Effective Communication Requires Active Participation of all Involved

Have you ever been engaged in a situation where you are talking to someone and they were not listening to you?

Have you ever reflected after an encounter and realised you were talking at someone in stead of talking to him or her?

Effective communication requires that all participants are actively involved in the communicative event. A key element that each person should be mindful of is to listen to hear what others are saying and not to only listen to speak. Let me share my thoughts on this where communicating face-to-face is concerned.

Tips on Listening to Hear vs. Listening to Speak

This first means that one is open-minded and ready to receive the information that is being transmitted by the speaker/s. It may also mean listening actively and taking notes as the other person speaks. Self-restraint is a big part of this since in heated discussions we automatically want to defend ourselves. When we don’t give others the gift of listening to them, before we respond to them, we are being disrespectful. We are also saying that the person doesn’t have a valid/valuable point and only our point of view is valid. This is one reason why shouting matches resolve nothing. Effective communication hinges on all involved, listening carefully, being patient with each other and responding when it is their time to speak.

Try to focus on what the speaker’s body language is conveying and their mood. If we go beyond the words and connect with other people’s feelings we can engage more and see their point, even when we do not agree with them. We have to remember that we all have valid feelings and prior experiences we bring to all communicative events. These can colour our judgement and cause us to miss the essence of what others are saying. This may especially be the case in more casual encounters where we feel we can respond anyhow. Effective communication means listening beyond what is being said and trying to sense how others are affected in that moment.

Give each person sufficient time to speak before you fire off follow up questions. It is good to have something to jot down information on to use after the person is done speaking. Don’t cut off others. This is really disrespectful and causes more tension which blocks effective communication. When we listen just to speak and defend ourselves, we enter the communicative event already resolved that the other person is in the wrong and I am right. We all have valid feelings and should have the opportunity to share and dialogue in a way that results in something beneficial to all parties.

In addition, give the person your undivided attention. Put your phone away and ensure you make time for encounters and not just squeeze them in while rushing to something else. Casual relationships deserve to have this too and it should not be for formal meetings only. Many relationships would thrive more if we took them seriously and focused on effective communication. This is relevant to parents and children, spouses, friends, coworkers and others. Be in the moment and give others the gift of your full attention.

Effective Communication demands that people leave their egos at the door

Being braggadocios is a great barrier to effective communication in all spheres. At the heart of effective communication is all voices being heard and understood. Even when people do not get what they want, if they feel respected they will accept whatever is decided on. Hence, it is important for all parties to treat each other respectfully regardless of their position. We all know that leaders who are poor communicators do not motivate their team to produce their best effort.

Ego makes us talk at people instead of talk to them. When we talk at others, they tune out and though we may think we have communicated our ideas effectively, we have not. Effective communication means everyone feels empowered to speak and share meaningfully. Everyone is able to voice his or her honest opinions and others support them. We should also know how to read the room and know when to stop rambling on after we have shared our point. Rambling dilutes points and can make the speaker lose credibility. This is when people tune out and effective communication is lost. I mean we should all reflect and think about how to stay on top of this.

Communicating effectively in virtual meetings

We are now inundated with virtual meetings and events because we are distancing. It is sometimes even more difficult to communicate effectively when we have to say, again and again “we can’t hear you, your microphone is muted.” LOL!

We all should mute our microphones, when not speaking because it improves the quality of the platform we are using so we can hear others and not have background noise. I have found this to be the case on Zoom, Webex, Google Meet, Skype, WhatsApp, Line and others. Again, we do well to listen intently to others before we comment. I also find having my camera on and looking into it as I speak helps me to feel connected to others. In addition, a plain background with nothing to distract listeners is key, on these forums. There are too many people who choose colourful, psychedelic backgrounds or areas in their homes that pulls away our attention from them.

Do prepare some notes, be it in a Word document, PPT or some other format and share your screen, so listeners can follow more effectively what is being said. We are mostly visual learners above all else, so this aids in effective communication. It is also important to become adept at using the selected platforms for meetings by trying them out with friends and relatives before using them formally. The chat function of these platforms are great, especially the fact that we can send private messages. I find this useful as a teacher to raise something with a particular student in the moment without others being aware.

In Summary

Effective communication, whether in speaking or writing, means knowing your audience, the forum in which you are communicating as well as sharing clearly and fairly with others. This post was mostly about effective communication face-to-face, so bear the above in mind. I was just in a situation where I got really frustrated with not being heard. I stopped engaging, then when given the chance made the point that I was not being listened to, since the responses were off base and not addressing my points. This caused me to reflect and share my thoughts here. We all do well to reflect on how to be better communicators.


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