Understanding The Fine Art Of Communication
Have you ever had a lot to say but didn’t have the right words? Have you ever felt disrespected because your friend/s wouldn’t pay heed to what you had to say or offer? Ever had an argument where no one is ready to listen to another’s point of view?
If the answer to any of these situations is a hard ‘yes’ for you, then you’ve come to the right place to get the ultimate answers to your burning questions. To start with a simple one, Why does communication fail? Often communication fails because we either did not actually hear the message or have only listened to part of it. As a result, we may have assumed or misinterpreted what was actually said. In all the arenas of life, good listening skills are necessary in order to communicate that you want to help.
“Listening is a process of receiving, interpreting and reacting to a message from the speaker.”
There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is purely physical whereas listening involves not only hearing sounds but also responding, i.e. higher level and interpersonal.
The cornerstone of effective communication is the ability to listen and to accomplish this in an active manner. Active Listening involves our focused attention and we communicate this both verbally and non-verbally.
◦ In active listening the key is our intention - to understand someone, to learn something, to give help or comfort.
◦ It also involves the ability to take in the whole message, accepting what is said without judging, understanding not only the words spoken but also the feelings that underlie the word.
“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It's a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.”
— Deborah Tannen
What can I do about it?
Here are a few strategies to assist you in effectively expressing yourself and getting your message across to others:
1- Using “I” Statements
For personal communication, especially in conflict or emotive situations, use of ‘I’ statements can be very effective. The strategy involves replacing ‘you’ messages with ‘I’ messages. You messages (e.g. “You are rude,” “You don’t like me anymore”) cause defensiveness and they demand a response. Replace the You with an I, trying to describe yourself. So “I feel upset” instead of “You are rude” or “I’m concerned we’re drifting apart”. ‘I’ messages do not involve judgement or blame.
2- When Questions Are Not Always Questions
Avoid using questions that are not really questions. For example, “Doesn’t it upset you?” probably means “It upsets me” (Ellis, 1994, pp.245-246). If you want to find out what another person is thinking or feeling, it is better to use open-ended questions (what, why, how) rather than questions that require limited responses such as yes or no. Instead…
3- Ask Specific Questions
Specific questions are the type of questions that encourage the other person to talk and makes them feel heard. With asking specific questions you can very easily communicate your interest and involvement in the conversation.
4- Barriers To Sending Messages
People often make excuses that inhibit good communication. These are often thoughts, concerns or attitudes we hold. For instance, perfectionism, fear of disapproval or rejection, hopelessness or low self-esteem (Burns, 1999) may stop someone from expressing them self. It is unlikely the concerns will go away unless they are addressed. A talk with an adviser, tutor or friend might help to solve a problem critical to academic or other success.
5- Use Positive Language And Compliments.
Sometimes a message can mean the same thing, but it can be framed in a positive way or a negative way. Here’s a simple example: The stairs are slippery, so the teacher cautions the child not to trip on the way down. However, same scene but this time the teacher tells the child to be careful when going down. Same message, one expressed in a positive manner and one in a negative way, perhaps with resulting consequences.
6- Appropriate Body Language
Use your body language to assist you while listening, a lot of times a verbal response is not required, instead you’re able to communicate what you ought to via non-verbal cues. A head nod, appropriate eye contact, facial expressions and overall demeanour has the ability to communicate a lot beyond words.
"The art of conversation lies in listening." --Malcom Forbes