The concept of communication is a very fascinating topic. From the grunts and groans of Neanderthal man to the need to be ‘politically correct’, the art of communicating has spanned many centuries with the basic purpose of influencing those with whom we communicate. Apart from the spoken word, there are other elements that are involved in effective communication. Body language is one of them. Our body language can communicate without uttering a single word. Words can have a universal understanding or there may be different interpretations able to be associated with them. Voice inflection is another salient point of interest in examining communication. For instance, some people can express anger in a very calm, rational manner while others might tend to rant and rave. All this leads one to the question of whether we are having any real effect on those whom we are attempting to influence. What is it that the people with whom we are communicating hear? Do they understand our meaning? Are they really listening? If not, what can be done to communicate more effectively?
There are three core aspects of effective communication. They are the ability to listen, conveying proper meaning and the sharing of feelings.
The ability to listen:
Why might people go to a complete stranger such as a psychotherapist to voice their concerns or to get help resolving their issues? Apart from the issue of objectivity, in many cases it is because they do not feel that others in their lives really listen. They might describe their relationships as ‘barren’ or ‘meaningless’. When people don’t feel that they are being heard, a sense of futility tends to overcome them because they sense they have little or no importance or that no one understands them.
Psychotherapists make a living by listening to the problems that their clients bring to them. They are trained to listen intently and to ask pertinent questions that tend to ferret out what people are feeling and thinking about their issues. Clients may not be consciously aware that this process is being accomplished but they end up feeling better as a result and their problem is usually resolved over time.
As communication might be considered an art, so too is listening. Many do not know how to listen. While others are speaking to them in an attempt to influence their thoughts and feelings, they are deliberating what it is they are going to say in response. Much is lost in this process which is considered to be a primary cause of communication breakdown. Often people will say “You’re not really listening to me.” Parents will insist that their children listen to them when they speak especially when they are being disciplined.
To listen intently to another requires a clear mind allowing another’s words to permeate. Once the other person is through speaking, that should be when the recipient can begin to formulate a response. Pauses in conversation are not only permissible but indicate that full attention is being paid while someone is talking. The importance of these points is best evidenced in the fact that communication problems are cited as a primary cause of marital breakdown, separation and divorce.
Conveying proper meaning
The saying, ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say,’ places emphasis on the meaning of words and not just the words themselves. The English language can convey several different meanings to a given word so that conveying the proper meaning is very important. A method used by psychotherapists is to ask the client to repeat some statements using different words in order to glean the proper meaning. Another is to repeat back to the client what was heard to ensure that the content and meaning were clearly understood. Using these methods in day-to-day conversation is highly recommended as effective communication tools that insure that the proper meaning is being conveyed and received.
Sharing of feelings
The expression of feelings is an essential element of effective communication and is considered to be a fundamental purpose of communication. Most people will focus only on their thoughts as they communicate. The sharing of feelings, though, enhances the end result even more. It seems that women have an easier time accomplishing this more than men because of the emphasis they tend to place on feelings. Men, on the other hand, tend to emphasize their thinking and logic as the primary means of communication. Optimally a combination of the two would be the most effective means of communicating effectively.
In conclusion, although aspects such as body language, emotional responses and voice inflection are very important, the three elements of listening, conveying proper meaning and sharing feelings are considered to be the core for effective communication. Their inclusion will enable effective communication.
Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at www.charlesmbonasera.com.