“I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” Abraham Lincoln
Communication is the sending and receiving of messages. Everyday we send and receive thousands of messages.
The five types of communication are:
- Verbal — messages sent from one person to another through the spoken word
- Non-verbal — messages sent from one person to another through actions or by observing another person’s actions
- Written — reading or writing a message
- Listening — receiving messages by hearing and focusing on the spoken word
- Technological — sending and receiving messages through technology
By definition, there is no communication unless someone hears or reads the message being conveyed.
Effective communication requires the listener to:
- Stop what he/she is doing and be ready to listen to the speaker.
- Often a speaker will state the main point of the message when he/she begins speaking. You do not want to miss this vital message.
- This will also serve as an indication to the speaker that you acknowledge the importance of the message and that listening is required.
- Use body language to indicate that he/she is engaged in the conversation and listening. Examples of effective body language are making eye contact, leaning in toward the speaker, and nodding the head.
- Ask questions if he/she is unclear about the message. Don’t ask too many questions because this can be overwhelming to the speaker. Also avoid irrelevant or open-ended questions because this could lead to a misdirection of the original message.
- Take notes and write down important details to avoid mistakes and misunderstandings. Listen for clue words that will help you identify these important details. Examples of clue words are names, dates, times, addresses, places, numbers, descriptions, etc. Listening for details will also help you to determine what is important and what is just a minor item.
- Once the speaker has finished speaking, restate the main points of the message. This will convey that you understand what has been said or whether additional conversation or follow-up questions are necessary. Use your notes to remember the details and indicate your attentiveness to the conversation.
- The listener spends too much time trying to formulate an answer while the speaker is speaking. Placing too much effort or concern on having the “right” answers might cause the listener to miss the main points of the message. It may turn out that an answer is not required; sometimes the speaker just needs to know that the listener understands the message and that an answer will be forthcoming.
- The listener thinks that he/she knows what is going to be said before the speaker says it. This type of anticipation can cause the listener to “tune out,” dismiss what is actually being said, and focus on what the listener thinks the speaker will say.
- Allowing interruptions when the speaker is conveying his/her message. If you are “multi-tasking” while listening to the speaker (opening mail, reading emails, looking at a device, or carrying on a side conversation), your non-verbal message to the speaker is that you do not think that the message is important and merits your full attention.
- Reacting to specifics. It is easy to stop listening and focus on other stimuli if the speaker uses language or a style of speaking (including non-verbal cues) that distract you. Stay focused on the big picture and do not let the details overwhelm or distract you.
- Daydreaming. A daydreamer pretends to listen but is really focused on some other stimuli. The listener will miss the message if he/she is not focused on what the speaker is saying or conveying through non-verbal communication.
Now, get to it . . .
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