By Terry Orr
“Communication is the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information by speech, signals or writing.”
Means of communicating were rather simple when I was born: post cards; letters; telegraph; telephone, sign language; smoke signals (didn’t work to well in the city); radio and the beginning of television; of course – telewoman (big smile) and best means face-to-face. Sixty some years later each has improved and digital communications is leading to way to new and improved means of communicating with others.
Last year at this time - Cherie Burbach wrote in her article on World Communication Week: Communication problems can affect every area of our life, from our jobs to our friendships. You might think that "better communication" just means talking more, but the reason definition has to do with effectiveness. This includes listening, paying attention to non-verbal clues, and speaking clearly so that both your intent and message is obvious.
While our tools and methods of communicating have vastly increased over the past few years – our ability to effectively communicate has become more challenging and often finding ourselves less effective. While I am here sitting in Bob Evans finishing my breakfast writing this article and wondering just how we got ourselves into this rut of being poor communicators in general. Here are some thoughts to consider:
- Short Hand;
- Lack of understanding between generations;
- Lack of patience;
- Audiences have dramatically changed;
- We have gone from local to regional to national to global environments;and
Dennis Rivers at NewConverations.Net recently updated his “A Guide to Listening,, Self-expression, Creative Question Asking, Gratitude, and more” is available for free in PDF format and contains lots of good information. Dennis focuses on seven communication skills challenges and a brief description of each follows.
Communication Skills Challenge One: Deep Listening. Listen more carefully and responsively, acknowledging the feelings and wants that people express in word and mood. Actively acknowledging another person’s experience does not have to mean that you agree or approve.
Communication Skills Challenge Two: Explaining your conversational intent and inviting consent by using one of 30 basic conversational invitations such as, “Right now I would like to take a few minutes and ask you about… [subject].” The more involvement a conversation is going to require of the other person, the more you will benefit by sharing your conversational goal and inviting the conscious cooperation of your conversation partner.
Communication Skills Challenge Three: Expressing yourself more clearly and more completely how to express yourself in a way that gives your listeners the information they need to:
Understand (mentally reconstruct) your experiences more fully
Empathize with what you are experiencing.
One good way is to use “the five I-messages”: What/how I …
Because I interpret/evaluate/need, and now I;
Want to request; and
Envision/hope for from request.
Communication Skills Challenge Four: Translating your criticisms and complaints into requests for action and explaining the positive results of having your request granted. Do this for both your own complaints and the complaints that others bring to you. Focusing on the positive outcome shows respect to the recipient of a request as having a positive contribution to make, and shifts focus from past mistakes to present and future successes.
Communication Skills Challenge Five: Asking questions more “open-endedly” and more creatively.
“How did you like that movie?” is an open-ended question that invites a wide range of answers. “Did you like it?” suggests only “yes” or “no” as answers and does not encourage discussion. Sincerely asked open-ended questions can open up our conversation partners.
Communication Skills Challenge Six: Thanking: Expressing more gratitude, appreciation, encouragement and delight in everyday life. In a world full of problems, look for opportunities to give praise. Both at home & at work, it is the bond of appreciation that makes relationships strong enough to allow for problem-solving and differing needs.
Communication Skills Challenge Seven: Adopting the “living-as-continuous-learning” approach. Make the practices described in challenges 1 through 6 important parts of your everyday living and learning. Pay attention to each conversation as an opportunity to grow in skill, awareness and compassion. Work to redefine each of your “opponents” in life as a learning and problem-solving partner. Assist the processes of change in your world by personally embodying the changes, virtues and styles of behavior you want to see in others.
So let’s all take a few minutes, catch our collective breaths, reflect on the helpful ideas listed above and start working to communicate better in all areas of our lives.
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