Communication starts with crying. Newborn babies cry to let their parents know that they need something. They even have different cries for different needs. By 3 months, a baby can smile. By 1 year, children understand words for common items. They can also communicate using gestures such as waving or holding up arms. Between 18 months and 2 years, children learn one or two words per day. By 2 years, a toddler can ask simple questions. By 5 years, most children have everything they need to be a good communicator. So… You’ve already got everything you need to communicate effectively. You’ve had the tools ready since you were just 5 years old. In this module, we’ll give you tips and techniques to really make the most of them.
About This Course
Without effective communication, even customer service heroes fall flat. Learn your communication basics here.
Let’s start with your communication personality, Take the quiz to find out what kind of communicator you really are…
How do you deal with people who ramble on?
A. Switch off or start thinking of something else.
B. Ask lots of questions to get to the point.
C. Try hard to pay attention until they finish.
Which of these scenarios sounds worst to you?
A. Being put on the spot to make a complex decision.
B. A conversation with someone who’s not putting much effort in.
C. Talking over the same issue repeatedly.
Do you enjoy small talk with strangers?
A. No, as it’s a waste of time.
B. Yes, as long as they’re interesting.
C. No, as I don’t care about them.
How do you solve problems?
A. By weighing up the evidence.
B. By bouncing ideas off other people.
C. By going with your gut.
How do you prefer to learn something new?
A. By researching the key facts.
B. By reading all around the topic.
C. By watching a video or demonstration.
Most people are a combination of more than one personality, but knowing your dominant one can help you improve the way you communicate. There are typically three communication personalities. Let’s meet them now…
Thinking Theo: The Analytical One
Communication Personality: Theo is very considered, likes to reach his own conclusions, and seeks facts that he can interpret his own time.
Efficiency is my middle name, so people who waffle on are my worst nightmare!
- Desperate to get to the point.
- Can be impatient.
- Tends to switch off.
Needs to work on:
- Using active listening techniques to improve listening.
- Asking more questions and seeking other people’s opinions to build rapport.
Party Penelope: The Social One
Communication Personality: Articulate with a wide vocabulary, Penelope enjoys talking through problems and bouncing ideas off others.
I’m a real people person and I like to hear what everyone’s got to say
- Reaches conclusions quickly.
- Fast talker.
- Prefers quick answers.
Needs to work on:
- Avoiding putting people on the spot.
- Talking time to think what someone might mean.
- Checking whether people have time to chat instead of bombarding them straight away.
Empathetic Edward: The Feeling One
Communication Personality: Generally led by his emotions, Edwards is laid back and easy to get on with, as he doesn’t form strong opinions easily.
Life’s too short to overthink everything, so I just focus on getting things done.
- Sometimes struggles to justify own opinions.
- Slow talker.
- Prefers doing to saying.
Needs to work on:
- Figuring out where own opinions have come from in order to explain them to others.
- Using reflection techniques to understand people instead of dismissing those who talk a lot.
What to do if…
You’ll meet these types of people all the time, so it’s crucial that you know how to communicate with them effectively. Let’s explore some tips for how to do that.
If they’re Thinking Theo – The Analytical One:
Give them the information they can process in their own time. Pictures, diagrams, even bullet points are more helpful to them than long conversations.
Don’t put them on the spot by asking hard questions in person or over the phone.
If you need an urgent response, be as specific as possible. Explain what you want, why you want it and any factors they need to consider.
If they’re Party Penelope – The Social One:
Be ready for their questions. Gather as much information as possible before communicating.
If you must give a ‘quick’ update, be clear about when you’ll be able to give them more information.
Choose talking or instant messaging over email. You’ll communicate far more effectively with them if you engage in a social way.
If they’re Empathetic Edwards – The Feeling One:
Avoid talking too much or sending reams of written information.
Communicate in the most practical way possible: use mock-ups or videos, or. give a demo if you can.
Don’t finish their sentences! It can make them feel unheard and undervalued. Listen and talk on board what they’ve said. If they’re still struggling, help them along by asking clarification questions.
Next, we’ll explore some general communication techniques that you can use in any professional or personal situation.
Let’s be clear on exactly what communication is and the different ways it happens. Next up, you’ll be presented with three people in different situations and you need to decide how happy each one is…
- Scenario #1: Amir arrives fifteen minutes late to a team meeting Chloe is running. How happy does she sound?
- Scenario #2: Jamie walks through a thunderstorm, arriving home to a warm cup of tea. How happy does he sound?
- Scenario #3: Dhara is asked for feedback on her recent purchase of a car. How happy does she sound?
You Guessed It
Chloe, Jamie, and Dhara are not equally content. Even though they all used pretty much the same words: “Great, thank you.”
That’s because communication is about much more than the words we say. Our tone of voice and our actions convey lots of meaning too.
So there are three main elements of communication. Let’s take a look at them now…
Three elements of communication
Your Choice of Words
Think about the difference between these statements:
“This is a pokey and dark flat that’s really run down.”
“This is a cosy and snug little flat in need of a little TLC.”
The second description sounds much more inviting, right? Words themselves have certain connotations, which can be positive or negative.
Body Language and Facial Expressions
What could your subconscious actions be telling other?
How anyone ever misinterpreted your mood because of how you were acting?
Perhaps your concentration face looks angry?
Tone of Voice
In the activity, we heard sarcasm, gratitude and indifference, all with the same words.
We create emotional effects through the sound of our words, our use of pauses, and the way we construct sentences.
Think about your tone of voice when writing too – could it change the meaning of your words?
Communication right and wrongs
Everyone is different, so there’s no one right or wrong way to communicate.
That’s why, in the rest of this module, we’ll walk you through three general techniques that you can use to connect with others around you. Let’s start with active listening…
What is active listening?
We’re not as good at listening as we think.
Often, when you think you’re listening, you’re not really concentrating on what’s being said. This makes you less likely to remember the information you’re given. Have you ever got distracted by how you might reply to one thing, and ended up zoning out for the rest of the conversation?
Effective listening is not a passive process. To understand and remember what people tell us, we need to be fully engaged. Not just with their words, but with their body language and tone of voice too. In other words, we need to be active listeners.
Tips for active listening
- Be Patient: Listen to people without interrupting or finishing their sentences.
- Focus on the Speaker: If you catch yourself thinking about lunch or checking your phone, pull yourself back into the moment.
- Empathize: If you disagree with something, don’t interrupt the speaker. Make a mental note, and respond when they’re done.
- Be Focused: Don’t let someone’s mannerisms distract you. If it helps, look away slightly and use your body language to show you’re listening.
- Listen to Ideas: Looking for the whole picture, not just isolated words or phrases. Do you understand the point of what’s being said?
- Use your Findings: React at important moments or repeat something the speaker has said to show you’re engaged.
You already saw how active listening involves showing interest in what your conversational partner is saying. Well, that’s one of the purposes of asking questions too.
Questions can also help you to:
- stay in control of a conversation
- explore what’s on another person’s mind
- encourage them to think about something
So what types of questions are there? A fair few…
Closed VS. Open Questions
Closed questions invite a short, specific answer from a small pool of answers.
“Are you looking for a beach holiday?”
They’re good for checking to understand, making decisions, and quickly working out how things stand.
Open questions give much more freedom and encourage longer, more informative answers.
“What method of transport is best for you?”
They’re good for getting detail, understanding people’s opinions and creating an open dialogue.
Can subtly guide someone in a certain direction.
“Well, you don’t want the budget option, do you?”
The way that the question is phrased nudges the responder to answer in a certain way.
Be careful when using leading questions. They can be an effective way of influencing people but used badly they can make people feel manipulated.
Are designed to get more info.
“Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, what exactly is the purpose of your report?”
Probing questions come in handy when you’re trying to get to the bottom of someone’s thought process, what they want, or why they’re feeling a certain way about something.
To demonstrate what reflecting is and why it matters we’ll look to Jason. He’s having a bad day, but maybe those around him can help…
Jason is a friend of yours. He’s just found out he didn’t get a promotion he applied for, and he’s upset. He explains what’s happened. How do you begin your response?
Try to be reflective: Although neither response is bad, if you go right in with your opinion, Jason might think you’re not listening. It’s better to confirm you’ve understood before offering advice.
“Ah, I’m sorry. So what you’re saying is…”
Be specific: If you use the same language, Jason will know you understand him and feel like you value he has to say.
“I understand why you must be frustrated!”
There are two types of reflecting:
Paraphrasing: “So what you’re saying is…”
Reiterating Jason’s complaint in your own words is an example of paraphrasing. It shows you’re trying to understand what he’s said and encourages him to continue.
Mirroring: “I understand why you must be frustrated!”
Echoing Jason’s use of “frustrating” is an example of mirroring. It’s usually enough to repeat keywords to show that you empathize and value what the speaker is saying.
“Not to worry mate, there’ll be other opportunities!”
Reflecting isn’t just a good way to connect with people.
It can help you get to the bottom of what they mean too.
When you repeat someone’s feelings and words, you’re forced to interpret their key message. And, by feeding their own meaning back to them, you’re getting them to confirm whether your interpretation is correct.