You are on page 1of 27

Communication Skills Communication is a critical key to success. It involves both a speaker and a listener.

Communications can be spoken, read, written. They can also be nonverbal in the form of body language. The way a message is communicated is influenced by the words, voice (quality, tone, inflection) and body language (appearance, nervous habits, body position, etc.). When verbal and nonverbal messages conflict, the listener relies on the nonverbals for meaning. People trust actions more than words. "Actions speak louder than words." sure your words, voice and body language are all saying the same thing. All facets of communication are important and can be practiced and improved. One of the most difficult aspects of communication is listening. Many times we think someone is hard of hearing, when in fact, they are hard of listening!

COMMUNICATION INVENTORY Respond to each of the items on the Communication Inventory below by placing an "O" for Often, "S" for Sometimes, or "R" for Rarely on the line after each statement, that accurately reflects your attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Be as honest as possible so you will gain an understanding of how you communicate. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. I am willing to share information openly and candidly with people I work with. _____ I ask other people if they understand what I am saying. _____ I count primarily on words to communicate with others. _____ I consciously "read" the nonverbal communication of others. _____ Communication with me can be difficult when things aren't going well. _____ People I work with don't perceive what kind of a person I really am. _____ People interrupt or ignore my comments or opinions. _____ I keep things to myself to spare my employees worry. _____ People who communicate with me check to see whether or not I understand them. _____ When I think that someone may feel differently from what they say, I believe what they say. _____ When I observe nonverbal behavior that conflicts with what someone is saying, I believe the words. _____ The people I work with can be completely open with me. _____ The people I work with include me in what is going on. _____

LISTENING One of the most effective methods of tapping the ideas of others is to listen. Learning through listening is primarily an inside job inside action on the part of the listener. Listening Exercise - Dallia Mark the following statements either T for True or F for False based on the news story read to you. Your responses will then be checked to see how closely you listened. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. _____Dallia has had five debilitating attacks since July. _____She learned how to bake yeast bread at age 7. _____Cooking is Dallia's only therapy. _____Dallia lives alone on a 3 acre farm. _____Dallia has multiple dystrophy. _____Dallia has spent 21 weeks in the hospital since July. _____Dallia is legally blind. _____Baking bread is part of her therapy. _____Dallia has five children. _____Her husband is deceased. _____Dallia cooked for the hospital staff. _____Her eyesight is beginning to improve. _____Stirring and kneading help Dallia's hand coordination. _____The family farm is located in Herndon.

Facts/Inferences Exercises Recognizing when statements are facts or merely inferences is an important part of communicating. Read the following two items. For each of the questions that follow, put an "F" if you think it is a fact, or a "I" if you think it is an inference. 1. The only vehicle parked in front of 309 Davis Street is a blue station wagon. The words "Bill Thomas TV Repair" are spelled in large letters across the body of the station wagon. a. _____The color of the vehicle in front of 309 Davis Street is blue. b. _____Someone's TV needs repair at 309 Davis Street. c. _____The blue station wagon parked in front of 309 Davis Street belongs to Bill Thomas. d. _____There is lettering on the body of the station wagon. A girl had just opened the door to the apartment when a man appeared and demanded money. The tenant opened her purse. The contents of the purse spilled out on the floor. The man took the money and left. The tenant called the apartment manager. a. _____A man appeared after the tenant opened the apartment door. b. _____The robber was a man. c. _____The money was in the girl's purse. d. _____The purse spilled on the floor. e. _____The apartment manager was called. f. _____The man ran from the apartment. g. _____The man took the money. h. _____The story involves three people: the female tenant, the man, and the apartment manager.


COMMUNICATION INVENTORY SCORING AND INTERPRETATION There are no right or wrong responses to the statements on the Communication Inventory. Some are positive and negative statements of a belief or situation; others relate to specific communication practices. Many of the items are linked so that, for instance, a positive response to one should bring a negative response on the other. Below are some comments on each statement. 1. Maintaining an open communications climate can be a significant factor in the accomplishment of tasks and goals. This item is linked to #8. A positive response to one should carry a negative response to the other. Check to see if others understand you; encourage others to give and ask for feedback. A positive response to this and #9 indicates a healthy feedback environment. As much as 50% of our person to person communication is nonverbal. You need to be aware of the nonverbal messages you are communicating. This item is linked to 4, 10, and 11. See response to #3. This is a difficult question to answer honestly. It is important to realize that when things aren't going well is precisely the time when good communication is important. This response should be similar to #12 and 13. If you answered this "often" or "sometimes" check to see how you are personalizing the messages you send to others. Think about your communication style. If this happens often, it could indicate that you are using dominating behavior or other practices that could trigger such a reaction. 5



4. 5.

6. 7.

8. 9. 10.

11. 12. 13.

While this may be necessary sometimes, good communications flow is effective in problem solving, motivating and maintaining morale. See response to #2. Usually when nonverbal behavior conflicts with spoken words, we are more likely to believe the nonverbal message. This may occur on the sub-conscious level without your being aware of the response. See response to #3. See your responses to #5 and 13. Can people be completely open if you are not accessible for communication? If they don't include you as often as you would like, check your responses to #5, 8, and 12. If you don't share, others may use this same practice.

Dallia Answers 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. F T F F F T T T F F T F T F F

If you did not get at least 10 correct responses, you need to work on your ability to concentrate on and absorb what people say to you. Try to keep your mind free from distracting thoughts. Refer back to the test on how to improve listening skills.

Facts/Inferences Responses 1. a. b. c. d. Fact Inference-Perhaps, but it isn't stated. Inference-This may be true, but the story doesn't say so. Fact


a. Inference-A girl opened the door. She may or may not be the tenant. b. Inference-The man demanded money but he could be a collection agent, salesman, robber or something else. c. Inference-The story doesn't say where the money was. d. Inference-The contents of the purse spilled out on the floor but it doesn't indicate that the purse fell also. e. Fact f. Inference-The man left. He may or may not have run. g. Fact h. Inference-There may be four people involved if the girl who opened the door is not the tenant. The story doesn't say.

Being able to keep facts clearly in mind without clouding them with your own perceptions is important to good communication. If you did not get all of the answers correct, you need to practice keeping your focus on the facts of the situation without drawing unwarranted conclusions.

WAYS TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATIONS 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. Clarify your ideas before communicating. Look at the true purpose of each communication. Consider the physical setting. Consult with others in planning. Consider the audience as well as content. Convey something of help or value, if possible. Seek feedback. Communicate for tomorrow as well as for today. Your actions should support words. Seek not only to be understood, but to understand. Realize your impact on others. Be aware of the other person. Avoid value judgments. Be clear and complete. Be concise and correct. Improve listening and feedback skills. Clarify or state your assumptions. Ask the right questions. Avoid stereotypes. Develop empathy, understanding and sensitivity.

The Business of Listening In Business... To listen effectively is to reach a clarity of understanding To understand clearly is to respond appropriately To respond appropriately is to enhance communication To enhance communication is to support cooperation To support cooperation is to improve morale To improve morale is to increase job commitment To increase job commitment is to focus on productivity Listening is Good Business!!!

Experts in a dozen studies have verified that we listen more than any other activity, except breathing. Listening is the "receiving" part of communication. Listening is: 1. 2. 3. 4. Receiving information through your ears (and eyes) Giving meaning to that information Deciding what you think (or feel) about that information and, Responding to what you hear.

Most of our listening is work related: !taking care of our customers !working with employees !dealing with various purveyors !host agency relations !Business Consultant recommendations !receiving phone calls WHY SHOULD YOU LISTEN? Effective Listening Can: !Increase your income !Improve your profits !Make you more promotable !Increase your job satisfaction !Improve your ability to solve problems !Keep you aware of what is going on in BEP.

Benefits of Listening - A Quiz For each of the following statements, answer either true or false as to the benefits that good listening can have in business relationships. 1. Skill in listening improves your self confidence. 2. People like you when you listen to them. 3. Good listeners are usually more efficient in completing their work. 4. What you create with good listening is flexibility in settling disagreements. 5. Intelligent responses are easier when you listen. 6. More decisions are made by "shooting from the hip" than by listening to the opinions of others. 7. Learning to listen to customers helps you respond more quickly to their needs. 8. Few good listeners are promoted to higher level facilities. 9. Good listeners are not often embarrassed by unnecessary mistakes. 10. Handling distractions is difficult for good listeners. Answers: 1 - 5 are True. 6. F, 7. T, 8. F (Most surveys rank listening as one of the three most important skills of top managers), 9. T, 10. F (Good listeners know how to control distractions by eliminating or ignoring them.)

The Costs of Lazy Listening Most of us are not good listeners. We listen at 25% of our potential, which means we ignore, forget, distort or misunderstand 75% of what we hear. Hard to believe, but true! The following is an example of a true story of the costs of lazy listening. 1. A sales manager for a large company asked his accounting department how he could charge off a $100,000 error caused by a dispatcher who routed a fleet of drivers to deliver building material to the wrong state. The dispatcher heard the city (Portland) but not the state (Maine). The result was eight trucks 3,000 miles off coast in Portland, Oregon. How could this problem have been avoided?

FOUR Key Elements of Good Listening Key Element #1 - Hear the Message Our brain recognizes sound as it enters the ear. Other "listening channels" such as our eyes and our feelings seek confirmation of the message from the speaker's non-verbal feedback (body language) and tone of voice. Hearing is the beginning of the listening process. It is non-selective and involuntary. However, when you choose to listen, it is on purpose. Listening is Voluntary From the constant noise around us, we select what we want to listen to. This information moves from Short Term Memory (STM) to Long Term Memory (LTM). Short Term Memory is a holding area for incoming signals from our five senses. In order to protect us from too much stimulation, STM has a limited capacity and is easily disrupted. If the information we hear is not recognized and selected for processing, it is dismissed from STM after about 1 - 30 seconds. In a sense, we are pre-programmed. Our choices of what to listen to come from previous choices based on interests and needs. JoAnne enjoys investing in stocks and bonds, so she always has her "ears open" for tips on the market. John "tunes in" whenever someone is discussing consumer rights. Sue "catches" the football scores each Saturday in order to track her favorite teams. In other words, we choose what we want to listen to and it is often based on our past choices. We choose to listen because: !The message is important !We are interested !We feel like listening, or !We listened to this kind of information in the past Sometimes, even when we choose to listen, feelings such as anger, frustration, grief or hostility can act as "emotional barriers"

to our ears. We tend to hear what we expect (or want) to hear, and filter out that which is not consistent with our feelings and attitudes. Three Keys to Hearing the Message 1. Pay Attention 2. Select what is important 3. Recognize emotional messages Methods for Improving Listening at the "Hearing" Level ! Improve your listening vocabulary so that words and meanings are clear when you listen. ! Have your hearing checked. ! Ask for repetition or clarification. ! Eliminate distractions. Key Element #2 - Interpret the Message Interpreting a speaker's message is coming to a mutual understanding of the speaker's meaning. Good listeners know that a match-up in meaning is a match-up in understanding. The word communication comes from the Latin root word communis which means "commonness," a commonness of understanding. Listeners often experience problems at the interpreting level because no two people perceive things in the same way. Speakers do not always say exactly what they mean, or mean exactly what they say.

What is the Difference? "When I look at you, time stands still." "You have a face that would stop a clock." We probably don't interpret accurately in most listening situations. Listening is a complicated process. Speakers send messages to listeners both verbally and non-verbally. Meaning must be given to words, filters, tone of voice, and non-verbal cues. Words themselves have little meaning. They are vehicles for the thoughts and feelings of the speaker. Words are not actual experiences, but a means of explaining experiences. It is people who give meaning to words. Filters can help or hinder the interpreting process for both listeners and speakers. Filters are in our brains "data base" and attach personal meaning to information we receive. Some examples of filters include: !memories !Current attention span !biases !past experiences !attitudes !knowledge and intelligence !feelings !assumptions !perceptions !language and vocabulary !needs/motives !emotional hot buttons !age !values !expectations!needs and motives !sensory acuity Tone of Voice conveys approximately 30% of the meaning of a message. Voices can be insistent, pleading, questioning, whining, demanding, etc. It is important to maintain a smooth, controlled tone of voice when communicating a key point. Non-Verbal Cues, or body language, is communicated by the speaker's gestures, facial expressions, eyes and posture. Good

listeners use their ears, eyes and intuition to interpret a speaker's non-verbal feedback. Non-verbal cues confirm or deny the message of the words and tone of voice. More than half of most human interaction is through non-verbal communication. Good listeners who aren't sure of the speaker's meaning will ask for repetition or clarification (feedback). "Is this what you mean when you say...?" "This is how I interpret what you are saying... Am I right?" "I'm not sure I understand your meaning, could you be more specific?" Key Element #3 - Evaluate The Message Good listeners make sure they have all of the key information before forming an opinion. They do not jump to conclusions based on a bias or incomplete information. They may agree to disagree with the speaker. Good listening does not mean automatic compliance. A good listener will weight and analyze all of the evidence before reaching a final decision or making a judgment. We should make decisions based on all of the information available. We run into problems with evaluation when we think mechanically, or jump to conclusions. We must ask ourselves if we are listening to someone or listening against them. Are we evaluating or making a value judgment? Evaluation is not required in every listening situation, but we should know our purpose for listening.

Three Keys to Evaluating the Message 1. Ask questions 2. Analyze the evidence 3. Don't jump to conclusions We are constantly bombarded on radio and television with advertising that is attempting to influence our buying decisions. Advertisers, the media, leaders, have built-in bias's that they are projecting onto us. It is important to ask yourself if the information presented is reasonable and logical. Read the following description as if you were listening to it, taking note of the press agent's built-in bias. "Our leader had an unhappy childhood and little formal education. His father bitterly opposed his ambition to become an artist. Through self-education, he became the author of a book, that became a national bestseller." Obstacles do not discourage him. When others say "this is not possible" he hurdles each barrier as it comes. He has built an active youth movement of selected young people. He is known throughout the world for his dynamic speeches. His closest associates say of him, "he accomplishes great deeds out of the passion of his will in order to create the kind of government he believes in." Answer the following questions based on the above description. 1. How would you evaluate the person if you had not heard of him before reading this description? 2. Are any character flaws suggested in the description? 3. What suggestions does the press agent use to create a positive impression of the person? 4. How can this exercise help you evaluate information more carefully?

Key Element #4 - Respond to the Message It is important that a listener let the speaker know by verbal and/or non-verbal feedback what was heard and how it was heard. Good listeners accept responsibility to provide feedback to the speaker in order to complete the communication process. Listeners should let the speaker know that: 1. The message was heard. 2. It was understood. 3. It was evaluated appropriately. Listening Styles Listening style reflects the attitude and behavior of the listener. It is how an individual responds when listening. Your listening style can be a bridge or a barrier to good communication. Listeners can avoid the barriers of listening by being aware of what the pitfalls are and how to avoid them. Barriers to Communication The following are some descriptions of listening styles that are barriers to communication. Vacant Vincent The most difficult person to communicate with is a daydreamer. Meet Vacant Vincent. You will recognize him by the far-away look in his eyes. Vincent is like a social butterfly who dips in and out of conversations picking up bits and pieces of information. He is physically present but "not really there." Vincent is easily distracted, and often changes the subject without warning. Sometimes he slouches as if he is tired. He plays with his tie or impatiently taps his pencil on the desk. The best way to get Vincent's attention is to talk about his interests.

Which of the following behaviors would help Vincent become a better listener? 1. Sit up straight 5. Fidgeting 2. Make eye contact 6. Stick to the subject 3. Control distractions 7. Lose his temper 4. Play with his computer 8. Take an interest in other people Critical Carrie Critical listening is important in business, especially when problems need to be avoided or resolved, but some listeners listen only to find fault. Critical Carrie listens to get all the facts, but is so critical of each item that she often misses "the big picture." Carrie frowns or rolls her eyes in disbelief as she listens to elements of a problem. Her questions for clarification are demanding and make her co-workers feel cornered. Critical Carrie is an incessant note taker, so her eye contact is limited. She finds little time for small talk. Her friends wish she would "lighten up" and not take things so seriously. Which of the following behaviors would help Carrie communicate better? 1. Building rapport with 5. Discrediting the speaker "Small talk" 6. Determining the purpose of 2. Listen for the "big picture" the discussion 3. Take more notes 7. Develop patience 4. Become a better friend to 8. Jump to conclusions herself

Compliant Curtis Compliant listening is a passive behavior that does not allow the speaker to understand the real feelings or opinions of the listener. Listeners such as Compliant Curtis listen much more than they talk. Often they are shy. They want to please others and keep communications pleasant. Compulsive talkers often seek out listeners like Compliant Curtis, because they need people with the patience to listen to them. Unfortunately, when Curtis speaks he usually keeps his real opinions to himself for fear of criticism. Sometimes he fakes attention as he silently thinks his private thoughts. In meetings Curtis nods his head approvingly, but adds little to the discussion. You will recognize Compliant Curtis by such phrases as "that's nice," or "I see your point." Which of the following behaviors would help Curtis become a more involved listener? 1. Voice his opinions 5. Listen more intently 2. Develop assertiveness 6. Mentally finish other people's 3. Daydreaming sentences 4. Ask questions 7. Speak with conviction 8. Avoid eye contact Bridges to Communications "Active" listening is the bridge to good communication. Good listening is purposeful and productive because it allows the listener and the speaker to reach understanding. The following are some examples of active listening styles that create positive communications.

Arlo Active Arlo Active, a skilled training director, is an involved listener. He is "present" and participative and assumes responsibility for the success of communications in his department. In meetings and discussions Arlo requires discipline and relevance from his subordinates and bridges gaps in understanding by asking questions for clarification. Individuals in his department appreciate Arlo's clear verbal and non-verbal responses and focused eye contact. Arlo tries to see the other person's point of view and refrains from evaluating information too quickly. As an active listener, Arlo listens not only to the content of employees' statements, but also to their intent. Lisette Listener Lisette Listener, a successful real estate agent, credits her success to active listening. When interviewing potential clients, Lisette listens carefully to their requirements for a home. She pays close attention to where they want to live, the desired style of the house and the value they place on schools and services. She asks many questions for clarification. She then "feeds back" what she hears to be sure she is accurate in her interpretation. By the end of a busy "listening" day, Lisette often feels as tired as if she had built a house, rather than sold one. She realized that active listening is hard work but knows her results are measured clearly by her commissions, her satisfied new home owners, and new friends she makes because she helped them with a major decision.

A Listening Attitude - Key to Your Success Listening skill development is an ongoing process. Good listening is a key to success in any business environment. Discovering your attitude about listening is an important first step toward successful listening. Attitudes determine our behaviors. To discover your listening attitudes, complete the following exercise by answering Yes or No to each statement. 1. I am interested in many subjects and do not knowingly tune out dry-sounding information. 2. I listen carefully for a speaker's main ideas and supporting points. 3. I take notes during meetings to record key points. 4. I am not easily distracted. 5. I keep my emotions under control. 6. I concentrate carefully and do not fake attention. 7. I wait for the speaker to finish before finally evaluating the message. 8. I respond appropriately with a smile, nod, or word of acknowledgment, as a speaker is talking. 9. I am aware of mannerisms that may distract a speaker and keep mine under control. 10. I understand my biases and control them when I am listening. 11. I refrain from constantly interrupting. 12. I value eye contact and maintain it most of the time. 13. I often restate or paraphrase what the speaker said to make sure I have the correct meaning. 14. I listen for the speaker's emotional meaning as well as subject matter content. 15. I ask questions for clarification. 16. I do not finish other people's sentences unless asked to do so. 17. When listening on the telephone one hand is kept free to take notes.

18. I attempt to set aside my ego and focus on the speaker rather than on myself. 19. I am careful to judge the message rather than the speaker. 20. I am a patient listener most of the time. The following scale will help you interpret your present listening skill level based on your current attitudes and behaviors. 1 - 5 "No" answers 6 - 10 "No" answers You are an excellent listener. Keep it up! You are a good listener, but can improve.

11 - 15 "No" answers Through practice you can become a much more effective listener in your business and personal relationships. 16 - 20 "No" answers Listen UP!

More Listening Statistics !According to experts, we spend approximately 80% of each business day communicating. Of that time, 45% is spent listening, 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing. A manager may spend up to 60% of each business day listening. !Most people listen at about 50% efficiency during the first part of an oral communication. In other words, if tested immediately on what they just heard, they would accurately remember 50%. However, the efficiency rate drops quickly after the initial statements. Most people average a 25% efficiency rate overall. !It is not unusual to discover that our best friends rate us highest as a listener and our family rates us lowest. Subordinates and colleagues rank us about the same as we rank ourselves. Bosses usually rank us higher than we rank ourselves because we listen (or pretend to) better to them than to others. We are more attentive when there is a direct payoff or penalty! !Many of us daydream as much as 50% of the time. Next time you are in a listening situation check your DQ to notice how often you mentally wander off while the speaker is talking. If you "wander" at least once per minute, chances are you need more concentration and self discipline in your listening. !We can talk at a rate up to about 125 words per minute. We can listen at a rate up to 500 words per minute.

Ten Tips for Tip-Top Listening 1. Take notes. They aid retention. 2. Listen now, report later. Plan to tell someone what you heard, you will remember it better. 3. Learn to want to listen. You must have Desire, Interest, Selfdiscipline and Concentration to be a good listener. 4. Be present. Watch the tendency to daydream. 5. Anticipate excellence. We get good information more often when we expect it. 6. Become a "whole-body" listener. Listen with your ears, your eyes and your heart. 7. Build rapport by pacing the speaker. Approximate the speaker's gestures, expressions and voice patterns to create comfortable communication. 8. Control your emotional "hot-buttons." Knowing what makes you react emotionally is your key to preventive maintenance. 9. Control distractions. Controlling internal and external distractions helps you manage your working environment more effectively. 10. Give the gift of listening. Listening is a skill, and a gift. Give generously.

FEEDBACK GUIDELINES 1. Be descriptive and not evaluative in your feedback. This means that when you describe a behavior, you are not judging the person. "You are lazy" is a judgment; "You work more slowly than the others" is a description. 2. Be specific and not general in the examples you give. "You take unfair advantage" is general; "You take 30 minutes for a 15 minute coffee break" is specific. 3. Be direct in your criticism toward a behavior your worker can do something about. You cannot expect people to be smarter if they have limited intelligence or expect them to be quick if they ponder and are somewhat plodding. These are personality characteristics that probably cannot be changed. If there are positive characteristics that you can mention, do so. 4. Be sure that your workers have heard your message clearly. Have them repeat what you have said to them, especially if it is unpleasant. Sometimes even compliments are not heard, so if you praise your workers, ask them to explain in their own words what they think you said. 5. Be aware that you may have a need to "unload"; be sure that you're not meeting your needs but the workers' need to receive all the information from you that will aid their improvement. 6. Be attentive to your workers' needs, values, and emotions. Some workers may remain passive and appear to accept whatever you say. You may get no feedback from them that reveals how they are reacting to your performance appraisal. This may be very disturbing to new supervisors who would like to know how well they are doing and whether they are reaching their worker.