Sunday, April 8, 2007

Communication & Leadership # 2

Carl Roger listed five main categories of feedback. They are listed in the order in which they occur most frequently in daily conversations. Notice that we make judgments more often than we try to understand.

Evaluative: Making a judgment about the worth, goodness, or appropriateness of the other person's statement.

Interpretive: Paraphrasing - attempting to explain what the other person's statement means. Supportive: Attempting to assist or bolster the other communicator. Probing: Attempting to gain additional information, continue the discussion, or clarify a point.

Understanding: Attempting to discover completely what the other communicator means by her statements.
Imagine how much better daily communications would be if listeners tried to understand first, before they tried to evaluate what someone is saying.
Nonverbal behaviors of Communication.
Without knowing the force of words it is impossible to know men." - ConfuciusTo deliver the full impact of a message, use nonverbal behaviors to raise the channel of interpersonal communication.

Eye contact: This helps to regulate the flow of communication. It signals interest in others and increases the speaker's credibility. People who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth, and credibility. Facial Expressions: Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits happiness, friendliness, warmth, and liking. So, if you smile frequently you will be perceived as more likable, friendly, warm and approachable. Smiling is often contagious and people will react favorably. They will be more comfortable around you and will want to listen more. Gestures: If you fail to gesture while speaking you may be perceived as boring and stiff. A lively speaking style captures the listener's attention, makes the conversation more interesting, and facilitates understanding.

Posture and body orientation: You communicate numerous messages by the way you talk and move. Standing erect and leaning forward communicates to listeners that you are approachable, receptive and friendly. Interpersonal closeness results when you and the listener face each other. Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided as it communicates disinterest. Proximity: Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with others. You should look for signals of discomfort caused by invading the other person's space. Some of these are: rocking, leg swinging, tapping, and gaze aversion. Vocal: Speaking can signal nonverbal communication when you include such vocal elements as: tone, pitch, rhythm, timbre, loudness, and inflection. For maximum teaching effectiveness, learn to vary these six elements of your voice. One of the major criticisms of many speakers is that they speak in a monotone voice. Listeners perceive this type of speaker as boring and dull.

Speaking Hints
Speak comfortable words!" – William Shakespeare
When speaking or trying to explain something, ask the listeners if they are following you. Ensure the receiver has a chance to comment or ask questions. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes - Consider the feelings of the receiver. Be clear about what you say. Look at the receiver. Make sure your words match your tone and body language (Nonverbal Behaviors). Vary your tone and pace. Do not be vague, but on the other hand, Do not complicate what you are saying with too much detail. Do not ignore signs of confusion.
On Communication Per Se (a few random thoughts)On Discussing Communication
Trying to speak of something as messy as communication in technical terms seems to be another form of the "math and science" argument, that is, math and science and technology are the answer to all of our problems. - AnonymousBut what forms of human behavior are not messy? Learning is not "antiseptic," yet it is discussed all the time -- we do not leave it to the academics, Bloom, Knowles, Dugan, or Rossett. Leadership and management topics seems to be even messier, yet we categorize it, build models of it, index it, chop it and slice it and dice it, build pyramids out of it, and generally have a good time discussing it. But when it comes to "communication," we call it too messy to play with and leave it up to Chomsky, Pinker, and others to write about so that we can read about it. Yet we all communicate almost every single day of our lives, which is much more than we will ever do with learning or leadership. Paul EkmanIn the mid 1960s, Paul Ekman studied emotions and discovered six facial expressions that almost everyone recognizes world-wide: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise. Although they were controversial at first, he was booed off the stage when he first presented it to a group of anthropologists and later called a fascist and a racist, they are now widely accepted. One of the controversies still lingering is the amount of context needed to interpret them. For example, if someone reports to me that they have this great ideal that they would like to implement, and I say that would be great, but I look on them with a frown, is it possible that I could be thinking about something else? The trouble with these extra signals is that we do not always have the full context. What if the person emailed me and I replied great (while frowning). Would it evoke the same response?
Emotions
Trust your instincts. Most emotions are difficult to imitate. For example, when you are truly happy, the muscles used for smiling are controlled by the limbic system and others, which are not under voluntary control. When you force a smile, a different part of the brain is used -- the cerebral cortex (under voluntary control), hence different muscles are used. This is why a clerk, who might not have any real interest in you, has a "fake" look when he forces a smile. Of course, some actors learn to control all of their face muscles, while others draw on a past emotional experience to produce the emotional state they want. But this is not an easy trick to pull off all the time. There is a good reason for this -- part of our emotions evolved to deal with other people and our empathic nature. If these emotions could easily be faked, they would do more harm than good (Pinker, 1997). So our emotions not only guide our decisions, they can also communicated to others to help them in their decisions -- of course their emotions will be the ultimate guide, but the emotions they discover in others becomes part of their knowledge base. Mehrabian and the 7%-38%-55% MythWe often hear that the content of a message is composed of: 55% of the content from the visual component 38% from the auditory component 7% from language However, the above percentages only apply in a very narrow context. A researcher named Mehrabian was interested in where people get information about a speaker's general attitude is positive, neutral, or negative, towards the person the speaker is addressing in situations where the facial expression, the tone, and the words might be sending conflicting signals. Thus, he designed a couple of experiments. In one, Mehrabian and Ferris (1967) researched the interaction of speech, facial expressions, and tone. Three different speakers were instructed to say "maybe" with three different attitudes towards their listener (positive, neutral, or negative). Next, photographs of the faces of three female models were taken as they attempted to convey the emotions of like, neutrality, and dislike.
Test groups were then instructed to listen to the various renditions of the word "maybe," with the pictures of the models, and were asked to rate the attitude of the speaker. Note that the emotion and tone were often mixed, such as a facial expression showing dislike, with the word "maybe" spoken in a positive tone. Significant effects of facial expression and tone were found in that the study suggested that the combined effect of simultaneous verbal, vocal and facial attitude communications is a weighted sum of their independent effects with the coefficients of .07, .38, and .55, respectively. Mehrabian and Ferris also wrote about a deep limitation to their research: "These findings regarding the relative contribution of the tonal component of a verbal message can be safely extended only to communication situations in which no additional information about the communicator-addressee relationship is available." Thus, what can be concluded is that when people communicate, listeners derive information about the speaker's attitudes towards the listener from visual, tonal, and verbal cues; yet the percentage derived can vary greatly depending upon a number of other factors, such as actions, context of the communication, and how well they know that person.

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