How to Improve Communication
Effective communication is important in building and deepening relationships, as well as in preventing misunderstandings. You should then try to make sure that what you are communicating is understood correctly in the same way that you are able to understand what the other person is saying correctly.
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What causes misunderstandings?
Lack of verbal ability. For example, when the sender uses the wrong words or makes grammatical errors.
Incorrect interpretation of the sender’s message. This can be caused by the receiver making the wrong inferences about the sender’s intentions.
The receiver’s emotional noise. For example, being angry or upset can prevent the receiver from listening to and being interested in what the other person has to say. Similarly, being more interested in what they have to say rather than in what the sender is saying prevents the receiver from understanding the sender’s message.
Being highly evaluative of the sender and the message. An example is when the receiver listens to the sender’s message only to evaluate and make judgments about the message and the speaker, in turn making the speaker defensive and guarded in what they are trying to say.
The receiver not getting the point. This occurs when the receiver has a literal understanding of the sender’s message and fails to understand its underlying meaning. For example, when you keep asking your child about their grades and they keep responding by saying that the food you prepared for dinner really tastes good, it can mean that your child is merely avoiding the subject and not exactly that the food is that good.
Lack of trust between the sender and the receiver. This can result in the limited amount of information that the sender is willing to share and in the receiver’s increased suspicion over the little amount of information communicated with them.
What are the dos and don’ts for effective communication?
Organize your thoughts before you speak.
Give your undivided attention to the sender.
Make your message appropriate to the point of view of the receiver.
Include too many – even unrelated — ideas in your message.
Make short statements that do not contain enough repetition and information to ensure that you are understood.
Ignore the amount of information that the receiver already has about the subject matter.
Think about your reply before you have a chance to listen to all that the sender has to say.
Listen for details rather than for the overall message.
Evaluate whether the sender is right or wrong before getting a full understanding of the sender’s message.
How can you effectively send messages?
Make it clear that you own your message by letting the receiver know your thoughts and feelings and by making use of personal pronouns such as me, my, and I.
Describe the other person’s behavior without judging, evaluating, or making inferences about their attitudes, personality, and motives. For example, instead of saying “ You are being rude,” say “ You keep interrupting me.”
Describe and discuss how you and the other person can improve your relationship through the quantity and quality of your interaction. Also discuss the quality of your relationship.
Convey your message based on the receiver’s frame of reference. For example, a teacher should explain the same thing differently when talking to a student as opposed to when talking to the student’s parents.
Seek feedback about how the other person is receiving your message. This is the only way to ensure that your message is being understood correctly.
Describe your feelings by figure of speech, action, or name in order to communicate your feelings unambiguously and clearly. For example, you can say “ I’m getting cold feet” (figure of speech); “ I feel like screaming” (action); or “ I feel hurt” (name).
Make sure that your nonverbal messages clearly communicate your feelings. They emphasize your verbal message. For example, crying strengthens your verbal message of being sad.
Make sure that your verbal and nonverbal messages match each other. For example, smiling can denote appreciation. However, misunderstandings happen when the verbal and nonverbal messages don’t match. For example, when you say “ I hope you are happy now” in a sarcastic manner, it can confuse the receiver about the real meaning of your message.
Be redundant. Repeat your messages to help the receiver understand them. Use various communication channels such as verbal and nonverbal cues, written messages, and pictures.
How can you effectively receive messages?
Paraphrase. This means restating what the other person says, means, or feels by using your own words. This facilitates the sender’s growth and health; increases the sender’s self-acceptance; increases the sender’s understanding and insight of what they are saying; and decreases the sender’s defensiveness about what they are trying to communicate. It also decreases the sender’s fears about revealing themselves to you and increases trust between the two of you. Similarly, it helps you avoid judging and evaluating the sender’s message and helps you get a better understanding of it. Moreover, it indicates your cooperative intent to the sender.
Negotiate for meaning. Verify with the sender whether or not you perceived their message in the way that they intended. Use your own words when describing your own perception, and use statements like “ Is this what you mean?” or “ What I think you mean is” when trying to verify the correctness of your perception. Refrain from indicating approval or disapproval.
Johnson, D. W., (2009). Reaching Out (10th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.
Questions about speaking. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www. quotegarden. com/speaking. html