There is hardly anyone in the world who does not realize the key importance of communication and interpersonal skills in all aspects of an individual’s life and activity. People who are unable to communicate with those surrounding them often experience the negative effect of isolation, misunderstanding, or misinterpretation, being unable to express themselves and understand what others aim to communicate to them. Another negative influence can be witnessed in the inability not only to transmit the information and to conduct communication independently but in the inability to listen and grasp the interlocutor’s message, which may often become destructive for the communication process on the whole.
Judging from the results of the test I took an assessment of my communication skills, it is possible to say that the level of interpersonal skills is rather satisfactory; however, the need for additional training and attention should be realized in full. Thus, to regard the results seriously means to find out the gaps that can be continuously filled by training and extensive work in the sphere of communication. To acquire interpersonal skills enhancement and to open up new perspectives that successful communication may offer one should realize the weakest points in communication in general and in his communication techniques in particular.
I detected such a pitfall as active listening in my communication activities. Speaking is not the ultimate goal of communication; at times listening acquires much more significance than plain talking. The influence of the ability for active listening has been proven to concern the success of relationships and the volume of information an individual is likely to obtain from the conversation. Active listening is an innovative form of simple listening – it has been designed to enable communicators to achieve more through an ordinary communication process. Surely, active listening may become a challenge for some people due to the need to concentrate on the information and the interlocutor more than they used to do when conducting the communication processes in the past:
“You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by what else may be going on around you, or by forming counter-arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these barriers contribute to a lack of listening and understanding” (Active Listening, 2010).
There are some common techniques to develop the skill of active listening: paying attention to issues that used to be less significant in a standard process of communication in the past (being more focused on the speaker, paying attention to his/her body language, becoming less distracted by the external environment, etc.); making the speaker aware of you listening to him/her (nodding, smiling, ensuring the correct posture, verbally encouraging the speaker); providing feedback to the speaker (asking questions, summarizing the speaker’s ideas, commenting on them, etc.) (Active Listening, 2010).
Surely, these techniques are not everything the active listening strategy can offer for communicators willing to improve their interpersonal skills – some more important implications thereof are the tendency to defer judgment and allow the speaker to finish the thought, as well as to show appropriate respect to the opinion of the speaker and to design the right response (Active Listening, 2010). Following these guidelines is not always easy, but under the condition of commitment and attention to them, the communicator will be able to strengthen his or her skills enormously.
Some other minor drawbacks of communication that can be fixed in my communication model are the limits of self-disclosure and the clarity of thought formulation. Speaking about the first notion, one should understand how important it is to portion disclosure, both on the informational and emotional levels. The key importance of self-disclosure has been recognized by many scientists including Rubin (1973), Cowen (1982), Sigman (1991), and many other researchers in the field of effective communication – this element possesses substantial importance at all levels of communication, from personal to business issues (Hargie, 1999). Much research supports the opinion about the exclusive emphasis that is currently made on self-disclosure in communication:
“Self-disclosure has important rational consequences, including eliciting liking and reciprocal self-disclosure. Requests for disclosure are common when individuals want information about their partner, including details about the partner’s sexual history to engage in safe sex” (Hargie, 1999)
Finally, the formulation of thoughts and the following expression thereof are also an issue of consistent, never-ending attention, since the ability to produce flawless, skillful communication activity is precious in the modern period, both at the personal and professional levels. The main techniques for enhancement of communication in this field offered by Condrill and Bough (1997) are: to understand clearly what you are willing to say before one does it, as well as realizing the desired outcomes of the communicative act; to express the point plainly and shortly to ensure it will be better remembered by the interlocutor; to study the interlocutors’ background to use the information for designing the model of communication more appropriate for them; to never neglect the potential power of persuasion.
With the proper regard of the described considerations, one can always find space for the enhancement of his or her communication skills no matter on which level they currently are. Communication is a continuously improving skill that has to be trained and practiced to ensure the individual’s success at all communicative levels. For this reason, training and research in the discussed sphere will always be helpful and strategically important for any individual engaged in various communicative interactions daily.
Active Listening (2010). Web.
Condrill, J., & Bough, B. (1999). 101 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills Instantly. GoalMinds, Inc.
Hargie, O. (1997). The handbook of communication skills (2nd edn.). Routledge.