Monday, February 11, 2008

Effective Communication Skills

Communication is not only conveying or sharing our ideas, thoughts or feelings, however it’s about having those ideas, thoughts, and feelings understood by the people we are talking with. So communication has to be effective which also involves feedback. As without feedback, there would be no way of knowing if meaning has been shared or if understanding has taken place.

The ability to speak clearly and concisely, and to convey information or articulate an opinion is essential for every job. Communication is reflection of our professionalism, our intellect, our preparedness, and our character. Communication is not an isolated series of only one skill. It involves several other skills. The ability to effectively communicate is a critical skills and it involves the following skills:

Language skills
Writing Skills
Listening Skills
Soft skills
Effective Verbal Communication

Verbal communication requires the use of words, vocabulary, numbers and symbols and is organized in sentences using language.

Mastering linguistic skill is not reserved for the selected few. It is a skill that each and every one should develop for personal growth and to improve relationships and interactions.

Everyone's brain is forever having thoughts and they are primarily with words. Words spoken, listened to or written affect your life as well as others. They have the power to create emotions and move people to take action. When verbal communication is delivered accurately and clearly, you activate the mind and encourage creativity.

You create your reality with your senses, the eyes, ears and feelings and words and symbols are used to create the meanings. This is why you are encouraged to read and watch informative materials, listen to motivational audio programs and attend classes or seminars that relate to your line of work or objectives. Positive and uplifting spoken or written messages motivate and inspire.
You can do the same to inspire others. Motivation comes from within each individual but you can become the source and when your are able to affect their thinking, you can help them improve their lives.

1. Verbal communication is communication done by word of mouth and face-to-face.

2. Three general telephone etiquettes when answering the telephone are:

1. Identify yourself, with your first and last name, when answering the phone.
2. Return phones calls within 24 hours, and apologize if the call is late.
3. Identify yourself when you place a call. Say your name, the company, business or department you represent.

3. The speaking style is problem-solving style.

4. Women are found to talk to create connections and intimacy.

5. The seven steps to creating an effective speech are:

1. Choose a topic
2. Define the purpose of your speech
3. Get to know your audience
4. Gather information for your speech
5. Organize your speech
6. Add an introduction to your speech
7. Add a conclusion to your speech

6. Skills an active listener should use (Any three):

1.concentrates on what is being said (doesn't read, shuffle papers or otherwise non-verbally communicate a lack of interest)

2.listens to all facts and tries not to interrupt until the speaker has concluded his/her statements. When someone is talking for a long period of time, it is sometimes helpful to either take notes or ask the speaker to stop so that you can feed back to them what you have heard.

3.listens for key words of interest on which to comment and ask questions (communicating that I am really interested and want to hear more or better understand what you are saying.) objective; hears people as they are, not the way you'd like them to be.

5.holds back personal judgments until the speaker has presented his/her ideas.

7. Effective feedbacks that a good communicator should use: (Any three)

· descriptive (not evaluative)(avoids defensiveness.) By describing one's own reactions, it leaves the individual fee to use it or not to use it as he sees fit

· avoid accusations; present data if necessary

· describe your own reactions or feelings; describe objective consequences that have or will occur; focus on behavior and your own reaction, not on other individual or his or her attributes

. suggest more acceptable alternative; be prepared to discuss additional alternatives; focus on alternatives

· specific rather than general.

Effective Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication consists of all the messages other than words that are used in communication. These symbolic messages are transferred by means of body posture, body gestures, and facial expressions, which all together are called Body language.

Body Language

Body language is the person’s expressions, behavior, body movement etc through which you can judge a person.

Body language consists of signs and symbols we send out by the small movements we make with our eyes, face and the way we sit, stand and move.

A recent study tells us that non verbal signals play a large part of any communication between people. But exactly how much?

According to the 10-40-50 principle, 10 % of the impression or impact comes from what we actually say, 40% comes form the way how we say it and the major par i.e. 50% coming from our body language.

Examples of Body Language

Brisk, erect walk
Standing with hands on hips
Sitting with legs crossed, foot kicking slightly
Sitting, legs apart
Arms crossed on chest
Touching, slightly rubbing nose
Rubbing the eye
Hands clasped behind back
Locked ankles
Rubbing hands
Sitting with hands clasped behind head, legs crossed
Open palm
Tapping or drumming fingers
Patting/fondling hair
Tilted head
Stroking chin
Looking down, face turned away
Biting nails

Top Ten Effective Body Language Tips

Eye Contact
Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of dealing with others, especially people we've just met. Maintaining good eye contact shows respect and interest in what they have to say.

Posture is the next thing to master, get your posture right and you'll automatically start feeling better, as it makes you feel good almost instantly. Next time you notice you're feeling a bit down, take a look at how your standing or sitting. Chances are you'll be slouched over with your shoulders drooping down and inward. This collapses the chest and inhibits good breathing, which in turn can help make you feel nervous or uncomfortable.

Head position
Head position is a great one to play around with, with yourself and others. When you want to feel confident and self assured keep your head level both horizontally and vertically. You can also use this straight head position when you want to be authoritative and what you're saying to be taken seriously. Conversely, when you want to be friendly and in the listening, receptive mode, tilt your head just a little to one side or other.

They give away the clues as to how open and receptive we are to everyone we meet and interact with, so keep your arms out to the side of your body or behind your back. In general terms the more outgoing you are as a person, the more you tend to use your arms with big movements. The quieter you are the less you move your arms away from your body. So, try to strike a natural balance and keep your arm movement’s midway. When you want to come across in the best possible light, crossing the arms is a no, no in front of others.

Legs are the furthest point away from the brain; consequently they're the hardest bits of our bodies to consciously control. They tend move around a lot more than normal when we are nervous, stressed or being deceptive. So best to keep them as still as possible in most situations, especially at interviews or work meetings

Body Angle
Angle of the body in relation to others gives an indication of our attitudes and feelings towards them. We angle toward people we find attractive, friendly and interesting and angle ourselves away from those we don't, it's that simple! Angles includes leaning in or away from people, as we often just tilt from the pelvis and lean sideways to someone to share a bit of conversation.

Hand Gestures
Hand gestures are so numerous it's hard to give a brief guide but here goes. Palms slightly up and outward is seen as open and friendly. Palm down gestures are generally seen as dominant, emphasizing and possibly aggressive, especially when there is no movement or bending between the wrist and the forearm. This palm up, palm down is very important when it comes to handshaking and where appropriate we suggest you always offer a handshake upright and vertical, which should convey equality.

Distance from others is crucial if you want to give off the right signals. Stand too close and you'll be marked as "Pushy" or "In your face". Stand or sit too far away and you'll be "Keeping your distance" or "Stand offish".

Yes your ears play a vital role in communication with others, even though general terms most people can't move them much, if at all. However, you've got two ears and only one mouth, so try to use them in that order. If you listen twice as much as you talk you come across as a good communicator who knows how to strike up a balanced a conversation without being me, me, me or the wallflower.

Mouth movements can give away all sorts of clues. We purse our lips and sometimes twist them to the side when we're thinking. Another occasion we might use this movement is to hold back an angry comment we don't wish to reveal. Nevertheless, it will probably be spotted by other people and although they may not know the comment, they will get a feeling you were not to please. There are also different types of smiles and each gives off a corresponding feeling to its recipient.

Types of Effective Listning

1. The non-listener

At this first level, the listener does not hear others at all. In fact, he does not even make an effort to hear what is being said. He manifests blank stares as well as nervous mannerisms and gestures. He fakes attention while thinking about un -related matters. He is too busy in preparing what to say next. So, primarily concerned with doing most of the speaking. He is typically disliked or “tolerated” by most people”

2. The Marginal Speaker

At this second level, the listener hears the sound and words but not really listening. They postpone problems into the future rather than dealing with them in the present. He is not able to recall or grasp what he has heard. He is easily distracted by their thinking or by outside occurrences

3. The Evaluative Listener

This third level takes somewhat more concentration and attention by the listener than the first two levels. At this level the listener is actively trying to hear what the speaker is saying but isn’t making an effort to understand the speaker’s intent. He tends to be a more logical listener who is more concerned about the content than feelings

This type of listener forms opinions about the speaker’s words even before the message is complete. This obviously leads to risks of not understanding the true meaning of the message.
4. The Active Listener

This is far by the highest and most effective level of listening. The active listener does not interrupt. He is always looking for verbal or visual clues that might signify that the other person would like to say something. When one appears, the active listener promptly gives the floor to the other person. He listens for feelings and emotions, as well as words from the speaker. He listens not only to what is said and how it is said, but also is perceptive of what is not being said. Above all he is a skillful questioner.
Active, effective listening is a habit, as well as the foundation of effective communication.
Therefore, follow these quick and easy steps to ensure that you not only hear but understand what is being said as well.

Be Prepared- It involves understanding the complexities of listening, practicing listening to difficult material and doing necessary background study. Reading appropriate material, background papers, and doing research before meetings assists in being ready to listen

Stop Speaking- Resist the urge to jump in and finish sentences. Clearly, you're a far more effective listener when you're not talking as it is difficult to listen and speak at the same time

The focus factor- This is the most obvious -- and most broken -- rule when it comes to listening. Be in the moment. Put other thoughts out of your mind. Remove distractions. Good listening means giving the speaker your undivided attention

Be patient – Be patient. Some people take longer to find the right word, to make a point or clarify an issue. Give the speaker time to get it all out before you jump in with your reply. Put the other person at ease. Give him/her space and time. How we look at them, how we stand or sit, makes a huge difference. So relax and let the speaker relax

Take notes-
Do not rely on you memory. While listening it is perfectly acceptable to take notes. However, when taking notes make sure to pay close attention, which includes making periodical eye contact, asking questions and understanding non verbal messages. Write down only key words or phrases, the things you will need to trigger the message instead of writing down complete thoughts sentences, which can distract you from listening.(obviously, remember to expand notes afterwards, while the meaning these key phrases is still fresh in your mind)

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