HOW CAN WE IMPROVE OUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
The essence of communication is getting the receiver and the sender ‘tuned’ together for the particular message. Six main characteristics, according to Kathleen K. Reardon, define the meaning of the term ‘communication’:
1.People communicate for a variety of reasons- to entertain, to impress, to be cordial, to gain information, to show interest, to persuade and so on. Whatever the reason, communication enables us to convey information about the personal, intellectual, emotional and social aspects of our selves.
2.Communication may have intentional or unintentional effects. What we say and do is not always interpreted as we intend.
3.Communication is often reciprocal.
4.Communication involves at least two people who, to varying degrees, influence each other’s action.
5.Communication is what we do when we express our thoughts and feelings verbally or non-verbally to others. Whether we do so effectively is another matter.
6.Communication involves the use of symbols.
Within this framework, the perspective of communication is not just a source of conveying a message via a channel to some receiver. It is a much more complicated activity in which communicators together create meaning, by trying to establish a ‘commonness’ with each other. Through communication we accomplish the two essential tasks of human development, pointed out by the develop-mental psychologist Robert Kegan, namely to assert ourselves and to commune with others. The emphasis is that assertion and communion are the two fields in which we can improve our communication skills. Effective communication skills are the mark of an achiever. On one hand, he has the opportunity to get what he wants with a reduced chance of misunderstanding. On the other hand, he creates relationships that lead to greater understanding, harmony and productivity.
Let us focus on the two aspects separately.
The concept of assertion starts from the point of ‘esteem needs’. It is true that ‘man is alone’, but he cannot be ‘extracted ‘ from the external world. Being a vain creature, he needs public recognition for his features, considered unique only in comparison to other people. It is the other people that can help him set his life’s goals, portraying both one’ virtues and faults. Thus, groups offer not only ‘feed forward’ on what his future behaviour might be, but also external ‘feedback’ on how close he is coming to achieving his targets in life.
Having in mind ‘feed forward’ and ‘feedback’ perspectives, we should point out that communication is more than just saying the correct words, it is the product of at least two persons’ responses to each other’s verbal and non-verbal behaviour. So the effective communicator can predict and influence other people’s actions by achieving a shared understanding.
Improving communication skills in this direction demands knowledge of the specific peculiarities of ‘feed forward’ and ‘feedback’ concepts.
The mechanism of ‘feed forward’ refers to future behaviours designed to achieve some goal. It is attentively used by an effective communicator to modify his message in terms of predicting consequences. In his book ‘Understanding human behaviour’ James V. McConnell give a clear definition of ‘feed forward’:” A series of commands or orders that are to be executed in sequence at some time in the future. “The rules and regulations” issued by any group or organization are ‘feed forward’ in that the rules tell the members of the group or organization what behaviours are allowed, what behaviours are forbidden and the consequences of obeying and disobeying the rules will be. Your own personal ‘code of ethics’ (conscience) is also a type of ‘feed forward’ in that this code tells you what sequences of action to perform in certain situations in the future.’
Improving communication skills in the field of ‘feedback’ involves adjusting. The return process, called feedback, plays a very important part in communication because it tells us how our messages are being interpreted.
To sum up, from an assertion viewpoint, we can improve our communication skills by discovering how to take advantage of ‘feed forward’ and ‘feedback’ concepts. Being a motivated activity, communication involves planning (feed forward), predicting and adjusting (feedback), allowing us to accomplish goals indirectly.
The concept of communion starts from the point that in business (and in family life, too) the person we defeat today will probably be the person whose cooperation we need tomorrow. Effective communication always involves a creative fitting together of different people’s needs and wants. It seems to reduce mistrust greatly, enabling people to reach agreements that lead to their common betterment.
In terms of communion perspective we can improve our communication skills by trying to overcome the ‘communication gap’- the psychological problems and obstacles that stand in the way of accurate and adequate communication.
To have effective communication one needs to take all these factors into consideration:
1.Sender and receiver have different personal realities. They each have their own world performed by their experience, their perceptions, their ideas.
2.Verbal as well as non-verbal messages consist of sets of symbols.
3.The intended meaning versus the perceived meaning.
If the sender does not have adequate or clear information; if the message is not encoded fully, accurately, effectively in transmittable signs; if these are not transmitted fast enough and accurately enough to the desired receiver; if the message is not decoded in a pattern that corresponds to the encoding; and finally if the receiver is unable to handle the decoded message so as to produce the desired response- then obviously a ‘communication gap’ exists .
Carl R. Rogers in his article ”Communication: Its Blocking and Its Facilitation”suggests a way out. Communication is facilitated when we listen with understanding, which means ‘to see the expressed idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, to sense how it feels to him, to achieve his frame of reference in regard to the thing he is talking about’.
In this aspect we can improve our communication skills by enhancing our ability to be powerful listeners. Listening more carefully and responsively allows the speaker to feel the satisfaction of being understood. When both sides listen and know one another better, they are more likely to be able to invent solutions that meet their needs to a greater extent.
From a communion viewpoint, effective communication, the ability to share and receive ideas leading to mutual understanding, connects us to others. In terms of Helson’s Adaptation-level Theory, the ‘message’ is a stimulus factor, while the social context in which the message appears is a background factor. The character traits and past experience of the audience are personality factors that affect how the audience will perceive and respond to the message. The most persuasive messages are those created with all three factors in mind. A good communicator thus attempts to discover as much as possible about the audience, and then shapes the message to suit both the occasion and the people receiving it.
To ensure that that messages are conveyed properly, it is important to learn how to communicate in another’s particular style. The modes to interact with the world can be differentiated :
1.The visual mode- Visually –oriented people interact with the world by creating mental pictures. They will often make statements such as “I don’t see it that way” or “It looks good to me”. When responding to questions or making comments, their eyes will go up to create a picture. They will use verbs such as look, see, picture and imagine.When presenting new information to them, use colorful pictures, charts or displays.
2.The auditory mode-“I hear what you are saying” or “It doesn’t sound that way to me” are typical statements made by those whose primary way of interacting with the world is auditory. They like to discuss and listen to recorded information and music. They will use verbs such as hear, listen, debate and talk. When presenting new information to them, take the time to discuss it and answer all of their questions.
3.The Kinesthetic/Tactile Mode- Many people are doers and are quite demonstrative, preferring movement in their interactions. They often make statements such as “I feel this is the best solution” or “I just can’t grasp the idea”. They will use verbs such as feel, touch, run, hold and move. When presenting new information, use hands-on activities, such as actually going though the motions of a new procedure.
To sum up, in the field of communion we can improve our communication skills by evaluating the mutual element in communication, by making a judgement not only from one’s own , but also from the other speaker’s frame of reference.
In conclusion it may be said that we become persons largely in and through the qualities of our communication with others. By improving our communication skills, we will find increased pride in our personal performance, an expanded view of possibilities and greater understanding, harmony and productivity.