How to Develop Communication skills and Personality

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Published Date:22-07-2017
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making Practice-Based Learning work Communication SKILLS A resource commissioned by the Making Practice Based Learning Work project, an educational development project funded through FDTL Phase 4 Project Number 174/02 and produced by staff from the University of Ulster. www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Aims and Learning Objectives A Aiim ms s This resource has been compiled to give a general introduction to effective communication for practice educators. In the first section, the key components of the communication process will be discussed. The basic skills required for effective communication will be explored in the next few sections, and some specific contexts for communication, including giving presentations and feedback meetings, will be examined. L Le ea ar rn niin ng g O Ob bjje ec ct tiiv ve es s On completion of this resource, you should be able to: • Identify the key components of the communication process. • Identify some typical problems that can arise in the communication process and demonstrate knowledge of skills to overcome these. • Demonstrate increased awareness of forms of communication and social behaviour. • Identify and use strategies for managing specific contexts for communication, including giving presentations. www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Introduction As we progress through our careers in the health or social care environment, the sorts of skills that are critical to our success can change and evolve. Many of us are first responsible for performing specific practical tasks, linked to our developing knowledge base. Our effectiveness centres upon our actions and our growing expertise at performing these. Proficiency at such tasks is often the initial focus. However, as we continue to progress, it is likely that success will depend more and more upon our interpersonal skills and our ability to develop effective working relationships with key others. Jobs that include a managerial, supervisory or a mentoring role can involve complex relationships with people. Demands can be made that are sometimes conflicting and ambiguous. A practice educator’s job can involve reconciling and managing these demands. Not surprisingly, interpersonal and communication skills often rank among the most critical for work related success. In its most straightforward sense, effective communication may be understood as occurring when the intended meaning of the sender and perceived meaning of the receiver are the same. Yet the level of skill required for effective communication to occur, belies the simplicity of this definition. After examining studies involving hundreds of large organisations, Goleman (1997) concluded that a high level of individual success at work was characterised by ‘emotional intelligence’, or skills of social awareness and communication. Typically, these included the ability to motivate and influence others, to give honest feedback sensitively, to empathise and develop relationships, to monitor ones own behaviour, to handle emotions both of self and others and to read interpersonal situations and organisational politics. However it is important to note that emotional intelligence, or the skills of social awareness and communication, can be developed and honed. This resource aims to give a basic introduction to the area of effective communication and will seek to increase your awareness of forms of communication, communication skills and social or interpersonal behaviour therein. 03 Communication Skills COMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 1: The Communication Process A first step in unravelling the complexity of interpersonal communication is to understand the basic process by which communication occurs. Only then can we identify where possible problems can arise and explore skills for enhancing communication and managing such breakdowns. Human beings are not passive, predictable objects who always interpret meanings and react as they are ‘supposed to’. Neither is communication a passive, predictable, one way event. Rather, communication can be viewed as an active process, influenced by all the complexities and ambiguities of human behaviour. It is also fraught with potential points of breakdown. As Clampitt notes, ‘We actively construct meanings within a unique vortex that includes the words used, the context of the utterances, and the people involved.’(2005, p.8) A more accurate way of looking at the process of communication is probably as a dynamic, circuitous process in which elements such as non-verbal behaviour and individual styles of interpreting and ascribing meaning to events have significant influence. Strategies such as constructing a clear, unambiguous message can encourage effective communication, but so too can seeking to understand meanings imposed by the listener via processes such as actively listening to feedback, as we shall see. Many models have been developed to simplify and summarise the complex reality of the communication process and to aid our understanding. Some of these are more helpful than others, but all have their shortcomings. The ‘Typical Communication Model’ developed by Clampitt (2005) demonstrates a number of key elements in the communication process. Context NOISE Person 1 CHANNEL Person 2 Sender Message Receiver Receiver Feedback Sender NOISE Typical Communication Model Clampitt P (2005) page 30 www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 1: The Communication Process 1 1.. S Se en nd diin ng g T Th he e M Me es ss sa ag ge e:: While the sender may not have total control over the Person 1 constructs and sends a message. Messages are message sent, this can nevertheless be improved and the signals and symbols that we use to convey what we developed through enhancing self-awareness and self- want to transmit. They can occur in various ways, including knowledge. Non-verbal behaviour will be explored in visual (non-verbal, written), auditory (verbal and sub-vocal greater detail in Section 3. speech), tactile (touch, bodily contact) and olfactory (perfumes, aftershaves) formats. 2 2.. T Th he e C Ch ha an nn ne ell:: In Clampitt’s (2005) model, this refers to the means used to In order to send the message, it must be encoded into deliver messages and the related formats. Means used to words, as well as tone, inflection, facial expression, and communicate can include face to face, telephone, pager, other non-verbal language. While skills such as clear written, radio and video communication. In face to face thinking, concise expression of plain english, logical communication, which is most often preferred for association of ideas and organised speech are important, communication of more important matters, communication especially to specific contexts such as giving presentations occurs through visual, auditory and olfactory formats, while (see Section 6), they do not ensure that effective the tactile medium may or may not be used. Skilled communication will take place. The meaning of the communicators will choose the channel most appropriate message is not contained solely in the words, as factors to the specific goals sought at that time. such as non-verbal cues, the context and the people involved will heavily influence meaning. It is important to 3 3.. R Re ec ce eiiv viin ng g t th he e M Me es ss sa ag ge e:: note that unintended as well as intended meanings may be For effective communication to take place, the message communicated via non-verbal leakage. must be accurately decoded and reconstructed by person Consider the following exercise: 2, from the signals received from person 1. However, even if the "encoding" is carried out very well; this in itself does E Ex xe er rc ciis se e 1 1 not ensure that it will be "decoded" accurately. The meaning (The scene is a busy open-plan office with a lot of coming ascribed to the message may vary according to the person and going and background noise). doing the interpreting, the context in which the message was given and the total information communicated. Practice educator: So how did the procedure go yesterday? (Scanning emails on PC, furrows brow, begins In terms of the person doing the interpreting, we all have tapping keyboard.) underlying beliefs and understandings of the world which will influence the ways in which we tend to understand and Student worker: Emmmm fine. (Spoken quietly in ascribe meaning to incoming data. Consider the following monotone. Glances toward practice educator, then at example: Practice educator: (Sitting down opposite student in office). I others in the room, then looks to the floor. Hand initially have been monitoring your work over the last week and your covers mouth, and then begins to bite nails). understanding really seems to be developing. (Direct eye contact, open posture, smiles). a. Whether intentional or not, what message do you think the practice educator is sending? Student worker 1: Great That’s good to hear. (Smiles and b. How much of this is conveyed in words as opposed maintains eye-contact). (Thinks- I’m doing something right Good). to non-verbal behaviour? c. What message does the student give in response? Student worker 2: Right. (Direct gaze. Bites lip and looks away). (Thinks- Why has she been watching me? Does she S Se ee e A Ap pp pe en nd diix x 1 1 ffo or r s su ug gg ge es st te ed d a an ns sw we er rs s.. think I can’t do this?). 05 Communication Skills COMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 1: The Communication Process Developing active listening skills such as listening to non- E Ex xe er rc ciis se e 2 2:: verbal as well as verbal language, paraphrasing, using feedback, and asking appropriate questions can help to Look back over the scenario under point 3. identify possible misinterpretations of the message, as well as check for unintended messages. These skills are What verbal and non-verbal feedback is being sent in each explored in more detail in Sections 2 and 3. situation? What might be the interpretation of the practice educator’s message, by each student? An important distinction is made here. M Miis siin nt te er rp pr re et ta at tiio on ns s are faulty understandings of the message. When a In the light of the feedback received, how might the message is misinterpreted, the interpretation made by the practice educator respond to student 1 in both verbal and receiver is different to the message that was sent, as in the non-verbal terms to maximise the effectiveness of the example of student 2 above. However, u un niin nt te en nd de ed d communication? m me es ss sa ag ge es s are those messages that may be leaked unintentionally from one to another, but which are truthful In the second situation, how might the practice educator reflections of underlying thoughts or feelings. An example respond to student 2? of an unintended message is the preoccupation with something else, leaked by the practice educator in exercise Is there a difference in the way in which the educator one and the relative lack of interest accurately responds according to the feedback given by each student? communicated to his student at that point in time. S Se ee e A Ap pp pe en nd diix x 1 1 ffo or r s su ug gg ge es st te ed d a an ns sw we er rs s.. 4 4.. F Fe ee ed db ba ac ck k:: In the model in Figure one, Person 2 responds to person 1, and With feedback as with other forms of message, the this message is received by person 1 as feedback. Again, information received must be interpreted by us. Therefore, feedback comprises both the verbal and non-verbal messages the message is susceptible to the same possible of others, and allows us to evaluate how the message has misinterpretations and will be influenced by factors such as been understood and the response to it. Actively listening to context and people involved. Meaning is not an inherent feedback is a key skill in effective communication, and will be quality of the message, but is perceived or constructed in explored in more detail in Section 2. the mind of the recipient. In the above exercise, a message that would seem to have been intended by the practice We can also get feedback from our own responses through educator as being genuinely positive was misinterpreted as a process known as ‘‘s se ellff- -m mo on niit to or riin ng g’’ (Hargie et al 2004). negative by the student in the second situation. The Self-monitoring involves staying aware of what we are important part of this communication at this point, is how saying and doing in social encounters and how this is the practice educator listens to this feedback, the meaning impacting on others. This type of feedback can then be that s/he ascribes to it, and how it is subsequently used to alter or adapt our behaviour in the light of the responded to. responses from others. People who are skilled communicators are high self-monitors, who continuously 5 5.. C Co on nt te ex xt t:: analyse and regulate their own behaviour according to the A significant point to note is that communication never way in which the other person is responding. occurs in a vacuum. Communication is inextricably linked to the particular context in which it occurs, which in turn has a major impact upon behaviour. Clampitt (2005 p.36) notes that ‘context basically functions as the background www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 1: The Communication Process for the content, much like a canvas for a painting’. Stereotyping is when we assume that the other Consider the following points: person has certain characteristics based on the group to which they belong, without checking out i. A specific context may predispose toward certain to see that they do in fact have these probable interpretations over others. For example, the characteristics. Think about the example of the statement ‘I’ve got a bug’, may be interpreted differently student who misinterpreted the practice when it is used in a conversation between two software educator’s positive message as negative. It may engineers, compared to when it is spoken by a sneezing be that this student tends to view authority figures colleague. (Clampitt 2005). Similarly, the question ‘How are as critical people who are likely to put him/her you?’ may be interpreted differently when it is exchanged down. Bear in mind though, we do not have between two acquaintances passing in the street, enough information at this stage to make this compared to when it is asked in a doctor’s surgery. conclusion and this is merely an example of a possible perceptual bias. ii. The context will also play a significant role in shaping the response. In the latter example, a simple acknowledgement • Semantic: This is used to describe situations of the greeting is likely to be made in response to the where language or cultural differences distort or acquaintance in the street. However, a more detailed answer interfere with the meaning of the message. may be made to the same question when asked by a medical Effective communication requires deciphering practitioner. Be aware however that we can sometimes and understanding the basic values, motives, and assume that an understanding of a shared context exists assumptions of the other person. Given that when it does not. In the situation just described, it may not be dramatic differences exist across cultures in terms unusual for the patient to initially respond to the question as a of approaches to time, space, and privacy; the contextually rigid greeting and respond ‘fine’. opportunities for misinterpretation when we are in cross-cultural situations are plentiful. iii. Our behaviour will also alter according to the context. For example, a practice educator will probably behave differently when in a student appraisal meeting as they do In terms of language, the choice of words or with the student during an office Christmas dinner. language in which a sender encodes a message ill influence the quality of communication. 6 6.. N No oiis se e:: Because language is a symbolic representation of The term ‘noise’ describes anything that can interfere with thoughts, motivations or intentions, room for or distort the meaning of a message. Dickson (1999) has interpretation and distortion of the meaning identified a number of such barriers or common sources of exists. For example, a practice educator, noise, which can affect communication accuracy and intending to motivate a student, comments ‘I effectiveness. have high standards and when I ask you to do a piece of work, I would like to see it done’. The • Psychological: These include the perceptual student works late into the evening to produce a biases or stereotypes that can impact on how we report not due for another week, interpret a particular person’s message. People misunderstanding the practice educator and respond to stimuli in the environment in very believing that s/he wants it straight away. As we different ways. We each have shortcuts that we have seen, different people may interpret the use to organize data. Invariably, these shortcuts same words differently. Meaning has to be given introduce some biases into communication. to words and many factors affect how an Stereotyping is an example of such a shortcut. individual will interpret and attribute meaning. 07 Communication Skills COMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 1: The Communication Process • Environmental: This refers to a range of factors S Su um mm ma ar ry y o off S Se ec ct tiio on n 1 1:: L Le ea ar rn niin ng g P Po oiin nt ts s:: such as size of room, layout of furniture, intrusive noise, heating and lighting etc. Each of these can • Skills of communication are associated with job- either encourage or inhibit interaction. related success. Such skills can be developed and honed. • Demographic: Factors such as gender and age can impact on the way in which a message is • The meaning of the message is not contained interpreted. For example, a male listener may solely in the words. While skills such as clear nod his head to indicate to the speaker ‘I agree’, thinking, concise expression of plain english, whereas a female listener may nod her head to logical association of ideas and organised speech communicate ‘I am listening’ (but not necessarily are important, they do not ensure that effective agreeing); so sending the same visible feedback communication will take place. but with different actual meanings (Stewart and • Factors such as non-verbal cues, the context and Logan, 1998). the people involved will heavily influence meaning. • Disability: Physical or neurological impairment as • A message is not only encoded into words, as well as psychiatric illness can call for alternative non-verbal language such as tone, inflection, means to the usual patterns of communication to facial expression, and posture will heavily be adopted. Some examples include sight or influence meaning. Unintended as well as hearing loss, and conditions such as Parkinson’s intended meanings may be communicated via disease or severe depression (Hargie et al, 2004). non-verbal leakage. • Organisational: Barriers to effective • The meaning of a communication is also communication can be located within the inextricably linked to the particular context in organisation or agency itself. Difficulties with which it occurs, which in turn has a major impact established lines and means of communication, upon behaviour. different relative physical location of staff, lack of • In terms of the people involved, we all have team or supervision meetings, and under- underlying beliefs and understandings of the resourced supervisors are factors that can world which will influence the ways in which we impact negatively on effective communication. tend to understand and ascribe meaning to (Adapted from Dickson, 1999) incoming data. • A misinterpretation is a faulty understanding of the Clearly, some degree of noise in communication is message; - the interpretation made by the unavoidable. The objective for effective communication is receiver is different to the message that was sent. to be aware of possible sources of noise and so to seek to An unintended message is a message that may reduce this to a minimum. be leaked unintentionally from one to another, but which is a truthful reflection of underlying thoughts or feelings. www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 1: The Communication Process • Some degree of ‘noise’ in communication is unavoidable. This includes psychological, semantic, environmental, demographic, disability related and organisational barriers. • Feedback comprises both the verbal and non- verbal messages of others, and allows us to evaluate how the message has been understood and the response to it. Actively listening to feedback is a key skill in effective communication. • Developing active listening skills such as listening to non-verbal as well as verbal language, paraphrasing, using feedback, and asking appropriate questions can help to identify possible misinterpretations of the message, as well as check for unintended messages. In the next section, active listening skills will be explored. 09 Communication SkillsCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 2: Active Listening Skills Effective communication is heavily dependent on effective us to attach meaning to all the information we receive. It listening, something many of us may not be fully proficient requires concentration and effort. at. An additional purpose of effective listening is to convey interest and respect for the other person. This is crucial if As we listen to others we interpret and evaluate the we are to have any ability to help solve problems and meaning from the verbal and non-verbal information that satisfy the other person's needs and goals as well as our we receive. We also plan and rehearse our response in own. Giving constructive feedback, explored in greater preparing to execute it. While the processes of evaluation, detail in Section 4, depends on a wide range of skills planning and rehearsal occur subconsciously, they can including listening skills and feedback skills. nevertheless interfere with effective listening. It can be important to maintain awareness of this to ensure that the Why is the process of effective listening so elusive? Think processes that mediate between listening and speaking do of a time when you have pretended to listen whilst not actually interfere with the listening process itself. continuing with what you were doing or thinking. Think also of a situation where you sought to half listen to another with L Liis st te en niin ng g S Sk kiilllls s the intention of tuning in when something of particular Developing effective listening skills involves two specific importance was said. These are very common occurrences steps (Hartley & Bruckman, 2002). These are: and it is unlikely that you have not experienced them. In fact, most conversations do not take place with the full 1. To develop the ability to recognise and deal with attention of those taking part. However, our ability to barriers that prevents you listening with full selectively listen in this way is not very good and as a result, attention. valuable information can be unheard and lost. 2. To develop and use behaviours which help you to listen. Such behaviours can also serve to let the Studies have shown that listening is the most frequent other person know that you are giving them your full aspect of workplace communication (Adler and Elmhorst, attention. 1999). Other studies have identified that managers spend 65-90% of their working day listening to someone, with the 1 1.. B Ba ar rr riie er rs s t to o L Liis st te en niin ng g percentage of time increasing with level of managerial The following list identifies just some possible barriers to responsibility (Kotter, 1982, Nichols & Stevens, 1990). effective listening, in addition to sources of noise examined However, research suggests that misunderstandings are in section 1: the rule rather than the exception, and that people generally achieve no more than 25-50% accuracy in Barriers to Listening interpreting the meaning of each other’s remarks • Forming a judgment or evaluation before we (Spitzberg, 1994). Becoming fully proficient at listening understand what is being said, or ‘jumping to would therefore seem to have significant influence on conclusions’. workplace communication and related effectiveness. • Hearing what we want to hear. Effective listening is a specific skill that can be consciously • Tuning out a point of view that differs from our own. developed and practiced in various workplace situations, whether a meeting, supervision session, telephone • Formulating and rehearsing our response. conversation or chance meeting in the corridor. Listening is • Being inattentive - thinking about something else not simply a matter of hearing. Listening is an active entirely. psychological rather than passive process, which enables www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 2: Active Listening Skills • Having a closed mind- you do not want to hear A Ac ct tiiv ve e L Liis st te en niin ng g S Sk kiilllls s what the person has to say. • Stop talking- listen openly to the other person. • Feeling anxious or self-conscious. • Remove distractions. • Judging the person, either positively or negatively. • Be receptive to the other person. Demonstrate that you are prepared to listen and accept what • Subjective biases based on ignorance or prejudice. they are saying (without automatically agreeing • Cultural issues, e.g. listening to the differences in with it). Non-verbal cues can be particularly pronunciation of a different accent, rather than the important here, e.g. maintaining an open posture, content of the message. appropriate/comfortable eye-contact, leaning slightly forward. These are sometimes known as • Excessive and incessant talking or interrupting. attending skills. • Delay evaluation of what you have heard until you It is important that such barriers to listening are recognised fully understand it. and dealt with. With developing awareness, we can have more control over those barriers that are internal to • Try not to be defensive. Try to relax as any tension ourselves, and can adopt and use more helpful listening or impatience is likely to transmit via non-verbal behaviours. leakage. • Maintain attention. Respond through your own E Ex xe er rc ciis se e 3 3:: facial expressions or body gestures such as a nod Think of a recent work-based situation when you felt that or a smile without interrupting the other person’s you were not well and truly listened to. flow. This indicates that you are listening, interested and seeking to understand what they a. What was it about the other person’s verbal response, and are saying and feeling (again, using attending skills). Be patient. b. non-verbal response, that led you to draw this conclusion? • Ask the other person for as much detail as he/she c. What other factors existed in the situation that may have can provide; reflect back or paraphrase what the impacted on communication? other is saying to make sure you understand it and check for understanding. Paraphrase by d. How might any barriers to listening that you have asking short non-interrogative questions, using identified, be dealt with. some of what the speaker has said to check your understanding; such as ‘so your main concern Check your answers against the information given in this is…’ or ‘So what you are saying is…’. Consider section. the following exchange: Student: The other member of staff just ignored what I had 2 2.. L Liis st te en niin ng g B Be eh ha av viio ou ur rs s said about the patient, didn’t even look at me and then just So what are the keys to effective listening? carried on with the meeting Practice Educator: So what you are saying is that he ignored Careful analysis of skills that are used by people who are your question? (Paraphrasing) recognised as ‘good listeners’, show that they use a variety of techniques (Hartley & Bruckman, 2002). Some active Student: ‘Yes It was as if I hadn’t spoken. I felt listening skills are given as follows: really…stupid, like I shouldn’t have said it, but when I though about it later, it was relevant. It wasn’t stupid’. 11 Communication Skills COMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 2: Active Listening Skills As well as reflecting meanings of what the person has said E Ex xe er rc ciis se e 4 4:: by summarising the content of their message (beyond Look out for opportunities over the next few days to practise paraphrasing their words), you can also reflect feelings, some of the skills mentioned. This could initially take place in through e.g. ‘You sound as if you feel…’. Consider the more informal situations with friends before you broaden out to following response continuing the above exchange: work-based situations. Try to answer the following questions: Practice Educator: You sound as if you felt really a. What barriers or distractions am I aware of. embarrassed at the time, but later on you realised that b. How might I minimise these? what you had to say wasn’t stupid, and then you felt c. What attending skills am I using? annoyed? d. What following skills am I using (to encourage or reinforce the speaker). Student: Yes. I was really embarrassed. Now I am e. What reflecting Skills am I using? so…indignant more than annoyed. Giving such feedback, especially phrasing it as a question Check your answers against the information given in this can be crucial in checking that you understand the other section. If possible, share the goals of the exercise with the person correctly and gives them the opportunity to correct other person after you have practised the skills and get some any misinterpretation that you have made. feedback from them on how it felt to be listened to by you. In summary, listen for message content, but also listen for S Su um mm ma ar ry y o off S Se ec ct tiio on n 2 2:: L Le ea ar rn niin ng g P Po oiin nt ts s feelings. The latter tends to be communicated via non- verbal cues such as tone of voice, facial expression etc. • Effective communication is heavily dependent on Feelings can be reflected (e.g. ‘you seem really worried effective listening; however most conversations about this?’ or ‘you seem to be feeling frustrated or do not take place with the full attention of those annoyed. Is that the case?’). Offering this feedback enables taking part. any corrections of misinterpretations to be made. • Effective listening is a specific skill that can be consciously developed and practiced. It is an • Ask appropriate questions e.g. ask the other for active psychological process which enables us to their views or suggestions to broaden your attach meaning to all the information we receive. understanding of their position. • Developing effective listening skills involves two • If possible and appropriate, particularly in specific steps: dealing with b ba ar rr riie er rs s that prevent meetings, take notes; decide on a specific follow-up you listening; and developing and using listening action and date. b be eh ha av viio ou ur rs s. • There are various b ba ar rr riie er rs s to listening, including jumping to conclusions; hearing what we want to hear; rehearsing our response and being inattentive. A Ac ct tiiv ve e lliis st te en niin ng g s sk kiilllls s • include using attending skills (e.g. maintaining an open posture, comfortable eye contact, leaning forward); delaying evaluation; maintaining attention; reflecting back or paraphrasing; giving feedback; listening for feelings; asking appropriate questions etc. www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 3: Non-verbal Communicaton As we have seen, much of the meaning we derive from E Ex xe er rc ciis se e 5 5 communication, comes from non-verbal cues. While we To get some sort of idea into what communication would be tend to focus on what we say, it is the non-verbal like if we had to rely solely on the verbal, think about the communication that proves to be significant in conveying following. Imagine having only written feedback to questions our message and forming judgements about others. Often asked of a new student as part of an introduction to a a person says one thing but communicates something placement, as opposed to getting answers to the questions totally different through vocal intonation and body from the student during an introductory interview. language. These mixed signals can force the receiver to choose between the verbal and non-verbal parts of the 1. How much more information would be available from message. Most often, the receiver chooses the non-verbal the meeting? aspects (Stiff et al, 1990). To illustrate this, think about how 2. How might that additional information be conveyed? vocal, facial and bodily behaviour can change the meaning of the following statement, spoken to a student completing S Se ee e A Ap pp pe en nd diix x 1 1 ffo or r s su ug gg ge es st te ed d a an ns sw we er rs s.. their first month of placement. ‘Overall, things seem to be OK’. C Cu ullt tu ur re e a an nd d N No on n- -V Ve er rb ba all M Me es ss sa ag ge es s:: Nonverbal communication has been said to have a greater The same words can convey praise, uncertainty, universality than language, in that ‘we can often make annoyance, disappointment, sarcasm or indifference, ourselves known in a rudimentary way through signs and depending on the accompanying non-verbal cues. gestures when communicating with people from differing cultural backgrounds who do not share a common When a message is very mixed, for example, combining language’ (Hargie et al, 2004, p.38). However, a word of words of praise with body language conveying annoyance, warning- non-verbal cues can also differ dramatically from or words of criticism accompanied by a cheerful, smiling culture to culture. An American hand gesture meaning `A- face; the result can be the creation of tension and distrust. OK" for example, would be viewed as obscene in some The receiver senses that the communicator is hiding South American countries. It can be vital for those in something or is being less than candid. contact with people from different cultures to do their research and discover what it means to make eye-contact, This raises an important point- often we are unaware of the use hand gestures, to touch another person etc in the non-verbal cues we emit and pick up from others- the other culture; and especially to find out what is taboo process occurs with little conscious awareness on the part (Goman, 2002). Be careful of the sender or receiver. Sometimes, we carefully monitor what we say in order to ensure it has the desired effect, while paying little or no attention as to how we say it. The non-verbal leakage can however more truthfully reflect our underlying thoughts or feelings about an issue. However, we can learn to be better communicators through enhancing self-awareness and self-knowledge as well as developing better skills at reading non-verbal cues emitted by others. 13 Communication Skills COMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 3: Non-verbal Communicaton S So om me e F Fo or rm ms s o off N No on n- -v ve er rb ba all C Co om mm mu un niic ca at tiio on n Eye contact of the listener needs to be at a comfortable Non-verbal messages are not always straightforward to level – a constant or fixed eye gaze can be unnerving. In understand and compared with verbal language, can be addition, the rules for what amounts to appropriate or highly ambiguous. For example, the signs that someone is comfortable eye contact varies from culture to culture. For lying to us are very close to the signals of anxiety or example, a British or Irish worker who uses their cultural nervousness. Often, we react to a combination of such pattern of eye gaze with an Arab colleague may be viewed signals rather than just one, and suspect that we are being as shifty or untrustworthy because they do not engage in lied to when a person fidgets, avoids eye contact, hesitates what Arabs would regard as sufficient eye contact (Hartley before they speak etc (Hartley and Bruckman 2002). and Bruckman, 2002). It is vital therefore to ensure that Developing an awareness of non-verbal behaviour can be your NVC is appropriate to both the culture and the vital in improving our ability to communicate with others, context. however it can be important to check out our understanding through good active listening and asking P Po os st tu ur re e a an nd d G Ge es st tu ur re es s:: The way you sit or stand can reflective questions (see Section 5). convey your attitude or feelings about what you are doing or thinking. Therefore, a slumped posture can indicate Forms of non-verbal communication are described as despondency or boredom; a relaxed posture may suggest follows: a person is calm and unnerved; a shifting posture might be associated with uneasiness or discomfort. In a more subtle F Fa ac ciia all E Ex xp pr re es ss siio on ns s a an nd d E Ey ye e G Ga az ze e:: Facial expressions sense, small cues in posture and gesture can be used to provide a rich source of non-verbal information, particularly communicate clear messages. Turning only slightly from in conveying emotion. Sometimes emotions can be your desk, keeping pen in hand and avoiding eye contact communicated clearly, for example, a student’s confused can communicate to a colleague who has interrupted ‘I am expression can indicate the need to continue with an busy’ (Adler & Elmhorst, 1999). explanation, smiling and nodding may demonstrate that they have understood. However on a more subtle level, a Matching or mirroring of posture may be used to maintain frown could come from a headache rather than from congruence in an interaction and establish empathic difficulty with the task at hand. rapport. It can be possible in workplace meetings to spot those in agreement with one another, or the ‘cliques and It has long since been recognised that the eyes coalitions’ by noting the members whose posture and communicate a great deal with expressions such as ‘the gestures are matched (Hargie et al, 2004, p.55). eyes are the windows of the soul’ in common parlance. Think about how it can be difficult to deal with someone V Vo oiic ce e:: The term paralinguistics refers to features such as wearing sunglasses, for example. Eye contact can indicate speech rate, pitch, articulation, pauses emphasis and engagement or involvement with the speaker and complete volume as well as non-verbal vocalisations such as ‘ahhh’ lack of eye contact can suggest detachment, nervousness or sighing. A great deal of information can be or that the person is hiding something. Use of eye contact communicated this way. It is easy to tell for example that 2 can serve a number of purposes – for example, a sequence people are arguing when you can hear the sound of their of breaks and contact in eye gaze is used to regulate the voices but not their words. To illustrate this further, think flow in conversation, with the speaker typically engaging in about how paralinguistics can change the meaning of the eye contact as they come to the end of their speech turn. following statement, spoken by a student: ‘I‘ll not have that report finished by Friday. Would Monday do?’ www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 3: Non-verbal Communicaton Depending on how this is said, the meaning may be heard more attractively that a person presents themselves, the as ‘I don’t think it’s important’ or ‘I don’t care about it’ or more advantages they will have in most aspects of life ‘I’m becoming overwhelmed with the work’ or ‘I’m very (Wilson & Nias, 1999). A number of factors can influence sorry’ etc. how attractive a person seems and prospective managers and colleagues are often impressed by those who are well In a very general sense, varying the tone, pitch, rate and other groomed and generally ‘in good shape’ (Adler and vocal features can communicate enthusiasm and can create Elmhorst, 1999). While some aspects of physical a sense of interest in the listener. This can be of importance appearance cannot be changed easily however, the one when giving a presentation (see Section 6). However, over which more control is sometimes exerted is that of sometimes paralinguistic cues are difficult to decode and are dress. While many workplace situations for the health and ambiguous. For example, is the student who talks very social care professions call for the wearing of a uniform, quickly nervous, eager to get away, under pressure or is this some do not. In addition, even where a standard dress simply their characteristic way of speaking? code or uniform exists, workers may try to ‘individualise’ it with accessories. Tentative ‘rules’ for dress in business P Pe er rs so on na all S Sp pa ac ce e & & D Diis st ta an nc ce e:: We all have an area of space environments given by Hamilton & Parker (1990) include around us that we consider as ours and tend to feel dressing in neutral colours, simply, conservatively, and as uncomfortable when this space is breached. The extent to expensively as can be afforded; while also paying heed to which people will keep out of or encroach upon our others who are successful within the organisation. personal space, depends on a multitude of factors including culture, personality, age, sex, status and dominance (Hargie N No on n- -v ve er rb ba all C Co om mm mu un niic ca at tiio on n S Sk kiilllls s et al, 2004). For example, women typically adopt closer As well as using active listening skills to develop awareness distances than men, particularly with other women. and monitor the non-verbal cues of others, it is important to Similarly, extroverts adopt closer distances than introverts, develop awareness of your own non-verbal cues and their as do the very young and old. North European and North likely impact through close self-monitoring. Some training American cultures tend to prefer larger interpersonal courses offer videotaping of simulated work situations, and distances than do people from Southern Europe, Latin these can be invaluable in developing awareness of America and the Middle East (Hargie et al, 2004). characteristic habits or patterns of non-verbal behaviours that you tend to show as well as the possible impact of these The distance that people put between themselves and (eg, overly sharp tone of voice mistakenly conveying others can also be instrumental in reflecting attitudes, displeasure; smiling when conveying criticism thus watering creating feelings and indicating the balance of power. down the impact of the verbal message; lack of comfortable Thus, we may stand away from someone we regard as eye contact suggesting aloofness or dishonesty). However unfriendly, or whom we think is going to tell us something through close self-monitoring and reflecting on your own we do not want to hear (Knapp & Hall, 1992). Likewise, behaviour as well as by seeking feedback from others who those who create a large interpersonal distance when are prepared to give you an honest response, awareness of communicating with us, we tend to view as less friendly your own NVC and its likely impact can be gained. In and understanding (Adler & Elmhorst, 1999). The person conversations, ask yourself ‘Are my non-verbal behaviours with the higher status in an interaction generally controls reflecting my words? Are they reflecting the message that I the level of distance and degree of approach. want to convey?’ P Pe er rs so on na all A Ap pp pe ea ar ra an nc ce e:: This plays a significant role in determining how a message that we send or receive; will be interpreted and understood. Research has shown that the 15 Communication Skills COMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 3: Non-verbal Communicaton E Ex xe er rc ciis se e 6 6 Read through the following scenario, and consider the questions at the end. This interaction took place between the Practice Educator and student at an appraisal meeting, arranged by the P.E. at short notice when another meeting had been cancelled. P.E.: As you know, I need to fill out this performance appraisal form before the end of the month, to show how you have been doing now that you are half way through the placement here. (Looking through papers on the cluttered desk, then glances over at the student and smiles). So, how do you think things have been going? Ah, here it is. STUDENT: I think things are going well. I’m really learning a lot and it has been a valuable experience so far. (Speaks in a monotone, posture slightly slumped, worried expression). P.E. Good, Good. (Reading through the form, then looks up at the student and frowns slightly). (Phone rings). Yes….Yes…OK, just give me 20 minutes or so. Bye. (Looks at the form again). Where were we? Oh yes. Lets start with the action points from the last meeting…Have you met these? STUDENT: Yes…I think..emmm…Most things I think. (Tone of voice is higher pitched, blank facial expression, leaning forward to read action points, no eye contact). P.E.: Actually, I noticed that you haven’t done point 3 or 4. It seems that you haven’t been keeping up. Oh dear. (Smiles at the student) I know that you will remedy this by the end of the month though. (Smiles again) Won’t you? STUDENT: It’s just that things have been a bit…(Glances at the P.E. (who continues to read through the form), then looks at the floor, hand covers mouth, sighs). P.E.: Is something wrong? You know you can speak freely to me. (Smiles, glances at clock behind student’s head, then looks back at student). STUDENT: No, I’m fine. Sorry. Yes, I’ll get that sorted out. No problem. (Spoken in a monotone, expression blank, sitting back in chair, looks at the P.E., then looks away). P.E.: Good. Moving on then… 1. What non-verbal signals are accompanying the words spoken by the practice educator and student? 2. How might the interpretation of the practice educator’s and student’s verbal messages be altered by the non- verbal information? 3. In the light of your interpretation, how might the practice educator respond to the student in both verbal and non- verbal terms to maximise the effectiveness of the communication? S Se ee e A Ap pp pe en nd diix x 1 1 ffo or r s su ug gg ge es st te ed d a an ns sw we er rs s.. www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 3: Non-verbal Communicaton S Su um mm ma ar ry y o off S Se ec ct tiio on n 3 3:: L Le ea ar rn niin ng g P Po oiin nt ts s • While we tend to focus on what we say, it is the non-verbal communication that proves to be significant in conveying our message. • We are often unaware of the non-verbal cues we emit and pick up from others. • We can learn to become better communicators through enhancing self-awareness and self-knowledge; as well as developing better skills at reading non-verbal cues emitted by others. • Non-verbal cues can differ dramatically from culture to culture. It is vital to ensure that your NVC is appropriate to both the culture and the context. • Non-verbal messages are not always straightforward to understand and compared with verbal language, can be highly ambiguous. Often, we react to a combination of non-verbal signals rather than just one. Ask reflective questions to check your understanding (see section 5). • Forms of non-verbal communication include facial expressions and eye gaze, posture and gestures, voice, personal space and distance, and personal appearance. • Active listening skills can be used to develop awareness and monitor the non-verbal cues of others. • It is also important to develop awareness of your own non-verbal cues and their likely impact on others through close self-monitoring. Seek feedback from others who are prepared to give you an honest response. In conversations, ask yourself ‘Are my non-verbal behaviours reflecting my words? Are they reflecting the message that I want to convey?’ 17 Communication SkillsCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 4: Giving Constructive Feedback In this section we will cover some of the most difficult Students simply will not develop their full potential if communication issues practice educators face; - providing practice educators fail to tell them where they need constructive, effective and assertive feedback to others. improvement. Honest feedback allows the student to know This may be for example, through informal or formal where they are and what steps they can take to improve supervision, or through performance appraisal processes. themselves. We will also highlight insights that we have gained in previous sections to understand the rationale behind Feedback can also be reinforcing. If given properly, feedback strategies. feedback is almost always appreciated and motivates people to improve. Honest feedback can also strengthen W Wh hy y iit t c ca an n b be e d diiffffiic cu ullt t t to o p pr ro ov viid de e h ho on ne es st t ffe ee ed db ba ac ck k the credibility of the practice educator. It is normally not difficult to give positive feedback to people doing well or in general, to give information that people want However, it is also important that feedback is given in a to hear. Most of us can do this fairly well. However, giving supportive and encouraging way, so that the student does negative or critical feedback, or information that people do not feel constantly criticised, afraid and tense. not want to hear, can be much more problematic. Nevertheless, it is critical that feedback be honest. There are a number of guidelines toward giving feedback effectively, i.e. so that it can be used constructively rather Why are practice educators – and others, so reluctant to than incurring overly defensive reactions. The following provide feedback? The reasons are many: points are recommended by Levinson (quoted in Goleman, 1996 p.153): • Fear of the other person's reaction. People can • Be S Sp pe ec ciiffiic c: Feedback should highlight specific become defensive and emotional when confronted events or examples rather than just general advice. with critical feedback, as their basic needs to feel It should also be specific about what the person competent and accurate are threatened. Some did. (Avoid generalisations i.e. words such as practice educators are fearful of the reaction. ‘never’, ‘always’, ‘all’ etc). • The practice educator may feel that they do not • O Offffe er r a a s so ollu ut tiio on n: Feedback should suggest ways of have enough concrete, objective evidence to back resolving any problems. There is little or no point in up their feedback, should the student refuse to offering negative feedback where there is no way accept it. that a person can improve. • Fear of causing tension in the work environment. D De elliiv ve er r t th he e ffe ee ed db ba ac ck k ffa ac ce e t to o ffa ac ce e • . • Many practice educators would prefer to take on • B Be e s se en ns siit tiiv ve e: This is simply a reminder that the role of a supportive coach rather than a judge. feedback, even negative feedback, should be However, giving feedback often forces a change in delivered in a positive way rather than simply this role. attacking the other person. Further guidelines are given by Wertheim (2005) F Fe ee ed db ba ac ck k S Sk kiilllls s It is important to note however that practice educators owe • B Be e p pr ro ob blle em m o or riie en nt te ed d,, n no ot t p pe eo op plle e o or riie en nt te ed d: their students nothing less than clear, honest, concise Feedback should focus on issues, not the person feedback, so they know where they stand at all times. since the individual usually has little control over www.practicebasedlearning.orgCOMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 4: Giving Constructive Feedback personality. It is important that we refer to what a • It involves the a am mo ou un nt t o off iin nffo or rm ma at tiio on n t th he e r re ec ce eiiv ve er r person does rather than to what we think he is. c ca an n u us se e rather than the amount we would like to (Thus we might say that ‘the patient’s fears about give. To overload a person with feedback is to the procedure were not listened to and addressed reduce the possibility that he may be able to use by the student’ rather than calling the student what he receives effectively. When we give more ’insensitive’). than can be used, we are more often than not satisfying some need of our own rather than helping Be descriptive, not evaluative • Be descriptive, not evaluative: People more readily the other person. receive information if the sender describes what happened and communicates the personal effect it Still further characteristics of effective feedback beyond had, as opposed to evaluating its goodness or those mentioned, are offered by McClure (2005, P.9): badness, rightness or wrongness. • Feedback should be regular. • O Ow wn n r ra at th he er r t th ha an n d diis so ow wn n the feedback. Use "I have a problem with your work", not "others have been • It should be reciprocal. complaining". • It should include recommendations for • C Ch he ec ck k with the other, that they understand what improvement. has been said. Check whether they are willing and • It should deal with decisions and action rather than able to accept it. One way of checking assumed intentions or interpretations. understanding is to have the receiver try to rephrase • It should be based on information which is objective the feedback. No matter what the intent, feedback by first hand observation. is often threatening and thus subject to considerable distortion or misinterpretation. Be open to hear new and possibly disconfirming • Be open to hear new and possibly disconfirming iin nffo or rm ma at tiio on n : Non-verbal behaviours such as tone of voice, facial expression, posture and gestures, as well as choice of words are crucial here. • B Be e V Va alliid da at tiin ng g, not invalidating, and supportive. It is important to acknowledge the other person's uniqueness and importance. • F Fe ee ed db ba ac ck k s sh ho ou ulld d b be e h he ellp pffu ull to the receiver and directed toward b be eh ha av viio ou ur r w wh hiic ch h t th he e r re ec ce eiiv ve er r c ca an n d do o s so om me et th hiin ng g a ab bo ou ut t. A person gets frustrated when reminded of some shortcoming over which he has no control. Ideally feedback should be solicited, not imposed. well timed • Feedback is useful when well timed (soon after the behaviour; depending, of course, on the person's readiness to hear it, support available from others, and so forth). Excellent feedback presented at an inappropriate time may do more harm than good. 19 Communication Skills COMMUNICATION SKILLS Section 4: Giving Constructive Feedback E Ex xe er rc ciis se e 7 7 Giving feedback in a sensitive, problem-focussed way can significantly affect how it is heard and subsequently handled. a. Consider the relative impact of each of the following pairs of statements. b. Return to the guidelines for effective feedback above. For the second statement in each pair, note which guideline it seems to relate to. 1. ‘You are always late. You never get here on time.’ Versus ‘I notice that this is the third morning this week that you have arrived late for work.’ 2. ‘You have created a problem here’ Versus ‘How can we solve this problem? 3. ‘That was a terrible way to handle that situation’ Versus ‘Here is what happened… My reaction is … The outcome has been…’ 4. ‘That’s not a bad idea, but I don’t think the rest of the team would go for it’ Versus ‘I can see your point, but I don’t think it would work because…’ 5. ‘You probably won’t have any ideas to contribute to the development meeting’ Versus ‘You might have some ideas or suggestions also’. 6. ‘You are just making too many careless mistakes. You’re not doing the job properly’ Versus ‘We have discussed what happened. What do you think are the obstacles standing in the way of improvement?’ 7. ‘You really rushed that procedure to try and get away early’ Versus ‘When you went through points 1 to 3, you didn’t pause to complete point 2 as we had discussed. This meant that …’ See Appendix 1 for suggested answers See Appendix 1 for suggested answers

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