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Communicating Effectively, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction. The Importance of Communication

It is impossible to imagine one’s life without communication – there is nobody who would not agree to this simple fact. One can live without hearing or speaking because people with disabilities have their own systems for communicating the intended messages. Communication is much wider than plain speaking – it covers such spheres as expression of emotions and ideas through gestures, looks, facial expressions or overall demeanor. For this reason one should realize the vital importance of communication as the key to human interactions.

Every day people collaborate and exchange messages through different forms, be it orally, in writing or through the cyber space. TV and other sources of mass media, books and various printed resources represent the unilateral kind of communication from which people only get the authors’ messages and are unable to respond. However, the daily life of each person is filled with interactions that involve bilateral communication, i.e. the exchange of messages to direct people, to restrain or to instigate them to do something. Information is the key to modern survival, and its circulation is vital for the world’s progress and activities.

However, there are cases of successful and non-successful communicative acts. Some people manage to explain what they mean and want others to understand or to do, thus fulfilling the main role of communication as the data transformation. Others fail to achieve that goal even under the conditions of using the message system familiar for both him or her and the information recipient. So, what is the reason for such discrepancies? How can one ensure that his or her communicative skills are sufficient for the achievement of stipulated goals? How can one assess the weak and strong points of communicative skills he or she possesses and how can they be enhanced? What is the extent of a personal contribution to the efficiency of communication? Answering these questions is possible only under the conditions of knowing exactly what communication is in its essence, what components, stages and elements it includes and how its effectiveness can be assessed. These issues have become the subject of the present paper that will examine communication from the inside and the place of the individual in it.

Overview of Main Concepts and Elements of Communication

Interpersonal communication involves the exchange of information between two or more people, and its specificity is determined by the type of communication chosen for each separate process (i.e. small-group, public or computer-mediated communication). However, one should remember that ideally any communication process should be based on the principles of ethics and should be fair, honest and considerate of others’ opinions and thoughts (Hybels and Weaver, 2007). What is also essential about communication is that it has a set of elements that are used jointly in combinations or separately in the process of exchanging information. Communication is not only about sounds of the language (vocal fillers) – it is a much wider phenomenon including such forms of expression as:

Body movement (the body language is considered one of the most expressive coding systems, sometimes enabling the recipient to get much more credible information from the communicator than he or she would from the language message; it is divided into a varied set of gestures and signs each of which performs its special function, i.e. emblems, illustrators, regulators, displays of feelings and adaptors)

Eye messages (eye contact possesses much power and concealed meaning both in the positive and negative situations; it is used as a tool for regulating attentiveness and as a sign of interest and sincerity; in some countries it regulates the hierarchical status of people)

Attractiveness (the physical appeal of the communicative act’s members that raises attention and establishes sympathy, intensifying the positivity of outcomes considerably) etc. (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Among other elements of communication one should name proximity of communication participants that defines the status of each of them, the measure of trust and closeness they have and the relationships in which they are. Surely, it may also serve as a good indicator of a culture in which the communication takes place; proximity is a distinguishing factor in communication of different cultures (i.e. the closest proximity is allowed in the Spanish and Russian cultures, and the longest communication distance even between close people is usual in the UK and USA) (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Effective Interpersonal Communication

The communication model makes a heavy emphasis on the verbal message and the feedback to it; the model includes not only the verbal message itself but pays attention to the background of the speaker as a decisive factor in the communication success. As the authors show on the example of the boy who was constantly exposed to reading in his early childhood, the skills of clarity and vividness of expression, richness of his vocabulary formed very well in him, enabling him to express his thoughts freely and fully. This experience leveraged his position at the top of the class with further acquisition of a very profitable and prestigious profession of a lawyer. This case study of Wesley Coleman shows how essential background is in the formation of communication skills – everyone who tries to understand the true cause of good and bad communication skills should get deeper into the past of the analyzed individual and to find out whether he or she has the material on which the development of effective speaking skills would be possible.

So, the first elements of effective communication are vividness, clarity and ethics of expression of one’s thoughts. It is highly possible to imagine a communicative situation in which a sender of the message speaks clearly and with respect to the recipient. Such a speaking situation is highly favorable and will surely provide a good feedback for the sender; however, if one imagines the same situation with the speaker addressing the correct message in vivid and clear words but with the inclusion of such elements as rudeness or contempt, dislike, aggression or any other negative emotion, it is impossible to think of any feedback to be received despite the message’s correctness (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Strategic flexibility is one more component that affects the communication effectiveness. This psychological phenomenon pertains to the connections evident between the individual’s thoughts and the language he or she speaks. The authors of this theory see the critical influence of the language on reading, writing and critical thinking and believe that the more intelligent the person is, the more words he or she will have at disposal to operate in the communication situations. This richness of situational synonyms is likely to enable the individual to choose the most appropriate variant for each communicative act, thus becoming more capable and effective in communication in general. This theory is highly credible because of the direct connections between human eloquence and intelligence, education and amount of reading he or she covered throughout his or her life.

Some more tricks for the effective communication are hidden in the sphere of lexicology: clear distinction the participants of communication will see between the denotative and connotative meaning of words. This difference is at times crucial in the choice of situational synonyms of words because one meaning can be transmitted with the help of a set of synonyms, and an unskillful speaker will never see the implied difference that another participant may intend to show. Using the words according to their connotations correctly is a characteristic trait of a truly skillful communicator and certifies his or her talent in communication (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Another lexical peculiarity of figural language that is not limited only to speaking but is used to imply some deeper meaning is the ladder of abstraction – it is a privilege to be able to apply it to make the communicative act more vivid and expressive. It is also necessary to be able to distinguish the situations in which direct denotative language is better to be used (it is the case when the sender needs to convey pure information) or high-level connotative abstractions (when the sender conveys ideas) (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Finally, non-verbal communication can also be called a sufficient element of the effective communication in case the participant chooses it in the correct proportion and at the right place. It does not convey much information that may be the initial aim of the meeting and information exchange, but it clearly shows feelings, implications and attitudes, which is at times even more significant than the data transmitted. Thus, knowledge of the advantage of some non-verbal expressions that an individual may have is likely to benefit him or her in the process of conducting a communicative act. All elements are important and should be used in correct combinations. What follows from the consideration of effective communication elements is that they all may be in possession of any separate individual, but they will achieve their goal of providing efficiency in communication only under the condition they are used properly and chosen appropriately for each communicative situation.

Self-Concept in Communication

Self-concept and perception are essential elements of effective communication. Self-concept is the way one sees him- or herself, and perception is the way the world and surrounding people are seen by an individual (Hybels and Weaver, 2007). There is a direct connection between these two notions because the way one perceives him- or herself is directly reflected in the way they communicate with others. It can be expressed both through verbal and non-verbal indicators, thus creating the flexible patterns keeping pace with the person’s individual world image (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

There are many restrictions posed by the self-concept on the behavior of any individual. First of all, people who underestimate their own possibilities will take lower risks. Every action is closely tied with the kind of person one thinks he or she is; for this reason crossing the limits of one’s personality is unacceptable – the individual’s self-concept will inevitably be altered. Self-concept also influences the issue of perception; in case one underestimates his or her own self, any positive remarks will be treated suspiciously. People who do not love themselves will never adequately accept others’ love. Drawing a conclusion from the mechanism of these interactions, one will understand that enhancing self-confidence, treating hardships not as dramas but as positive challenges one is likely to widen self-concept and to make the individual more flexible, enduring and quick to learn to determine his or her perception to new impressions, feelings and experiences (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Components of self-concept should not be neglected in the process of analysis: they are reflected appraisals, social comparisons and self-perception. These elements shape everyone’s self-concept as a result of everyday operations, interactions and comments one hears. As soon as the individual knows what others think about him/her, then compares those appraisals with the ideals, standards and norms that are common in his/her society, he/she is able to formulate self-perception on the level that he/she personally determines. Realizing all concealed elements that trigger the inner mechanism of communication will be highly helpful in understanding what genuinely effective communication means and how it can be constructed, which is a goal of utmost importance for every individual (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Ways of Evaluating and Improving Communication Skills

Since there are so many dimensions in which communication can be evaluated, one should understand what definite characteristics to look for and to accept as a pattern. Discussing interpersonal communication on the routine level or in personal relationships, one will choose a definite set of norms and indicators. Professional conduct requires different skills and competences to be assessed for quality. They will be considered further (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

First of all, a good communicator should show respect towards interlocutors. Openness of conduct, genuinely expressed sincerity also certifies the effectiveness of professional communication. Responsibility of professional conduct can also be reflected in communication through maturity of judgment and common sense. Ethics is also a key element of communication, showing the level of an individual’s intelligence. Active listening, the ability to stipulate communication objectives and other factors distinguish good communicators from bad ones. So what should one do to improve the quality of communication that turns out not as high as one would like it to be? (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

The first way to improve communication is to improve self-concept. There is much literature on self-help and changes of the self-concept that may be vital for those who have decided to initiate the internal change. Specialists in psychology see the main way to success in this sphere in the change of human influences on him or her. It is important to remember that each person’s self-concept heavily depends on what people think about them, so changing social environment to a more positive and constructive one is certain to help instigate inner changes and self-perception (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Every individual should perceive him- or herself as a part of a larger group (understand the cultural belonging, background etc.). The fixed identity will help the individual realize that lifestyle to have, what values to pursue and what type of conduct to adopt. Internal confidence and determination will help the individual to acquire confidence and homogeneity of self-perception, which will surely affect communication in a highly positive way. The way to improve communication skills is also seen in the extension of personal and social interactions as a tool for increasing tolerance and intelligence; solving misunderstandings, misconceptions and mistrust ( as a way to solve multicultural challenges); enriching the quality of civilization (that can be done through the intensification of intercultural communication and understanding) (Hybels and Weaver, 2007).

Conclusion

As one can see from the present analysis of the communication concept, it is a very complicated phenomenon that forms in an individual throughout his or her life and determines the level of success with which one conducts his social and professional activity. The direct connection between communication skills and social success of an individual have already been proven, so under certain conditions it is fully possible to modify the communication capabilities to ensure learning the freedom of expression, clarity and vividness of speech.

Effective communication is the desired goal for many people who need to interact with many others due to their job specificity or lifestyle. The communications skills and ability to apply them in the proper way shape the person’s attractiveness and construct a positive vision of the speaker. It is possible to transmit the message correctly and precisely only under the condition of possessing high-level communication skills that can be specifically trained, but still heavily depend on the background of the individual, i.e. reading, writing and critical thinking in childhood. Both verbal and non-verbal messages are essential in the process of communication, but the latter can hardly be controlled and directed.

Inner self-perception is highly influenced by the process of communication because it transmits impressions people have about him or her. However, the influence is bilateral – self-concept and perception also affect the way an individual constructs his communication patterns. There are some cases when people are not satisfied with the quality of communication skills they possess. In this case, they have to take a deeper look into their self-identity, perception and world vision – these techniques have the highest potential for self-change and self-improvement.

References

Hybels, S., & Weaver, R.L. (2007). Communicating Effectively (8th ed.). The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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