Thursday, September 15, 2011

Effective Communication Skills

To achieve mutual understanding in any human relationship, it is absolutely essential that there is effective communication between all the parties involved.
It is only when all the parties are able to freely express their views and are willing to actively listen to other points of views that a mutually beneficial relationship can be achieved.

Effective communication requires good listening/speaking skills. Communication being a two-way process of sending messages and correctly receiving the sent messages, communication can be said to be effective both parties are able to correctly and freely express their viewpoints and also able to listen to the viewpoints of the others with a compassionate ear and sincere willingness to understand what they really mean.

It is only when the message is correctly perceived by the recipient(s) that communication can be regarded as effective. And this is only possible when all the parties involved actively listen and make sincere efforts to understand the other parties’ viewpoints.

Starting from our general interpersonal relationships, we can only become effective communicators when we listen actively with a compassionate ear and open mind to other people. It is only when are able to connect with the message they intend conveying, that we able to identify any misconception on their part (or ours!) and thus take steps to correct them.

Many interpersonal conflicts arise out of our refusal or inability to listen actively to the other party! To understand the other person’s viewpoint, we must be willing to listen emphatically and maintain an open receptive mind to what they are saying, and how they are saying it.

When people perceive us as being genuinely attentive to what they are saying and see us making concrete efforts to understand them, there is a high probability that they will be willing to speak out their minds and even be willing to offer compromises if there was a conflict.

Many conflicts are actually preventable if there is a sincere willingness on the part of all parties to listen to one another with a view to understanding the other party’s viewpoints.

Like it is rightly noted in the handbook, active listening is an art, and to mastering this art requires sincere conscious effort coupled constant practice. Being an effort aimed at effecting behavioral change, it requires conscious willingness to learn and adopt this attitude as part of our lives.

In addition to listening to the actual spoken words being used by a speaker, we also need to learn to understand the silent unspoken messages that are only audible to the sincere active listener! The way the words are spoken, the facial expressions that accompany the words etc are all very essential if we are to connect with the true meaning of spoken words.

To acquire effective listening skills is one side of the communication coin, the other side is to be able to clearly articulate our words when speaking to ensure our words and body language convey the right message to our audience. It is very essential that we craft our words carefully and say them with the right vocal tone and body signs. We could be using the ‘right’ words to express what we mean, but if our facial expression or vocal tone doesn’t match the spoken words, there is always the possibility we might be misunderstood.

Another important skill that is vital for effective communication is the ability to consider the socio-cultural realities of the society in which we are speaking and thus use words, and body language that are accepted as being appropriate in that context. Using words or body language that is considered aggressive, offensive, or improper (socially or religiously) may prevent us from getting across to the other party.

This has a direct implication for the teaching/learning process; we must, as educators, cultivate compassionate listening capabilities in our interactions with our students and the immediate community, and ensure we carefully choose the words we use and how we use them when speaking. This will ensure our audience will receive the message in the words exactly the way we intend it to be received. It is only when we are able to get our messages across and understand the responses from the audience that we can hope to achieve a successful and productive learning experience.

Also, being Guides who the students look up to as role models, we must, as educators, ensure we demonstrate the skills and values associated with peaceful and constructive living in all aspects of our lives. Students tend to mime and copy our words and actions, they gp ahead and adopt them into their lives on the premise that “if the teacher uses it, it must me correct”!
Thus if a teacher portrays violence and aggressive as part of listening and speaking style, s/he is indirectly teaching the students to adopt the violent postures/words as the ‘correct’ way of communication

1 comment:

  1. Ibrahim,

    Communication is so important but unfortunately so few of us really know how to do it well. I think that communication skills need to be taught as a separate subject in school. We basically mimic what we grow up with and somewhere a long the line, the chain needs to be broken.



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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.