The Art of Communication
And it is an art. Develop effective communication skills to improve the outcome from every intereaction. As with any skill, they can be learnt and developed with practice. An effective communicator has developed the following skills:
Many people foget that listening is a key part of communication. The communication processs highlights the importance of listening to ensure that each party understands (this does not mean you have to agree with) the other parties input. Failing to actively listen means that you are really only understanding your input and the reasons for your input i.e. your perceptions of the situation. This can be linked to your frame of reference.
Ask yourself, are you really listening to understand the other person's point of view, their concerns, their objections or resistance and their feelings? Or is your main focus on telling the other person what you want to tell them and hoping/expecting that they will agree with you or come on board?
Active listening is a real skill. It is a skill that must be developed if you want to develop effective communication skills. Active listening means being silent and listening to understand rather than assuming, jumping to conclusions, finding fault or just waiting for your opportunity to speak. If you are listening actively you should be able to:
The following communication tips will help to develop your active listening skills:
t is very easy for messages to be interpreted differently than the sender intends. Therefore, to minimise this take the time to think about the message or information that you want to deliver. Make sure that you understand the message and to whom you are communicating it to.
The page on workplace communication covers common barriers to communication which gives some tips on how to avoid common errors here. The page on Assertive Communication will also give some pointers for developing and using verbal commuication effectively to develop effective communication skills.
Non Verbal Communication
To develop effective communication skills you also need to consider the huge role that non verbal communication plays. We are always communicating something to others, even when silent. It is important to be aware of what your body langauage and facial expressions are conveying to others and to yourself.
Your non verbal communication will convey to others interest/disinterest; agreement/disagreement; approval/disapproval; confidence/no confidence; concern, belief in you/product/information etc. Therefore, your listeners or receivers of information are creating their meaning from a combination of what you say, how you say it, the tone of voice and your body language.
When you are listening to others your body language is also communicating as above. Poor body labguage here can break the communication down.
Non verbal communication tips:
Paraphrasing and Summarising
Paraphrasing and summarising are great communication skills to develop. They help gain a clear picture of where both parties are in the communication and what has been agreed.
Paraphrasing is a concise response to the speaker which restates the essence of their content in your own words. If you have paraphrased correctly the speaker will usually acknowledge by nodding their head or say "yes, that's rright". If the paraphrase is incorrect the speaker will usually correct you - if they feel safe to do so. For examples "So, you're saying that your concern with ......is ......." If they say "yes" then you can move the discussion on; "If, we can address that, how do you feel about the idea?" By doing this you are really creating good two-way communication, sharing information to create a common understanding.
It is also important to reflect back feelings, not just content. For example, "You are disappointed because....." It is very difficult to reflect back content and feelings if you are not practicing active listening!
At the end of the discussion, or at certain times during longer discussions, you can summarise what has been said covering the main themes and feelings. This acts as a check for both parties and helps to clarify any further misunderstandings and to keep the discussion on track.
In summary, effective communication skills include active listening, verbal communication including asking questions, non verbal communication, paraphrasing and summarising.
Clarify the message/information you want to communicate in your own head first. Know what and how you are going to say it. Otherwise it is impossible to send it accurately and confidently.
Plan and prepare the information taking into account your objective and the receivers of the information.
Articulare the message using appropriate language. Keep the message focused.
Listen actively and openly to the feedback received. Focus on what they are telling you - not on your own thoughts. Allow others to express their points and feelings. Don't interrupt and jump in.
Ask questions to understand the listener's concerns, frame of reference, beliefs and so on.
Paraphrase to check understanding.
Use approapriate body language and voice tone.
Accept responsibility for the communication and the outcome.
Effective communication is a process and fraught with difficulties. Build your awareness and understanding to develop your skills further by reading more on the subject and or attending a communication skills training programme.