Effective Communication: Communication is the process of exchanging information
Information is conveyed as words, tone of voice, and body language. Studies have shown that words account for 7 percent of the information communicated. Vocal tone accounts for 55 percent and body language accounts for 38 percent. To be effective communicators, team members must be aware of these forms, how to use them effectively, and barriers to the communications process.
Effective Ways to Communicate
- The following actions have been observed in teams with effective communication skills:
- Acknowledge communications
- Provide information when asked
- Repeat, as necessary, to ensure communication is accurately received
- Use standard terminology when communicating information
- Request and provide clarification when needed
- Ensure statements are direct and unambiguous
- Inform the appropriate individuals and all team members when plans change
- Communicate information needed by those individuals or teams external to the team
- Pay attention to and use nonverbal communication appropriately
- Use proper order when communicating information
Barriers to Effective Communication
Barriers are influencing factors which impede or breakdown the continuous communication loop. They block, distort, or alter the information. By identifying barriers and applying countermeasures, team members can effectively communicate. Barriers include:
- Non-assertive behavior
- Anger or frustration
- Personal bias
- Team diversity
- Lack of confidence
- Inappropriate priorities
- Organizational structure
- Tunnel vision
Communications is a two-way process that starts with the sender. The sender should be conveying information necessary to relay a message, idea, etc. The sender must be proactive in making the receiver understand the message. Too often, what is said is not always what is heard. To prevent this from happening, do the following:
- State one idea at a time
- State ideas simply
- Explain when appropriate
- Repeat if appropriate
- Encourage feedback
- Read between the lines. Did your choice of words, tone of the sentence, and body language (intentional gestures or subconscious movements) convey the same meaning?
The message is simply the information the sender wants to communicate to the receiver. The message is usually verbal, but it can also be non-verbal. To reduce potential problems, the sender should:
- Use correct terminology (standard commands)
- Speak clearly
- Time the message to be sent when the receiver is able to listen
- Use appropriate vocal tone and volume. Commands must be heard and perceived as an imperative, not a question or comment. When breaking error chains, or returning others to situational awareness, express a tone of urgency and importance.
- Be relevant to the receiver, not a distraction. The message needs to be inclusive and informative. Inclusive means that it contains everything necessary for the receiver to understand the sender’s point. Informational means it is something that the receiver needs to know.
The receiver needs information to accomplish his/her task. The effectiveness of the team often rests on its members’ ability to listen. Unfortunately, most people find listening difficult.
The receiver must exert control over the communication process. For receivers to have control, it is important that they ensure that the senders understand what the receivers want and why they want it.
Active Listening is a process used by the receiver to facilitate communication and enhance performance. It requires the receiver to be active in the communications process. To actively listen, the receiver needs to:
- Focus attention on the message, giving it momentary priority. If possible, look at the sender.
- Listen and look for the indirect message content (nonverbal) as well as hearing the words. Observing non-verbal cues provides in¬formation regarding what the sender wants to convey. Your perception of the message and the sender’s intent for the mes¬sage may be different. Word choice, tone of voice, body po¬sition, gestures and eye movements reflect the feel¬ings behind the spoken word.
- Keep an open mind and suspend judgment.
- Verify what was heard. Don’t assume that your perception of the message agrees with the sender’s intent. Provide the sender feedback.
Effective receivers verify their understanding of the message with the sender. They consider words, tone, and body language when they give feedback. Forms of feedback include:
- Acknowledgment: It demonstrates that the receiver has heard the message. However, for critical information or complicated ideas, acknowledgment normally is insufficient to ensure understanding.
- Parroting (Readback) : Parroting is repeating back verbatim the words of the speaker. It confirms to the speaker that the words transmitted were the words received. It is preferred in verifying receipt of standard commands. Like acknowledgement, it does not ensure the receiver understood the message.
- Paraphrasing: Paraphrasing is rephrasing, in your own words, the content of the sender’s message to the sender’s satisfaction. It clarifies the message for both you and the sender. Paraphrasing allows you to check your under¬standing of the message and shows the sender, that you listened accurately (i.e., the content and intent was correctly understood). If you listened inaccurately, the sender has an opportunity to correct the communication error.
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