?By Irene Becker, CCTA Irene Becker is President of Just Coach It, a professional coaching firm specializing in effective living, leading and communicating at the speed of change. Please do not hesitate to contact Irene at email@example.com, or to visit Just Coach It on the web First and foremost effective communication is essential to not only organizational success, but success in one's personal life. Effective communication promotes interpersonal understanding and problem solving. I was hired to first do personal coaching with focus to be determined by each core team member, and the mandate changed to dealing the communication skills of each core team member and areas of communication that they wanted to improve. While we live in what has been deemed the information age, the preponderance of advertising, media and instruments of communication has perhaps dealing with staggering amounts of communication to absorb and less and less time to effectively use and improve our communication skills. Communication can not be measured by the amount of communication that is exchanged, but by how many messages are received, understood. Clear communication is key as we all filter verbal information through what we want to hear and are expecting to hear. It is important to always verify what the receiver of one's message understands the message to be and to move away from personalizing questions that may arise, and focus on clarifying what one wants to communicate. Here are two major communication skills areas and three areas of speaking and listening that are key to effective communication. I) SPEAKING SKILLS A. Slowing down our though processes to understand the message B. Making our self understood C. Testing our conclusions about what is being communicated II) LISTENING SKILLS D. Listening constructively E. Getting the essence of the communication F. Exploring any disagreement that may arise as a result of the communication Let's take a closer look at what makes good speaking and listening happen! A. SLOWING DOWN OUR THOUGHT PROCESS Slowing down our thought process is key to clearly expressing our opinion. Thought is a really rapid process. Our minds are capable of receiving, evaluating, interpreting and classifying thousands of bits of information simultaneously. Most of the mental digestion of our communication takes place unconsciously. As such while we are very aware of the results of our communication, we are not usually aware of the process. It is really important to delivery clear messages to the receiver of our communication. If we do not make sure that we are delivering both a clear message and also a reason for this message the receiver may not get what we are trying to say. Slowing down our thought process is key to clearly expressing our opinion because in order to clearly transmit our message the receiver must understand not only the conclusion we are stating but how we arrived at the conclusion. If we want our thought processes to be understandable to the receiver it is very important that we explain the basis for our message. B. MAKING OUR SELF UNDERSTOOD While making oneself understood in English to another English speaker sounds really easy it is not. While we all speak the same language the words that we use can have different meanings or none at all the receiver of our communication. We all know that it is important to clarify the meaning of technical terms to an outsider; we often forget that it is of equal import to make sure that the receiver understands the meaning behind our words. In the best of communication checking the message received is always a good idea because it allows us to make sure that the message that we are sending is the one that is received. While the person we are communicating may be listening they must also be hearing our meaning and not what they hear through their personal psychological, sociological filters. Our usage of receiver friendly vocabulary is also key because if the receiver does not consider the words we are saying to be of importance, of the vocabulary we are using does not speak to them personally we will lose their interest and attention. We have to always make sure that when transmitting information we are using words, phrases, images and metaphors that the receiver is accustomed to and that we are always checking that the receiver is following what we are saying, not what they are hearing us to say. We have to be responsible for the effectiveness of our communication and it starts with speaking the language of the receiver and making sure that what we are saying is clearly understood. C. TESTING CONCLUSIONS Encouraging others to ask questions about our conclusions does not weaken our communication effectiveness but rather strengthens the communication rapport between sender and receiver. Letting others in on the reasons behind our conclusions, encouraging them to ask questions and seeking clarification is critical to great communication. Each time we express our opinion there is an opportunity to also test what we are saying with the questions or reservations that the receiver may express. The more questions that arise, the better our conclusions will be. While encouraging the receiver of our communication to question what we are saying does not reflect the old business communication model, it is very reflective of a new paradigm, a flat versus hierarchical model of work and of communication. Engagement is key to our work, to our communication and certainly to the synergy of a team. Engagement cannot be accomplished without transparency in communication, which includes the opportunity to discuss points and conclusions. Discussing points on their merits rather than pushing a particular point of view can be greatly productive to team communication as if facilitates group engagement and synergy. It sets up a group dynamic that moves away from adopting the solution of the boss or team leader, but rather letting go of competition and embracing a team spirit that will give birth to the best solution coming forward. Also, this type of open discussing and testing of conclusions initiates team dialogue, open team dialogue that will serve to help the team reach solutions that would not have been possible by just taking the opinions of a single member of the group. D. UNDERSTANDING OTHERS Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing means that we are physically receiving communication. In order to truly understand what a person is saying we need to have a clear picture of what the sender truly wants to convey to us. Communication is based on rapport, and rapport cannot be developed if we receive the sender's message with a blank show of interest, a nodding head or a neutral face. The sender wants to be understood and in order to understand the sender we need to listen carefully and without judgment or drawing premature conclusions. In order to listen effectively we have to take pause and eliminate the thoughts we have that are distracting us from what the sender is saying. We will be able to understand the sender better if we not only focus on what they are saying but their tone and body language. Improving listening skills is one of the most important communication skills because in listening attentively and well we are enhancing both our ability to receive a message and also to respond appropriately and to continue to develop rapport with the sender. It means making sure that you listen without judgment, that you are a positive, recipient of the message and that you show the sender that what they are saying is important by focusing on them and also reformulating what they have said in our own words. If you do not have time to listen or to focus, it is better to postpone the conversation for a better time than to pretend that you are paying attention. E. GETTING TO THE ESSENCE While it is really important to ask questions of the sender to clarify their message, it is of equal import to be careful how we ask questions. No one likes to be grilled, interrogated, or examined with an overly critical and demanding eye. A calm but warm tone of voice, focus on the issues, and an apparent desire to understand what the sender is saying rather than judging or criticizing the message is key. Open ended questions are tools for clarifying the sender's message as the elicit communication flow and allow the party you are asking the question of to remain relaxed, open and to see that you do not want to dominate or castigate, but rather to communicate. F. EXPLORING DISAGREEMENTS If disagreements are handled properly they can be a really important resource of information for any team. If handled properly they can be a source of new ideas, innovative solutions and greater rapport. Disagreements should never be ignored and every attempt should be made to explore disagreements with carefrontation rather than exacerbating misunderstanding or conflict. Disagreements can only be addressed when each party to the disagreement understands clearly what is causing the disagreement. Sometimes different people have different opinions, other times they start off with different information or interpretations. Often the disagreement is not about the issue at all but the manner in which a message was communicated or poorly expressed. Exploring disagreement means stepping away from judgment, from criticism and just focusing with the sender of the message on what caused the disagreement and why. The first step is always to determine the cause of the disagreement, clarify meanings of the words used and go through each step of the reasoning process. Exploring disagreements constructively is never about starting a blame game, never about challenging others, getting overly emotional or becoming critical and condescending. Disagreement can cement relationships, uncover new solutions and help both parties to learn and grow. While no one likes to address thorny issues the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. If we hide potential disagreements and do not explore how they can be resolved we are only planting the seeds of animosity and resentment. All organizational, business and personal relationships are founded on communication. Good communication is the seedbed for success. Move past communication obstacles and work to honing your communication skills so that you can COMMUNIGREAT! ? 2004-2005 Irene Becker Did you find this article useful? For more useful tips and hints, points to ponder and keep in mind, techniques, and insights pertaining to Internet Business, do please browse for more information at our websites.