Interpersonal skills are essential for career success these days because of the growing importance of teamwork in organizations. Those who handle criticism and conflict well, manage negotiation better, and develop a positive atmosphere in the workplace find working in teams easier. For those that face a tougher time getting things done in groups, some simple tools in this article can help in getting started. The most common tools used by skillful communicators are verbal communication, body language, tone, listening, questions and feedback. This article shows how individuals can work on these tools to perform better in groups and improve their chances of personal and professional growth.
When it comes to verbal communication, it is important to ensure a positive use of language and to avoid putting others on the defensive. When handling a request for action, some people try to get away by saying, “This cannot be done”. Instead of giving unhelpful responses, it is much better to focus on facilitating people building relationships. The statement, “We will try our best to..” indicates one’s interest in satisfying the other party and generates goodwill from the other side.
Another way to make verbal communication work well is to stress the impact of the communication on one’s feelings and to use the word “I”. The statement: “I am concerned that this type of discussion will not serve any purpose” opens doors for communication because it is non-threatening; whereas, the statement “You are extremely difficult to deal with” may generate a defensive response because it can be interpreted as a personal attack.
BODY LANGUAGE AND TONE
According to Ali Mehrabian, a body language researcher in the 1950s, body language constitutes 55 percent of the verbal communication process. With such a big part of the communication process being devoted to non-verbal communication, a conscious effort to manage body positioning, interpersonal space, facial expressions, eye movement, touch, and breathing becomes imperative because body language can negate your words and project a different story from the one you want to tell. Walking with hands in one’s pockets can indicate dejection and patting one’s hair can be taken as a sign of insecurity.
Additionally, the tone of voice can result in others forming an opinion about one’s personality. A person who yells out an order “Can you get my tea?” compared to someone who says the same thing politely, might be considered difficult by others and avoided.
ACTIVE LISTENING AND ASKING QUESTIONS
One of the best ways to improve relationships is through active listening and asking questions. The technique of paraphrasing in listening helps ensure clarity in the communication process and removes any misunderstandings. The statement: “So if I have heard you correctly, you would like me to prepare a three-page report by Friday noon? Is that right?” is an example of paraphrasing.
Questions that solicit detailed information start with the words, why, when and what and are very useful in developing an understanding about the situation. By having more information through listening and questioning, people are in a better position to give advice, negotiate well and manage conflicts. Both these tools also help people win friends because those who use them make others feel important and happy.
Giving and receiving feedback is very helpful for people to stay on track, and in order for people to deliver on their targets successfully, it is important to give specific, behavior-focused, and timely feedback. Saying: “Your reports are usually late and badly written,” to a poor performer at year-end is ineffectual because this statement puts the recipient of the exchange on the defensive. Giving feedback about the report at the time of the event, specifying the actual problem in the report, and speaking about the impact of the bad report will be more useful in improving performance.
While receiving negative feedback, people should control their emotions and listen carefully to what is being said. Usually, such conversations can contribute immensely to self-improvement–it depends on how the recipient interacts with the content. By looking for the essence of the conversation, and not taking matters personally, people can derive usefulness from any type of comment.
For the most part, people who speak positively, use suitable nonverbal cues, listen actively and handle feedback well have a greater chance of going forward in their organizations. This is because they are more likeable and are better equipped to work in teams. An effective use of interpersonal communication tools can also bring about a positive change in people’s personal lives by helping them build happy relationships and enhancing their spiritual satisfaction.
Article by Warda Zaman. Also published in Jahangir’s World Times, July Edition 2012