Advanced Communication Skills

Communication Skills

1.1 The Importance of Communication

All human interactions are a form of communication. In the business world, nothing can be achieved without effectively communicating with employers, employees, clients, suppliers, and customers. If you look at the most successful business people in the world, you will see people who have mastered the art of communication. And that’s the difference between being a good communicator and being an advanced communicator – advanced communication is a true art form. It requires practice, finesse, and a skill set that goes beyond those that the average person possesses. Advanced communication is a true art form, requiring practice, finesse, and a skill set that goes beyond those that the average person possesses.

Even though communication skills are so important to success in the workplace, there are many individuals who find that there is a limit to their communication skills and that they seem to have reached a stumbling block in their progress. They may sometimes struggle to convey their thoughts and ideas in an accurate manner, making it difficult to reach their full potential as a communicator, a manager, and a leader of others.

However, there is hope for anyone who finds advanced communication to be difficult. These skills can be practiced and learned. It takes learning about how communication works, how to communicate exactly what it is you want to say, what mode of communication is best, and what factors are influencing the ability for you to send and receive messages with acumen.

1.2 What Is the Difference between Communication Skills and Advanced Communication Skills?

When asked to define communication, how would you respond? Most people will relate to the forms of communication – talking or listening. But communication goes beyond that. Communication involves getting information from one person to the other person. Yet even this is not a complete definition because communicating effectively involves having that information relayed while retaining the same content and context. If I tell you one thing and you hear another, have I communicated?

Communication is the art and process of creating and sharing ideas. Effective communication depends on the richness of those ideas.

Advanced communication skills take the basic skills of communication and frame them within a general understanding of how the communication process works. When you understand all of the elements involved when people communicate, they can learn to influence not only your own communication, but the communication of others. This is why advanced communication skills are, in essence, leadership skills. They allow you access to ways to guide and direct communication between yourself and another or a group so that you can achieve your goals and outcomes.

1.3 Which Advanced Communication Skills?

We will be looking at a variety of advanced communication skills in this ebook, though we will begin with a review of some communication basics in the next chapter. The advanced communication skills that we will examine are:

·  The communications process including types of input, filters we have in our minds as we receive the input, how we ‘map’ the information in our minds once it’s received, and why we should care.

·  Internal representation, or the different ways that we each can perceive our world and the main  representational systems we use to do so including visual, auditory, and kin-aesthetic systems, as well as physical indications of which system a person is using.

·  Tips for building rapport that include a six-step process for building strong rapport between you and others and learning to think ‘in the shoes’ of another person.

·  Tools you can use for advanced communication such as reframing and a variety of linguistic choices you can make that will help further your communication with another

2 Review of Communication Basics

2.1 Introduction

Imagine you are on one side of a wall and the person you want to communicate with is on the other side of the wall. But there’s more than the wall in the way. The wall is surrounded by a moat that is filled with crocodiles and edged by quicksand. These barriers could be things like different cultures, different expectations, different experiences, different perspectives, or different communication styles, to name just a few.

Communication skills are the tools that we use to remove the barriers to effective communication.

You might experience only one of these barriers at a time, or you might find yourself facing them all. Getting your message to the other person requires that you recognize these barriers exist between you, and that you then apply the proper tools, or communication skills, to remove those barriers preventing your message from getting through.

Of course, communication is a two-way street. The person on the other side of those barriers will also try to send messages back to you. Your ability to understand them clearly could be left to a dependence on their ability to use communication skills. But that’s leaving the success of the communication to chance. Instead, you can also use your own communication skills to ensure that you receive messages clearly as well.

Finally, there isn’t only one point in your communication with another person at which you have to watch out for barriers. To be successful at communicating, it’s important to recognize that these barriers to communication can occur at multiple points in the communication process.

2.2 The Communication Process

The communication process involves multiple parts and stages. These are:

·  Source

·  Message

·  Encoding

·  Channel

·  Decoding

·  Receiver

·  Feedback

·  Context

At each of these stages, there is the potential for barriers to be formed or problems to arise. The steps in the process are represented in Figure 1 and explained further in the following information.

2.2.1 Source

The source of the communication is the sender, or for our purposes, you. In order to be a good source, you need to be clear about the message that you are sending. Do you know exactly what it is that you want to communicate? You’ll also want to be sure you know why it is that you are communicating. What result is it that you expect? If you cannot answer these questions, you will be starting the communication process with a high chance of failure.

The source of the message is the sender. The sender must know why the communication is necessary and what result is needed.

2.2.2 Message

The message is simply the information that you want to communicate. Without a message, there is no cause for communicating. If you cannot summarize the information that you need to share, you aren’t ready to begin the process of communication. The message is the information that you need to communicate. It is the reason communication is needed.

2.2.3 Encoding

Encoding is the process of taking your message and transferring it into a format that can be shared with another party. It’s sort of like how messages are sent via a fax. The information on the paper has to be encoded, or prepared, before it can be sent to the other party. It has to be sent in a format that the other party has the ability to decode or the message will not be delivered.

In order to encode a message properly, you have to think about what the other person will need in order to understand, or decode, the message. Are you sharing all the information that is necessary to get the full picture? Have you made assumptions that may not be correct? Are you using the best form of sending it in order to ensure the best chance of the message being properly received? Are there cultural, environmental, or language differences between you and the other party that could cause mis-communication?

Encoding is the process of taking your message and transferring it into the proper format for sharing it with your audience. It requires knowing your audience and ensuring that your message provides all of the information that they need. Of course, to encode a message properly, you have to know who your audience is. You need to have an understanding of what they know and what they need to know in order to send a complete message.

You need to use language they will understand and a context that is familiar. One simple example of how you can do this is being sure to spell out acronyms. We sometimes forget that not everyone is familiar with the acronyms that we may use on a regular basis.

2.2.4 Channel

The channel is the method or methods that you use to convey your message. The type of message you have will help to determine the channel that you should use. Channels include face-to-face conversations, telephone calls or video conferences  and written communication like emails and memos.

The Channel is the method of communication that you choose such as face-to-face, by telephone, or via email. Each channel has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, you will find it difficult to give complex, technical information or instructions by using just the telephone. Or you may get bad results if you try to give criticism via email.

2.2.5 Decoding

Decoding happens when you receive the message that has been sent. The communication skills required to decode a message successfully include the ability to read and comprehend, listen actively, or ask clarifying questions when needed.

If the person you are attempting to communicate with seems to be lacking the skills to decode your message, you will need to either resend it in a different way or assist them in understanding it by supplying clarifying information. Decoding is the process of receiving the message accurately and requires that your audience has the means to understand the information you are sharing.

2.2.6 Receiver

Since you have thought out your message, you’ve certainly also thought about what you want the desired result to be on the part of your listener. But it’s important to realize that each person that receives your

message will be listening to it through their own individual expectations, opinions, and perspectives.

Their individual experiences will influence how your message is received.

You have expectations for a response from the receiver when you send a

message. You can increase the chances of getting this result by addressing

your audience’s concerns or addressing specific benefits as part of your

communication.

While you can’t always address each person’s individual concerns in a message, part of planning for your

communication is to think ahead of time about what some of their thoughts or experiences might be.

For example, if you are releasing a new product and want to convince customers to try it, you would

want to be certain to address the specific benefits to the customer, or what improvements have been

made since the last version was released.

2.2.7 Feedback

No matter what channel you have used to convey your message, you can use feedback to help determine

how successful your communication was. If you are face-to-face with your audience, you can read body

language and ask questions to ensure understanding. If you have communicated via writing, you can

gauge the success of your communication by the response that you get or by seeing if the result you

wanted is delivered.

Feedback lets you gauge how successful you were at communicating. It also

offers a chance to adjust your communication process for the future.

In any case, feedback is invaluable for helping you to improve your communication skills. You can learn

what worked well and what didn’t so that you can be even more efficient the next time you communicate

with that person or the next time you need to communicate a similar message.

2.2.8 Context

The context is the situation in which you are communicating. It involves the environment that you are

in and that in which your audience is in, the culture of your organization(s), and elements such as the

relationship between you and your audience. You communication process will not look the same when

you are communicating with your boss as it will when you are communicating with a friend. The context

helps determine the tone and style of your communication.

Context involves things such as your relationship with your audience, the

culture of your organization and your general environment.

2.3 Elements of Communication

What does it take to communicate with another person? How are we communicating even when we

aren’t using words? When you begin studying communication, you’ll find that we communicate with

much more than our words. In face-to-face communication, our words are only part of the message.

The balance of the message, and in fact, the largest part of the message that we are sending to others

is made up of non-verbal information. It is composed of our body language and our tone of voice.

2.3.1 Non-Verbal Communication (Tone of Voice & Body Language)

Albert Mehrabian’s work on verbal and non-verbal communication in the 1960s and early 1970s is

still considered a valid model today. He posed that the non-verbal aspects of communication such as

tone of voice and non-verbal gestures communicate a great deal more than the words that are spoken.

He also found that people are more likely to believe your non-verbal communication than your verbal

communication if the two are contradictory. In other words, you are most believable and most effectively

communicating when all three elements of face-to-face communication are aligned with each other.

The same sentence can have multiple meaning depending on which word is

emphasized. The emphasis on a particular word implies additional information

than what the words say.

According to Mehrabian, the tone of voice we use is responsible for about 35–40 percent of the message

we are sending. Tone involves the volume you use, the level and type of emotion that you communicate

and the emphasis that you place on the words that you choose. To see how this works, try saying the

sentences in Figure 3 with the emphasis each time on the word in bold.

I didn’t say he borrowed my book.

I didn’t say he borrowed my book.

I didn’t say he borrowed my book.

I didn’t say he borrowed my book.

I didn’t say he borrowed my book.

I didn’t say he borrowed my book.

I didn’t say he borrowed my book.

Figure 3: Impact of Tone of Voice

Notice that the meaning of the sentence changes each time, even though the words are the same. The

emphasis you place on the word draws the listener’s attention, indicating that the word is important

somehow. In this case, the emphasis indicates that the word is an error. So in the first example, I didn’t

say he borrowed my book, the phrase includes the message that someone else said it. The implied

information continues to change in each sentence, despite the words remaining the same each time.

Another aspect of non-verbal communication is body language. The way we hold our body, move our

arms, our eyes, how close we stand to someone – all of this is a form of communicating subconsciously

with others.

Examples of body language include:

·  Facial expressions

·  The way they are standing or sitting

·  Any swaying or other movement

·  Gestures with their arms or hands

·  Eye contact (or lack thereof)

·  Breathing rate

·  Swallowing or coughing

·  Blushing

·  Fidgeting

Basically, body language includes anything they are doing with their body besides speaking. We recognize

this communication instinctively, without having to be told what it means. Read the following examples

and you’ll have a good idea of what the person’s body language is telling you.

·  Mike is sitting with his arms crossed over his chest. His head is tilted down and away from

you. His finger is tapping his arm in a fast, erratic manner.

·  Jane is sitting back in her chair with her arms crossed behind her head. She is smiling at you

and nodding her head from time to time as you speak.

·  Dave is standing close to you at an angle. He is speaking just above a whisper and in a strained

voice. He makes quick, sharp movements with his hands.

·  Marci is presenting to the marketing team. She is swaying back and forth, her hands keep

changing positions, and she seems to keep absent-mindedly touching her hair.

·  Regina is sitting at the conference table in a meeting. Her legs are crossed and the leg that is

on the floor is bouncing up and down at a rapid pace. She is sitting forward in her chair with

her pen tapping on the table.

We instinctively recognize what body language is telling us.

We can picture these people and their behaviors from the short description here and without hearing a

word from them, we have a pretty good idea of how they are feeling about the situation or about what

we are saying to them.

2.3.2 Verbal Communication

The third communication element is verbal communication. Believe it or not, it is actually the least

impactful element in face-to-face communication. The old adage is true – it’s not what you say, it’s how

you say it that counts.

Of course, this is a bit simplified. We do want to use verbal communications, the words we choose,

to our best advantage. You would definitely make a different impression if you curse during your

presentation than if you don’t. Choosing our words carefully is a way to enhance our message, but we

should remember that it is not the most important part of the message. We should not neglect to pay

attention to the non-verbal elements.

But what about when we are limited to using only verbal communication? Given that we know that

face-to-face communication delivers the most complete message, we know that verbal communication

alone can be challenging in creating effective communication.

We know that verbal communication alone can be challenging in creating

effective communication.

You might think that talking on the telephone or sending off a quick email is an excellent time saver.

There are times when this is true. For example, when confirming specific facts or asking simple questions.

But for many communication needs, verbal communication only will not suffice.

2.4 Taking Your Communication Skills to the Next Level

This chapter has given you a brief review of the communications process and the elements of

communication. The remainder of the ebook will focus on ways to enhance your existing skills in these

areas so that you will not just be able to communicate with another person, but you will be fully aware

of the mechanics of what is happening during that communication process. You will then be able to

make choices in how you communicate in order to help influence the direction that the communication

takes, improve the depth and quality of communication, and improve your persuasion skills.

3 Examining the Communications

Process

3.1 Introduction

In the last chapter, we examined the stages of communication. In this chapter, we’ll look further at what

the actual mechanisms of communication include and how you can use that information to improve

your ability to communicate. We’ll look at the communication process again from the standpoint of how

your message is formed in your brain, how it is received in the other person’s brain, and what happens

in between these stages. We’ll look at the ways that our own experiences have impacted our ability to

communicate and we’ll look for ways to identify the filters that other people have as well.

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One thought on “Advanced Communication Skills

  1. Pingback: 5 Reasons Written Communication Skills are Crucial to Your Career | Rhetorically Urs

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