Communication is a two way process where a message is sent by the sender with the intention that the message should be interpreted in the same terms by the recipient. However this is not always the case, this is an ideal. Communication is often disrupted by distractions which surround us and our own poor listening skills. Communication is not only the key to achieving our goals but is also our essential for our survival. Effective communication has three key aspects. Firstly, the exchange of information, secondly, understanding the intentions, and finally empathy.
In the previous blog I discussed non verbal communication and the important part it plays in communication. This blog will speak about the skills of listening and communicating clearly when we talk. Listening or understanding the message someone is trying to send to you is a skill which is often not spoken about when referring to communication. In order to listen effectively you need to be able to practice focused listening or interpretive listening. Focused listening is giving the sender your undivided attention to their communication. Interpretive listening is going beyond just paying attention and actually trying to understand what the person is communicating to you at the time. For communication to be effective, I now understand that I need to use focused or interpretive listening to be entirely engaged. Both levels of listening are necessary for business as well as personal communication.
As part of our preparation for this class we watched this youtube video by Julian Treasure. In the video, Julian explains different ways on how to improve our listening skills. ‘Making meaning from sound’ was critical advice about listening. Other valuable suggestions Julian made was using the RASA principal when listening to others. The acronym represents four key parts of listening – Receive, Appreciate, Summarize and Ask. Receive means paying attention to whom is talking to you. Appreciate is the acknowledgment that you’re listening by nodding or making small verbal affirmations. Summarize lets the sender know that you recognise what s/he is saying by repeating brief summaries of what they have said. And finally, Ask involves asking relevant questions afterwards.
For communication to be effective, we also need to ensure that we are clearly heard and understood when we are the sender. Another youtube video by Julian explained the principles of getting your message across adequately. In this video he used the acronym HAIL for speaking powerfully and with meaning. These letters stand for Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity and Love. Honesty means being true in what you say as well as being clear and straight. Authenticity represents being yourself. Integrity requires doing what you say and being trusted by others. Love demands wishing well to the person or people you are talking to.
The attention span of an adult is particularly short at 17 seconds. Not only is this an alarmingly low amount of time to keep focus, this time length is getting shorter and shorter due to technology , smart phones and social media. To illustrate this point we performed a class exercise. The exercise required each person to say their name, favourite animal and the place they’d most like to be. After your turn to mention these personal characteristics, you then had to repeat the answers of the person who went before you. Followed by the people that went before them. Initially I thought this was a memory exercise but the way the game is structured meant you had to pay attention to every classmate’s answers. Full attention was absolutely necessary to be effective in this exercise. The exercise illustrated that for effective two way communication to occur, listening and paying attention are crucial.
I am often guilty of taking listening for granted as well as not appreciating being fully understood. It is essential to practice these skills and make use of them as much as possible. Communication is a huge part of human interaction. Especially when it comes to business and growing a business. When creativity is involved communication is arguably even more crucial as understanding can be more challenging due to abstract ideas creativity regularly holds. As with most understanding in life, empathy and understanding of those you’re communicating with forms the basis of how effective your communication can be.