Exercise 1. Repeat aloud after the voice-over the key phrases and expressions that directly relate to the most important aspects of communication. By saying individual sentences out loud, the learning process is many times more effective than if you were only reading or thinking what you could or should say. By repeating individual words, you considerably increase the likelihood of their use in real-life situations. The exercise is like learning a new language; its logic and mindset will change your conversations with others; it will help you obtain more information, listen to others and understand what they want to tell you.
Basics and starting point
open questions, paraphrasing, the logic of expression, reflection
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Open-ended and closed-ended questions
Open-ended questions are those that allow others to provide a free answer and that begin with the words: „What”, „Who”, „How”, „In what way” „When”, „Where” np.
„What do you mean by saying…?, „What do you want to do?”, „What do you need?”, „Who do you think…?”, „How do you see this?”, „How would you like to achieve this?”, „When would this be possible?”, „Where exactly do you want to meet?”
Open-ended questions enable to obtain large quantities of information; they do not restrict the freedom of expression; they encourage speaking.
Closed-ended questions start with auxiliary verbs, such as „Do” e.g. „Do you want to say that…?”, „Do you mean that…?”, „Can we do this, so that…?”, „Do you need…”, „Can e.g. Tom do this…”, „Can you deal with this later?” etc. They are used to detail expressions of the person you are talking to and making sure that you have properly understood what he/she said. The most common communication mistake is the use of too many closed-ended questions, starting with auxiliary verbs, such as “Do”. Instead of listening to the person we are talking to and acquiring information, you are only confirming their assumptions and speculations. So, in fact, you are talking to yourself. Others can only say “yes” or “no”.
A particular type of open-ended questions are in-depth questions that encourage to speak and communicate information even more. These questions begin with naming the emotions, feelings or motivations of the person asking the question, e.g.
„I got interested when you said that… What do you think results from that?”, „I was surprised when you said that… Can you tell me a bit more about this?”, „I cannot understand this; tell me how you would like to accomplish this?”, „I was concerned when you mentioned that…”
Listening and paraphrasing
Active listening and paraphrasing involves repeating, with your own words, what you have just heard from the person you are talking to. In most cases, this behaviour makes the person whose words you are paraphrasing fee important, listened to and treated with respect. A paraphrase is particularly difficult in a situation where you completely do not agree with the statement you have heard; it is difficult to repeat something that, in your opinion, is wrong, unimportant, unreasonable, hurtful or threatening.
Usually, start paraphrasing with the words:
„I understand that…”, „That is, as I understand…”, „To sum up what you said, one can say that…”, „I understand that you mostly care about…”, „I understand that your idea involves…”, „What I heard can be summed up as this…”
- Negating what others said by using the word „no” and all the expressions containing „no”, „unfortunately”, „impossible”, „irrelevant”, „unrealistic”, „I cannot”, „I will not let”.
- Undermining the value of what you have heard through the structure: „Yes, but…”. „Yet, but” most often leads to unnecessary discussions, arguments and conflicts..
- Listening to what others say in silence: this behaviour does make the person who speaks sure that he/she is actually important in this situation and that somebody else actually listens.
Before starting a longer statement, it is worth sorting it in a simple logical whole: introduction, development and conclusion. At the stage of introduction, gain the attention of listeners and then, using several points in the form of a short list, present what you will be talking about.
„At the beginning of our meeting, I would like to present a few specific points regarding the topic I will be talking about”, „What I would like to talk about today is: point 1, point 2, point 3, point 4” (do not present complex lists of many topics and threads)
During the meeting, ask others for their opinions and ask questions.
„What do you think about what I have said?”, „What do you think are consequences of my idea?”, „What would you like to add or change in what I have suggested?”, „What would like to ask about now?”, „What are your questions to what I have said?”
The lack of structure or arrangement of the statement usually makes others receive it as chaotic skipping from one thread to another, which is often perceived as a sign of uncertainty, unreliability and feeling of being lost.
Referring to ideas and arguments of others
Use the following expressions:
„A few minutes earlier you said that…”, „You mentioned that…”, „I would like to go back to the beginning of your statement. Tell me more about…”, „I remember when you said that… in this situation, I will suggest…” etc.
Reflecting the statement makes us gain more information, and the person we are talking to thinks he/she is speaking to a communicative person that is able to listen and treat him/her with respect.
Eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and speech rate
Keep a natural eye contact, i.e. look into the other person’s eyes for about 60% of the time. 100% eye contact happens most often in case of strong conflicts, whereas the complete lack of eye contact shows anxiety or embarrassment. Avoid gestures and facial expressions that, without your intention, cause distress or astonishment of others. Adjust your tone of voice and speech rate to the tone of voice and speech rate of the people you are talking to.
Exercise 2. Record longer fragments of your meetings and conversations. Listen carefully to what you said. Write down the words and expressions that made your communication easier and better, and those that clearly hindered or blocked it. Use the expressions and phrases from the first exercise. Be attentive during subsequent conversations. Practice so long until you are able to easily and effortlessly choose the words and expression that make others feel you are listening to them, encourage them to speak to you and work with you.