Social relationships are one of the greatest buffers against stress, but poor communication or unhealthy relationships tend to also be one of the greatest sources of stress. Communication has three components: words, voice tone and non-verbal clues. Of these, some are more effective in delivering a message than others. According to research, in a conversation or verbal exchange: words deliver 7% of the message, tone of voice communicates 43% and non-verbal behavior (physical postures) communicates the other 50%. In other words, what you say is not nearly as important as how you say it. If you spend much time in chat rooms, think about how many times you were not sure of the exact meaning of a message…
There are many different reasons that messages can become distorted for both the listener and the receiver. We must learn to listen better and speak more clearly. We can do this by checking whether our message is delivered correctly and whether we have heard a message clearly.
Techniques that help achieve such understanding include the use of “perception checking” questions and paraphrased responses. For instance, after you explain to a trainee the use of force matrix, you can give her/him a scenario to apply it to. This makes sure you were heard. One word of caution, the use of perception checking questions takes some practice and it can be tricky not to sound condescending.
Another way to enhance communication is by practicing your listening skills. As you listen to where people misinterpret what you say, you will find ways to make it clearer. Paraphrased responses help with listening skills and help very much in averting communication breakdowns because the misinterpretation is caught right away. You can spot paraphrased responses a mile away in first year counseling students because they always begin with something like “So what you are saying is. . .” Most people at least credit the person for trying to listen. You will become more proficient at it as you practice, practice, practice…
In terms of the wellness model, improving communication skills will:
- reduce the amount of energy you expend on your relationships by reducing the number of misunderstandings,
- help you be heard the first time
- possibly give you confidence to speak more.
The improvement in your relationships will
- contribute to a sense of emotional well-being
- help you concentrate because the relationship problems you used to dwell on are improving
- improve physical health by reducing overall stress
- probably increase, by default, the quality and quantity of sleep you are able to get if you are not up until 2am arguing.
Communication skills also greatly impact your work by
- helping you more efficiently get through calls (victims feel heard the first time)
- making you more able to de-escalate a situation by getting to the root of the problem more quickly
- help you write reports more efficiently
- help reduce the number of complaints you get for being “rude.”
Imagine how much more pleasant work and life in general would be…