Working in the trades usually includes working with others. Whether you are communicating with only one other person or you are in a group setting, effective communication skills are equally important.
As you have learned, effective communication spans a variety of different forms, including spoken, written, and non-verbal communication. When working in groups, respecting the principles of effective communication is especially important, as the possibility of interrupting, misinterpreting, or being interrupted or misinterpreted is even greater when more people are involved.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of strong relationships and is one of the factors that helps people work well in groups, whether at home, in school, or in the workplace. Figure 3 lists some of the factors that constitute both effective and ineffective communication when working with others.
Figure 3: Examples of effective and ineffective communication
At times we all communicate effectively, and at other times we fall short of perfection. As with any skill, some people are innately better at communicating than others. As you learn to develop or hone your communication skills, think about those people who have the strongest impact on your ability to express your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. These people are generally parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, team members, co-workers, and other role models in your life.
When working in groups it is also important to use formal or information communication appropriately, depending on the individuals involved.
Formal communication has conventions that govern spoken and written words and body language.
Informal communication is much more relaxed, with fewer rules and conventions. Figure 4 illustrates some of the differences between formal and informal communication.
Figure 4: Informal and formal communication
You may use more than one type of communication with the same individual. For example, you may use formal communication with a family member or friend in a working context when you are both part of a team. Informal communication may be limited to when you are alone with the individual or strictly outside of the office or work site.
Misunderstandings can have a negative impact on the work environment if they are not corrected quickly and constructively. A negative group environment can affect individuals’ motivation, which in turn can affect productivity. When people are not feeling good about what they’re doing, their ability to remain on task and do good work is often compromised.
Having discussions in a quiet setting without distractions can go a long way toward communicating effectively. While word choice determines factual information, voice quality or tone of voice expresses how a person truly feels. Just by listening to the way words are spoken, you can distinguish between boredom, sarcasm, annoyance, humour, fear, and excitement. Voice quality includes the rate of speech (how quickly or slowly you speak), pitch (how high or low your voice sounds), and volume (how loud we speak).
When you are listening to someone speak, make sure you are paying careful attention to what is being said. Hearing is just as important as being heard!
Here are some basic guidelines that may prove useful to you when working in groups:
- Avoid interrupting while someone else is talking.
- Before either accepting or rejecting the ideas of others, take some time to reflect on them. Always try to put yourself into others’ shoes and understand their point of view.
- If you must disagree with the ideas of others, do so without being condescending or rude.
- When working in a group setting, try to withhold your personal values, opinions, or prejudices if they are not relevant to your work.
- Try to build on the ideas of others during meetings. This creates a constructive, collaborative atmosphere. Staying positive is also an important feature of effective communication. Complaining and talking behind people’s backs at work (or even when you’re not at work) is disrespectful and can lead to a negative working atmosphere.
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