Nancy Loraas, a Calgary-based executive, leadership, and communication coach, sent me a request to fill in a communications questionnaire. As I was filling it in I began to think, “My answers might be helpful to my readers; those interested in effective communication skills.” Consequently, I am sharing Nancy’s questions and my answers.
Nancy’s Communication Skills Questions
- How do you define communication, without using a dictionary? On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being low and 10 being high), how do you rate the importance of communication?
- On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being low and 10 being high), how do you rate the importance of communication?
- What bugs you when it comes to communication? Do you have a communication pet peeve?
- What have been the biggest lessons you have learned about communication?
- On a scale from 1 to10, (1 being poor and 10 being excellent) how would you rate yourself as a communicator?
- What do you think you do well when you communicate?
- What communication skills are you working on or would like to further develop?
- The digital age has brought many new ways to communicate such as email, Twitter, and Facebook. How has communication changed? What is helpful?
- What are the problems that you see when it comes to the digital age and communication?
- Based on what you have learned about communication, what advice do you offer?
Answers to Nancy’s Communication Skills Questions
1. How do you define communication, without using a dictionary?
Communication is a combination of sending and receiving information. Communicating a message is sent with a combination of words, the tone of voice and/or body language. When we email or text, we are only communicating with words. When we talk on the phone, we communicate with only words and our tone of voice. When we are in the physical presence of others, we can communicate with all three.
2. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being low and 10 being high), how do you rate the importance of communication?
I give it a NINE! When I read something like, “communication is the life source of relationships as water is to fish.” I agree. If communication suffers so will the relationship. I know. I have been there and see it in others’ struggles to meaningfully connect.
3. What bugs you when it comes to communication? Do you have a communication pet peeve?
My pet verbal communication peeves include:
- Name calling. Sexist, racist, ageism, heterosexism and bullying comments are degrading to those who receive them. They reveal a dark side of the speaker. Plus most often I lose any respect I might have had for them.
- Blaming others as in “It is all your fault”, which is seldom true.
- Self-blaming or self-demeaning language such as “It is all my fault”, “I’m sorry” when no harm was done to anyone. Add “I am useless” or “stupid me”.
- Avoidance of a crucial conversation. Sometimes having a conversation can trigger strong emotions. Avoiding the conversation does usually makes the situation worse.
- Those who pretend to listen while they are merely waiting to jump in with their agenda.
- Hearing grating-in-my-ear, blatantly poor grammar. One example of the misuse or lack of using a noun is “Me and her went.” “No one says deliberately says “Me went”!
4. What have been the biggest lessons you have learned about communication?
It was in my early twenties that I experienced my most painful communication lesson. A friend brought her children a long distance for a visit. I talked non-stop. She later wrote me a letter describing how she felt dismissed and of little interest to me.
Regardless, of crying my eyes out and apologizing, the friendship ended. To this day I still feel sad about my error. From that time forward I was determined to improve my communication skills, primarily my listening skills. By the time I was forty years of age, I was a therapist who used listening professionally.
Here are five communication skills I value:
- Using Stephen Covey’s classic line, First, seek to understand.
- Accepting that underneath every angry statement is a feeling of fear, frustration or hurt.
- Believing I am in charge of how I respond to others’ messages, not matter how mean spirited.
- Appropriately encouraging, empowering, and appreciating others. Relationships are built when we notice and mindfully comment. I have never met anyone who does not welcome being seen, heard and acknowledged.
- Counting my relationship blessings.
5. On a scale from 1 to10, (1 being poor and 10 being excellent) how would you rate yourself as a communicator?
It is difficult to rate one’s self. I give myself a 9 from where I used to be! On the whole, I rate myself at an 8. I want to honor the time and effort I devoted to improving my communication skills.
6. What do you think you do well when you communicate?
At my ripe age, people tell me they feel uplifted, empowered and loved by me. I watch for moments I can honestly acknowledge, encourage and appreciate. I smile as often as I can as it helps others feel safe and trusting. Listening empathically as well as using self-responsible language has earned me trust.
Although I tend to avoid conflict, when challenged, I have developed assertiveness skills to hold me steady. . . most of the time. There are still situations where I end up feeling like a withered daffodil.
7. What communication skills are you working on or would like to further develop?
- I admire our Candian dignitary and previous US Ambassador, Stephen Lewis. He is an eloquent luminary who uses passionate, descriptive and meaningful words. The deceased Canadian storyteller, Stuart McLean had a rich, fun and whimsical language. I work at story crafting and painting pictures with words.
- We could all benefit from asking more effective open-ended questions. I am no exception. Although I have read about Appreciative Inquiry, I would like to take a workshop or training on it.
8. The digital age has brought many new ways to communicate such as email, Twitter, and Facebook. How has communication changed? What is helpful?
More and more of us are reading text, listening, watching and participating online. Here are my on screen delights:
- I love Facebook. It has helped me stay better connected to distant friends and family. Plus I have made connections with people all over the world.
- Giving and receiving support is much easier online. Making the odd comment on Facebook, in a private chat room or in a simple Tweet can uplift others in less than a minute. I see more and more people online reaching out to ask for a kind word, for help with a problem or for prayers. Also, I see moments of celebration; of birthday, a wedding anniversary, a special occasion, the bloom of a beautiful flower or reaching an audacious goal!
- Skype allows me to regularly visit with our daughter, Katie, who has lived in Amsterdam for the last five years.
- TedTalks provide cutting edge thinking and information. Webinars have opened the doors to economical and international learning.
- Creative activities abound on platforms such as Canva, Pinterest, and of course, YouTube. I enjoy taping resilient strengthening messages. Take a look at YouTube/woeToWow
- The internet gives me a sense of competence. I no longer worry about not knowing. I can google it!
- Lastly, I feel excited to share my discoveries and thoughts through blogging.
The two perspectives to engage with Social Media is:
- Beware of using it for vanity. Use it for offering value.
- Use it. Don’t let it use you!
9. What are the problems that you see when it comes to the digital age and communication?
Fewer of us are having face-to-face communication. I see teenagers sitting together; all with their faces in screens. Research is indicating that digital overload is changing our youths’ brains and not necessarily for the better. Many are becoming addicted to the screen and losing the ability to pick up on social cues or make meaningful conversation
Les and I watched a documentary about an internet withdrawal treatment camp in China for youth addicted to online gaming. Scary!
Here is a 7-minute clip from China’s Web Junkies: Internet Addiction Documentary.
10. Based on what you have learned about communication, what advice do you offer?
Communication skills in the workplace is called a ‘soft skill’ and often devalued. Yet it is a known fact that about 80% of employees do not lose their job because of a lack of ability to do their work. They lose their jobs because they lack the ability to communicate respectfully and get along with others. John Gottman, the marriage researcher, also affirms the importance of effective communication.
Effective communication skills are key for success as an employee, a leader, parent, lover or friend. To communicate effectively:
1. Speak with honesty, thoughtfulness, and kindness.
2. Listen attentively and non-judgmentally.
Consider answering Nancy Loraas’ communication skills questions yourself. Then let us know your answers. OK?
Learn more about Nancy Loraas at Next Level Leadership.