Effective communication skills are critical for success in nearly any profession. Successful professionals know the importance of communication. They understand the process and how, if correctly used, it will help them be more successful on and off the job.
Here are seven elements that are essential to successful communication.
The sender is the person who is trying to communicate a message. The sender wants the other person to receive and understand his/her message. The intent of the message is usually to get the other person(s) to do or understand something.
Unfortunately, in the transference of information the other person(s) may not understand the message the way the sender intended. In fact, it is not uncommon for the other person(s) to respond in some affirmative manner communicating the message was received. This does not mean the message was understood the way the sender intended.
The receiver is the recipient of the message and must translate the words into thoughts, process the thoughts, and determine how to respond to the sender. The challenge is that since the receiver’s education and experience may be very different from the sender, words often have different meanings.
While you may carefully choose the words to speak, words alone represent a small percentage of what is received by the other person. In fact, according to the literature, words carry the least value in the message.
Hence, what is said is not nearly as communicative as body language and voice inflection. Even when no words are spoken, communication is taking place. If a person frowns, does not make eye contact, or looks at his/her watch a message is being sent…and it may not be the intended message.
Consequently, it makes sense to pay attention to body language and voice inflection. This takes more than casual watching and listening. It takes our full attention to be most effective.
An effective message is one where there is congruency, or agreement, between the words, meaning and emotion. Body language and voice inflection are essential in achieving congruency.
Channel is the medium used by the sender to send the message to the receiver. This may be in-person, via telephone, e-mail, text message, written correspondence or a third-party.
An important point to remember is that when communication is only verbal the most important element of communication…body language…is left out. If the communication is written, then both body language and voice inflection are left out.
Therefore, depending on the nature of the message to be sent, a sender will want to consider which medium to use. More critical messages may require face-to-face meetings, while less critical messages may be appropriately sent via a verbal or written message.
Noise refers to interference that takes place during the communication process. Both the sender and receiver may be distracted by noise. Noise may come from internal (thoughts, emotions, etc.) or external sources (radios, other conversations, etc.).
When encountering noise, take steps to reduce the distraction. If the noise is internal, take some time to refocus. Taking several deep breathes can help. Excusing yourself to go get a drink of water may be the mental break needed to clear the mind.
If the noise is external, then try to find a quieter location for the meeting. If necessary, consider rescheduling the meeting for a time when there are fewer distractions.
Feedback is the process of determining if the message has been properly received. This can be initiated by the sender or receiver. The sender, for example, may ask the receiver to repeat the message to confirm that the message was received as intended. On the other hand, a good listener will provide feedback to confirm that he/she correctly received the message.
Feedback may occur in four ways. First, and probably most common, is paraphrasing. Paraphrasing is reciting back what the other person said in your own words.
The second is summarizing. This involves making a brief statement of the key points and feelings expressed by the other person.
The third is to reflect the feelings. The focus is not so much on the message as the emotions behind the message. This is often an effective way to reflect empathy.
The fourth way is to reflect meaning. The focus of this type of feedback is to identify the meaning being expressed by the other person. On occasion, a person says one thing, but it carries a different meaning.
|Message||I came to work today intending to do I/M undercover runs and there are no vehicles available. I will have to go to another lab to obtain a suitable vehicle.|
|Paraphrasing||I heard you say that because there are no vehicles here you will have to pick up a vehicle at another lab before you can start work on your runs.|
|Summarizing||I heard you say you will have to get a vehicle at another lab before you start work. You sound frustrated.|
|Reflecting feelings||You sound upset.|
|Reflecting meaning||Are we having problems getting undercover vehicles again?|
Each of these different forms of feedback has a place in the communication process. Two things occur when feedback is provided. First, it helps ensure the message was clearly received. Second, it is a way of valuing the sender. When the receiver takes the time to make sure the message was correctly heard and understood it communicates that the sender is important…valuable.
Context is another way of taking into consideration the setting. Examples of context include:
- What is going through the other person’s mind when you show up? Did they just have a blow up with an employee or customer?
- What is the environment like? Is it noisy? Are there customers standing around?
- What was the nature of the last contact and how did that go?
- Are there cultural factors that should be considered?
- Are there notes or helpful information from the person who took the initial call?
Click on the link below to see a helpful diagram of the communication process.