After combing through some of my old Army Mental Health presentations, I found this gem on effective communication. We conducted presentations (mostly via PowerPoint accompanied with exercises) on a regular basis, most of which were infantry units in Iraq who were experiencing internal conflicts and leadership issues. The following information was compiled by our team in Ramadi, Iraq and was shared with the rest of the unit, which has since been adapted for other Combat Stress Control companies and teams.
To be a good student, professional, parent - or, simply, a good human being - there are tools required to ensure your success in life. One of these tools is effective listening. Everyone may feel like they are effective listeners, but very few will have all the skills they require. If you're an effective listener, you're more likely to find that people will be naturally drawn to you, they’ll enjoy being around you, and you will feel more fulfilled in your interpersonal relationships.
Communication is the process of sharing and exchanging information. Information can be shared and exchanged verbally or non-verbally, and in order to effectively communicate, we must not only communicate our viewpoint or data, but we must also actively listen.
If you're not an effective listener, people may find your presence cumbersome. Some may even avoid contact with you, because they feel that you really don’t care about who they really are or what they have to say. This, in turn, may prevent any productive interaction you might desire or need to have.
Real vs. Pseudo-Listening
Just because you are being quiet while someone else is talking does not mean that you're actually listening. Real listening is based on the intention of the four following principles.
The key to real listening is truly wanting too understand, to learn something new, or to help someone with his or her problems. It comes naturally in a multitude of environments. Pseudo-listening, on the other hand, masquerades as the real thing. The intention is not to listen but to hide an ulterior motive.
Examples of pseudo-listening include:
Blocks to Listening
4 Steps to Effective Listening
People want you to listen, so they look for clues that you are listening. Maintain good eye contact. Lean forward slightly. Nod or paraphrase. Clarify by asking questions. Actively move away from distractions like the TV, phone, or other people. Be committed, even if you’re angry or upset, to understanding what the other person has to say. In the end, if your genuine efforts at effective communication are not appearing to make an impact, step back and assess the situation. See where there still may be gaps in understanding on any side.
Lastly, in spite of any bonafide efforts at effective communication, you cannot control the reaction of the person with whom you're communicating. However, bearing in mind the principles of effective communication, you can surely increase the likelihood of meaningful, productive interaction and conversation, personally and professionally.
Adapted by our CSC from: McKay, M., Davis, M., & Fanning, P. (1983). Messages: The Communication Skills Book. New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, CA.
Dispatches from an itinerant and irreverent artist.