Monday, December 7, 2015



Being an Effective Communicator...

Being an effective communicator involves establishing a personal connection with the audience and using basic communication tools to reach that audience.
To communicate effectively—whether your audience is a single individual or a large group—it is helpful to understand the basic skills that form the building blocks of effective communication. 

Let’s begin with a brief look at what happens when two people communicate. 
Oral communication is fluid and dynamic, and is shaped by both the speaker and the audience. Even in its simplest form, communication is a two-way process in which several things typically happen: 

  • You send a message using your voice and nonverbal cues. 
  • The other person listens, interpreting and personalizing the message, and gives feedback verbally and nonverbally. 
  • Meanwhile, you are listening to the verbal feedback and attending to the nonverbal cues in order to gauge how your message was received and to understand the other person’s response. 
The process is then repeated in the typical flow of conversation. To be truly effective, you must become a good listener... not just hearing the words, but truly listening to what message is being conveyed.

Listening is Key

There is a big difference between ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’. 

Listening is critical for successful communication. In fact, almost half of our communication time is spent listening. Listening entails much more than just hearing sound. 

  • Hearing is a sensory experience that gathers sound waves indiscriminately. We can hear something without choosing to listen. 
  • Listening is a voluntary activity that includes interpreting or processing that sound. 

Barriers to Listening

How many times have you sat through a meeting, class, or lecture and only heard what was being said rather than listening? It has happened to us all at some point. Was it the problem of the speaker? Was he engaging? Or were there barriers to what was being said?

Barriers to effective listening can be external or internal. External roadblocks can include distracters such as noise, an uncomfortable temperature or seating, or an inappropriate location. Try to be aware of external roadblocks and offset them if possible. 

Internal roadblocks include conditions or reactions within the speaker or audience, such as: 

  • Emotional interference or defensiveness. 
  • Hearing only facts and not feelings. 
  • Hearing what is expected instead of what is said. 
  • Not seeking clarification. 
  • Stereotyping. 
  • The halo effect (letting a loosely associated factor influence one’s perception). 
  • Resistance to change or automatic dismissal (e.g., “We’ve never done it that way before.”). 

When listening, always: 

  • Keep an open mind. 
  • Maintain eye contact and show interest. 
  • Listen for the central themes. 
  • Consider the speaker’s nonverbal behaviors and tone of voice. 

While listening, you should avoid: 

  • Being judgmental. 
  • Interrupting the speaker. 
  • Formulating a rebuttal. 
  • Distorting the message based on your own beliefs. 

Active Listening

Active listening involves listening with empathy and paraphrasing. When you listen empathically, you don’t just hear words. You attend to thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. Empathic listening is highly active and takes practice.
When you paraphrase, you ensure clear understanding by restating main points in your own words. Paraphrasing also provides important feedback that helps speakers gauge how well they are getting their message across as intended. 

Using the following active listening techniques will help you to improve your listening skills. 

  1. Decide to listen and concentrate on the speaker. 
  2. Use your imagination and enter the speaker’s situation. Concentrate and try to imagine his or her frame of reference and point of view. 
  3. Observe the speaker’s vocal inflection, enthusiasm or lack of it, and style of delivery. These are essential components of the message. If you are speaking face-to-face, pay attention to the speaker’s facial expressions and other nonverbal cues for more insight into the message. 
  4. Listen without interruption. Note key phrases or use word associations to remember the speaker’s content. 
  5. Use paraphrasing or clarifying questions to confirm that you received the intended message. Paraphrasing demonstrates that you listened by:

    —restating the speaker’s statement and feelings.
    Using your own words—not parroting back what was said.
    Remaining neutral—expressing neither your agreement nor disagreement (verbally or nonverbally).

  6. Provide feedback. Check your perceptions of how the speaker is feeling—are you putting the text of the message in the appropriate emotional context? 

To recap, "Listening" is key to all effective communication. Without listening effectively, messages are easily misunderstood, communication breaks down, and the messenger can easily become frustrated or irritated.

If there is one communication skill you should aim to master then listening is it.

Believe to Achieve!

FEMA IS 242.b
Texas Department of Health and Human Services
US Army Primary Leadership Development Course

Joe Vulgamore is a Life Coach and Leadership Development Specialist - as well as a Personal Development Author and Speaker. He works with people to develop life and leadership skills to sharpen their edge, perform at optimum levels, and achieve excellence. He has 30 years of leadership experience and a proven track record of helping thousands of people from over 14 countries, across 5 continents, to make life-transformations through one-to-one coaching and workshops.

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