Let’s face it when you communicate with someone who is constantly on ‘transmit’, it can be a bit like talking to the radio! Those who spend too much time in their own little bubble can, if they are not careful, end up working on the assumption that the other person has understood the message they are trying to get across. This is when successful communication breaks down and becomes an illusion.
It is, of course, a lot easier to see something from your own perspective and much more difficult to look at it from another person’s, especially when we all have such different personalities, backgrounds, ideas, beliefs and values.
There is a danger that if you are not careful, poor communication can lead to negativity, insecurity, backstabbing and blame. This in turn can also affect your stress levels and self-esteem, especially when you don’t understand something or feel that you have been misled. However, communication can also have a very positive effect when it works well and can make people feel valued, respected and even loved.
Being present when you are with someone is key, not just because you will be able to properly listen to what they are saying, but also because it is important to the other person’s self-esteem. When we feel we are not being listened to, it can make us feel insecure and lower our self-esteem. Active listening is therefore really important. Being present also means not using your mobile phone or other mobile technology whilst you are having a face-to-face conversation with someone else, as this can make you look as though you are not interested in the person you are with.
You talk to yourself subconsciously a great deal and you need to give yourself permission to listen to someone else. This means you literally have to command yourself to think ‘I am now going to give this person my full attention and really listen to what they have to say’.
Avoiding interrupting, jumping to conclusions, filling the gaps or making judgements will help you to listen to the whole message, not just to a part of it, which is a trap we can all so easily fall into.
Self-confidence is also a huge help when communicating as it enables you to communicate your message clearly and assertively. This means getting your message across in a positive, concise and constructive way that works just as well for the person who is on the receiving end as it does for you.
Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.‘
Communication – Steps to Success
Understand your communication style
Positively accommodate other communication styles
Be present when you are with people
Develop mobile technology etiquette
Actively listen and focus
Be positive and assertive.
Assertive communication is the ability to express your thoughts and opinions while respecting the thoughts and opinions of the person you are communicating with; it is appropriately direct, open and honest, and clarifies your needs to the other person.
People who have mastered the skill of assertiveness are able to greatly reduce the level of interpersonal conflict in their lives and therefore significantly reduce a major source of stress.
- Believe in yourself and in other people
- Know that assertiveness doesn’t mean you always win, but that you handled the situation as effectively as possible
- You have rights and so do others
- Be an effective and active listener
- State limits and expectations
- Observe without labelling or judging
- Express yourself directly, honestly, and as soon as possible
- Be aware of others’ feelings
- Be non-judgmental
- Trust yourself and others
- Be confident
- Be self-aware
- Be open, flexible and versatile
- Be playful with an appropriate sense of humour
- Be decisive
- Be proactive and take the initiative.
- Operate from choice
- Know what is needed and develop a plan to get it
- Be action-oriented
- Be firm and fair
- Be realistic about your expectations
- Be consistent and reliable
- Be trustworthy
- Use open and natural gestures
- Be attentive with interested facial expressions
- Use direct eye contact
- Adopt a confident and relaxed posture
- Use appropriate volume and pace of speech
- ‘I choose to. . .’
- ‘What are my options?’
- ‘What are your views?’
- ‘What alternatives do we have?’
- Increased self-esteem and self-confidence
- Encouraging increased self-esteem in others
- Feeling motivated and understood
- Others will know where they stand
- Others will respect you
The key to excellent communication is to communicate intelligently and positively. Interestingly, a theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr.
Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University. He suggested that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on IQ testing, is far too limited. Instead, Dr Gardner proposed eight different bits of intelligence to account for a broader range of human potential in both children and adults. These intelligence are:
This intelligence type involves words, both spoken and written. People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorising words and dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and through discussion and debate.
They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching, oration and persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, as well as an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure. This intelligence is highest in writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians, poets and teachers.
This intelligence type is centred around logic, abstractions, reasoning and numbers. It is often assumed that those with this intelligence naturally excel in mathematics, chess, computer programming and other logical or numerical activities. A more accurate definition places emphasis on traditional mathematical ability and more reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations. It correlates strongly with traditional concepts of intelligence or IQ. Many scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and economists function on this level of intelligence.
This intelligence type is founded in vision and spatial judgement. People with strong visual-spatial intelligence are typically very good at visualising and mentally manipulating objects. Those with strong spatial intelligence are often proficient at solving puzzles. They have a strong visual memory and are often artistically inclined. Those with visual-spatial intelligence also generally have a very good sense of direction and may also have very good hand-eye coordination, although this is normally seen as a characteristic of bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence. Careers that suit those with this intelligence include artists, engineers and architects.
This intelligence type concerns bodily movement. People who have this intelligence usually learn better by getting up and moving around, and are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance. They may enjoy acting or performing, and in general they are good at building and making things. They often learn best by doing something physically, rather than by reading or hearing about it. Those with strong bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence seem to use what might be termed as ‘muscle memory’ and they remember things through their body via verbal memory or images. Careers that suit those with this intelligence include football players, athletes, dancers, actors, surgeons, doctors, builders, and soldiers.
This intelligence type is based on rhythm, music, and hearing. Those who have a high level of musical-rhythmic intelligence display greater sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, absolute pitch and music. They normally have good pitch and may be able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music. Since there is a strong auditory component to this intelligence, careers that suit those with this intelligence include instrumentalists, singers, conductors, disc jockeys, orators, writers and composers.
This intelligence type focuses on interaction with others. People who have a high interpersonal intelligence tend to be extroverts, and are characterised by their sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, as well as their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. They communicate effectively and empathise easily with others, and can be either leaders or followers. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate. Careers that suit those with this intelligence include politicians, teachers, managers and social workers.
This intelligence type relates to introspective and self-reflective capacities. People with intrapersonal intelligence are usually highly self-aware and capable of understanding their own emotions, goals and motivations. They often have an affinity for thought-based pursuits such as philosophy. They learn best when allowed to concentrate on a subject by themselves. There is often a high level of perfectionism associated with this intelligence type. Careers that suit those with intrapersonal intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, writers and scientists.
This intelligence type is rooted in nature, nurturing and relating information to one’s natural surroundings. Those with naturalist intelligence are said to have greater sensitivity to nature and their place within it, the ability to nurture and grow things, and greater ease in caring for, taming and interacting with animals. They may also be able to discern changes in the weather or similar fluctuations in their natural surroundings. Recognising and classifying things are at the core of a naturalist.
Naturalists must connect a new experience with prior knowledge to truly learn something new. They learn best when the subject involves collecting and analysing, or is closely related to something prominent in nature; they don’t enjoy learning about unfamiliar or seemingly useless subjects with little or no connections with nature. It is recognised that naturalistic learners learn more through being outside or working in a kinaesthetic fway. Careers that suit those with this intelligence type include vets, environmentalists, scientists, gardeners and farmers.
Dr. Gardner believes that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. We esteem the highly articulate or logical people within our culture. However, Dr. Gardner asserts that we should place equal attention on individuals who are gifted in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs and others who also enrich the world in which we live.
It is useful to identify your own intelligence type and to recognise the intelligence style of others in order to communicate more effectively.
Listening to and understanding what others communicate to you is the most important part of a successful interaction. When a person decides to communicate with someone, they do so to fulfil a need: they want something, feel discomfort, or have particular feelings or thoughts.
In deciding to communicate, the person selects the method or code that they believe will effectively deliver the message to the other person. The code used to send the message can be either verbal or nonverbal. When the other person receives the coded message, they go through the process of decoding or interpreting it to understand its meaning. Effective communication exists between two people when the receiver interprets and understands the sender’s message in the same way the sender intended it.
The Three Basic Listening Modes:
- Competitive or combative listening happens when you are more interested in promoting your own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view. You either listen for openings to take the floor or for flaws or weak points you can attack. As you pretend to pay attention, you are impatiently waiting for an opening, or internally formulating your rebuttal and planning a devastating comeback that will destroy their argument and make you the victor.
- Passive or attentive listening is when you are genuinely interested in hearing and understanding the other person’s point of view. You assume that you heard and understand correctly, but stay passive and do not verify it.
- Active or reflective listening is the single most useful and important listening skill. In active listening, you are also genuinely interested in understanding what the message means, or in what the other person thinks, feels or wants. You are active in checking out your understanding before you respond with your own new message. You restate or paraphrase your understanding of the sender’s message and reflect it back to them for verification. This verification or feedback process is what distinguishes active listening and makes it effective.
Listening effectively is difficult because people vary in their communication skills and in how clearly they express themselves, and often have different needs, wants and purposes for interacting. The different types of interaction or levels of communication also add to the difficulty. The four different types or levels are:
- Thoughts and beliefs
- Feelings and emotions.
As a listener, you attend to the level that you think most important. Failing to recognise the level most relevant and important to the speaker can lead to crossed wires and a situation where you are not on the same wavelength. The purpose of the contact and the nature of your relationship with the person you are communicating with will usually determine what level or levels are appropriate and important for the particular interaction. If you don’t address the appropriate elements, you will not be very effective, and may actually make the situation worse.
For example, if your wife is telling you about her hurt feelings and you focus on the facts of the situation and don’t acknowledge her feelings, she is likely to become even more upset.
There is a real distinction between merely hearing the words and really listening for the message. When you listen effectively you understand what the person is thinking and/or feeling from their perspective. It is as if you are standing in the other person’s shoes, seeing through his or her eyes and listening through their ears.
Your own viewpoint may be different and you may not necessarily agree with the other person, but as you listen, you understand from their perspective. To listen effectively, you must be actively involved in the communication process, and not just listening passively.
Give yourself permission to listen and give the person you are listening to your full attention by telling the little voice inside your head to shut up so that you can focus.
- Use eye contact and ‘listening’ body language. Avoid looking at your watch or at other people or activities around the room. Face the speaker, lean towards them and nod your head when appropriate. Be careful about crossing your arms and appearing closed or critical.
- Be empathic and non-judgemental. You can be accepting and respectful of the other person and their feelings and beliefs without invalidating or giving up your own position, or without agreeing with the accuracy and validity of their view.
- Paraphrase and use your own words in verbalising your understanding of the message. Parroting back the words verbatim is annoying and does not ensure accurate understanding of the message. Avoid responding to just the meaning of the words; look for the feelings or intent beyond the words. The dictionary or surface meaning of the words or code used by the sender is not the message.
- Inhibit your impulse to immediately answer questions.The code may be in the form of a question. Sometimes people ask questions when they really want to express themselves and are not open to hearing an answer.
- Know when to quit using active listening. Once you accurately understand the sender’s message, it may be appropriate to respond with your own message. Don’t use active listening to hide and avoid revealing your own position.
- If you are confused and know you do not understand, either tell the person you don’t understand and ask him/her to say it another way, or use your best guess. If you are incorrect, the person will realise this and will likely attempt to correct your misunderstanding.
Have a good listen to your personal vocabulary – how do you speak to yourself? Vocabulary is something you will very rarely pay conscious attention to, yet it can give away a host of information about us to the perceptive listener.
Like appearance, vocabulary and speech form part of that important ‘first impression’, you make on other people. While the tone and timbre of our voices creates either a pleasing or grating effect on the listener, our choice of words conveys our attitude and emotional stance. There is a very interesting relationship between vocabulary and attitude.
When you describe an emotional state or use words to express an emotion directly, you reinforce that emotion. If, for example, you say, ‘Damn!’ when you make a mistake, you reinforce the anger you feel about that mistake. If, however, you say ‘Oops!’ instead, you are conveying to your subconscious mind that the mistake was minor, something not worth getting too excited about.
Modifying your vocabulary is one way to reduce the number of times you experience strong, stressful emotions like anger. The same principle applies to positive emotions.
Have you ever asked someone how they are and they answered, ‘Not too bad, thanks’? What if they’d answered ‘I’m feeling good, thanks for asking!’ instead? How would that affect the person’s attitude towards his or her life?
Positive self-talk is a great way to improve your energy levels. Most people know it by its more straightforward name – ‘affirmation’. But you need something a bit more focused than the traditional ‘Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better’. When you are using positive self-talk to improve your energy levels you need to make sure that your subconscious is in no doubt as to what you are talking about.
You need to be very clear as to what you are trying to encourage yourself to do. A much more concise affirmation would be, ‘I go for a walk every day in the park when I get back from work and it is very enjoyable’. This way, the mind is left in no doubt as to what you are trying to achieve and what is required of it.
When you are making affirmations to improve your energy levels, it is very important that all of your affirmations are not only in the present tense, but are also in the positive. It is very important to keep your affirmations in the positive as the subconscious mind is not well able to process a negative.
Rather than trying to get the subconscious mind to extract a positive action from a negative affirmation, it is much easier to put the affirmation in the positive in the first place. A good example of this would be the affirmations of someone who is trying to lose weight. If the affirmation is in the negative: ‘I will not eat fast food any more’, it is very difficult for the subconscious mind to process.
The mind not only has to process the negative – as in what you are not going to do: eat fast food; it also has to then decide, subconsciously, what it is actually supposed to do instead: eat well (which in itself is not a clearly defined concept). But if you put the affirmation in a positive sense, ‘I will eat fresh fruit and salad every day’ then it is very clear what is required of your mind and it is much easier to process this into action.
When you are engaging in positive self-talk, it is necessary to do so on a regular and consistent basis. The effects are usually cumulative and you should find that the more you do it, the more effective it is in helping you to build up your energy levels and in improving the way in which you live. This is partly due to the effect of saying something over and over again, but also, if your mind is used to you using affirmations and to processing them into action, it is more likely to be able to process new affirmations as it is just following the pattern of the previous, albeit different, affirmations that you have used in the past. This way you can enjoy the benefits more quickly – but you still need to use repetition of the positive self-talk until you have achieved the desired results.
One way you can use this to build your energy levels is with an affirmation such as ‘I am happy and always have enough energy to enjoy my work throughout the day’. This places the affirmation in the positive and also in the present. It states very clearly not only what you are hoping to achieve, but also what is actually happening.
Using positive self-talk can not only help to increase your energy directly but it can also help you to adopt other ways of doing so, such as exercising and improving your diet. Exercising and eating well can have really beneficial effects on your energy levels, but can be very hard for many people to get used to.
Using positive affirmations also can help you to change the way you eat and make it much easier for you to get used to doing an exercise programme. It is important not to limit the way that you use affirmations to just the direct benefit that you are looking for. If you consider all the different ways that you can use affirmations, you will find a great many ways in which they can benefit you.
The most important thing is to consciously and regularly listen to yourself and the words that you use to condition your thoughts, which in turn trigger your emotions, which shape your actions, which ultimately define your world!
Understanding your communication style is very important. Psychometric (translated from Latin, meaning measurement of the mind) tests are good at helping you to understand your strengths and limitations. One popular model is based on four personality types and social styles. Below is a brief description of each of these type and styles.
It may be worth trying to work out which style describes you best. Whilst we cannot cast people into concrete pigeon-holes and we may demonstrate attributes of each style, it is likely that one style will be dominant.
Independent, decisive and determined. Drivers can also be impatient at times and domineering when things don’t go the way they want them to. They may feel the need to take control of the situation which others may perceive as controlling and overbearing.
Good communicator, expressive and imaginative. Expressives can also talk too much, which others may perceive as a bit ‘full on’ and overwhelming, especially when the level of detail is more than they require.
Thoughtful, disciplined and thorough. Analyticals can also be perfectionists and on occasions get so dragged into the minute detail that they suffer from analysis paralysis. They can make other people who don’t require a huge level of detail to get on with something feel impatient and frustrated.
Supportive, patient and diplomatic. Amiables can also be bullied by others and lack the ability to be assertive. Because they don’t want to offend or upset the status quo they can be hesitant and sit on the fence with a reluctance to make any decisions.
Being aware that we are all different and that we all have strengths and limitations is very important in terms of being able to positively communicate with others. Just because you have a certain perspective it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best one and everyone, no matter what their personality style, has something valuable to offer.
Whilst your personality may stay the same, you can consciously choose to change your behaviours and reactions if you want to accommodate other people’s differences and bring about positive outcomes. On stressful days, when you are under pressure, there is a tendency to revert to form and that is when some of these diverse personality styles can clash. For example a dominant driver can get frustrated with the laid back amiable, or the imaginative expressive may find the exacting detail that the analytical goes into somewhat tedious. The skill here is to be aware of your limitations and to be mindful of how you react so that your communication doesn’t suffer and you can endeavour to look at things from another perspective.