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Social skills
Communication
Communicating (2)
This lesson is about communicating with people. Communication plays an
important role in our daily work. Almost everybody has to deal continuously
with people during their work. It is impossible not to communicate. Everybody
communicates every minute of the day. So, if we do have to communicate, lets
do it properly. This lesson shows us how to do that in an effective manner.
Contents of the lesson
1 What is communication?
2 Characteristics of communication
3 Communicative skills
4 Active listening
5 Speaking
6 Summarising
7 Asking questions
8 Making criticisms
9 Communicating bad news
10 Receiving criticisms
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Lesson
1. What is communication?
That is actually very easy to describe:
Communication is exchanging information whereby a sender transfers a
message to a receiver
5616-020-001
Figure 1
Diagram of communication
Communication in work situations can take various forms.
In general, communication with colleagues takes place in a different way to
communication with managers. Other factors play a role in communication with
customers and suppliers.
There are three main forms of communication:
- verbal communication: with words;
- non-verbal communication: without words through body language, attitude,
gestures;
- written communication: in writing, typed, memos, letters, reports.
To communicate properly you must not only possess knowledge about the
professional discipline, but also about several social and communicative skills.
Verbal communication
Verbal communication concerns the spoken word. Most communication
between people takes place in this way. In the work environment it has takes all
kinds of forms, such as: giving orders, instructing, indicating, carrying out
assessment talks, holding work consultation, etcetera.
Non-verbal communication
Non-verbal communication is the process of making something clear to another
person by means of signals. Body language, attitudes and gestures are forms of
non-verbal communication. Sometimes a glance, a gesture or an expression can
mean more than many words. Experts even claim that 90% of the information
that we give to other people is non-verbal and only 10% is verbal, i.e. using
words. For example, if you do not agree with the decision made by your boss
and you do not say anything, then your reaction is usually very clearly visible
through your body language, attitude or gestures.
Written communication
In the case of written communication we can think of letters, reports, memos,
minutes, work instructions, etc. Writing down your thoughts and information
gives you the chance to think about what you want to say, and also about how
and why you to want to say it.
- exchanging
information
- sender
- message
- receiver
- signals
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2. Characteristics of communication
Whether it concerns contacts with colleagues, managers, suppliers or customers,
every form of communication consists of several general characteristics. It
always involves information; either from someone who supplies the information,
the sender; or from someone for whom the information is meant, the receiver.
When you supply the information, your goal is to make something clear to
somebody else. You want to convince somebody about the correctness of a
decision or you want to inform another person about, for example, a problem or
a new work order. If we combine, verbal or in writing, sending and receiving
with the four most important communication activities, then we can see the
following relationships (see figure 2).
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Figure 2
Communication relationships
In brief, communication is a goal-oriented activity of speaking, listening,
reading, writing and non-verbal behaviour. The conversation, the written or
verbal report, the memo, the reading of a report, the presentation, the meeting,
these are means to achieve your goal.
To achieve your goal as effectively as possible, you must set several high
requirements with regard to the means. These requirements concern both the
information itself: correct, reliable, unambiguous, important; and the way in
which the information is transferred: clear and goal-oriented formulation correct
meeting the requirements or the situation of the person who receives the
information.
In this lesson we are dealing primarily with the verbal communication. Reading
is an activity that you can practise by, for example, studying this lesson. Ask
yourself, with regard to everything that you read and study in these lessons, the
following questions:
What am I reading? What does it mean, what is purpose of it and what can I do
with it?
Negative influences
When information is transferred all kinds of negative influences can occur. As a
result, you will not achieve your goal.
- verbal
communication
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Example
You telephone from your place of work to a supplier of printed, self-adhesive
safety labels to make a final change in the text and to confirm the final delivery
date. In the background you can hear the noise of machines. The telephone line
is not good at all.
Employee: The labels must be printed in blue and they must be ready next
Wednesday. I need them urgently for a safety campaign that has just been
arranged. The campaign is going to start next week. So I need the labels before
the weekend!
Supplier: Can you speak a bit louder? I can hardly hear you.
You repeat your request, and you emphasise the delivery date.
Supplier: Did you say you want them in gold? All right, you will get them on
Wednesday.
On that Wednesday you will be surprised when you see all those gold labels.
Your message has not been received properly; perhaps because of the noise of
the machines, perhaps because the supplier usually supplies labels printed in
gold.
Fortunately, this miscommunication is not disastrous. When
miscommunication occurs in the case of larger orders, it can have important
(financial) consequences.
The example indicates that both the environment and the person who gives the
information and the person who receives the information can have a negative
influence on the information transfer. It depends on the skills of the information
giver and the information receiver whether there is good communication.
Listening
In the example, miscommunication was caused by negative influences about
which you could do little about at the time. Environmental factors were probably
the cause of the mistake. Miscommunication can also occur during direct
personal contacts. In general, this is the result of not listening to each other
properly. Research carried out at the beginning of the eighties revealed that
American managers annually lost millions of dollars worth of orders because
they did not listen properly to (potential) customers.
Question 1
Is the communication giver (the sender) the only person responsible for good
communication?
Explain your answer.
3. Communicative skills
What are communicative skills? By skills we mean that communicating can be
learnt in all kinds of situations. Some people are able to express themselves
better than others. However, with good preparation and sufficient practice,
everybody is able to acquire the necessary skills.
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Six skills
We distinguish the following communicative skills:
- active listening;
- speaking;
- summarising;
- asking questions;
- criticising;
- receiving criticism.
These are the most important skills for communicating effectively with other
people on a personal basis and to solve work-related problems.
Verbal and non-verbal speaking and listening
When you communicate you can either speak or listen. These are instruments to
influence, guide and lead others.
As already mentioned, communication instruments have a verbal and/or a non-
verbal aspect. The sender or receiver can send verbal signals by speaking and
non-verbal signals through the attitude that he shows during the speaking. For
example, when somebody is speaking we can either stand up straight or slouch;
we can sit up straight in a chair or lean back. In other words, speaking involves
both verbal and non-verbal aspects. Listening belongs to the non-verbal aspects.
For example, when you are watching a film intently on the television, you send
out many signals without speaking. A lot of information about how you feel can
be derived from your attitude or position. Non-verbal communication plays a
major role in our lives. Often we ourselves are not aware of the non-verbal
signals that we are sending out. Pay attention, therefore, to the non-verbal
aspects of communication during communication with others.
4. Active listening
Listening is an important communicative skill that is, unfortunately, only
practised well by a few people. Maybe this is because many people think that
listening is simply a question of keeping quiet. Nothing could be further from
the truth. Listening is an activity that is oriented towards obtaining information
from and about another person.
Active listening consists of the following sub-skills:
- attentive behaviour;
- relaxed attitude;
- eye contact;
- encouragement.
We shall deal with these sub-skills separately below.
Attentive behaviour
When you show attentive behaviour you invite and encourage the person to talk
with you. Attentive behaviour shows that you are interested in him as a person
and in what he has to say.
- skills
- communication
instruments
- listening
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Attentive behaviour shows him that you respect him as a person and that you are
interested in what he has to say. Attentive behaviour strengthens his self-respect
and helps to create an atmosphere of confidence. As a result, the other person
will be prepared to give information.
Attentive behaviour consists of the following elements:
Relaxed attitude
When you are relaxed yourself you can listen both attentively and in a
concentrated manner to him. A tense and restless attitude makes it more difficult
to listen and has a negative effect on the other person. He will notice the
restlessness and will feel uneasy.
Eye contact
Eye contact gives him the feeling that you are interested in what he has to say.
Little or no eye contact has a negative effect on the conversation because he
feels that he is being ignored.
Encouragement
When you move your hands and nod your head you will stimulate him to carry
on talking. This so-called non-verbal encouragement shows that you are paying
attention to him. Also by means of brief reactions like hm, hm or oh yes?,
and then? Or what then and by repeating one or more words in a
questioning manner you will encourage the other person to carry on talking. We
also do this when we have a telephone conversation. This verbal encouragement
must reflect what he is saying.
Question 2
What is active listening and what does it consist of?
5. Speaking
Speaking is the most obvious way to influence and control people. When the
goal of your conversation is clear, you can focus your words on it. For example,
if you want to convince your colleagues about a new form of behaviour, you can
point out several benefits of the new behaviour. You can also mention several
disadvantages of the old behaviour.
Example
Failure to co-operate in the new production process leads to higher costs, lower
profits and maybe even to bankruptcy.
When you establish a relationship between your goal as a speaker and certain
values and norms that the other person values, you will increase the your chance
of success.
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It is very important that you are motivated as a speaker and stand by your
statements. The degree to which you can influence, control and lead other people
depends on many factors such as personal characteristics, the position that you
occupy in the company, the relationship that you have with the other person and
such like. Techniques that can be used to influence and control people are: the
use of summaries, paraphrasing (summarising information) and asking
questions.
6. Summarising
Summarising is stating briefly and concisely in your own words what the other
person has said. The objective of a summary is to impose a structure into what
has been said. We can summarise in terms of contents and feeling. An important
factor for a good summary is to follow the main lines of the discussion. When
people are discussing a decision that must be taken, take note of the important
points that are considered so that you can order structure these later on. Timing
is also very important. When you choose the timing of a summary carefully, you
can stimulate the other person to examine certain matters in more detail or to
clarify his thoughts.
Summarising the contents
When you summarise the contents you state briefly and concisely in your own
words what the other person has said. The aim of a summary is to present an
abbreviated version of the story told by the other person. This shows that you
have been able to follow the main lines of the conversation.
A summary of the contents is useful for four reasons:
1. you can structure the conversation.
2. you enable the speaker to clarify uncertainties.
3. you can check yourself whether you understand properly what the other
person has said.
4. you can control the conversation.
Keep the summary brief, but relate as clearly as possible what the other person
has said. A summary can deal with either a part of a conversation or the whole
conversation. In order to make a good summary it is important to follow the
main lines of the conversation. For example, if he talks about a decision that
must be taken, you must note the most important considerations. These
considerations can be listed later on in your summary. When you make a
summary of the contents timing is also important.
Summarising feelings
When you summarise feelings you listen and react to the feelings of the other
person. In particular, you take note of the emotional reactions of him, for
example a bitter disappointment, a flushed red colour of excitement, wild
gestures with the arms. You carefully follow the whole conversation and do not
pay attention to one or two reactions that occur immediately. The emotional part
of a message includes the way in which something is said.
- influencing
- controlling
- bringing about
structure
emotional reactions
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The contents are therefore not particularly important. You are concerned with
the tone, the intonation, the attitude and the facial expression of the person.
In addition, reactions such as criticism, threats, blushing, intonation and rapid
speech can also give you a signal about his emotional state.
Summarising feelings fulfils the following three functions:
1. When you take note of the emotional undertone what the other person
actually means you help him to concentrate on the matters that concern
him most.
2. It can serve as a stimulus to carry on talking about an issue. The
conversation gains more depth and thereby becomes more useful for him
when you have tuned in to his emotions.
3. Summarising what you think you have heard helps you to find out whether
you have listened properly.
A summary of the feeling must satisfy the requirements of the partner in the
conversation. It is one of the most powerful ways of making clear that you
understand him. When he gets the feeling that you are in tune with him and
when you can put yourself in the situation that will benefit the conversation. A
summary of the feeling must be timed well. In other words, it must be made at
the right time and certainly not too often.
Paraphrasing
Paraphrasing involves making a brief summary of bits of information in your
own words. The goal of paraphrasing is to guide the communication with the
other person by repeating information.
Paraphrasing has the same functions as summarising:
- the other person notices that you are listening to him;
- you can use a paraphrase to check whether you have understood the other
person;
- paraphrasing helps to direct the conversation.
A wrongly chosen paraphrase can cause confusion, for example when the
paraphrase includes a conclusion that the other person did not intend. This
implies that a paraphrase must be stated interrogatively. An introductory phrase
like Do I understand correctly that? followed by the paraphrase can also be
used well here.
Question 3
We can summarise the contents and summarise the feeling. What do these
involve?
Question 4
What is paraphrasing?
- summarising bits
of information
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7. Asking questions
Questions often play a central role during in communication. Asking questions
can help to stimulate the speaker. The way in which we ask questions (question
types) partly determines which answer we receive.
Leading questions
When you ask leading questions the desired answer is already included in the
question, for example:
You will certainly want to work overtime? Leading questions limit the
response possibilities and as such they can lead to incorrect answers. In addition,
they limit perception and can irritate the other person.
Selected
Questions can also be asked in a targeted manner. An example of a targeted
question is: Will you go to the canteen with me? This question can only lead
to a (brief) answer. When they are used properly, targeted questions can lead to
rapid and clear information.
When you use too many targeted questions one after the other the situation can
resemble an interrogation. This can cause resistance in the person who is being
asked the questions.
(Multiple) choice questions
(Multiple) choice questions facilitate a (limited) number of answers. For
example: Are you going to the pop concert or the football match? implies only
a few possible answers. (Multiple) choice questions can help us make a clear
choice from a limited number of possibilities.
Closed and open questions
Targeted questions and (multiple) choice questions are both closed questions.
Open questions invite us to give a broad(er) answer, for example: What do you
think about the new work method? Open questions can therefore be used very
well when we want to encourage another person to think about a problem, the
workload, and such like.
Open questions therefore always start with what, why, which, how, when, who,
etc.
Reflective questions
During a conversation reflective questions can be used to structure information.
If I understood you correctly, you think? This question checks whether the
message has been understood correctly. Reflective questions generate
confidence when they are used to clarify what the other person means. However,
they must not simply be a repetition of what the other person has said. As a
partner in the conversation you can influence the other person by asking
questions.
Question 5
What types of questions are there?
Give an example of each type of question.
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8. Criticising
Communication with your colleagues generally takes place in a different way to
communication with your boss. Contacts with colleagues often take place in the
form of work consultation, discussions about tasks, or reviewing a report. In the
case of less experienced colleagues contact often takes place in the form of work
instructions.
Contacts with colleagues do not involve any form of authority based on position.
This is not the case when communicating with your boss. To whatever extent
you interact as an equal with your boss, the authority relationship remains intact
and it always has an influence on the communication. This has everything to do
with the fact that the manager is also responsible for the way in which you
perform your work. As a result of that responsibility, he will regularly guide and
control the quality and the quantity of the work that you carry out, give you
information about how you work, instruct you or delegate certain work to you.
The aspects of communication between you and your manager mentioned above
will be dealt with below in criticising, communicating bad news, and receiving
criticism.
Criticising
When you criticise a person you tell them how you view or experience their
behaviour. In this case behaviour is understood to mean what people do or do
not do or the result of what people have done or have not done. Criticism can
therefore relate to the work, but it can also relate to how a person behaves.
Criticism gives the other person insight into how they behave, and the intentions
and the consequences of that behaviour. In general, criticism is associated in
daily practice with negative remarks like: I am not happy with your
performance. However, criticism can also mean positive information: I thought
you worked very well on that order.
The function of criticising
Criticising has the following functions:
- to improve co-operation with other person;
- to improve the performance of the other person;
- to clarify problems;
- to support and give confirmation to another person.
People often find it difficult to make criticisms. They are afraid that the other
person will feel hurt, that criticism will not be understood properly. Or they are
afraid that the other person will become aggressive. The cause of this is that
people often have insufficient knowledge about how criticism should be made.
Rules for criticising
Here below we shall discuss eight guidelines on how to criticise in a correct
manner. Each guideline is followed by an example.
1. Criticising visible behaviour, not about what in your opinion causes that.
Not: In my opinion, you do not understand this topic very well because
when we are talking about something difficult you do not say anything.
- relationship based
on position
- negative criticism
- positive criticism
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Instead: When we are talking about something difficult I have noticed that
you do not say much. I would like to know why that is so.
2. Do not criticise in a moralising, burdening or threatening manner.
Not: We had agreed that you would telephone Smith today. Is an
agreement really an agreement with you?
Instead: I expected after our agreement that you would contact Smith
today. Did something happen to prevent you doing that?
3. Focus your criticism on the subject matter and not on the person (Be hard
about the matter, soft with the person!).
Not: You always react so negatively if you are asked to do something; do
you ever want to do anything?
Instead: Now hes asking you to work with him you are not reacting.
4. When you criticise do not hide behind the opinions or feelings of others.
Not: Your colleagues think that you are too dominant.
Instead: During work consultation meetings I notice that you do not give
other people a chance to speak.
5. Spread our your criticism, do not overwhelm the him with a whole list of
points. He must be given the chance to correct his behaviour.
Not: You are hesitant, confused, unclear, difficult to understand, your
contribution becomes completely lost.
Instead: I have noticed that when you speak its difficult to understand
you. Can you try to speak more clearly?
6. Do not postpone criticising until the time when he no longer knows exactly
what happened.
Not: When you reacted so rudely to my remarks last month I was very
angry with you.
Instead: You are now placing me in a difficult situation, I do not feel good
about this.
7 When he rejects the criticism, do not try at all costs to obtain justice and run
the risk of a conflict.
Not: I have clearly noticed that you find it difficult to write a report. I think
you are trying to shy away from this.
Instead: Its a pity you do not share my criticism. I thought that I could
help you with your work.
8. Always react to a request for criticism from him When you have a good
reason not to criticise, at least say why this is the case. Criticism is often not
expressed because it is thought that nothing will help. He is not ready for it,
the situation is not appropriate, or because he will use it to confirm his own
ideas.
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Expressing positive and negative criticism
Sometimes, the behaviour of a person is criticised in the presence of others. For
the person who receives this criticism, even if it is only about a small matter, this
is a painful experience that can lead to undesired situations. It is sensible for
both parties to criticise in a separate room, in any case without other people
being present.
A golden rule is:
- give positive information face-to-face, but also in the presence of others;
- only give negative information in privacy; give this in a constructive
manner and use an I-message.
The I-message
The formulation and expression of an I-message makes it much easier to
criticise. Due to the fact that for many people it is probably a new way of
expressing oneself, it must be carefully practised. The I-message can be finished
off by stating how you want to have something done and making an agreement
about it.
An I-message, wish and agreement can be formulated as follows:
FORMULATION OF AN I-MESSAGE
I can see, have heard that you (name and describe actual behaviour, action or
statement)
As a result (name concrete/tangible consequences)
I think that (give own opinion/feelings about the consequences)
STATE YOUR REQUIREMENTS AND MAKE AN AGREEMENT
I want you to..(express wish, will, request or advice)
How shall we do this?..(make specific agreement to avoid repetition)
Conditions for criticising
The most important conditions for expressing criticism are:
- the existence of a good relationship between the person expressing the
criticism and the person receiving the criticism;
- respect for each others opinion;
- the acceptance of criticism or the desire to receive criticism;
- there must be sufficient time available;
- discretion with regard to the place where you express your criticism about
the other person;
- the personal circumstances of the person receiving the criticism must be
taken into account.
Question 6
What is an I-message?
Question 7
What are the most important conditions for expressing criticism?
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9. Communicating bad news
Messages containing bad news can vary. For example, it could be the
announcement to a colleague that he has to drive a different route, or to the
manager that the planning targets will not be met, or that an argument has taken
place with a customer, and so on. In general, delivering bad news is difficult. In
the dim, distant past the messenger of bad news was often executed. Although
this is no longer the case nowadays, the communicator of bad news often takes a
lot of trouble to ensure that he does not have to face the sometimes heated and
emotional reactions made by the receiver.
Typical behaviour in such a situation is the following:
- postponing the bad new by talking first about other ordinary things;
- asking suggestive enquiring questions, letting the other person express the
bad news themselves;
- communicating bad news by means of a letter or via an intermediary.
An efficient and respectful approach to the communication of bad news is
- make a brief introduction;
- then deal with the heart of the matter;
- then cushion the reactions or resistance;
- offer help to find a possible solution.
It is important that you quickly offer to clarify the situation for the person. You
can do this by briefly introducing the matter and then immediately making the
unpleasant announcement. Justify this briefly. Do not give unnecessary
information. Then you should let him blow off steam. After that you should
give any additional information required. Then you should involve him as much
as possible in finding a solution, or asking the question where do we go from
here?
You must never postpone bad news or let him discover the bad news himself.
You will not protect him by doing this. You must realise that bad news, however
well it is packaged, is always bad news. Sweetening a bitter pill is not a good
solution.
Question 8
What makes it so difficult to communicate bad news?
10. Receiving criticism
Expressing criticism is difficult, but most people also find that it is difficult to
receive criticism as well. Especially when this concerns negative criticism. This
has to do with the fact that criticism involves an assessment by another person
about (a part of) your own person and/or behaviour. You are the subject of the
criticism and this confronts you with yourself.
- confrontation
with reactions
- good approach
bad news
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In general, many thoughts go simultaneously through the minds of the people
receiving criticism:
- Is it true what the other person is saying?
- Do I want that person to say that?
- Do I want that person to say it like this?
- Do I want that person to say that here?
The way in which you react to criticism depends on the way in which you
answer these consciously or unconsciously asked questions.
Natural reactions to criticism
Natural reactions to criticism are:
- deny the truth (I);
- reply immediately (II); or
- qualify the criticism (III).
Example
Criticism:
In my view, the way you spoke to the customer was very unfriendly.
Reaction I I think that I remained very friendly considering the way the
customer reacted.
Reaction II You would not have reacted in a very friendly way in my
situation.
Reaction III Well, we all have our bad days.
What actually happens in the example mentioned above is that the criticism is
not taken seriously. The natural reaction of the person expressing the criticism is
to say something else on top of that to make clear that he also means what he
says. When the message is not even understood then, the seed for a conflict has
been sown.
A better reaction
A better reaction to receiving criticism is to listen carefully and to let the other
person know that you are listening. Maybe even to stimulate the other person to
make criticism. This makes the other person feel that he is being taken seriously
and prevents him from making another attack on you. In addition, you stimulate
the other person into talking to you in a reasonable manner.
In this case listening carefully means active listening. Active listening means
that you must make an effort. It requires dedication and interest in the other
person and in what the other person has to say. Sometimes active listening
involves little or no trouble. In other situations active listening demands a lot of
skill and patience.
Active listening means that you actively search for an answer to the following
three questions:
- what is the other person saying?
- what does the other person mean?
- what does the other person feel?
- natural reactions
- active listening
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Dealing with criticism
Everybody who has to deal with criticism becomes more or less affected by it.
You can choose not to let anybody notice this. This will corroborate the other
persons criticism. In the meanwhile, it could be the case that it becomes
noticeable through your behaviour that the criticism has affected you. For
example, you start to defend yourself or you pull a long face when you hear the
criticism. When you express your feelings about what the criticism means to
you, then you make your feelings known and thereby amenable to discussion.
You give the other person the opportunity to react and thereby prevent him from
communicating with you in a prejudiced way.
Example
Suppose a colleague gets the idea that you do not trust him and that you would
rather keep everything under your own control. He expresses this by saying that
you do not make much use of his experience. If you react by saying: I dont like
this criticism and I think it is unjustified. The reason is that I am trying to save
you as much as possible from having to doing too much work, then there is a
very good chance that the colleague will revise his opinion about you. Reacting
to criticism does not mean that the other person will take back or revise the
criticism. The criticism could very well be justified. What matters is that when
you express your feelings you can prevent a situation in which people criticise
each other on the basis of a misunderstanding. Finally, the following diagram
illustrates several reactions to criticism.
ADJUSTING IGNORING TUNE IN RESPONDING
- Be overwhelmed
- Suffer
- Please the other
person
- Pay no attention
- Wave away
criticism
- Listen
- Pay attention
- Respect, agree
- Search for and
offer perspective
(positive
approach)
- Dispute,
contradict,
defend (negative
approach)
5616-020-003
Figure 3
Diagram of reactions to criticism
When you adjust to criticism, you generally wrong yourself; when you ignore
criticism, you wrong the other person. Tuning in and a positive response are in
many cases the best ways to deal with criticism.
Question 9
Why do most people find it difficult to deal with criticism?
- reactions to
criticism
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Summary
Everybody communicates and thereby exchanges verbal, non-verbal and/or
written communication. To do this effectively people need several
communicative skills.
The most important of these are:
1. Active listening. This consists of attentive behaviour, a relaxed bodily
position, eye contact and a minimum of encouragement.
2. Summarising both the contents and the feeling.
3. Encouraging the speaker by asking open and reflective questions.
Another skill is expressing criticism. The personal approach and expressing
constructive criticism by means of an I-message play a central role in this.
A special form of criticism is e.g. the communication of a bad news; the
procedure for doing this consists of four steps.
More difficult than expressing criticism is receiving criticism and dealing with
that in a creative manner. The reactions to criticism could be: adjusting,
ignoring, tuning in and responding.
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Test
Exercises
Do not send in your answers for correction
1. Give a definition of communication.
2. What are the three forms of communication and what are the differences?
3. Name three features that occur during communication.
4. Name six important communication skills.
5. What is the golden rule when you criticise another person?
6. Name several guidelines for expressing criticism in a correct manner.
7. Name the four steps in which you can communicate bad news.
8. Name the natural and the better reaction when a person receives
criticism.
9. Describe the various behavioural reactions that are possible when criticism
is received. Which reaction do you prefer?
Answers to the questions in the lesson
1. No, the information receiver is also responsible for good communication.
For example, when the receiver does not listen properly this can result in
mis-communication.
2. Active listening is listening in such a way that this activity aims to obtain
information from and about the other person. This can be achieved by
attentive skilful behaviour.
Active listening includes attentive behaviour consisting of the following
elements:
1. Relaxed position: this enables you to listen well and in a concentrated
manner.
2. Eye contact: this emphasises the interest in what he is saying.
3. Encouragement: when you encourage him you stimulate him to
continue talking, to supply more information.
3. A summary of the contents is a brief and concise representation of what the
other person has said. This shows that you have followed the main lines of
the conversation.
A summary of feeling is a representation of the other persons feelings. This
concerns the way in which something is said. Elements such as attitude,
intonation and facial expression play a role.
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4. Paraphrasing means making a brief and concise summary of bits of
information. The aim of paraphrasing is to guide the communication
process.
5. We distinguish the following types of questions:
A. Suggestive questions: in this case the answer desired is already
included in the question. Example: You are indeed convinced about
the quality of our product?
B. Focused questions: these are questions to which only brief answers are
possible. Example: Will you let the dog out?
C. (Multiple) choice questions: these questions facilitate a limited number
of possible answers. Example: Which of the three menus mentioned
will you choose?
D. Closed questions and open questions
In the case of closed questions, only a limited number of answers are
possible.
Example: Which hotel will you choose, A or B?
Open questions invite you to give a more extensive answer.
Example: Which solution would you choose?
6. An I-message is a message in which you (I) look at the other person from
your own perspective (I). The I-message is a representation of factual
behaviour, factual actions and/or statements.
7. The most important conditions for expressing criticism are:
A. a relationship of trust between the person who expresses criticism and
the receiver of criticism;
B. respect for each others input;
C. being open to criticism;
D. allowing sufficient time;
E. discretion with regard to the place;
F. taking the personal circumstances of the receiver into account.
8. Communicating bad news is often difficult because the communicator of the
message does not want to be confronted with the often emotional reactions
of the person receiving the message. This can be avoided through an
efficient and respectful approach.
9. Most people find it difficult to receive criticism because (negative) criticism
implies an assessment of yourself, for example about your behaviour. As a
result, you have to confront yourself. A solution to this active listening.
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Answers to the exercises
1. A definition of communication is:
Communication is exchanging information whereby a sender transfers a
message to a receiver.
Communication therefore always involves a sender, a message, and a
receiver.
2. There are three main forms of communication:
A. verbal communication;
B. non-verbal communication;
C. written communication.
The difference between verbal and non-verbal and written communication
is that verbal communication takes place using words, while the other forms
take place via signals and writing.
Signals in the case of non-verbal communication include body language,
attitude and gestures.
3. The following characteristics play a role in communication:
1. Information is always involved.
2. A sender and a receiver are always involved.
3. Communication is a goal-oriented activity of speaking, listening,
reading, writing and non-verbal behaviour.
4. Six important communicative skills are:
1. Active listening: listening in such a way that you are oriented to
obtaining information from and about another person.
2. Speaking: a method often used to influence and to guide people. It is
important that as a speaker you are motivated and stand by your
statements.
3. Summarising: brief representations of the contents or your feelings.
This can also be achieved by paraphrasing: concise summaries of bits
of information.
4. Asking questions: by doing this you can stimulate the speaker.
5. Expressing criticism: telling another person how you view or
experience his behaviour. Criticising relates to supplying negative and
positive information.
6. Receiving criticism: a good reaction is important.
5. A golden rule when you criticise another person is:
- give positive information face-to-face, but also in the presence of
others;
- give negative information only face-to-face; give this in a constructive
manner and make use of I-messages.
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6. Several guidelines for expressing criticism in a correct manner are:
- criticise visible factual behaviour, not the causes of the behaviour;
- do not criticise in a moralising, onerous or threatening manner;
- always focus criticism on the issue, not on the person;
- do not hide behind the opinions or feelings of other people when you
criticise;
- criticise shortly after the behaviour has been observed;
- if your criticism is rejected, do not try to get carry your point at all
costs;
- always react to a request for criticism from a person; if this is not
possible, give good reasons for this.
7. Bad news can be communicated to a person in an efficient and respectful
manner in accordance with the following four steps:
1. brief introduction.
2. deal with the heart of the matter: the bad news.
3. cushion reactions or resistance; also let him blow off steam.
4. provide help to find a solution.
8. The natural reactions to receiving criticism are:
1. denial of truth.
2. immediate reply.
3. qualification of criticism.
A better reaction to receiving criticism includes the following elements:
- active listening: commitment to and interest in what the other person
says;
- show that you are listening;
- stimulate the other person to talk.
9. The various behavioural reactions that are possible when receiving
criticism are:
A. Adjusting: let yourself be overwhelmed, suffer or try to please the other
person;
B. Ignoring: pay no attention or wave aside the criticism;
C. Tuning in: always listen, pay attention, respect, agree;
D. Responding: positive approach: search for and offer perspective;
negative approach: combative, defensive.
The best reactions are: tune in and respond to the positive approach.
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Problems and assignments
Answer and send in for correction
1. Make your own brief and clear summary of the text in this lesson and state
four reasons why making a summary is so important in communication.
2. What is the significance of what you have read in this lesson for your own
behaviour and what will you do with it?
3. What is the significance of this lesson for communication between people
and for your communication with your colleagues and boss?
4. Observation
Select one or two people and observe how they communicate with each
other:
- How do other people speak (verbal communication)?
- How do other people listen and how do they express themselves in
terms of attitude and gestures (non-verbal communication)?
- Assess the way in which they communicate. What do they do well,
what do they do normally, and to what extent is their communication
poor?
Record your observations in writing.
5. Application
Take note of the way you communicate and try to listen to somebody in the
following systematic manner:
- listen actively;
- make a summary;
- ask the right questions.
Record in writing which points you find easy or difficult and why. example,
when the receiver of information does not listen properly this can result in
miscommunication.