Communication is consistently listed as one of the keys to success in business and life, and just as frequently identified by employees as a key missing link to maximum productivity and job satisfaction. We communicate every day verbally and nonverbal to co-workers, to people on the phone, and to our family. Weve been communicating since the day we were born. Actually, we were communicating before we were born, in our mothers womb. What is communication? Communication is the process of constructing meaning together.
We live in a world of meaning, and communication is the process of collaboratively constructing these meanings. We hope in this process, that presenting something to other individuals that we are getting our ideas across precisely. We would hope that through this process the receiver would be able to translate our messages into ideas. Unfortunately there are a lot of barriers to this process. I will be discussing four different topics, verbal & nonverbal communication, perception, listening, and self-disclosure.
Through the presentation of these topics, I will demonstrate several ways in which we can communicate among ourselves more effectively. This paper will demonstrate how we can become more effective as communicators, and to be able to apply the four topics covered. Verbal communication includes anything written, or spoken. Nonverbal communication includes eye contact, body movement, facial expression, tone of voice, touch, silence, and several different expressions. This book discusses verbal & nonverbal communication jointly. It has become obvious that you can’t really separate the verbal & nonverbal parts.
As stated by D. J. Higginbotham & D. E. Yoder, “It is impossible to study either verbal or nonverbal communication as isolated structures. Rather, these systems should be regarded as a unified communication construct. ” One example that the author s John Stewart & Carole Logan use is that language be regarded in terms of a sliding scale. The main communication blocks on a sliding scale that runs from primarily verbal (written words) to mixed (vocal pacing, pause, loudness, pitch, and silence), to primarily nonverbal (gestures, eye gaze, facial expression, touch, and space).
The degree that you can isolate the words speakers use, they might be considered primarily verbal, but spoken words always come with vocal pacing, pause, loudness, pitch and silence, and as a result these are labeled mixed. Gestures, eye gaze, facial expression, touch, and space are labeled primarily nonverbal because they occur without words, but they are usually interpreted in the context of spoken words. This is why language is considered soup. As humans, we’re immersed in language beginning at birth and ending at death, like a fish is immersed in water.
This soup includes all of the verbal & nonverbal parts of our communicative life. Language is more than a system we use or an activity we perform it is a subject that we manipulate or use. Movements and gestures reflect the type of relationship that exists between individuals. When communicating with people, I have a tendency of crossing my arms across my chest and slightly leaning away from them. It’s a habit that I don’t even realize I do. When I cross my arms I feel like I create a negative attitude. I need to practice leaning forward, and letting the individual know that I am truly interested in what they have to say.
Crossing my arms and leaning backward is just one example of how body movements and gesture make up still another important category of nonverbal communication. When we perceive we select, organize, and make meaning out of the things and events we see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Language and perception are thoroughly interrelated. This means that everything that we perceive, all the things that make up our world is affected by the language in which we live. The author, Julia T. Wood, uses the word Totalizing in her reading It’s Only Skin Deep.
She describes this word, as communication that emphasizes one aspect of a person is the totality of that person. Wood makes the point that totalizing has negative effects on both those who do it and those who are its targets. Once we totalize we tend to perceive others through the labels we use to describe them. Once we refer to someone as being overweight our tendency is to fill in the rest of those persons features that may or may not be parts of whom the individual really is (an example might be that the person is lazy and undisciplined).
Once we group individuals into groups, we tend to think about them in terms of our stereotypes, regardless of their unique qualities and talents. Their individuality is lost, and is submerged in our preconceptions of the group to which we assign them. When we feel like we are the ones that are being totalized we become offended and resentful. In this article, Wood uses Spike Lee as an example. Lee states I want to be known as a talented young filmmaker. That should be first. But the reality is that no matter how successful you are, youre black first. The misunderstanding of identity and achievement is offensive.
It is easier to think of Spike Lee as black than to try to perceive him as a unique individual who is male, young, a filmmaker, educated, and African American. As discussed above there are negative effects on those parties that are being stereotyped and those that are doing the stereotyping. Unfortunately, these feelings create barriers, to open healthy communication and comfortable relationships. We have an individual at work that has had a gender change from a gentleman to a woman. I don’t even know this individual but I already have her stereotyped as strange, gay, or bisexual situation).
I’m not even aware of this person accomplishments or expertise. I only see this individual as odd and not fitting in. There are a lot of people at work that do not understand the situation, me being one of them. Unfortunately, this creates a barrier to an open and comfortable relationship. I’m sure this individual has a lot to offer our organization, but we limit what we can gain from this individual by setting up these barriers. Listening is the process of discriminating and identifying which sounds are meaningful or important to us and which are not.
It is an active process that requires participation to fully understand the meaning of the communication. A common misconception about listening is that it is natural. The assumption that it is natural arises partly because we confuse the process of hearing with the process of listening. Listening is an essential skill for making and keeping relationships. There are several conversations that have taken place where the listener didn’t “hear” what was said. The sound may have reached their ears, but they do not remember what was said because they were paying attention to something else at the time.
Research indicates that only 25% of what a person hears is remembered. Effort can improve this rate, but it’s most effective to get some listening training aimed at both attitudes and skills and then to practice what we’ve learned to make it habitual. Listening is hard work, but if we perfect our listening skills rewards will be limitless. Chapter 6 makes reference to four steps to effective listening. I believe these are all important steps that we could use to listen more effectively. The first is listening actively. Three activities that help improve effective listening are paraphrasing, clarifying, and giving feedback.
The second step is to listen with empathy. The third step is listening with openness. This means reserving or otherwise postponing judgements until after you’ve listened fully. Step four is listening with awareness. This step is to compare what’s being said to your own knowledge without judgement. The second part of this step is it to track congruence between the content of a person’s communication and his or her tone of voice, emphasis, facial expression, and posture. If we put these four simple steps to practice we will lead to an overall better communicator. I grew up believing I was a good listener.
Although I’ve become a better listener I have to admit I’m only an adequate listener. I have a bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking or finishing their sentences. I’ve learned to be content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for my chance to respond. Sometimes, I think that communication is a race. We sit at the edge of our seats trying to guess what the other person is going to say so that we can fire back our response. Slowing down my responses and becoming a better listener enhances the quality of my relationships with other people.
After all, everyone loves to talk to someone who truly listens to what they are saying. Self-disclosure is the opening up of oneself to others to create a transparent self. Some feel as if self-disclosure is a simple declaration of feelings and experiences that characterize the persons inner self. In reality self-disclosure is a more complex process involving many declarations that in truth serve to keep the conversation going rather than offering much information per se, but can also be used to control conversation or manage identity.
The background and social context for a self-disclosure is at least as important to its social impact as is the behavior itself. One of my greatest difficulties is expressing my feelings. Sometimes, my husband will say something that may hurt my feelings. Instead of letting my husband know that he has hurt me by what he has said, I expect him to figure it out. I may not talk to him for sometime. I become absorbed in what my husband said that has upset me. Unfortunately, I am very insecure. Instead of just asking my husband for clarification, I let my negative & insecure thoughts spiral out of control.
My husband is a wonderful man, but he is not a mind reader. I have improved since I’ve gotten married at asking for clarification when something is said that upsets me. Most of the time, it is only a misunderstanding of his communication to me. My strengths, as a communicator, are: I always maintain eye contact when communicating with an individual. It enhances the communication between individuals by letting the individual know that you really are interested and sincere about what’s being said. I’m really good at asking for clarification. If I don’t understand something, I ask question until I get a clearer picture.
Clarifying lets the person know that you fully understand what they are saying and that you are really interested. I’m really good at encouraging the other person to talk more. I let the person know that I’m interested and want to learn more. My thoughts are my conclusions that I have heard, read, or observed something. I do a very good job at communicating my thoughts. I’m really good at focusing on one thing at a time when I try. I hear a conversation out from beginning to ending. I stick with the topic at hand until the other person has made their point clear.
My weaknesses, as a communicator, are: Im possessive about my space. When people stand or sit too close to me they make me feel uncomfortable. I set up a space around me and this is my space. If someone invades my space, I feel threatened. As I’ve already stated above, I tend to cross my arms across my chest and lean slightly away from someone when I talk to them. When I cross my arms I feel like I create a negative attitude. I need to practice leaning forward, and let the individual know that I am truly interested in what they have to say.
I have a tendency to interrupt people, or sometimes I finish their sentences. I have to remind myself to be patient and to let the other person have their time. I rush people, so I can then tell them what I think is important. I’m not really listening to them. I need to take my time and enjoy what the other person is actually saying. I identify much to often with someone while communicating. Someone may try to tell me a story about him or herself and it reminds me of my own experience. Whenever I get a chance, I tell the person about my experience. I never even let the person finish his or her own story.
I’m so busy telling my story that I forget that they were trying to tell me a story. I’m really terrible at advising. I had a co-worker tell me a story recently. He was upset about something, and I tried to come up with a solution to his problem. I didn’t even hear how this person was feeling and missed the most important part. He just wanted someone to listen to him and understand what he was going through. This paper demonstrated how we could become more effective as communicators, and to be able to apply the four topics covered. Communication in a nutshell is the process of constructing meaning together.
Our goal should be to strive to constantly improve our communication process. Most of us fall into certain habits. It’s helpful to become conscious of our habits, but knowing that so you can change those habits is the critical point. Practice is the only way you will become a better communicator. As you incorporate these ideas into your life you will begin to notice an improvement in your overall communication. Sometimes, we lose site of the bigger picture. As the serenity prayer suggest, “Change the things that can be changed, accept those that cannot, and have the wisdom to know the difference. “