Communication is the key to all human interactions. It is derived from the latin word “communis” which means to share. Thus, we can say communication is the means by which information, ideas are shared or exchanged from one person to another. It could be verbal or non-verbal. The process of communication involves three elements; the sender, the message and the recipient.
The importance of communication can never be over-emphasized because effective communication is the major reason for the giant strides man has taken in the world today. We can see just how important communication is when we cast our mind to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Where there is improper or no communication, misunderstandings are bound to arise.
In today’s world, effective communication is the mother of all successes. In human relationships, one of the root causes of conflict is embedded in communication problems. Lack of or poor communication leads to a break in the chain of understanding.
In order to communicate effectively, it is important to understand that even the simplest of messages or information can be misunderstood. This could be as a result of the following;
Context: The inability to use certain words in their proper context almost always leads to misunderstanding. This most common with English language where a word has multiple uses and could mean different things at different times.
Orientation: Most times, our past experiences and cultural bias plays a big role in how we interpret messages. Two totally different people may react to the same message quite differently because they think differently.
Focus: To under the message being conveyed, the focus of the listener must be on the person communicating. Causes of lack of focus on the communicator are usually but not limited to complex problems. They alter the message being conveyed in the ears of the listener.
Perception: Our preconcieved attitudes impair our ability to listen properly. If a speaker gives a likable appearance that is confident, friendly and articulates properly, chances are he holds the focus of his recipients and communicates effectively.
Stress: What we understand is influenced a lot by our psychological state of mind at the point of reception. A stressed out person is more likely to misinterpret a message because of the pressure which is known to alter the mental state and impair the ability to understand.
More importantly, communication is also non-verbal; this manifests via eye contact, body motions, tonal undulations and general body language. The most accurate way to understand the passage of information is a combination of verbal and non-verbal means of communication.
The best way to interpret messages accurately is to listen ACTIVELY. Hearing and listening are quite different. Hearing is the involuntary perception of sound. Listening is a conscious activity that involves not just hearing but decoding sounds into meaning. Listening requires interest, listening for a purpose. To avoid the pitfalls that come with communication problems, it is best to acquire certain traits;
- Listen more, talk less.
- Do not interrupt unnecessarily.
- Be aware of biases. Everyone has one. Make conscious effort to control them.
- Do not day dream or become preoccupied with your own thoughts.
- Do not answer questions with questions. Its so easy to get lost from there.
- Do not dominate conversations. People who do hardly learn anything new.
- Respond after others have spoken, not while they speak.
- Focus on what they say and not what interests them.
- Make a summary of salient points. It always gives a broader view. Make notes if necessary.
Written by Ifi Malcolm
Photo credit: blog.zilojo.com