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Communication: Key to Success

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    Communication means exchanging thoughts and ideas with the intention of delivering information and goals. Communication is the key to success, not only within the community but also in both professional and personal scenarios. Successful leaders are those marked by their effective use of communication and understanding of their followers.

    We will be discussing various effective communication strategies as well as conflict resolution strategies for overall cohesiveness within the community.

    A) Effective Communication Techniques:

    I. Listening

    This is the first and foremost commandment for effective communication techniques. You have to listen to the other party. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that communication is only a one-way street. Apart from speaking your mind out, communication is also about listening and listening very carefully. Focus on what they are saying so you can reflect back on that conversation later. This will send out a message to them that you are grasping their point and they should do the same when you are speaking.

    II. Expression

    Honesty is very important here. Whenever you are expressing yourself, talking truthfully and honestly, will send out a signal that you trust your audience. Speak clearly and properly. Also, try to be precise about the subject that you are speaking on. Do not beat around the bush. This will only confuse your audience. Besides, if your audience is getting confused, the entire purpose of your self-expression is being defeated.

    III. Take Criticism Positively

    If someone comes to you with criticism, it’s just a natural human response to defend your stance. Try to take criticism positively and constructively. If the criticism is very hard to take emotionally, then the chances are that the person you are communicating with is in distress. Try to relate to the person and speak your mind in a very mild language.

    IV. Avoid Arguments

    More often than not, whenever you are trying to have a healthy conversation, it turns into an argument. Arguing does nothing but wastes your time. Try to avoid getting into such situations. And even if you get into such situations, instead of winning the argument, find a compromise in a constructive way.

    V. Understand the Audience

    You need to be able to understand your audience, as they are the ones for whom you are speaking. Do not send out your message before you are absolutely sure that they will grasp what you are saying.

    B) Questioning Skills and Techniques

    Questioning techniques are valuable in one-on-one interactions, but also apply to groups. They are critical in reducing misunderstanding, and showing sincere interest in the other person, and encourage others to talk to us.

    I. Mirror Questions: Non-directive techniques to encourage others to speak.

    Mirror questions are non-directive in nature, which means they are intended to encourage another person to continue to add detail to what they have said without influencing the person to go in a specific direction in terms of content. While they are often used in therapy type sessions to help clients open up, they are also exceedingly valuable in regular one-on-one discussions since they show interest in what the other person has to say, and can help minimize misunderstandings and increase rapport. Most often, mirror questions involve restatements of what the other person has just said.

    For example:
    Person A: I’m feeling really tired today.
    Person B: I guess, it sounds like you don’t have as much energy as you usually do.
    Note the rephrasing used by person B, which is different than simple parroting or repeating (which is a bad thing).

    II. In-Depth Questions: To encourage others to provide more information or for clarification.

    In-Depth questions are, in essence, follow-up questions that ask for additional information, request the person expand on what she has said or ask the person to go deeper. Using these questions can be helpful in increasing understanding since most people need to be encouraged to go beyond what they have said to help someone understand their deeper feelings and opinions.
    They indicate interest and a desire to understand.

    In-Depth questions can be non-directive (e.g. “Go on”, or “Could you clarify that?”), or they can be more directive and specific as below:

    Person A: I live in New York
    Person B: Ah. Do you live in Brooklyn or The Bronx?

    Remember that In-Depth questions are guided by and chosen based on what the OTHER person has said. They show that you are paying attention. In-Depth questions are very valuable tools for teachers, facilitators, and instructors, and have been studied extensively as tools to improve classroom learning and encourage students to think more deeply about what is being learned.

    III. Open-Ended Questions

    Open-ended questioning is an easy to use communication skill that you can use to encourage dialogue and discussion and to enhance understanding. The use of questions that are open-ended sends a message to the other person that you are, a) interested in them and b) want to share information and control the conversation with them, rather than only send information and control things.

    Basically, an open-ended question is one that cannot be answered in a yes, or no fashion, or in a one-word way. For example, “Why did you go to the store?” is open-ended. On the other hand, “Did you go to the store” is not open-ended but is close-ended because its obvious answer is either yes or no. Like most communication techniques, open-ended questions work in some contexts and are counter-productive in others.

    Open-ended questions are good in situations where both parties want to understand each other, share control of the conversation, listen to each other, and when there is sufficient time for the conversation to allow proper sharing and listening. In situations where time for the conversation is limited, or the conversation is less about understanding each other and more about making a fast decision, close-ended questions can be more appropriate.

    As with both open and closed-ended questions, the technique must be used sincerely and properly, since any kinds of questions, if used poorly can result in the other person feeling like he/she is being cross-examined, attacked, or otherwise interrogated.

    C) Conflict Resolution Strategies

    With most conflicts, it’s important to find a resolution. This seems like a statement of the obvious, but many people suppress their anger or just ‘go along to get along.’ They think that by addressing a conflict, they are creating one, and simply keep quiet when upset. Unfortunately, this isn’t a healthy long-term strategy. For one thing, unresolved conflict can lead to resentment and additional unresolved conflict in the relationship.

    Unfortunately, resolving conflict can be tricky as well. Handled improperly, attempts at conflict resolution can actually make the conflict worse.

    I. Hone Your Listening Skills

    When it comes to effective conflict resolution, how effectively we listen is at least as important as how effectively we express ourselves. It’s vital to understand the other person’s perspective, rather than just your own, if we are to come to a resolution. In fact, just helping the other person feel heard and understood can sometimes go a long way toward the resolution of a conflict. Good listening also helps for you to be able to bridge the gap between the two of you and understand where the disconnect lies, etc.

    Unfortunately, active listening is a skill that not everybody knows, and it’s common for people to think they’re listening, while in their heads they’re actually formulating their next response, thinking to themselves how wrong the other person is, or doing things other than trying to understand the other person’s perspective. It’s also common to be so defensive and entrenched in your own perspective that you literally can’t hear the other person’s point of view.

    II. Practice Assertive Communication

    Communicating your feelings and needs clearly is also an important aspect of conflict resolution. As you probably know, saying the wrong thing can be like throwing fuel on a fire, and make a conflict worse. The important thing to remember is to say what’s on your mind in a way that is clear and assertive, without being aggressive or putting the other person on the defensive. One effective conflict resolution strategy is to put things in terms of how you feel rather than what you think the other person is doing wrong.

    III. Seek a Solution

    Once you understand the other person’s perspective, and they understand yours, it’s time to find a resolution to the conflict — a solution you both can live with. Sometimes a simple and obvious answer comes up once both parties understand the other person’s perspective. In cases where the conflict was based on a misunderstanding or a lack of insight into the other’s point of view, a simple apology can work wonders, and an open discussion can bring people closer together. Other times, there is a little more work required. In cases where there’s a conflict about an issue and both people don’t agree, you have a few options: Sometimes you can agree to disagree, other times you can find a compromise or middle ground, and in other cases, the person who feels more strongly about an issue may get their way, with the understanding that they will concede the next time. The important thing is to come to a place of understanding and try to work things out in a way that’s respectful to all involved.






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