenges that you faced in your studies and discuss how you solved them.

Interview Answers to “Give an Example of an Occasion When You Used Logic to Solve a Problem”

Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” since you’re likely to hear this interview question in all sorts of industries.

Example Answer 1:

At my current job, I recently solved a problem where a client was upset about our software pricing. They had misunderstood the sales representative who explained pricing originally, and when their package renewed for its second month, they called to complain about the invoice. I apologized for the confusion and then spoke to our billing team to see what type of solution we could come up with. We decided that the best course of action was to offer a long-term pricing package that would provide a discount. This not only solved the problem but got the customer to agree to a longer-term contract, which means we’ll keep their business for at least one year now, and they’re happy with the pricing. I feel I got the best possible outcome and the way I chose to solve the problem was effective.

Example Answer 2:

In my last job, I had to do quite a bit of problem solving related to our shift scheduling. We had four people quit within a week and the department was severely understaffed. I coordinated a ramp-up of our hiring efforts, I got approval from the department head to offer bonuses for overtime work, and then I found eight employees who were willing to do overtime this month. I think the key problem solving skills here were taking initiative, communicating clearly, and reacting quickly to solve this problem before it became an even bigger issue.

Example Answer 3:

In my current marketing role, my manager asked me to come up with a solution to our declining social media engagement. I assessed our current strategy and recent results, analyzed what some of our top competitors were doing, and then came up with an exact blueprint we could follow this year to emulate our best competitors but also stand out and develop a unique voice as a brand. I feel this is a good example of using logic to solve a problem because it was based on analysis and observation of competitors, rather than guessing or quickly reacting to the situation without reliable data. I always use logic and data to solve problems when possible. The project turned out to be a success and we increased our social media engagement by an average of 82% by the end of the year.

Answering Questions About Problem Solving with the STAR Method

When you answer interview questions about problem solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mention problem solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method to tell your story.

STAR stands for:

It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. So before jumping in and talking about the problem that needed solving, make sure to describe the general situation. What job/company were you working at? When was this? Then, you can describe the task at hand and the problem that needed solving. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact.

Finally, describe a positive result you got.

Whether you’re answering interview questions about problem solving or writing a cover letter, you should only choose examples where you got a positive result and successfully solved the issue.

Example answer:

Situation : We had an irate client who was a social media influencer and had impossible delivery time demands we could not meet. She spoke negatively about us in her vlog and asked her followers to boycott our products. (Task : To develop an official statement to explain our company’s side, clarify the issue, and prevent it from getting out of hand). Action : I drafted a statement that balanced empathy, understanding, and utmost customer service with facts, logic, and fairness. It was direct, simple, succinct, and phrased to highlight our brand values while addressing the issue in a logical yet sensitive way.   We also tapped our influencer partners to subtly and indirectly share their positive experiences with our brand so we could counter the negative content being shared online.  Result : We got the results we worked for through proper communication and a positive and strategic campaign. The irate client agreed to have a dialogue with us. She apologized to us, and we reaffirmed our commitment to delivering quality service to all. We assured her that she can reach out to us anytime regarding her purchases and that we’d gladly accommodate her requests whenever possible. She also retracted her negative statements in her vlog and urged her followers to keep supporting our brand.

What Are Good Outcomes of Problem Solving?

Whenever you answer interview questions about problem solving or share examples of problem solving in a cover letter, you want to be sure you’re sharing a positive outcome.

Below are good outcomes of problem solving:

  • Saving the company time or money
  • Making the company money
  • Pleasing/keeping a customer
  • Obtaining new customers
  • Solving a safety issue
  • Solving a staffing/scheduling issue
  • Solving a logistical issue
  • Solving a company hiring issue
  • Solving a technical/software issue
  • Making a process more efficient and faster for the company
  • Creating a new business process to make the company more profitable
  • Improving the company’s brand/image/reputation
  • Getting the company positive reviews from customers/clients

Every employer wants to make more money, save money, and save time. If you can assess your problem solving experience and think about how you’ve helped past employers in those three areas, then that’s a great start. That’s where I recommend you begin looking for stories of times you had to solve problems.

Tips to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

Throughout your career, you’re going to get hired for better jobs and earn more money if you can show employers that you’re a problem solver. So to improve your problem solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting. When discussing problem solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems.

Next, to get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t. Think about how you can get better at researching and analyzing a situation, but also how you can get better at communicating, deciding the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc.

Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.

You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem solving ability.

If you practice the tips above, you’ll be ready to share detailed, impressive stories and problem solving examples that will make hiring managers want to offer you the job. Every employer appreciates a problem solver, whether solving problems is a requirement listed on the job description or not. And you never know which hiring manager or interviewer will ask you about a time you solved a problem, so you should always be ready to discuss this when applying for a job.

Related interview questions & answers:

  • How do you handle stress?
  • How do you handle conflict?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed

Biron Clark

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11 Best Communication Skills for Your Resume (With Examples)

11 min read · Updated on February 13, 2024

Ken Chase

Are you properly conveying communication skills in your resume?

When it comes to employment skills, few are more important than the ability to effectively communicate with others. No matter your profession, chances are that you'll need some level of communication skill to interact with co-workers, managers, subordinates, and customers. As a result, employers who are evaluating potential hires always want to see evidence of communication skills in a resume.

But which communication skills should you include in your resume to make the best possible impression on employers?

In this post, we'll explain why you need to highlight these skills in your resume, examine 11 of the top communication skills, and offer tips to help you demonstrate those abilities. We'll also provide examples that show you how to include this critical information.

Why should you include communication skills in your resume?

While your hard skills - specific, measurable, job-related abilities - typically form the core of any job description's required qualifications, soft skills cannot be overlooked in your resume. In fact, those interpersonal abilities can play a significant role in any hiring decision that involves two otherwise equally competent candidates. If you're competing for a job against someone with equivalent technical capabilities and experience, that difference in soft skills may determine who gets hired.

When you include communication skills in your resume, you're letting an employer know that you have interpersonal abilities that can make you a valuable member of their team. That's an important consideration for any employer, of course. Companies want new hires who can do more than just fulfill their duties; they want team players who fit well within their organization.

Related post : The Essential Steps of Your Communication Process

Types of communication skills

It's important to understand what we mean when we talk about communication skills. For our purposes, we can categorize these skills into three distinct types:

Verbal skills . These communication skills include everything from conveying information or persuading others to public speaking and dealing with customer complaints.

Written skills . Many jobs require the ability to write in a concise and informative manner. These skills can include everything from informal emails to professional briefs, client presentations, and detailed reports for superiors.

Interpersonal skills . The third type of communication skill involves all those abilities that you use to interact with others. They can include things like empathy, active listening, and conflict resolution.

  What are the top 11 communication skills employers want to see?

Below are 11 of the top communication skills for resumes. As you might expect, there are many others that you might want to consider as well. However, these 11 skills are among the most sought-after that employers are looking for in job candidates.

1.     Active listening

Active listening is a prized communication skill. This ability goes well beyond simply hearing what others say, and instead involves the ability to actively understand their message. People with these skills can connect with others, build trust, and participate in collaborative problem-solving efforts.

Active listening includes a host of other skills, including the ability to ask probing questions, provide nonverbal and verbal cues that show that you're paying attention, and paraphrase what you're hearing to confirm your understanding of the message.

Related post : What are the Types of Listening Skills? 8 Types Explained

2.     Empathy

Empathy is a vital interpersonal trait and one of the most important leadership communication skills. People with empathy tend to be more curious and open-minded, have a keener sense of self-awareness, and are less likely to be hostage to their own natural biases and preconceptions. They value other people's perspectives and are willing to entertain ideas that challenge their beliefs.

3.     Conflict management and resolution

Conflict is an inevitable feature of human interaction - including in the workplace. If you have excellent conflict resolution skills, it's important to highlight them in your resume. Employers will be interested in knowing that you're capable of resolving interpersonal conflict in your work setting, since that can have a direct and positive impact on productivity and workplace harmony.

4.     Presentation skills

There are many jobs that require the ability to make presentations to superiors, customers, shareholders, or even coworkers. Good presentation skills enable you to compellingly convey information to others, persuade them to consider your point of view, or simply keep your target audience apprised of relevant developments.

5.     Writing skills

Effective writing skills are important in virtually every industry and a wide variety of roles. Obviously, many jobs will require simple writing tasks like composing emails, but there are a whole host of other writing abilities that employers may be looking for. These can include everything from legal briefs or technical writing to advertising copy, marketing presentations, contract creation, and more. Depending on the job you're seeking, including these important communication skills in your resume could be vital.

6.     Team building

The ability to build and work with teams is another important leadership communication skill for your resume. Whether you're interested in a managerial or executive role, this skill set is something that you'll need to succeed in that leadership position. Effective team builders know how to work with others to solve problems, are skilled in delegating work to competent subordinates, and know how to help team members reach their full potential.

Related post : 20 Key Leadership Competencies for Success (Plus Tips!)

7.     Motivation

Employers also appreciate candidates who possess useful motivational skills. While the ability to set goals, maintain a positive attitude, and rally others to achieve a shared objective is essential for leadership, it can also be an invaluable skill for anyone who works in a collaborative setting. By including these communication skills in your resume, you can ensure that employers recognize your ability to inspire others and drive productivity in the workplace.

Related post : 6 Qualities of Managers Who Practice Inspiring Leadership

8.     Openness to feedback

Hiring managers also want to see that you're capable of receiving feedback, whether it's constructive criticism or praise. These skills reflect a commitment to teamwork and continual improvement, both of which are highly prized by today's employers. It's a bonus if you're also adept at providing feedback to others. That desire to develop as an employee and help others to reach their full potential can make you an attractive candidate for many jobs.

9.     Honesty

You might not think of honesty as a communication skill, but it is. Whether you're an entry-level worker or a manager, it's important for others to know that they can trust your words. Of course, honesty encompasses more than just being truthful. It also includes character traits like trustworthiness, responsibility, accountability, and reliability. Honest people are seen as authentic and confident, traits that all good leaders possess.

10.  Emotional intelligence

As the workplace has grown more complex in recent years, hiring managers have placed greater emphasis on employees' emotional intelligence. That's a fancy term that simply describes your ability to manage your own emotions, understand your own interactions with others, and use that knowledge and insight to control stress, relate to others, communicate in a clear and effective way, and manage conflict.

People with high emotional intelligence often excel at interpersonal relations in the workplace and tend to be competent leaders. Their ability to recognize their own emotions and the feelings of others around them can help them to make more informed decisions. Including examples of your use of emotional intelligence can help to highlight those critical interpersonal communication skills in your resume.

11.  Negotiating

Negotiation skills are also highly prized in most industries, so make sure that you highlight these abilities in your resume too. Successful negotiators are adept at problem-solving, persuasive communication, and conflict resolution - skills that are useful in nearly every industry. Include an achievement in your professional experience section that highlights your negotiation skills, demonstrating how those abilities provided measurable value to a previous employer. 

Tips you can use to highlight these skills in your resume

Of course, being familiar with these different communication skills is just the first step. You also need to know how to highlight them in your resume. The following tips can help you with that process.

Match your skills to keywords in the job posting

Always make sure that you review the job posting to identify specific communication-related skills that are listed as job requirements. Wherever possible, use those exact terms in your resume as you describe various communication skills that you've used in previous jobs. That will help to ensure that your resume is found by an applicant tracking system when an employer conducts a search.

Focus on measurable achievements

Don't just say that you have certain communication skills. Show that you have them by including them as achievements in your resume summary or professional experience section. Make sure that you describe how you used those skills to produce measurable value for your employer. Use real numbers to help the reader understand the type of value you can provide as a potential hire.

Always be brief and to the point

Brevity is important, since hiring managers often sift through dozens or even hundreds of resumes. Make sure that you highlight communication skills and other abilities as concisely as possible to optimize space in your resume. Remember also that your writing skills will be on full display as you create the resume, so you probably won't need to spend much time boasting about them.

Communication skills: resume examples you can use

As we noted, there are several ways that you can highlight communication skills in your resume. You can include mention of them in your resume summary, list several within your core competencies section, and highlight examples of their use in your professional experience section. Below are some examples to show you how this is done.

Communication skills in your resume summary

Detail-oriented Office Manager with 10 years of experience managing office operations and interdepartmental communications. Managed 21-person team responsible for accounts totaling $123 million a year. Researched, drafted, and implemented interoffice communication changes that reduced waste by 22%, expedited internal processing and increased departmental revenue by 19% in the first year.

Communication skills in your skills section

Including these communication skills in your core competencies, or skills, section is a simple matter. Pick the skills that most closely align with the job requirements, and list them in bullet point form alongside other key soft skills and your technical proficiencies. For example:


Email management

Media communications


Team building

Training management

Office management


Time management


Communication skills in your work experience section

When it comes to including your communication skills in a work experience section, you again need to focus on notable achievements. Use real numbers that demonstrate value and create several bullet point accomplishment examples for each job listing in this section. You only need to include a couple of examples of how you used your communication skills, of course, since you'll likely also want to highlight other core job-related skills too. Here are some examples that show how to do this:

Reorganized office information flow to speed up client onboarding and account management, resulting in growth of 12% in client acquisition and an increase of 40% in retention

Created an innovative training program for new office transfers, focused on new skills and employee growth. Program resulted in 60% drop in employee attrition, contributing to a 13% increase in revenues in the first quarter of implementation

Negotiated resolution to client conflict that saved a $2 million project contract and led to a 30% expansion in business with the customer over the next two years

Related post : 47 Accomplishment Examples for Your Resume: Expert Picks

Achieve job search success by including communication skills in your resume

Much of your resume will be devoted to highlighting your job-related skills and experiences, but that's no reason to neglect these important soft skills. Conveying effective communication skills in your resume can be a terrific way to demonstrate that you're the best candidate for any job, and may be just what you need to differentiate yourself from your competition!

Are you still not sure if you've properly included your communication skills in your resume? Get a free resume review from our team of experts today!

Recommended reading:

Soft Skills Explained - and the Top 7 for Your Resume

What Are Skills? (With Examples and Tips on How to Improve Them)

These 14 Leadership Traits Can Fuel Your Career Success

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How to Write a Cover Letter (With Example)

Do Hiring Managers Actually Read Cover Letters?

How to Create a Resume With No Education

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Leading with Impact: 2024’s Top Leadership Competencies

Strong and competent leaders are more important today than they’ve ever been. With advancements in AI, cybersecurity and the ongoing skills crisis, having leaders in the organization that understand and prioritize stewardship has become essential. These skills enable individuals to guide their teams, inspire high performance, and navigate through challenges to reach organizational goals. Exceptional leaders can articulate a clear vision and strategy which in turn, fosters an environment of trust and collaboration.

World Economic Forums’ 2023 Future of Jobs Report explained that employers estimate that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years . What does this mean? Organizations need great leaders at the helm to guide teams through this major dislocation and help them improve their skills for the continuously evolving workplace. Essentially, these are the top leadership competencies that will keep your organization competitive and ultimately give you a leg up in the workplace today, tomorrow and in the next five years.

1. Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a crucial skill for leaders, as it involves creative scenario and sensitivity analysis, and well the ability to assess the long-term impact of decisions. This anticipatory and flexible way of thinking helps future-proof an organization by enabling leaders to spot opportunities and threats before they become imminent. Being a strategic thinker also improves decision-making capabilities, ensuring that choices are not made in isolation but are instead linked to the broader organizational goals.

Strategic thinking enhances risk management activities by helping leaders identify potential risks and formulate plans well in advance of a crisis situation. In addition to improving risk management, leaders who can develop and maintain a strategic vision over time can support effective resource allocation, anticipate potential changes and develop scenarios and responses, and flexibly adjust to different types of internal and external challenges.

For leaders to be successful, developing and flexing strategic thinking skills will enhance problem-solving abilities, boost capacity to manage change and encourage innovative thinking.

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2. effective communication.

Leaders at all levels within an organization need to be proficient and nimble communicators, as their role requires them to inspire, empower, and motivate their teams. Effective communication allows leaders to transmit their ideas, align expectations, and facilitate mutual understanding. In addition, cultivating robust relationships is a pivotal element in fostering an environment of openness and promoting transparency.

For individual leaders, effective communication enhances their ability to articulate vision to both seniors and subordinates, delegate tasks, provide constructive feedback, manage change, and understand their employees' perspectives, needs, and concerns. At an organizational level, applying effective communication skills will support alignment of efforts towards common goals while inspiring positive change, and cultivate a culture of trust and mutual respect among team members. In essence, effective communication is not just about information transfer; it's about understanding, influencing, and connecting with people across the organization.

Want to expand your feedback giving skills?

3. Emotional Intelligence

Leaders possessing high emotional intelligence are adept at empathizing, building strong relationships, managing teams effectively, and dealing with workplace stress. They also excel in understanding and responding to their own and others' emotions, which enhances decision-making and conflict resolution. A Gallup survey found that employees with emotionally intelligent managers are 4x less likely to leave their jobs . Emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled at navigating change, managing conflict, and driving team performance, leading to better employee retention.

Being an emotionally intelligent leader in today’s workplace is fundamental to effective leadership – it enhances individual performance and directly contributes to organizational success.

Learn more about improving emotional intelligence

4. Problem Solving

Leaders across organizations are constantly faced with problems that could disrupt the priorities of their teams and organizations. Having strong individuals ready and willing to address problems is critical; the speed with which problems are acknowledged and solved can have a profound impact on a team’s ability to successfully function. Leaders adept at problem-solving can effectively navigate complex business challenges, support organizational focus and continued success. These skills interwoven with their strategic thinking, decision-making, and crisis management abilities, inspires confidence within their teams.

Leaders who have strong problem-solving capabilities provide valuable guidance, promote collaboration and facilitate development of innovative solutions. Leaders who support solution-oriented environments can increase job satisfaction, improve team cohesion, and enhance team performance.

5. Team Building

While building strength in all these individual competencies may lead to increased team collaboration and communication, leaders must find opportunities for teams to engage in exercises and activities to build cohesion and trust within teams. Leaders who excel in creating a positive environment for their teams can boost their own credibility, inspire their team members, manage conflicts more effectively, and accelerate their team’s performance to help achieving the organization's strategic goals. According to a recent report by Gusto , 37% of the employees surveyed revealed that they chose to remain in their current job due to the presence of an exceptional team. Positive team dynamics have a significant and real impact on employee retention and overall job satisfaction. Great leaders build great teams, and great teams build strong organizations.

Learn more about developing your team building skills.

6. Conflict Resolution

Conflict is an inevitable part of our lives, often arising from differences, both major and minor, as we interact with others who may have different opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds. Being able to resolve conflict is a crucial leadership skill with profound impacts on leaders, their teams, and ultimately to the wider organization. Leaders who can adeptly resolve conflicts can transform disputes into opportunities for growth. They navigate difficult conversations with tact, mediate disputes impartially, foster open communication, and encourage problem-solving attitudes.

Imagine there's a disagreement between two key stakeholders over the direction of a project. Both individuals believe their approach is best, causing tension and slowing progress on the project.

Leaders who are adept at conflict resolution can accurately assess the situation, and then determine the most effective way to intervene to constructively engage with stakeholders to reach a mutual understanding or compromise. By using conflict resolution skills like active listening, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving, leaders can facilitate a conversation that allows each party to express their viewpoints and feelings. This process can help find a solution that respects and considers differing viewpoints while maintaining progress towards a shard goal.

Simply put: a leader's competency in smoothly handling conflict is an invaluable asset that supports team productivity and unity and promotes mutual trust and respect.

Learn how Skillsoft Coaching can help build conflict resolution skills

7. Change Management

Change is an inevitable part of leading any organization. Effective change management enables leaders to execute transformational initiatives, foster a culture of adaptability, and empower their teams to accept change. In a working world being transformed daily by GenAI, the ability to navigate teams through change will be essential to providing an environment where teams feel safe, empowered, and encouraged to explore opportunities to change how they do their day-to-day jobs, and reimagine what could be possible. Adopting a calm and strategic approach to change management makes all the difference for teams, it can minimize resistance, facilitate smooth transitions and boost morale amin uncertainty. At the organizational level, such leaders are key in successfully implementing strategic changes, maintaining operational continuity during transitions, and enhancing organizational agility.

Want to learn more about the impact and opportunity of GenAI in workforce development?

A leader able to consistently demonstrate these traits can ignite passion and creativity in their teams and foster an environment that motivates and encourages each member to bring their best to the table. However, the impact is not just measured within that team. The ripple effect of this type of forward-thinking leadership permeates throughout the entire organization. It creates a culture where excellence is the norm, not the exception. Innovation is encouraged and celebrated, leading to new ideas and solutions that can push the organization to new heights.


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14 Skills for Social Workers: Top Employer Requirements Explained

By Editorial Team on February 8, 2024 — 7 minutes to read

Core Competencies for Social Workers

  • Cultivating strong interpersonal skills is important for building rapport with clients. You need the ability to listen actively, ensuring that your clients feel heard and validated. Effective communication, including clear expression of ideas and active engagement in dialogue, is equally important.
  • Having strong critical thinking skills lets you analyze and assess various situations. Remember that problem-solving is a key element of your work, as you often have to find solutions to complex issues affecting your clients’ well-being.
  • You must demonstrate cultural competence. Acknowledge and respect the diverse backgrounds of your clients, understanding that each individual’s experience is unique and calls for a tailored approach.
  • Showing empathy is another vital trait. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes to better understand their emotions and perspectives. This aids in providing support that is sensitive to their needs.
  • Ethical judgment and integrity are non-negotiable. You handle confidential information and make decisions that impact lives; hence, adhering to a strong ethical code is imperative.
  • You also need to be well-versed in professional and clinical skills. For instance, being able to conduct assessments, develop intervention plans, and navigate social services are all part of your role.
  • Organizational skills help manage your caseload effectively. From keeping accurate records to prioritizing tasks efficiently, staying organized ensures you can serve your clients to the best of your ability.

Communication Skills

Good communication is the cornerstone of effective social work. The following subsections will guide you through various aspects highly valued by employers.

Active Listening

You need to demonstrate that you can listen to and understand the concerns of clients. This means giving your full attention, taking time to understand the points being made, and not interrupting at inappropriate times. You might include phrases like “experienced at attentively listening to clients’ stories” in your resume.

Effective Speaking

Conveying information effectively to individuals and groups is a key part of your role. It’s important to be clear and coherent, making sure your points are understood. On your resume, you could use terms like “adept at presenting complex information in an understandable format.”

Empathy and Compassion

Showing empathy and compassion in your work can make a significant difference to those you’re helping. This involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others. Highlight this skill by including example phrases such as “skilled in providing compassionate care and support” on your resume.

Conflict Resolution

Managing and resolving conflicts is an integral part of a social worker’s job. You should articulate that you can handle disputes calmly and work towards a peaceful resolution. Mentioning “experienced in conflict resolution and mediation techniques” on your resume shows potential employers this capability.

Interpersonal Skills

Having strong interpersonal skills allows you to effectively engage with clients, colleagues, and communities. These skills facilitate better communication and understanding in social work settings.

Building Trust

Building trust with clients and colleagues is foundational in social work. You can achieve this by being consistently reliable, demonstrating empathy, and maintaining confidentiality. For example, ensuring that you follow through on commitments helps solidify trust. Your resume might highlight trust-building through phrases like “Maintained a high level of confidentiality with client information, fostering trust and compliance.”

Cultural Competency

Cultural competency is understanding and respecting cultural differences and effectively interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. This involves recognizing your own biases and adapting your approach to meet the needs of various client groups. On your resume, you could express cultural competency with examples like “Provided culturally sensitive counseling to a diverse client base and improved service accessibility for marginalized communities.”

Boundary Setting

Effective boundary setting protects both you and your clients by clarifying the limits of professional relationships. It means respecting personal and professional limits and ensuring a healthy work-life balance. On your resume, mention boundary setting like this: “Established clear professional boundaries, enhancing client support while ensuring self-care and ethical practice.”

Problem-Solving Abilities

To excel as a social worker, you need to effectively navigate complex situations and find solutions that enhance client well-being. This section will focus on your skill in addressing emergencies through Crisis Intervention and managing ongoing challenges in Case Management.

Crisis Intervention

Your ability to swiftly assess and respond to critical incidents is a key aspect of your role. You’re expected to de-escalate situations and provide immediate support or referrals. When crafting your resume, you might include phrases like:

  • “Rapidly assessed and stabilized individuals in crisis, ensuring safety and connecting them with necessary resources.”
  • “Collaborated with multidisciplinary teams to develop and implement crisis intervention plans tailored to individual client needs.”

Case Management

As a social worker involved in Case Management, you are tasked with organizing and coordinating services and resources to support clients in achieving their goals. On your resume, this could be reflected as:

  • “Facilitated access to healthcare, housing, and social services, creating comprehensive case plans that promote client independence and resilience.”
  • “Conducted regular follow-ups to evaluate the effectiveness of service plans and adjust strategies accordingly to meet evolving client situations.”

Technical Knowledge and Skills

Your role as a social worker requires a solid grasp of specific technical knowledge and skills. These competencies enable you to navigate the complex landscape of social welfare systems, manage data effectively, and perform accurate reporting and documentation. Let’s dive into each of these critical skills.

Understanding of Social Policies

You need to be well-versed in local and national social welfare policies, as they govern the support structures available to your clients. An example phrase to include in your resume might be: “Proficient in understanding and applying relevant social policies to support client advocacy and program development.”

Data Management

Efficient data management allows you to track client progress, recognize trends, and ensure privacy. On your resume, you could state: “Skilled in data management with a focus on maintaining accurate and confidential client records in compliance with legal standards.”

Reporting and Documentation

Accurate reporting and documentation are key in supporting client cases and securing funding for social programs. You might highlight this skill in your resume with the phrase: “Experienced in preparing detailed reports and documentation to meet organizational and regulatory requirements.”

Teamwork and Collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration are key aspects of social work, as you often interact with other professionals to provide comprehensive support to clients. In your role, you need to be able to work effectively within multidisciplinary teams that may include doctors, educators, psychologists, and legal experts.

On your resume, you might list teamwork and collaboration abilities with phrases like:

  • Communicated regularly with a multidisciplinary team to coordinate client care plans.
  • Participated in joint meetings to strategize on complex cases, offering insights and listening to others’ contributions.
  • Contributed to a positive team dynamic by encouraging and valuing diverse viewpoints.

Advocacy and Community Outreach

In social work, advocacy means acting or speaking in favor of a cause or individual, especially when they are not empowered to do so for themselves. Your role might include liaising with community leaders or policymakers to create changes that benefit the communities you serve.

Community outreach is about connecting with the local population to understand their needs, inform them of available services, and involve them in program development. This often includes organizing and participating in public awareness campaigns, workshops, and social events to foster a strong, supportive community.

When tailoring your resume, you could include phrases like:

  • Coordinated community forums to gauge local concerns and address social issues.
  • Partnered with local organizations to increase access to mental health resources.
  • Spearheaded a fundraising campaign for a family shelter, raising over $10,000.

Ideally, you should demonstrate your ability to evaluate the success of outreach initiatives. You can mention any efforts you made to track program outcomes or improvements in community services to showcase your commitment to effective, sustainable change.

Frequently Asked Questions

Social work is a multifaceted profession that requires a unique combination of skills. Below are some of the most common questions regarding the skills needed for social work, giving you insights into what skills are in high demand and how they apply to your role as a social worker.

What specific skills are most valuable for professionals in the field of social work?

Active listening, empathy, and communication are invaluable. You need to listen to your clients’ concerns and communicate your support effectively. Being empathetic helps you understand their experiences from their perspective, which is key in finding the best solutions for them.

What are some hard skills that social workers need to be successful in their roles?

Hard skills such as case management, familiarity with social work ethics and laws, and the ability to navigate community resources are important. Proficiency in documentation and report writing ensures that client records are accurate and up-to-date.

In addition to formal education, what personal qualities do effective social workers possess?

You should have strong problem-solving skills and resilience. Working with diverse populations often presents complex situations, so the ability to stay composed and find creative solutions is imperative. Also, showing cultural competency and having a non-judgmental approach fosters trust and rapport with clients.

How do the core values of social work translate into practical skills for professionals?

The core values of service, social justice, dignity of the individual, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence translate into advocating for clients’ rights, respecting their choices, building meaningful relationships, maintaining ethical standards in your work, and committing to continued learning.

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