Posts tagged with “listening skills”

Barriers to Communication

Sunday, 29 January, 2012

Sometimes, despite careful planning, a well crafted message can be misunderstood or misinterpreted or, perhaps worst of all, ignored.

One of the issues I find these days is that people really just don’t seem to have any listening skills, nor do they actually read all of what has been written. I have experienced both of these problems many times. For example, in my classes I can repeat instructions several times and put them in writing, and students still do not listen properly and end up doing the wrong thing (to their detriment). And I’ve also written very clear, well structured business emails (after all, it’s my profession so I have to show I can practice what I preach!), and still I get a response that indicates the person has not properly read anything I have written.


So what can we do about it? Unfortunately we can’t control others (oh for such a power!), but we can keep ensuring we construct well organised and thought out messages, and allow for feedback and questions. Sometimes, too, all it takes is a deep breath and a lot of patience. Something I learned a long time ago, because of the torture I experienced from certain teachers, is that if someone doesn’t understand something and they ask you to explain it again, explaining it in exactly the same way will not help, because the person did not understand you the first time.

We also have to be aware that communication is a process, a cycle from sender to receiver and back again, so we have a responsiblity to others to listen to them carefully and to read things slowly and with attention. This can save us time and unwanted issues.

So, it takes practice, patience, and sometimes, a healthy sense of humour to stay sane and ensure you overcome any barriers to communication to get your message understood and get what you want.


Are You Starting with the Man in the Mirror?

Wednesday, 3 August, 2011

One of the challenges that we face living in a world of ever increasing information and “noise” is missing the mark when we try to communicate. You can craft a direct, focused, concise email and still get a reply that shows you the reader has not, in fact, actually read the whole email. You can use careful reader access techniques like lists and tables to highlight important information, and still you get a response that shows the person has not bothered to even glance at what you have provided.

So what do you do?

The Man in The Mirror

I’m reminded of the lyrics to the Michael Jackson song, Man in the Mirror:

“I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror

I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways

And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer

If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place….”

Perhaps what we need to do when communicating is look first at our own listening and reading skills. Do you pay careful attention to your emails, or do you skim through them? When someone is talking to you, are you really listening to them, or are you running through your To Do list in your head? If someone gives you instructions, are you already thinking about how you could do it better? Don’t be the game show contestant who gives the wrong answer because they’ve interrupted the host mid-question.

Listen carefully, read carefully, and check if you don’t understand. Ask questions, request clarification, and follow up to confirm that what you heard or read was correct.  If you have a lot of emails to get through, prioritise. Read the most important ones first, and before you respond, double check that you’ve read the whole thread and that you aren’t asking unnecessary questions. If you spend a few minutes reading and perhaps doing a bit of research, you show the reader that you care, that you can pay attention to detail, and that you want a mutually beneficial, positive result.

I’m convinced that the more we can practice our own listening and reading skills, the more we can improve our communication, and therefore command more thoughtful and careful responses from our audiences.

So… start with the (wo)man in the mirror, or rather, on the keyboard and monitor…