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communication

Written communication skills

Written communication has several advantages. First, it provides a record for referral and follow‐up. Second, written communication is an inexpensive means of providing identical messages to a large number of people.

The major limitation of written communication is that the sender does not know how or if the communication is received unless a reply is required.

Unfortunately, writing skills are often difficult to develop, and many individuals have problems writing simple, clear, and direct documents. And believe it or not, poorly written documents cost money.

How much does bad writing cost a company annually? According to a Canadian consulting and training firm, one employee who writes just one poorly worded memo per week over the course of a year can cost a company $4,258.60.

Managers must be able to write clearly. The ability to prepare letters, memos, sales reports, and other written documents may spell the difference between success and failure. The following are some guidelines for effective written communication:

      -Use the P.O.W.E.R. Plan for preparing each message: plan, organize, write, edit, and revise

 

      -Draft the message with the readers in mind

 

      -Give the message a concise title and use subheadings where appropriate

 

      -Use simple words and short, clear, sentences and paragraphs

 

      -Back up opinions with facts

 

      -Avoid “flowery” language, euphemisms, and trite expressions

 

    -Summarize main points at the end and let the reader know what he must do next

Re: How to Improve Written Communication.

Types Of Correspondence
Effective written communication affects all aspects of your fitness career, including “your ability to successfully connect with your staff, educate your clients about important fitness concepts and make a positive first impression on prospective customers,” according to Amanda Vogel, MA, writer and owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for fitness professionals, based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Honing excellent writing skills doesn’t apply only to the marketing materials you commonly think of, such as articles, newsletters, brochures, fliers and website copy. Effective written communication also applies to more routine, business-related correspondence, including the documents described below.

Welcome Letters to New Clients and Participants. The sale of a fitness program doesn’t stop when your clients register for your program or class. A welcome letter that thanks them for their business and summarizes how your exercise program will help meet their fitness goals shows that you’re a professional and their decision to work with you was a smart one.

Requests for Medical Clearance. When you have clients or class participants with health issues that require medical approval, there are insurance and legal policies that require you to obtain that approval in writing. While it’s common practice to use the one-size-fits-all medical clearance form, a more effective approach would be to include, along with the form, a well-written cover letter that explains who you are, your credentials and how you plan to approach your client’s (their patient’s) exercise program.

Internal Organizational Memos. Whether you own a studio or work for a fitness facility, you may have to write correspondence to your subordinates, superiors or co-workers. The purpose could be as simple as introducing new fitness staff or as complex as giving the details about a major change in your company’s pricing structure.

Instructions. Instructional correspondence helps the reader complete a task. You may need to write exercise instructions for your clients, equipment operation instructions for club members, procedures on how to complete a transaction for staff, or posters with instructions about what steps to take in an emergency.

Incident Reports. Unfortunately, the nature of the fitness business exposes you to the possibility of experiencing a health- or safety-related episode with clients, class participants or staff. For an Incident Report as for a Request for Medical Clearance, you most likely will use a standard form; however, most forms require a written statement, either within the form or attached to it, describing the details of what occurred and when, who was involved and where it happened.

Effective Written Communication

Of course, you might have the opportunity to write other types of correspondence as a fitness professional. So how do you make sure you clearly communicate your purpose regardless of the document? No matter which type of writing you do, “get your general ideas on paper or the computer screen—this is your first draft,” says Vogel. “Now go back and edit.”

When editing, consider the following factors:

Key 1: Use a Professional Tone. Your readers will form an opinion of you from the content, the style and, most important, the attitude and tone that come across in your writing. Create a professional, positive tone by using simple, direct language. Adopt a “you-attitude” versus an “I-attitude,” to show that you’re sincere in your focus on the reader rather than on yourself as the writer.

If you need to convey unwelcome information, craft it with special care. When denying a request or sharing bad news, acknowledge the problem or situation and diplomatically explain the background and your position. If responding to a request, make your “no” response clear so there’s no misunderstanding. If you can, suggest an alternative and build goodwill as much as possible by offering to answer any questions the reader may have.

Key 2: Know Your Audience. The intended readers of your correspondence can vary from medical doctors, lawyers and other fitness professionals to clients of all occupations and ages, including children. You must consider their backgrounds, technical expertise and educational levels as well as their mindsets and possible reactions to your writing. This process is no easy task, but the more time you take to identify your audience, the more effective your message will be.

Key 3: Organize Your Information Clearly. Arrange your thoughts so that your correspondence can be read quickly and comprehended easily. Organize the information based on your purpose. For example, when writing instructions, organize your information in sequential, or step-by-step, order. For incident reports, write in chronological order, explaining how the events unfolded. When sharing news and information, use the “6Ws”—who, what, when, where, why and how—to guide you.

Key 4: Use the Right Format. Format refers to how your correspondence is laid out on paper or online. Usually writers choose their formats based on the method of delivery—letter, memo or e-mail. Each type has distinct format conventions (guidelines) for including and placing elements such as the date, addressee, subject line, salutation, message body, closing line, signature block and company letterhead or logo. (See “Correspondence Format Conventions” on page 114 for examples.)

Key 5: Use Visual Elements Carefully. Visual elements—such as font size and type; underlined, italicized or bold text; and bulleted or numbered lists—help emphasize key points and make your correspondence more effective. With all the options available, be careful not to go overboard, especially with fonts. Choose font types based on your document’s purpose, audience and formality. Vogel says to avoid using all caps, which can impede readability and give the wrong impression. “Your goal is to make writing as easy to read as possible,” she says.

Types of Nonverbal Communication

According to experts, a substantial portion of our communication is nonverbal. Every day, we respond to thousands on nonverbal cues and behaviors including postures, facial expression, eye gaze, gestures, and tone of voice. From our handshakes to our hairstyles, nonverbal details reveal who we are and impact how we relate to other people.

Scientific research on nonverbal communication and behavior began with the 1872 publication of Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Since that time, there has been an abundance of research on the types, effects and expressions of unspoken communication and behavior. While these signals are often so subtle that we are not consciously aware of them, research has identified several different types of nonverbal communication.

In many cases, we communicate information in nonverbal ways using groups of behaviors. For example, we might combine a frown with crossed arms and unblinking eye gaze to indicate disapproval.

1. Facial Expression

Facial expressions are responsible for a huge proportion of nonverbal communication. Consider how much information can be conveyed with a smile or a frown. While nonverbal communication and behavior can vary dramatically between cultures, the facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger and fear are similar throughout the world.

2. Gestures

Deliberate movements and signals are an important way to communicate meaning without words. Common gestures include waving, pointing, and using fingers to indicate numeric amounts. Other gestures are arbitrary and related to culture.

3. Paralinguistics

Paralinguistics refers to vocal communication that is separate from actual language. This includes factors such as tone of voice, loudness, inflection and pitch. Consider the powerful effect that tone of voice can have on the meaning of a sentence. When said in a strong tone of voice, listeners might interpret approval and enthusiasm. The same words said in a hesitant tone of voice might convey disapproval and a lack of interest.

4. Body Language and Posture

Posture and movement can also convey a great deal on information. Research on body language has grown significantly since the 1970’s, but popular media have focused on the over-interpretation of defensive postures, arm-crossing, and leg-crossing, especially after the publication of Julius Fast’s book Body Language. While these nonverbal behaviors can indicate feelings and attitudes, research suggests that body language is far more subtle and less definitive that previously believed.

5. Proxemics

People often refer to their need for “personal space,” which is also an important type of nonverbal communication. The amount of distance we need and the amount of space we perceive as belonging to us is influenced by a number of factors including social norms, situational factors, personality characteristics and level of familiarity. For example, the amount of personal space needed when having a casual conversation with another person usually varies between 18 inches to four feet. On the other hand, the personal distance needed when speaking to a crowd of people is around 10 to 12 feet.

6. Eye Gaze

Looking, staring and blinking can also be important nonverbal behaviors. When people encounter people or things that they like, the rate of blinking increases and pupils dilate. Looking at another person can indicate a range of emotions, including hostility, interest and attraction.

7. Haptics

Communicating through touch is another important nonverbal behavior. There has been a substantial amount of research on the importance of touch in infancy and early childhood. Harry Harlow’s classic monkey study demonstrated how the deprivation of touch and contact impedes development. Baby monkeys raised by wire mothers experienced permanent deficits in behavior and social interaction. Touch can be used to communicate affection, familiarity, sympathy and other emotions.

8. Appearance

Our choice of color, clothing, hairstyles and other factors affecting appearance are also considered a means of nonverbal communication. Research on color psychology has demonstrated that different colors can evoke different moods. Appearance can also alter physiological reactions, judgments and interpretations. Just think of all the subtle judgements you quickly make about someone based on his or her appearance. These first impressions are important, which is why experts suggest that job seekers dress appropriately for interviews with potential employers.

What is Communication?

Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another.

Although this is a simple definition, when we think about how we may communicate the subject becomes a lot more complex. There are various categories of communication and more than one may occur at any time.

The different categories of communication are:

      -Spoken or Verbal Communication: face-to-face, telephone, radio or television and other media.

 

      -Non-Verbal Communication: body language, gestures, how we dress or act – even our scent.

 

      -Written Communication: letters, e-mails, books, magazines, the Internet or via other media.

 

    -Visualizations: graphs, charts, maps, logos and other visualizations can communicate messages.

What Is Verbal Communication?

Verbal communication refers to the use of sounds and language to relay a message. It serves as a vehicle for expressing desires, ideas and concepts and is vital to the processes of learning and teaching. In combination with nonverbal forms of communication, verbal communication acts as the primary tool for expression between two or more people.

Types

Interpersonal communication and public speaking are the two basic types of verbal communication. Whereas public speaking involves one or more people delivering a message to a group, interpersonal communication generally refers to a two-way exchange that involves both talking and listening.

According to Robert M. Krauss, professor of psychology at Columbia University, signs and symbols are the major signals that make up verbal communication. Words act as symbols, and signs are secondary products of the underlying message and include things like tone of voice, blushing and facial expressions.

Purpose

Verbal communication has many purposes, but its main function is relaying a message to one or more recipients. It encompasses everything from simple one-syllable sounds to complex discussions and relies on both language and emotion to produce the desired effect. Verbal communication can be used to inform, inquire, argue and discuss topics of all kinds. It is vital to teaching and learning, as well as forming bonds and building relationships with other people.

Although all species communicate, language itself is a purely human phenomenon that allows for more precision than the communication methods of other beings.

Challenges

A variety of challenges may arise when using verbal communication to express oneself. Misunderstandings can arise because of poor word choice, differing perspectives and faulty communication techniques, and subjective opinions regarding acceptable language may result in breakdowns in communication.

Language barriers are a major cause of confusion when attempting to communicate verbally. According to the University of Louisville, differences in language influenced by geographic location, education and social status can create barriers even among those who speak the same language.

Prevention/Solution

Although difficulties with verbal communication can’t be completely avoided, it is possible to increase your chances of communicating successfully. Consider the message you wish to communicate before speaking and communicate with respect for the recipient’s point of view Pay attention to what you say and how you say it. Speak clearly and enunciate your words and be conscious nonverbal aspects such as eye contact, posture and facial expressions.

Considerations

Everyone has a unique style of communicating and perceiving messages. Although verbal communication is a primary means of expression, nonverbal actions such as body language can greatly affect the way a message is perceived.
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Examples of Verbal Communication in the Workplace

Business professionals demonstrating effective verbal communication skills use spoken words to convey a message clearly and concisely. To get a message across, the sender needs to ensure the receiver correctly interprets the words. If not, confusion and conflict typically results. By successfully delivering a message, business professionals describe ideas, thoughts and directives that allow colleagues to work better together. Effective verbal communication begins by acknowledging what the audience needs. By planning what he wants to say, how he wants to say it and seeking feedback on how the message was received, a business professional ensures successful communication.

Meetings
Verbal communication occurs in meetings when participants share their ideas. Effective meeting organizers clearly define their objective, such as whether the intent of the meeting is to make a decision, brainstorm ideas, approve a plan, communicate a change or get a status report. At the beginning of the meeting, an organizer uses verbal communication to state the priorities of the meeting, the desired outcomes and the amount of time allowed to discuss each topic. By asking for additional input from participants, she ensures the meeting remains relevant for everyone. The meeting organizer also ensures that every participant gets a chance to speak without monopolizing the agenda.

Presentations and Lectures
Using effective verbal communication, business professionals give presentations and lectures to convey their expertise on a particular topic. Whether a business professional provides instruction, describes a product to make a sale or communicates a vision or strategy, he needs to keep the message clear by preparing adequately. Using vivid language, descriptive examples and supplementary visuals, he ensures a successful presentation. By using short words and sentences, speakers tend to avoid confusion. Effective presenters allow time for the audience to ask questions and provide comments.

Workshops
Workshop organizers use verbal communication to direct the activities of participants. By providing clear instructions for group, the facilitator ensures a positive development experience. For example, a leader describes the rules for participating a role-playing exercises, talks about the scenario and determines how long the activity takes. Using effective verbal communication, leaders guide participants in researching issues, solving problems, negotiating solutions and making decisions.

Conversations
Conversations typically involve two people discussing a topic. Effective verbal communication occurs during conversations when the speaker acknowledges the sensitivity of the subject, time constraints and types of questions the receiver might ask. If the conversation occurs face to face, successful communicators use active listening skills such as repeating back what the other person has said. They also resist the temptation to interrupt and allow the other person to speak up as well to convey their thoughts. If the conversation occurs by telephone, the participants need to pay even more attention.

Cultural Differences in Non-verbal Communication

General Appearance and Dress

All cultures are concerned for how they look and make judgements based on looks and dress. Americans, for instance, appear almost obsessed with dress and personal attractiveness. Consider differing cultural standards on what is attractive in dress and on what constitutes modesty. Note ways dress is used as a sign of status?

Body Movement

We send information on attitude toward person (facing or leaning towards another), emotional statue (tapping fingers, jiggling coins), and desire to control the environment (moving towards or away from a person).

More than 700,000 possible motions we can make — so impossible to categorize them all! But just need to be aware the body movement and position is a key ingredient in sending messages.

Posture

Consider the following actions and note cultural differences:

      -Bowing (not done, criticized, or affected in US; shows rank in Japan)

 

      -Slouching (rude in most Northern European areas)

 

      -Hands in pocket (disrespectful in Turkey)

 

      -Sitting with legs crossed (offensive in Ghana, Turkey)

 

      -Showing soles of feet. (Offensive in Thailand, Saudi Arabia)

 

    -Even in US, there is a gender difference on acceptable posture?

Gestures

Impossible to catalog them all. But need to recognize: 1) incredible possibility and variety and 2) that an acceptable in one’s own culture may be offensive in another. In addition, amount of gesturing varies from culture to culture. Some cultures are animated; other restrained. Restrained cultures often feel animated cultures lack manners and overall restraint. Animated cultures often feel restrained cultures lack emotion or interest.

Even simple things like using hands to point and count differ.

      Pointing : US with index finger; Germany with little finger; Japanese with entire hand (in fact most Asians consider pointing with index finger to be rude)

Counting: Thumb = 1 in Germany, 5 in Japan, middle finger for 1 in Indonesia.

Facial Expressions

While some say that facial expressions are identical, meaning attached to them differs. Majority opinion is that these do have similar meanings world-wide with respect to smiling, crying, or showing anger, sorrow, or disgust. However, the intensity varies from culture to culture. Note the following:

      -Many Asian cultures suppress facial expression as much as possible.

 

      -Many Mediterranean (Latino / Arabic) cultures exaggerate grief or sadness while most American men hide grief or sorrow.

 

      -Some see “animated” expressions as a sign of a lack of control.

 

      -Too much smiling is viewed in as a sign of shallowness.

 

    -Women smile more than men.

Eye Contact and Gaze

In USA, eye contact indicates: degree of attention or interest, influences attitude change or persuasion, regulates interaction, communicates emotion, defines power and status, and has a central role in managing impressions of others.

      -Western cultures — see direct eye to eye contact as positive (advise children to look a person in the eyes). But within USA, African-Americans use more eye contact when talking and less when listening with reverse true for Anglo Americans. This is a possible cause for some sense of unease between races in US. A prolonged gaze is often seen as a sign of sexual interest.

 

      -Arabic cultures make prolonged eye-contact. — believe it shows interest and helps them understand truthfulness of the other person. (A person who doesn’t reciprocate is seen as untrustworthy)

 

    -Japan, Africa, Latin American, Caribbean — avoid eye contact to show respect.

Touch

Question: Why do we touch, where do we touch, and what meanings do we assign when someone else touches us?

Illustration: An African-American male goes into a convenience store recently taken over by new Korean immigrants. He gives a $20 bill for his purchase to Mrs Cho who is cashier and waits for his change. He is upset when his change is put down on the counter in front of him.
What is the problem? Traditional Korean (and many other Asian countries) don’t touch strangers., especially between members of the opposite sex. But the African-American sees this as another example of discrimination (not touching him because he is black).

Basic answer: Touch is culturally determined! But each culture has a clear concept of what parts of the body one may not touch. Basic message of touch is to affect or control — protect, support, disapprove (i.e. hug, kiss, hit, kick).

USA — handshake is common (even for strangers), hugs, kisses for those of opposite gender or of family (usually) on an increasingly more intimate basis. Note differences between African-Americans and Anglos in USA. Most African Americans touch on greeting but are annoyed if touched on the head (good boy, good girl overtones).
Islamic and Hindu: typically don’t touch with the left hand. To do so is a social insult. Left hand is for toilet functions. Mannerly in India to break your bread only with your right hand (sometimes difficult for non-Indians)
Islamic cultures generally don’t approve of any touching between genders (even hand shakes). But consider such touching (including hand holding, hugs) between same-sex to be appropriate.
Many Asians don’t touch the head (Head houses the soul and a touch puts it in jeopardy).
Basic patterns: Cultures (English , German, Scandinavian, Chinese, Japanese) with high emotional restraint concepts have little public touch; those which encourage emotion (Latino, Middle-East, Jewish) accept frequent touches.

Smell

USA — fear of offensive natural smells (billion dollar industry to mask objectionable odors with what is perceived to be pleasant ) — again connected with “attractiveness” concept.
Many other cultures consider natural body odors as normal (Arabic).
Asian cultures (Filipino, Malay, Indonesian, Thai, Indian) stress frequent bathing — and often criticize USA of not bathing often enough!

Paralanguage

vocal characterizers (laugh, cry, yell, moan, whine, belch, yawn). These send different messages in different cultures (Japan — giggling indicates embarrassment; India – belch indicates satisfaction)
vocal qualifiers (volume, pitch, rhythm, tempo, and tone). Loudness indicates strength in Arabic cultures and softness indicates weakness; indicates confidence and authority to the Germans,; indicates impoliteness to the Thais; indicates loss of control to the Japanese. (Generally, one learns not to “shout” in Asia for nearly any reason!). Gender based as well: women tend to speak higher and more softly than men.
vocal segregates (un-huh, shh, uh, ooh, mmmh, humm, eh, mah, lah). Segregates indicate formality, acceptance, assent, uncertainty.

Verbal Communication – Using Effective Communication Techniques

Have you sometimes been talking to someone and wondered what on earth they are talking about? It’s something that has happened to all of us. Either we don’t listen, we don’t understand, the message isn’t clear or something interrupts the transmission of the message. However, having effective communication skills is a key component of successful relationships both at work and at home.

You don’t need to be a communications expert to look at the different ways you communicate and see if how you can improve your communication skills by applying effective communication techniques. You want to know that the messages and information you want to convey to other people are heard and understood. If you don’t use effective communication techniques, at best can irritate people and at worst can lead to a break down in relationships.

So what effective communication techniques should you be using?

      1. Speak clearly: Don’t try and convey several messages at once. People often ask two questions at once and then wonder why they haven’t been understood.

2. Use language appropriate to the level of the ‘audience’. Whoever you’re communicating with it’s important to do it at the right level. Don’t use complex words for the sake of it. It is not patronising to use simpler words.

3. Open your mouth wide enough. If you don’t open your mouth widely enough there is a danger that you will be mumbling.

4. Be aware of your pitch, tone and speed. Our voices can have a significant impact on how our messages our received and heard. Speaking too loudly or too quietly, too quickly or too slowly, too high pitched will all act as barriers to effective communication.

5. Remember to pause for breath. If you don’t breathe properly you can easily run out of breath and your voice can peter away. This doesn’t just occur in meetings or when people are presenting. If often happens when people are just holding a 1 to 1 conversation.

6. Use the appropriate non-verbal cues. If you have to convey a happy message, then make sure you smile. If you’re trying to convey a message and your body language doesn’t match people will immediately be suspicious that you’re not being sincere. If you want to convey interest then make sure that you nod.

7. Use active listening skills. People sometimes forget that communication is a two way thing. You need to be able to listen to what people say and be able to check for understanding.

8. Make eye contact. In some cultures making eye contact can be problematic, but if it’s expected then it can help you to convey your message.

If we want to communicate effectively, we should see our communication skills as a skills that can always be improved and built on. I hope you found these tips for using effective communication techniques useful. If you have anything else you would add, I’d be interested to hear your comments.

Re: Barriers to Effective Communication

Verbal Communication Barriers

1. Attacking (interrogating, criticizing, blaming, shaming)

“If you were doing your job and supervising Susie in the lunch line we probably wouldn’t be in this situation, would we?”

“Have you followed through with the counseling we asked you to do? Have you gotten Ben to the doctor’s for his medical checkup? Did you call and arrange for a Big Brother? Have you found out if you’re eligible for food stamps?”

“From what I can see, you don’t have the training to teach a child with ADHD. Obviously if you did you would be using different strategies that wouldn’t make her feel like she’s a bad person.”

2. “You Messages” (moralizing, preaching, advising, diagnosing)

“You don’t seem to understand how important it is for your child to get this help. Don’t you see that he’s well on his way to becoming a sociopath?”

“You obviously don’t realize that if you were following the same steps we do at home you wouldn’t be having this problem. You don’t seem to care about whatís going on in this child’s life outside of school.”

3. Showing Power (ordering, threatening, commanding, directing)

“If you don’t voluntarily agree to this evaluation we can take you to due process. Go ahead and file a complaint if you want to.”

“I’m going to write a letter of complaint to the superintendent and have this in your file if you don’t stop humiliating my son in front of his classmates. I know my rights.”

4. Other Verbal Barriers: shouting, name calling, refusing to speak.

Nonverbal Communication Barriers

1. Flashing or rolling eyes

2. Quick or slow movements

3. Arms crossed, legs crossed

4. Gestures made with exasperation

5. Slouching, hunching over

6. Poor personal care

7. Doodling

8. Staring at people or avoiding eye contact

9. Excessive fidgeting with materials