One of the most common reasons for people overreacting in situations that require skillful communication is a failure to realize just how complex good communication really is. Effective communication can best be thought of as a circular process, made up of at least six components (which you may not have known).
1. What you mean to say
2. What you actually say
3. What the other person hears
4. What the other person think he hears
5. What the other person says about what you say
6. What you think the other person says about what you said
From this list, it is evident that communication is a long process. People prone to overreacting when trying to communicate with others may simply misunderstand or overlook the message conveyed in one or more of these six ways. Don’t jump to conclusions; give the other person every opportunity to express himself
Developing Communication Skills
Communication according to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English is the process by which people exchange information or express their thoughts and feelings. This definition leads us to digging out how we can develop our communication skills. There are four skills you (as an individual) can use to convey an attitude of openness and helplessness, thus making it easier for someone to talk about his or her problem. This can be thought of as four listening skills that enhance better communication.
1. Positive regard: This is a kind of an acknowledgement towards someone. Positive regard simply means approaching another person with a frame of mind that he or she is worthwhile and fully deserving of your concentration and attention. People know when they are being patronized or talked down to – you can’t hide it away from them. For good communication to occur, both parties must feel accepted as being worthy participants in an open and free discussion based on honesty and positive regard for each other.
2. Ice breaking – say “Ice breakers”: These are phrases that indicate to the other person your willingness to get involved (in the talk). Phrases such as “Do you want to talk about it?” or “We need to discuss this, don’t we?” convey your interest to the person. If you make evasive or dismissive remarks the other person will sense your disinterest, making real communication impossible.
3. Silent listening: The nature of this listening simply assures the other person – through your facial expression, your eyes, your manner and even your breathing – that you are neither bored nor preoccupied, but are fully intent on hearing and understanding what is being said. Averted eyes, glances at your watch, occasional sighs, and fidgety hands – all these subtly tell the person you would rather be doing something else and he is wasting his time talking to you. One of the characteristics of great men throughout history is that they knew the surest mark of respect to be undivided attention.
4. Active listening: This refers to the short phrases and interjections we use during the process of communication. They tell the other person. “I understand, I’m interested. Tell me more.” Active listening is the most difficult of all skills to learn because many of us are absorbed in our own thoughts. When others sense that we are forever “in our own world” and would rather not be disturbed, they will shy away from engaging us in meaningful communication. Phrases like, “I see what you mean,” “Yes, I see,” and “Could you help me understand that a little better?” are a part of effective, active listening. Doing this encourages the other person to continue and deepen quality communication.
A Considered Communication Survey
The survey to be discussed below was developed to evaluate the quality of communication within a marriage relationship, but it can also apply to any close interpersonal relationships – at work, at church or between friends. Answer true or false to each question in the survey:
1. ____ It irritates you when your spouse questions your judgment or doesn’t readily approve of your solution to a problem.
2. ____ You rarely give spontaneous compliments to your spouse, but instead find yourself frequently making comments of a critical nature.
3. ____ You privately think of yourself as more logical and realistic than your spouse.
4. ____ You and your spouse never make time to sit and chat, except about specific problems.
5. ____You tend to be short with your spouse – you never say please and thank you anymore.
6. ____ Often you read the paper or watch TV while “conversing” with your spouse.
7. ____ You ask your spouse barbed or leading questions when discussing sensitive issues.
8. ____ Even casual conversations with your spouse are likely to turn into arguments or disagreements.
9. ____You reply with judgments (right or wrong, good or bad, okay or not okay) when your spouse ask you about things.
10. ____ Your spouse would probably agree that you tend to cut other people off before they finish talking.
I know it has been a great long tour, starting right up where this post began. Now, if you answered true to five or more questions, you are probably doing too much talking and not enough listening – there’s no doubt about this. Sometimes we need to shut up so the other person can open up! The way you think, what you say, how you say it, and how long you take saying it all communicate what you are really trying to say. Make sure everyone else really “hears” what you want to say to them.
Examine Yourself, Are You an Encourager?
Good and real communication encourages others to respond positively. It often results when we show a genuine interest in someone else’s needs. We communicate best when our attitudes, conversation, facial expressions, and body language all cooperate in saying, “I’m really interested in you!” Most people want the assurance that we are really listening to them. When we listen to them, we influence them to listen to us.
Asking questions is an effective way to encourage people to talk about themselves. It shows that we are interested in their jobs, lives, families, needs, problems and struggles. Questions also allow people to become more open about themselves as an individual. Remember, communication is not a one-way conversation about us as humans. It is a mutually shared experience that brings us closer to one another. Hope, help and encouragement result when we communicate God’s love and grace to others. Watch your tongue and use it to God’s glory.