What is Effective Communication?

free essayA human being is a social creature, therefore, with communication being one of the most important aspects of his/her life. Possessing effective communication skills means not only to have be easy-going and be able to establish ‘free of stress’ relations within the workplace, but also be capable of successfully climbing the career ladder. It helps to set and reach professional goals, raise the teamwork effectiveness, rapidly form a new style of interpersonal communication and enhance a level of understanding oneself and others who are around you. In order to improve the communicative skills and make the communication more effective one needs to understand the potential barriers that may block mutual understanding, either inside of us or outside, and find ways of getting round them. There are several different communication theories covered so far that help raise the effectiveness of people’s communication. They are ‘Johari Window’ (Luft & Ingham 1955), ‘Transactional Analysis’ (Berne E 1961), ‘The Communication Process Model’ (Shannon & Weaver 1949), ‘Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ (NLP) (Bandler et al. 1980), and ‘Emotional Intelligence’ theory (Mayer & Salovey 1997). Two of them – the NLP theory and the theory of Transactional Analysis – will be examined in this paper.

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Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Transactional Analysis Theories

NLP is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming theory that aids in developing effective listening skills and improve the overall quality of communication. It focuses on our “thinking patterns (Neuro), the way we use and structure language to form the world which we live in (Linguistic), and the strategies or patterns of behaviour we use, either consciously or sub-consciously, in our daily lives (Programming)” (Coventry University 2016, Session 3). Bandler and Grinder (1976) come to the conclusion that the words we choose to create phrases and sentences are indicated by our internal sensory representational systems. Thus, the NLP theory implies using representational systems to process information, depending on sensory modalities such as visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinaesthetic (feeling), olfactory (smelling) and gustatory (tasting) (Presentation systems 2004). According to Bandler and Grinder NLP theory (1976), the efficiency of our communication process depends on properly choosing the words, concerning the type of person’s sensory modality. So as to determine it, it is enough to be attentive and during the conversation notice the word types people use. Acting in such a way enables us speak to people the language they understand best and let our conversation partner not only to hear us but also to listen to what we say. It could be gained by one more NLP technique of settling the Rapport (Bandler & Grinder 1979), which lies in adjusting our behaviour to the behaviour of the conversation partner. It is achievable by means of mirroring one’s posture, matching the rhythm of breathing, the speed of the speech and the volume of the voice. The art of building the Rapport allows us to connect with other people in a way that “creates a climate of trust and understanding” (Coventry University 2016, Session 3). In practice, the NLP theory has great strength in improving communication performance as it helps people get a better understanding of each other and appreciate one another’s point of view that is especially important in a workplace performance.

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Transactional Analysis is a theory of communication that implies understanding a variety of human behaviours, including ourselves, through ‘behavioural patterns’, and the key to this methodology is a transaction which is “the fundamental unit of social intercourse”  (Steiner 2016). According to Bern (1975) there are four ‘modes of behaviour’ that are underpinned by the person’s beliefs about one own self-esteem and the esteem of others. They are ‘I am not OK’ – ‘You are OK’, ‘I am not OK’ – ‘You are not OK’, ‘I am OK’ – ‘You are not OK’ and ‘I am OK’ – ‘You are OK’ position. Assertive behaviour stems from a constructive ‘I am OK’ – ‘You are OK’ mental attitude the one holds (Berne 1975). It implies to pursue one’s own needs taking the others’ ones into account at the same. Assertive communication is “the art of clear, honest, and direct expression of both positive and negative feelings” (Coventry University 2016, Session 4). Such a behaviour can be gained through modelling it by applying the ‘assertive communication techniques’ that involves disagreeing and agreeing openly and stating one’s views clearly and firmly, however, still respecting the other person’s opinion. Modelling of assertive behaviour is an effective way to gain a result to make it true. It can have an impact on our attitude as when we behave assertively, we start to feel and think assertively (Clear 2016). Using open questions such as ‘What?’ ‘Why?’ ‘Who?’ ‘When?’ ‘Where?’ ‘Which?’ and ‘How?’ one more assertive behaviour technique that helps to identify a stumbling block in every particular situation and outline further communication strategy (Coventry University 2016, Session 4). Questioning can be seen as a means of confirming that one party has understood, or been understood, by another. Using more open questions in the communication with colleagues will enhance the quality of information you receive that, in its turn, assist in handling conflict situations or even prevent from their occurrence.

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Applying Techniques

The first communication technique I have applied to improve my communication skills is active listening. During the conversation with my group-mate I started practice the NLP active listening technique with building the Rapport. I was observing the facial expressions, posture, and noises my conversation partner made and tried to mirror his either postures or gestures. Then I tried to catch his breathing rhythm and a speed of his speech. Additionally, I paid attention and fit the loudness of tone of his voice. While my opponent was speaking, I was concentrating on what was he talking about, imagining the situation in my mind and trying to be involved in it as if I were him. In such a way, I managed to raise my awareness in the present moment. I supported the dialogue by asking clarification questions when something was not completely clear to me. I was participating in the discussion with real interest. During our talk, I noticed the word types my dialogue partner used and came to the conclusion that he was a ‘visual’ according to the types of modality determined by NLP theory. Thus, I took into account the fact that in order to get a better understanding I had to use an appropriate lexis. During our talk I was providing my dialogue partner feedback regarding the type of his sensory modality and, as a result, we had got a vivid and meaningful discussion. I have spotted that after the conversation an invisible connection was established between us and we became ever so closer emotionally. Applying such a technique is expected to be helpful in future not only to create a closer connection with people but also to communicate on a totally new level.

The second communication technique I have put into practice to enhance my social skills was related to the assertive behaviour TA technique. In order to apply it, I needed modelling my behaviour in one of the suggested in class situations. I have chosen the one which is rather common and likely to happen in my professional career. I imagined my boss, who expected me to come in to work to produce a report on a week-end that I planned to go away. Concerning the assertive behaviour, I needed to act the way to set my own limits and stand up my rights as a person. I started with having an assertive posture and assertive tone of my voice. I took a deep breath and chose to use ‘open questions’ technique to resolve this situation without conflict. I was aware that, when asking the questions, I had to be confident as I have the right to know why he asked me to work on the weekend. Also, I had to conquer a fear not to be afraid to continue asking. I had to openly express my disagreement and explain it by stating clearly my viewpoint (what I think) and directly told about my feelings (what I feel). With that, I had to control the tone of my voice. Despite the fact that such a situation was imaginary, the result was real. I have learnt how to act assertively without loss of self-control and to stand up my rights by setting own limits. This experience will be helpful in future to communicate effectively either with the superiors or with colleagues and subordinates.

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Self-Reflective Journal

One of my key communication strengths is the ability to listen actively and empathetically giving a feedback and trying not to interrupt. Acting this way, I gained a clearer understanding of what one is talking about and, it is supposed to be, maintain person’s self-esteem. My listening proficiency always helps me build trust-based relations and maintain a good fellowship both in a personal, professional, and academic environment.

Whereas, there are at least two weaknesses in communicating professionally I have. The first one is the difficulty with skilfully air my grievances. When I don’t like something or do not agree with I have a difficulty in speaking openly of what I feel or think. It says that I have a lack of Emotional Intelligence (Mayer & Salovey 1997). With the view to increase my effectiveness, I am going to observe and analyze my emotions every evening and practice clear, honest, and direct expression of both positive and negative feelings. For that I have to start “Journaling” (“Journaling for professional development” 2016), in which I will write about the emotional situations I experience from day to day, reflect on my thoughts and analyze my feelings. It involves focusing on how I am feeling in the present moment and help me to learn how to express my thoughts and feelings clearly and become more self-aware and emotionally mature.

My second weaknesses is the fear to say ‘no’. There are situations that put pressure on me as I cannot say ‘no’ to people. As a result, I feel stressed and have negative thoughts in my mind. I am afraid of standing up my rights as a person and setting my own limits it is evident as a fear to say ‘no’. A thorough analysis has revealed that I apply non-effective default behaviours that flow from my childhood patterns. Such immature behaviour is determined by the ‘Child ego state’ (Berne 1964), from which I subconsciously choose to act. The lack of firmness has to be compensated for the exercising in assertive behaviour. To increase my assertiveness I am going to practice regularly a high power pose ‘The Wonder Woman’ (Clear 2016), the impact of which is relevant to both men and women, despite its nickname. It implies that each morning, just after I wake up, I will stand in the pose for two minutes with my chest out and my hands on my hips and breathing deeply and slowly with the feelings of inner force and self-confidence.

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Conclusion

To sum up, effective communication is a key to close and harmonious interpersonal relationships, whereby the people involved truly understand each other’s feelings and ideas and communicate well. It directly influences the working atmosphere, promoting a smoothly-running team work and a comfortable organizational climate within the professional environment. The efficiency of communication mainly depends on the proper identification of barriers, first of all, inside of us, and finding out the ways of getting round them. There are lots of techniques suggested by the effective communication theories that could be successfully applied in practice. Communication frameworks are different in their approaches but same in their value. They teach how to improve personal performance and take one’s communication to a next level.