“Communication is the process of transmitting and receiving ideas, information, and messages. The rapid transmission of information over long distances and the ready access to information have become conspicuous and important factors of human society, especially in the past 150 years”(D’Aprix p.96). The encyclopedia definition of communication encompasses the idea of exchanging a variety of messages with others (Columbia 1978). Communication in the business world is imperative for success. This is especially true for interpersonal communication, communication between management and staff, and for practically every other contact a business has, both within its own establishment and the outside world. The process of communication is very complex and is a major factor in the success of a company. This paper will focus on the different types of communication, including verbal and non-verbal, listening and responding, and physical and personal factors that influence successful communication.
In order to have successful communication, one must understand verbal and non-verbal communication. Interpersonal skills start with the understanding of verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal cues are dependent on language usage. “Sometimes the message they carry is incomplete or even entirely different from our intended meaning”(Adler p. 70). In society, we can look at different dialects as a barrier. A comparative example of this is the United States, Canada, and England where we all speak the English language but with several differences. Even though all three countries speak the same language, deciphering the word meaning dialects can be problematic. Different use of words within countries can make it impossible to understand the original message. Adler states, “the most basic language problems involve misunderstandings”(Alder p. 70). For example, traveling to Europe our group experienced a verbal miscommunication when asking for a restroom. We were informed that they have no such thing. A co-worker in our group who has been to Europe several times explained that they are referred to as “toilets.” After that explanation we then understood that difference in words and were able to successfully find our restrooms. In the classroom we practiced an exercise in small groups that was called Active Listening. During the interaction of this exercise the group was given sentences to paraphrase. It was interesting to hear the different meanings to the same words.In the exercise we saw how verbal interaction was misconstrued. It is these types of misunderstandings, which happen globally that, can take place in an organization and lead to unsuccessful communication.
Language can clearly upset people. “It can motivate, inspire and amuse audiences”(Alder p.76). To avoid upsetting the audience, you should not use, “terms that seem to be objective but actually conceal an emotional bias”(Adler p.76). For instance, in the workplace, an employee pondering of a problem might cause a boss to say, “You do not look busy”. Upon hearing this, the employee may interpret this to mean he/she is not working hard enough and get upset. This is a misconception of non-verbal messages.
Non-verbal cues are “those expressions of emotions and attitudes towards another person and regulating the interaction between people”(Timm p.41). Categories of non-verbal communications includes, eye movements, vocal sounds, posture, gestures, proximity, environment and facial expressions (D’Aprix 1996). Often we send non-verbal cues, which are not intended to have an effect on the listeners, however, a message is received.
Alder states, “You can’t judge a book from its cover”(Alder p.85). However, our first perception is how we see something, which is a part of non-verbal messages. At my place of business we have a client who comes into the office looking like a bag lady. When she booked a forty five thousand dollar cruise we all thought she had lost her mind. Several days later when she returned to our office and paid for her trip in full, it was discovered she is a multimillionaire and is now one of our best clients. Our initial perception of her was based solely on her appearance, which communicated a negative part of non-verbal message. Verbal and non-verbal skills are not the only way to successful communication; listening and responding also play major roles in the communication process.
Often we hear, but do not listen to someone. “The process we call hearing is a purely physical activity by which acoustic energy in the form of sound waves is changed mechanical and electrochemical energy which the brain can understand” (Timm p.248). Hearing is not the same as listening. “Furthermore, many of the most important facets of your life are greatly influenced by your skills (or lack of skill) in listening “(p.30). Unfortunately, few people are actually good at listening. Bolton states, “Researchers claim that 75 percent of oral communication is ignored, misunderstood, or quickly forgotten”(p.30). Leaders everywhere need to listen to employees and talk openly with them to have successful working relationships. (Bolton 1979).
“Listening refers to the psychological process which allows us to attach meaning to the patterns of energy we hear”(Timm p.248). Being an effective listener is a skill that can be challenging for many since there are several points that can hinder listening. Alder states, “Most workers are poor listeners for a variety of reasons, physiological, environment, attitudinal, sociocultural, and educational”(Alder p. 120).This area within the employee needs strengthening because, communication and effective listening skills play a large role in business from the first time an applicant approaches a business for employment. In at least one-study potential employers weighed communication skills and listening skills more heavily than were grade point averages, degrees, or even technical skills in determining whether or not to hire entry-level applicants (Wardroe 1994).
Stress, selective listening, and time constraints, can all be a barrier to effective listening. If a manager is totally occupied with other things he/she is probably only hearing you. This can cause an organization to have multiple problems. It is evident someone is listening to you by the way they respond. Many people will respond to you by forming a question, to ensure that communication is clear.
Most people listen to others for many reasons, whether it is helping a friend with problems, instructions or for entertainment. The ways people respond when they are listening can help them receive clearer information. Adler categorizes these as, passive listening, questioning and paraphrasing. When examining the categories, paraphrasing seems to be most used within organizations.
Recapping is a form of paraphrasing. “Paraphrasing occurs when you restate a speaker’s ideas in your own words, to make sure that you have understood them correctly and to show the other person that fact”(Adler p. 111). An example, I recap everything when I am completed with a travel reservation. I will ask my clients to, let me read back to them what I have heard to see if this is correct. This is one of the most important ways to avoid costly mistakes. I have come to find that in addition to recapping, following up with a fax that the passenger is required to sign successfully improves the communication process.
Physical and personal factors also influence communication. “Organizational design influence physical factors, which deals with the layout of the office, networks for communication, and the media selected for the message”(D’Aprix, p 23). The design of the company must be based on what they are trying to achieve. Through working at several companies, seeing several layouts that seem typical, workers are in the office with partitioned walls; managers have outer offices, some with windows; and the general manager has the largest, most pretentious office space. The communications are clear and very structured. In this environment even though we are all in the same proximity, the method of communication is mostly through computers, E-mail, voice-mail and memos. For example, conducting a board meeting in a cold, gloomy and damp atmosphere, will not be conducive to achieving the groups’ goals. The classroom is an example of where this is also visible. In the classroom setting a circle that includes the facilitator is more conducive because we can all have eye contact and feel like a group. The office I work in has a physical factor that makes doing your job problematical. For three years I have worked each winter with no heat in the office. Because of this environment, it has created sub-standard employee morale. Along with physical factors, personal factors play a major role in communication.
Personal factors can hinder communication. Adler states, “Personal concerns can make it difficult to keep your mind on the subject at hand”(Alder p. 105). Some organizations offer counseling services to employees to help solve personal strife that they may experience. If an employee is having marital problems causing him/her to be upset, and gets a poor review on the same day, this could cause negative effects on his/her future work. This is important to keep in mind when having communication.
In summary, successful communication play a large role in workplace. Thorough the use of proper communication skills which include verbal and non verbal, listening and responding and physical and personal factors individuals will be better able to function as a group, thus allowing organization to share information, analyze situations and to set and reach goals. Business success very simply revolves around effective communication both within a business and between representatives of that business and others on the outside. Many employees already have effective communication skills that they have learned through school or through their own personal efforts. Others however have a long way to go. Employers should develop ways to assess these skills and to provide appropriate training when necessary.