Thursday, October 22, 2015

Notes on Interpersonal Communication

     Effective communication takes into consideration the people involved, the nature of the message, and the circumstances.
     Interpersonal communication is the art of getting along with and communicating effectively with other people--especially in a one-on-one setting.
     Social communication is communication that occurs in your personal and your community life, while professional communication is communication that takes place on the job or is related to your career. Studies indicate that 70 percent of our day is spent working and interacting with other people. Thus, remember that appropriate interpersonal communication is respectful communication. For example,

  • When you speak to a person, you make direct eye contact
  • When you meet your prospective boss, you offer a firm handshake
  • When you bring a friend into your house, introduce her or him to your family
     Knowing how to act or behave in a given situation is necessary for interpersonal communication success. Hence, tact and courtesy are needed.
     Courtesy refers to the way that you treat people. It means politeness is when you are courteous, and you exhibit respectful consideration for others; in addition, you show good manners. Tact refers to the way you deal with people diplomatically. You try to say or do what is most fitting, based on the occasion.

Appropriate Tone

     When communicating with other people, it is important that you use the correct tone, or the mod that you verbally--and non-verbally--create. In addition to your words that you use, your tone is the "attitude" that you give to others.

     Most people think of an aggressive tone or communication approach  is often pushy and brash. The aggressive approach wants to win at all costs, even if that means intimidating manipulating, or belittling others in the process.
     A non-assertive tone or communication approach shows a lack of action and energy. A non-assertive person rarely speaks and often appears disinterested.
     The middle ground between aggressive and non-assertive is the assertive tone or communicative approach is direct, yet tactful. Assertive communication know when to talk, when to keep quiet, and how to give their opinions in a manner that is courteous and respectful. People who use the assertive tone create an overall mood of harmony because they always consider these specifics before acting or speaking:
  • Location--is this the right place to talk?
  • Timing--is this the right time to talk?
  • Intensity--what can I do to keep calm and not come off as overbearing?
  • Relationships--how well do I know the person to whom I'm about to speak? Also, how does each person's role and responsibility affect the situation?
     Whether in social or professional situations, the assertive communicator has a warm friendly voice; uses respectful words; has a calm, relaxed appearance; sends positive nonverbal signals to others; and makes direct, yet nonthreatening eye contact. Using an assertive tone will help you solve problems and avoid shouting matches.

Beware of Gossip

     Rumor spreaders or those who act as they are "in the know," are not seen as true friends and, overall, are not trusted. Studies at both Purdue University and Ohio State University confirm that when a person makes a positive or negative comment about someone else, listeners associate those qualities with the speaker as well.

People Skills

     When you have the people skills, you exhibit the ability to work well with others because you take the time to make them feel at ease. The possessing such skills know and then apply certain polite communication procedures that are just appropriate anywhere.
     Those with people skills know the value and appropriateness of (1) making introductions, (2) participating effectively in conversations, (3) offering and receiving criticism, and (4) giving clear and accurate directions.

Making Introductions

     If you are with a friend and others join you, social and business "appropriateness" demands that you know how to introduce people. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Be friendly. 
  • Address everyone by name. "John, Maria--I would like to meet my coworker, Constance."
  • State what you are doing. "She and I have been working on that inventory report that is due on Monday."
  • Introduce the others.  "Constance, this is John who works in the Production Department; and this is Maria, who works in Advertising."
  • Ask a question or make a comment to get the others talking. "John, I think that you and Constance are form the same part of the country. Didn't you say that you were from Texas?"
  • Work to make everyone feel included in the conversation. 
Participating Effectively in Conversations

     Conversation, or dialogue, is the oral exchange of thoughts and feelings involving two or more people. Avoid falling victim to three conversation killers:
  • Talking too much (motor-mouth or know-it-all)
  • Talking too little (bored or uninterested)
  • Interrupting 
Offering and Receiving Criticism

     The word criticism means "an evaluation or a judgment." We usually hear this word used in a negative context, where someone or something is being corrected or reprimanded.

     Offering Criticism--convey a constructive interpersonal communication attitude. Giving criticism should be viewed as a way of encouraging someone to improve. Therefore, use language that shows tact and politeness.
     Receiving criticism--paying close attention to constructive criticism is the way that we learn how to get better both as friend and as a worker. Here are some steps to follow:
  • Maintain composure.
  • Allow others to finish what they have to say. 
  • Don't interrupt.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Ask questions courteously.
  • Thank the person for her or his thoughts and observations.
Giving Clear and Accurate Directions

     When directions are unclear, then the people involved are themselves unclear on how to complete a task or get from point A to point B in an effective, efficient manner. Socially and professionally, remember the four ABCs when it comes to pointing people in the right direction:
  • Always be clear
  • Always be complete
  • Always be concise
  • Always be considerate
Always Be Clear
  • Think before you speak. 
  • Go slowly.
  • List your directions in sequential order.
  • Use transition words (such as firsts of all, next, or finally).
  • Stress key words, such as action verbs (turn, copy, or print) or concrete nouns (red light, computer, folder, or time sheet).
  • Eliminate unnecessary words and steps.
  • Watch for nonverbal signs of confusion. 
  • Ask for the directions to be repeated back to you when you've finished. 
Always Be Complete

     Be thorough. Don't assume that people can fill in the blanks or that they "know" what you are saying.

Always Be Concise

     Be brief with your directions. Get to the point.

Always Be Considerate

     Consider the appropriateness of the following:
  • Location--Is this area too noisy for these directions to be heard?
  • Timing--Is this the right time to give directions? It's just about noon; I guess I'll wait until after lunch instead. 
  • Tone--I can't be aggressive. I don't want to make everyone nervous and on edge. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Notes on Listening

     Listening is the receiving part of the communication process, but simply sensing what was said is just the beginning. When you listen, according to Webster's New World Dictionary, you make "conscious effort to hear."
     Studies show that we remember only about 25 percent of what we hear. Although most people speak about 120-10 words per minute, people can listen about six times as fast. Our brains simply work faster than our mouths. This "rate gap" helps explain why our minds sometimes start to wander while we listen.

Four Ways to Listen
  1. Appreciative listening
  2. Discriminative listening
  3. Emphatic listening
  4. Critical listening
Why Listening Matters

     Good listeners encourage speakers to do their best. Listening is a way of saying the talker. Effective listening involves not only tuning in to others, but tuning in to ourselves as well. Listening carefully to what we say and how we say it can teach us an immense amount about ourselves.
     Listening is a thinking skill, because it requires us to be selective with our attention, to classify and categorize information, and to sort out important principles and concepts from a stream of facts, jokes, and stories.

A Small Price to Pay
     To listen we must pay attention. In listening, we pay out our most personal assets--time, interest, and effort--to receive something in return: information, entertainment, and comfort.
     Researchers say that many of our most deeply held convictions come form things we hear, not things we read.

Listening Bad Habits
  1. Tune out dull topics
  2. Fake attention
  3. Yield to distractions
  4. Criticize delivery or physical appearance
  5. Jump to conclusions
  6. Overreact to emotional words
  7. Interrupt
  8. Filters
     Information goes through many filters when it passes from speaker to listener. Listeners filter what they hear based on their backgrounds and personalities.

Some Filters That Can Distort

  1. Education
  2. Biases
  3. Attitude
  4. Age
  5. Experience
  6. Emotion
  7. Religion
  8. Family
  9. Physical Condition
  10. Morals
     Improving your ability to listen is largely a matter of mental conditioning. Anytime you feel your emotional barriers or filters start to rise, make a conscious effort to:
  1. Refrain from judging or evaluating the speaker
  2. Focus you attention on the message
  3. Search for areas where you agree
  4. Keep an open mind
Not everyone shares the same beliefs. If you encounter a speaker having contradictory beliefs, you should:
  1. Be patient
  2. Pay closer attention to body language
  3. Hold your temper when you disagree
  4. Try Hard to put yourself in the speaker's position
Effective Listening Strategies

     To become a good listener, you must stay alert on several fronts at once, working with earths, eyes, and your whole being. Total body listening means, for starters, adopting the right posture for listening: face the speaker, establish eye contact, and block out distractions. Lean forward and nod occasionally. Good listening requires all of our senses and plenty of mental energy.

Listening to a Speech

    The beginning may be the most entertaining part of the speech--because the speaker is doing his/her utmost to gain your attention--but is usually not the most important. Somewhere shortly after the beginning of a speech, the speaker will state the main idea of the talk. Once you find the main idea, your listening job becomes much easier. Rather than hanging on every word as a speech begins, you should think about the title of the speech and make a few guesses about what direction the speaker might take.
     Be a critical listener during the body of the speech. Your main goal is to understand the speaker's message and intent. Another part of evaluating the accuracy and fairness of what you hear is determining whether any bias lurks in the speech.
    During the last part of a speech, the listener must be on guard for emotional appeals and propaganda, material designed to distort the truth or deceive the audience. Your job as a listener is to recognize whether the speaker is trying to mislead you. As a speaker ends her speech, ask yourself whether he/she has earned whatever acceptance or support the speaker is asking you to give.

Use Your Listening Spare Time to Advantage

Explore - one way to use your spare listening time is to explore what lies ahead in the speech by asking, "What does this person what me to believe?"

Analyze - another way to spend your listening spare time is to analyze the speaker's message. As the speaker makes arguments and defends assertions, ask yourself, "Are these reasons, examples, and facts, convincing? Are things exactly as the speaker says they are? Does this information match what I already know? Is he leaving anything out?"

Review - Speakers usually allow time for listeners to catch their breath. They may pause to make a transition: "Now let me talk about . . ." These moments give the listener an opportunity to review.

Search for Hidden Meanings - Throughout a speech, lecture, or presentation, listeners should listen "between the lines" in search of hidden meanings. Often what a person doesn't say may be as important as what she does say.