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Humans are not the only species to have some form of communication. Yet we do have the most complex forms of communication extant. Countless differing spoken languages and dialects, several visual languages, and several unique alphabets, not to mention the various codes based on tones, beats etc, exist all of which are there for the purpose of communicating with different folks. Human beings are social animals - communication amongst ourselves is part and parcel of daily life. Yet many individuals have"poor communication skills". Why is this so, when we seem to have developed an extraordinarily intricate system able to convey a large number of different purposes?
The Purpose of each Communication - Differences in Style
All communication has a purpose, be that speaking to clients over the phone, chatting with friends or presenting a report. What are the purposes ? In most cases you will find a variety at work: maintaining or building relationships, answering specific questions, providing an expert opinion, reframing events in light of prior experience to make them look more normal, exchanging news to satisfy curiosity, teaching others by grouping apparently separate pieces of information into a cohesive whole, the list could go on for a lengthy time from just three different scenarios in which communication is the principal part. The important thing to realise here is the various variables of communication based on the situation. The key variables are: amount and mode of data received (voice, body language etc), role being performed, number of people being hauled with at once (and thus the amount of differing sets of data being received), language set being used.
This all seems very complicated: so how are we meant to learn this so subtle skill of communicating effectively? In actuality there are a few separate abilities, all of which can enhance your communication abilities and that are relevant to all situations you can possibly face. It is not some strange and unintelligible science that is out of reach of most people, but rather it's accepting that to be an effective communicator you need to change your communicating style to match that of the person you are communicating with: it is no use expecting them to change for you.
Communication Part 1: Listening/Observing
Communication could be split into two parts: the first part is having the ability to listen and watch. People today talk at 100 to 175 words per minute (wpm), but they can listen at 600 to 800 wpm. Since only a part of the head is paying attention, it's easy to let the mind drift. The cure for this is active and effective listening - that involves listening with a purpose such as to obtain information, obtain instructions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, show service, etc.. By defining your purpose in listening you can moderate your responses to accomplish your purpose.
Active & Effective Listening
So how can you listen actively? To begin with, you must be able to yank your head back from wherever it might drift during a conversation: being able to concentrate exclusively on someone else can be quite difficult for any amount of time. With practice you can listen to other people without having random thoughts intrude - many people find that meditation helps with this skill as it trains the mind in precisely this fashion. The second way people are distracted during a conversation is by thinking up the answer while another person is still talking - a really simple way to miss the point of what another individual is saying! Thirdly, you can focus on many different items to make this more interesting so as to prevent your mind from wandering.
Concentrating on body language can do so: see how your correspondent is sitting/standing - can it be closed or open (closed is turned away or blocked by another area of the body, like crossing the arms, open is facing you and arms and legs not blocking your system ). Are they looking at you or are they avoiding eye contact? If it is the latter, they may not be interested in the conversation, they might be lying, and they may be uncomfortable. Are they behaving nervously by tapping, twitching or fiddling with something? Are they appearing happy/sad/emotionless? Are their facial behaviors matching or contradicting their bodily behaviors (e.g. nervous tapping of the foot yet receptive body language and happy look )?
Build Rapport through Mirroring
Building rapport is vital in ensuring effective communication and while you're listening you have the ability to do this by mirroring or matching what your correspondent is performing. For example you cross your legs in precisely the same way as these, and put your arms in a similar manner, this puts you on exactly the same wavelength as your correspondent and will cause them to be more receptive to what you have to say if you do get around to saying it. Mirroring can also be done through the use of the particular NLP type vocabulary. Notice any clues for NLP type, for later use in responding.
An abbreviated explanation of NLP types: the visual type uses the words"I see what you mean" and similar, while the auditory type uses the words"I hear what you are saying", and the kinaesthetic will use the words"I feel I understand this". Should you note down what kind of vocabulary is being used, and then use this with them you're more likely to be understood, in addition to being more able to maintain rapport with them. Consider noting down what types your colleagues or your family are: then attempt intentionally using the incorrect sort of vocabulary in what you are saying and seeing (visual vocab) what the difference is to when you use the right type for the person you are talking to, it flows (kinaesthetic vocab) very differently and you may hear (auditory vocab) the discord.
Communication Part 2: Responding
The first thing to learn in this part is that you will find communication much easier if you're speaking in the exact same way (tone, tempo and rhythm) as your correspondent: if you usually speak fast, find someone who speaks slowly (or vice versa) and match their tempo when you're talking with them, and then measure how effective that conversation was in comparison to some conversation with them which was entirely on your natural tempo. Be sure that you are matching all three (tone, tempo and rhythm) though as most people who say this does not work are not matching all three properly! Usually this sort of thing is natural: if you've ever been to the US, you may have noticed that you started ending sentences on an upward inflection mechanically: not a typically British way of speaking. You just picked it up from others and naturally matched it. But if you're to be an extremely successful communicator you want to be aware of what actually works rather than just stabbing in the dark and going with what comes out of your mouth without you thinking about it.
Use Positive Directions
The next thing that's most important to learn about reacting to other people is to use positive sentences - I don't mean being nice to people, although that is about the good, but by expressing your purpose in a specific way:"do this" rather than"don't do this". The brain works extra hard to create the representation of the thing not to be done and superimposes some kind of negative - and in all of the brain processing that happens afterwards the negative frequently gets lost so leaving an additional strong impression of the thing not to be achieved - without its negative. For instance: if I were to say,"Do NOT think of a glowing red cat", what are you considering? Most of you will acknowledge to having had some sort of representation of a red cat flash throughout the mind, moreover this representation of a red cat will be something that you remember more readily than something I say in the positive sense. Also, there is the complete contrary nature of your mind to contend with: there is always the fascination and compulsion with what we are told not to do, why else does negative psychology work so well with teens?
Take a Meta-View
The last important thing to learn about communication skills is the objective of the communication: you need to keep this in mind when entering into any communication for you to be able to measure it's success and therefore moderate your future attempts to reach your goals through communication. If your goal is to cheer up a friend, you will have the ability to tell if you have been successful by comparing the tone of their friend in the beginning and at the end of the conversation. Or if your goal is to build a connection more solidly, then you can compare your correspondent's mood before and after every communication: and the attitude with which they get you. If they're happy to see you all the better, but you can tell something is wrong if they're consistently displeased to see you. For positive evidence you need a number of communications to base your conclusion on: there are other factors at work also, such as your correspondent's internal mood state - which frequently has very little to do with you - take a"meta-view" stance and see what the overall picture is before coming to any conclusions about your communication skills.