INSIGHT AVENUE
Improving interpersonal skills Part 2
by Lea Sicat Reyes

Last week, we talked about assertiveness and how it helps clear the working atmosphere and makes us better at communicating our thoughts, opinions, and feelings. We contrasted it with destructive tendencies such as aggression, passivity, and the lethal combination of the two. This week, we will continue discussing how to improve interpersonal skills by talking about the next big thing: verbal communication.

When we talk about verbal communication, we take it in its literal sense. Talking, Chatting, Conversing, Discussing. It is the medium by which we exchange ideas. It is our thoughts and feelings brought out in the open. While clarity is obviously one of the main ingredients in effective verbal communication, there is one component that easily gets overlooked. I’m talking about LISTENING.

Communication is certainly not a one-way process. One transmits, one receives and vice-versa. There can be no verbal communication without listening. That is why it is as essential to speak clearly and concisely as it is to listen in a focused, committed manner.

So let’s zero in on that. How do we improve our listening skills? Here are some ways.

First, practice the active listening posture. Yes, there is a certain body language that allows us to listen better. It is when all our senses are focused on the speaker. Maintain eye contact. Nod your head. Smile. Provide feedback by saying “Mmm hmm” or “Yes” or simply giving an opinion about the topic that is being discussed. These are just some of the ways that we can show that we are genuinely interested.

Second, stay committed. Too often, we get distracted or we lose focus. In a way, communicating is a process that you have to choose to commit. Small talk is not enough to thresh out the important things at the work place. If you want to get things done, if you want consensus, if you have to compromise, you have to commit to the conversation so that everything, as much as possible, is understood before reaching a concluding action.

Third, be open. You cannot communicate if you are already closed to begin with. There is no room to listen because you’ve basically chosen not to. The only way for effective verbal communication to take place is if one is willing to receive the ideas, to assertively respond to things that you don’t necessarily agree with, to see things from a different perspective. Only then can we genuinely listen.

I’d like to close today’s article with J.C. Penney chain of stores founder James Cash Penney eloquent quote: “The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication. And clear communication is necessary to success.”


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