Category Archives: Effective Communication

Types of Listening

There are four types of listening

Types of Listening

1. Appreciative Listening

In appreciative listening, we seek certain information which will appreciate, for example that which helps meet our needs and goals. Appreciative listening is exactly what you would expect.  It involves listening to music that you enjoy, people you like to listen to because of their style and the choices your make in the films and television your watch, radio programmes and plays and musicals in the theatre.

2. Emphatic Listening

When we listen empathetically, we go beyond sympathy to seek a truer understand how others are feeling. This requires excellent discrimination and close attention to the nuances of emotional signals. When we are being truly empathetic, we actually feel what they are feeling.

Among its benefits, empathic listening

  • builds trust and respect,
  • enables the disputants to release their emotions,
  • reduces tensions,
  • encourages the surfacing of information, and
  • creates a safe environment that is conducive to collaborative problem solving.

3. Comprehensive Listening

Comprehensive listening where the focus is on ‘understanding the message’. The writers consider this as the basis for the next three types of listening. However, the problem can come in the form of ‘understanding’. Depending on many factors (both individual and social) students can end up understanding the same message in different, different ways.

To comprehend the meaning requires first having a lexicon of words at our fingertips and also all rules of grammar and syntax by which we can understand what others are saying.

The same is true, of course, for the visual components of communication, and an understanding of body language helps us understand what the other person is really meaning.

In communication, some words are more important and some less so, and comprehension often benefits from extraction of key facts and items from a long spiel. Comprehension listening is also known as content listening, informative listening and full listening

4. Critical Listening

Critical listening is the fourth kind of listening where listeners have to evaluate the message. Listeners have to critically respond to the message and give their opinion. Critical listening is listening in order to evaluate and judge, forming opinion about what is being said. Judgment includes assessing strengths and weaknesses, agreement and approval.

This form of listening requires significant real-time cognitive effort as the listener analyses what is being said, relating it to existing knowledge and rules, whilst simultaneously listening to the on-going words from the speaker.

Traits of a Good Listener

Whether you’re in a meeting with your boss, sitting in a lecture or trying to ace a job interview, what you hear is almost as important as what you say. How you hear is even more important.

1. Being Non-evaluative

The verbal and non-verbal behaviour of an active listener will suggest to the speaker that he/she is being properly heard and understood. The purpose is to communicate, overlooking the qualities of ideas, attitudes and values of the speaker.

Your behaviour conveys the impression that you accept the person without making any judgement of the right, wrong or bad suitable or unsuitable.

2. Paraphrasing

If one wish to clarify, you can simply paraphrase what the speaker has said and enquire from the speaker whether you have heard it accurately. Use phrase like following ones to ensure that you have correctly paraphrased the information correctly:

  • As I gather, you want to tell…
  • So you mean to say that…
  • Oh! Your feeling towards…
  • Do you mean that…

3. Reflecting implications

To reflect this you have to go a bit beyond the content of the speaker indicating him your appreciation for the ideas and where they are leading. It may take the speaker to further extension of ideas.

The listeners aim here is to reflect eagerness and zest by nodding or through verbal means thereby giving positive feedback. If you use the technique with the genuine intention of understanding more, you can certainly help the speaker by boosting the confidence making him believe that the listener has his content well

4. Reflecting hidden feelings

Sometimes, one has to go beyond the explicit feelings and contents of what is being said to unravel the underlying feelings, intensions, beliefs, or values that may be influencing the speaker’s words.

You have to try to empathize or identify yourself with the speaker, to experience what he/she feels. Also, avoid suggesting to the speaker that the feelings you reflect are what ought to be felt by him in such a situation. This would make the speaker feel evaluated.

5. Inviting further contributions

In a situation where you haven’t heard or understood enough yet to respond with empathy and understanding, prompt the speaker to give you more information. While it is useful to ask questions, be cautious about asking too many. Open minded questions create a more supportive, trusting, climate that will help the communications to move smoothly.

6. Responding non-verbally

You can show that you are an active listener by adopting certain postures and sending non-verbal signals which communicate your interest in what the speaker is saying. These include regular eye contact (without staring), body leaning slightly towards the speaker, head nods and a slightly tilted head. By giving these signals you will make the speaker feel more confident and will by reflecting interest and understanding. You will also be able to generate more trust between yourself and speaker.

10 principles of Listening

A good listener will listen not only to what is being said, but also to what is left unsaid or only partially said.

Listening involves observing body language and noticing inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages. For example, if someone tells you that they are happy with their life but through gritted teeth or with tears filling their eyes, you should consider that the verbal and non-verbal messages are in conflict, they maybe don’t mean what they say.  Listening requires you to concentrate and use your other senses in addition to simply hearing the words spoken.

Listening is not the same as hearing and in order to listen effectively you need to use more than just your ears.

1. Stop Talking

“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.

Don’t talk, listen.  When somebody else is talking listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them.  Stop, just listen.  When the other person has finished talking you may need to clarify to ensure you have received their message accurately.

2. Prepare Yourself to Listen

Relax.  Focus on the speaker.  Put other things out of mind.  The human mind is easily distracted by other thoughts – what’s for lunch, what time do I need to leave to catch my train, is it going to rain – try to put other thoughts out of mind and concentrate on the messages that are being communicated.

3. Put the Speaker at Ease

Help the speaker to feel free to speak.  Remember their needs and concerns.  Nod or use other gestures or words to encourage them to continue.  Maintain eye contact but don’t stare – show you are listening and understanding what is being said.

4. Remove Distractions

Focus on what is being said: don’t doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, pick your fingernails or similar. Avoid unnecessary interruptions.  These behaviours disrupt the listening process and send messages to the speaker that you are bored or distracted.

5. Empathise

Try to understand the other person’s point of view.  Look at issues from their perspective.  Let go of preconceived ideas.  By having an open mind we can more fully empathise with the speaker.  If the speaker says something that you disagree with then wait and construct an argument to counter what is said but keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others.  (See our page: What is Empathy?)

6. Be Patient

A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished.  Be patient and let the speaker continue in their own time, sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it.  Never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone.

7. Avoid Personal Prejudice

Try to be impartial.  Don’t become irritated and don’t let the person’s habits or mannerisms distract you from what they are really saying.  Everybody has a different way of speaking – some people are for example more nervous or shy than others, some have regional accents or make excessive arm movements, some people like to pace whilst talking – others like to sit still.  Focus on what is being said and try to ignore styles of delivery.

8. Listen to the Tone

Volume and tone both add to what someone is saying.  A good speaker will use both volume and tone to their advantage to keep an audience attentive; everybody will use pitch, tone and volume of voice in certain situations – let these help you to understand the emphasis of what is being said.  (See our page on Effective Speaking for more)

9. Listen for Ideas – Not Just Words

You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces.  Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others.   With proper concentration, letting go of distractions, and focus this becomes easier.

10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication

Gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements can all be important.  We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes – watch and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication. (See our page on non-verbal communication)

Do not jump to conclusions about what you see and hear. You should always seek clarification to ensure that your understanding is correct.

Find more at: ©SkillsYouNeed (2013)

http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/listening-skills.html

Barriers to Listening

Day dreaming

Something which I am sure all of us have done in our life, when the speaker is speaking instead of focusing on the speaker and attempting to understand and learn, we are thinking about something else, like, what should I have for snacks, which movies should I go this weekend? If the speaker is being paid to present information to you, time and money is being wasted.

Arguing with the Speaker

Instead of listening to what someone is saying, a poor listener will disagree mentally and think about a rebuttal. People will actually play out a complete argument in their own mind at the same time they should be paying attention to what the other person is really trying to say. This kind of mental arguing is very damaging to the communication process and will often lead to misunderstanding and conflicts between people. The effective listener will wait until the speaker is totally finished with his or her statement before making an evaluation or judgement prior to responding.

Do not yield to distractions

Our lives are noisy and confusing but we shouldn’t use this as a convenient excuse for not listening. We can overcome some of the distraction by reducing noise and adjusting the listening environment. If we have no control over the distractions then we must rely on intense concentration to get as much as possible from the speaker

Lack of Interest

How many times are we in a presentation with no interest, attending it as we made to attend?

Lack of interest in the speaker’s topic does create a difficult situation. How does the saying go? Deal with it.

Good listeners try to find useful information in any presentation or message. A listener with a negative attitude about the message or the speaker will have a tough time being effective as a listener. A good way to increase listening effectiveness is to maintain a positive attitude about the speaker and really work at listening for useful information.

Desire to Talk

The most common barrier to effective listening is jumping into a conversation before the other person has finished. This includes talking loudly to others in the audience. This is conversational bad manners. It is intrusive and disruptive. Granted, most of us feel more involved and active when we are talking. Even so, it’s always good manners to remember that listening is just as important as talking.

Try Not to Assume

We often develop bad habits of not listening because we assume it will be of no interest or use to us. We also make prior judgments about the amount of resistance or approval we will get from someone. With these prior notions we act without hearing or waiting to hear the speaker. We could improve our listening skills significantly by exercising patience and, even if we think we know what will be said, allow the speaker to finish.

Active and Non-Active listening

Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It focuses attention on the speaker. Active listening is intent to “listen for meaning”.

We may ‘sit back’ and listen to a song sung by a little girl or to the music on a radio broadcast, but when we are to take part in communication, it is necessary to ‘sit up’ and listen carefully. It would be improper to think about how we get other people to listen to us, but it would be certainly advisable to think about how we can get ourselves to listen to others patiently and carefully because half-listening is likely to result in misunderstanding and loss of time. This is called active listening. The listener, who asked questions and comments on the views of the speaker, encourages the speaker to express his ideas fully and enthusiastically.

While listening, it is essential to concentrate on what a person is saying, but it would be wrong to neglect his ‘looks’ because his ‘looks’ can supply us with physical and non-verbal signs. Though non -verbal signs give us reliable information, the listener should not be carried away with the thoughts on the physical appearance of the speaker. The listener must understand properly the feelings and sentiments of the speaker. Usually we listen with interest the message, which is to our advantage, but we should take equal interest in the speeches, which consist of a message to the advantage of the speaker.

When it is possible to hear a message clearly without any physical distraction, the listener must become active in attending the message. If noises interfere with the physical reception of the message, the listener has to prepare his mind to concentrate on the selected signals and should not allow himself to be distracted by the noises. In such situation, a good listener has to exercise a good deal of mental discipline over himself in order to concentrate properly on the message being transmitted by the speaker. A careful listener never jumps to conclusions about what the speaker says till the latter completes his message.

The non- active listeners are poor listeners who remember the specific facts presented by the speaker and tend to forget the central idea. The tired, bored and lazy listeners may pretend to be attentive by their postures as they usually rest their chin on hand or bend forward in the chair or show that they really pay attention to the talk, but in fact, they may get occupied with some other thoughts. They may drift away in pondering over their personal problems and worries.

Some of the listeners pretend to listen as they make notes, read mail and do other petty routine activities. But, effective listening should not be considered as an easy and passive encounter. The non-active listener sometimes avoids the message if he feels it difficult to be understood or too hard to be followed. The listener requires mental preparedness and energy to concentrate on the message and on the non-verbal communication like body movement, postures, gestures, etc.

Active Listening encompass three major important points:

1. Purpose

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively to one another. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next, (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements).

Suspending one’s own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important in order to attend fully to the speaker.

2. Tactics

It is important to observe the other person’s behaviour and body language. Having the ability to interpret a person’s body language allows the listener to develop a more accurate understanding of the speaker’ swords. Having heard, the listener may then paraphrase the speaker’s words.

It is important to note that the listener is not necessarily agreeing with the speaker — simply stating what was said. In emotionally charged communications, the listener may listen for feelings. Thus, rather than merely repeating what the speaker has said, the active listener might describe the underlying emotion.

3. Use

Active listening is used in a wide variety of situations, including tutoring, medical workers talking to patients, HIV counselling, helping suicidal persons, management, counselling and journalistic settings. In groups, it may aid in reaching consensus. It may also be used in casual conversation to build understanding, though this can be interpreted as condescending

Listening Skills

Did you know?

Adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication, of this an average of 45% is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing. (Adler, R. et al. 2001).

Listening Skills

Based on the research of: Adler, R., Rosenfeld, L. and Proctor, R. (2001) Interplay: the process of interpersonal communicating (8th edn), Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt.

Listening is the ability to accurately receive messages in the communication process.  Listening is key to all effective communication, without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood – communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated

Listening is a process of receiving, interpreting and reacting to the messages received from the communication sender. Effective listening is an art of communication, which is often taken for granted and ignored. Like any other art, listening require to be cultivated consciously and carefully. Unfortunately, our education systems beginning from kindergarten up to college level do not pay attention to the teaching of effective listening. Poor listening can be considered, as a mighty barrier to communication as listening is fundamental to all communication. It often results in losing messages due to improper functioning of communication. Listening require conscious efforts of interpreting the sounds, grasping the meanings of the words and reacting to the message. Interpreting the sound signals is a cognitive act, which depends on the listener’s knowledge of the code signals and on its attitude towards the communication sender.

Active listening process begins when the listener pays attention to some audible sound signals and permits himself to interpret those sounds cognitively. It is a conscious process. Every human being possesses the ability to select from the sounds around him. But the selective listening is not an automatic process like that of hearing. An individual may hear many sounds but he may listen to none of them.

The receiver should carefully listen to the message to feel the pulse of the sender, to understand the mood and reactions and to create a congenial atmosphere for listening, which allows freedom of expression the speaker. Lack of good listening can create the embarrassing situations, which result in the lack of co -ordination and mutual understanding. A manager, who listens to the employees, gives them an opportunity to vent out their emotions. Effective listening also helps the managers to get the constructive suggestions from the employees. There is greater harmony and cohesion if the sender and the receiver listen to each other messages effectively. It can raise their morale and create togetherness.

Good listening skills make workers more productive. The ability to listen carefully will allow you to:

  • better understand assignments and what is expected of you;
  • build rapport with co-workers, bosses, and clients;
  • show support;
  • work better in a team-based environment;
  • resolve problems with customers, co-workers, and bosses;
  • answer questions; and
  • find underlying meanings in what others say.

Beware of the following things that may get in the way of listening.

  • bias or prejudice;
  • language differences or accents;
  • noise;
  • worry, fear, or anger; and
  • lack of attention span.

Importance of Communication

It is an established fact that the present era is often called the ‘Age of Communication and Information.’ The importance of communication has been greatly emphasized by all management experts. Communication, like birth, death, growth and decay, is a part of individual life as well as organizational existence. Its importance is self-explanatory and is a common experience of all as well.

 

Communication is easily overlooked, but the ability to communicate effectively is necessary to carry out the thoughts and visions of an organization to the people. The importance of speech and words whether through a paper or a voice is a communication medium to convey directions and provide synchronization. Without communication, there is no way to express thoughts, ideas and feelings.

 

In recent times, communication has turned into business; rarely would you find managers, subordinates, salesmen, technicians, foremen, lawyers, auditors, consultants, teachers, doctors or anyone else who is not concerned with the difficulties associated with communication.

 

The ability and the importance of communication become much more crucial when you are on a mission or need to fulfill a goal. Without a means to communicate, your organization will become isolated. The ability to effectively communicate is very important when it is usually underestimated and overlooked.

 

It has been rightly observed that ‘the number one management problem today is miscommunication. Group activities in context with common goals cannot be accomplished without communication. The entire organization control, coordination and motivation cannot be accomplished in case of lapses in communication. A common practice among many organizations is moving messages vertically, horizontally and diagonally between various officially designated positions. The modern industrial scenario relies heavily on communication for its augmentation and survival. George R. Terry states: “Communication serves as the lubricant, posturing for the smooth operations of the management process”.

 

The reasons for the growing significance of communication can be judged from the following paragraphs:

 

1. Coordination

Modern complex organizations are large, consisting of numerous employees working towards accomplishing common goals. The organizational structure illustrates many levels of organization hierarchy- both horizontally and vertically. More often than not, this leads to issues related to coordination. Effectual systems of communication encourage better coordination. Coordination is viewed as a necessity among groups; channels are vital for efficient functioning of the organization as a whole.

 

2. Smooth Working

Smooth and uninterrupted working of an enterprise, largely depends on good communication network. Communication takes on a greater role in this direction. Accurate decision-making and efficiency of the organization is anchored in information supply. If messages have obstacles in the course of their flow, it is impossible to bring about a smooth functioning and uninterrupted working of the organization. According to Herbert G. Micks, “Communication is basic to an organization’s existence from the birth of the organization through its continuing life”.

 

 

 

3. Effective Decision-Making

It is essential to have a record of past and present data for immediate and effective decision-making. Communication is the primary base by means of which information is supplied to further help in making decisions. Problem-defining, alternative courses of action, selecting the best option available, can be possible with the provision of relevant and adequate information conveyed to the decision-maker. In event of inadequate or no information, it would be relatively impossible even for the top management to take important decisions. Conversely, it is unlikely to achieve goals and objectives unless the top management has a smooth interaction with all levels of the organization.

 

4. Managerial Efficiency

As quoted in George Terry’s remark earlier, communication encourages managerial efficiency. Efficiency lays in the manner individuals and groups are assigned their respective targets.. Managerial functions like planning, control, coordination, motivation cannot be discharged without communication. As management is an art of ensuring targets are achieved in collaboration with other people, communication educates personnel working in the organization about the desires of the management. Management communicates goals, policies and targets by issuing verbal and written orders and instructions. The yardstick for measuring managerial efficiency is communication.

 

5. Co-operation

Co-operation among workers is possible only when there is an exchange of information between individuals and groups and between the management and the employees. This not only promotes the industrial peace but also maximizes production. The two-way communication network enhances co-operation between people. The flow of communication can be smooth and receptive with co-operation, confidence and message flow vertically, horizontally and across the organization. In short, communication promotes co-operation and understanding among employees.

 

6. Effective Leadership

Leadership implies the presence of a leader and followers. There is always a continuous process of communication between them. Communication is the basis for direction, motivation as well as establishment of effective leadership. The followers have to follow the leader and through conveying of ideas, opinions, feelings and be in constant communication with them. Thus, transmission and reception ensures a two-way traffic, the sine qua non for effective leadership. A manager with good communication skills can become a successful leader of his subordinates. E.g. In 1981, Narayana Murthy, with an investment of Rs. 10, 000 ($250 at the time) from his wife, founded Infosys with six other software professionals. Under his leadership, Infosys was listed on NASDAQ in 1999. Today, Infosys is acknowledged by customers, employees, investors and the public as a highly respected, dynamic and innovative company. The Economist ranked Narayana Murthy among the ten most admired global business leaders in 2005.

 

7. Job Satisfaction

Communication is essential for achieving job satisfaction. Management conveys messages, which promote mutual understanding. Reception and recognition provide job satisfaction to employees. Two-way communication creates confidence, which leads to job satisfaction among employees. Openness, straightforward expression of opinions is necessary in this direction.

 

8. Increase Productivity

Communication helps the management in achieving maximum productivity with minimum cost and eliminating waste. These are the main objectives of the management. It is remarked that an archenemy of communication is the very illusion of it. This illusion can be avoided only with an effective system of communication. It is through communication that the workers can be well informed about the process of production, new methods of production and the activities of the workers in a similar organization. Thus, a good system of communication helps the management to achieve maximum productivity with minimum cost, elimination of waste, reduction of cost etc. Inter-firm comparison is not possible without effective communication.

 

9. Morale Building

Morale and good relations in the organization are essential for achieving goals of the organization and promoting its benevolence goodwill in the public. An effective system, of communication builds good morale and improves human relations. Participatory communication is the best technique of morale building and motivation. S. Khandwala remarked, “Most of the conflicts in business are not basic but are caused by misunderstood motives and ignorance of facts. Proper communication between the interested parties reduces the points of friction and minimises those that inevitably arise”.

 

10. Achieving Managerial Roles

Henry Mintzberg has described a manager’s job by assigning three roles, namely inter-personal roles, informational roles and decisional roles. Communication plays a vital role  in these three types of role. In case of interpersonal role, a manager has to constantly interact with subordinates. In informational role, a manager has to collect information from various people and supply the necessary information to others both inside and outside the organization. A manager in a decisional role or written media of communication discharges interpersonal, informational and decisional roles as well.

Communicating with body language

All speakers feel a little nervous, at least when starting a presentation. That is quite natural. As the speaker, you are the centre of attention and you know that everybody is looking at you. What you need to communicate is a feeling of confidence and relaxation. Your body can help you to do this. The clothes you wear, the way you stand or walk, your facial expressions, your hand and arm movements – these are the language of your body, your body language. The correct body language goes a long way in increasing the effectiveness of a speech.

 

Body language communicates at least as much as words. Even when you are not speaking, even before you start speaking, your body is communicating to your audience.

 

Actors use body language very effectively. They cannot act without body language. Every time you watch a film on television or in the cinema, you are watching actors using body language to convey a particular character, an emotion, a feeling, a situation.

 

1. Appearance

First of all, your appearance (clothes, hair etc)! It is essential that you dress appropriately and have well-groomed hair. Your audience will be distracted if your clothes are sloppy or flashy.

 

2. Look at the Audience

It is easier said than done but looking at the audience while speaking is very important. The reactions of the audience tell a speaker if they are interested in the speech or not. When the audience stops looking at the speaker it clearly indicates that they are not listening. While speaking to small groups, a speaker should look at all the members of the group and maintain eye contact with them, including those sitting at the extreme left or right side. While speaking to a large group, eye contact can be maintained with the group by looking at them in the shape of alphabet M or W. Eye contact is essential if the speaker wants to retain the interests of the audience in what is being said.

 

3. Smile

When you enter, or as you are being introduced, smile warmly. Not too much! It should be a warm and sincere smile. You may feel nervous at this time. But this is when the audience is assessing and analyzing you. So stand erect and remain calm. A good public speaker should learn how to smile with eyes. It can be learnt by practice though initially it can be quiet difficult especially when the speaker is somewhat nervous. Smiling while speaking creates an impression that the speaker is happy even if he is not. It is also surprising to not how very often the audience also smiles back.

 

4. Avoid creating barriers

It is always tempting to hide behind a desk or a lectern, especially for those speakers who face nervousness while speaking publicly but in order to make the speech more effective it is very important that a speaker gets as near the audience as possible.

 

5. Stand upright

A speaker should find the most comfortable position for standing while speaking with the public but leaning up against furniture or standing with hands in pockets should be avoided strictly. Usually the best position is to stand straight with feet slightly apart.

 

6. Pointing Figures

Do not point your finger at the audience. This can seem very aggressive. If you want to use your hands, show your open palms with your hands spread wide. This is generally an appealing, positive gesture.

7. Maintain eye contact.

Make eye contact with every person in the room. Do not look only at one person. Look at each person individually, as though you are talking to that person as an individual. Would you buy a car from a car salesman who refused to look at you when talking to you?

 

8. Do not walk around too much.

It may make you feel better to walk up and down like a lion in a cage, but it is distracting for your audience. However, you can certainly walk a little, change your position occasionally, perhaps to make an important point or just to add variety to your presentation.

 

9. Stay clear of distracting mannerisms

It is common for most of us to use our hands while speaking and we should continue with it during speaking publicly but gesture like waving your arms should be avoided as these can distract the audience. Jingling coins or keys in pockets or clanking jewelry can also distract the audience. If the audience is distracted it becomes difficult for them to concentrate on what is being said to them.

 

10. Be natural

It is also difficult especially for the first time public speaker but with time one learns to stop worrying about himself and concentrate on the message that has to be delivered through the speech.

 

11. Control your voice

Speak slowly and clearly. To underline a special point, go even more slowly. Repeat a sentence if it is important. That’s right. Repeat a sentence if it is important. You can also say the same thing again in a different way. Let your voice go up and down in volume (speak loudly, then quietly). And – sometimes – you can just stop speaking completely. Say nothing for a short time. A silent pause is a very powerful way of communicating.

 

Body Language

Body language is an important part of communication, which, according to at least one study, constitutes around 55% of what we are communicating. If you wish to communicate well, then it makes sense to understand how you can (and can’t) use your body to say what you mean. A significant cluster of body movements is used to signal aggression. This is actually quite useful as it is seldom a good idea to get into a fight, even for powerful people. Fighting can hurt you, even though you are pretty certain you will win. In addition, with adults, fighting is often socially unacceptable and aggression through words and body language is all that may ever happen.

1. Threat

Facial signals: Much aggression can be shown in the face, from disapproving frowns and pursed lips to sneers and full snarls. The eyes can be used to stare and hold the gaze for long period. They may also squint, preventing the other person seeing where you are looking.

Attack signals: When somebody is about to attack, they give visual signal such as clenching of fists ready to strike and lowering and spreading of the body for stability. They are also likely to give anger signs such as redness of the face.

Exposing oneself: Exposing oneself to attack is also a form of aggression. It is saying ‘Go on – I dare you. I will still win.’ It can include not looking at the other person, crotch displays, relaxing the body, turning away and so on.

2. Invasion

Invading the space of the other person in some way is an act of aggression that is equivalent to one country invading another.

False friendship: Invasion is often done under the cloak of familiarity, where you act as if you are being friendly and move into a space reserved for friends, but without being invited. This gives the other person a dilemma of whether to repel a ‘friendly’ advance or to accept dominance of the other.

Approach: When you go inside the comfort zone of others without permission, you are effectively invading their territory. The close you get, the greater your ability to have ‘first strike’, from which an opponent may not recover.

Touching: Touching the person is another form of invasion. Even touching social touch zones such as arm and back can be aggressive.

3. Gestures

Insulting gestures: There are many, many gestures that have the primary intent of insulting the other person and hence inciting them to anger and a perhaps unwise battle. Single and double fingers pointed up, arm thrusts; chin tilts and so on are used, although many of these do vary across cultures (which can make for hazardous accidental movements when you are overseas).

Mock attacks: Gestures may include symbolic action that mimics actual attacks, including waving fingers (the beating baton), shaking fists, and head-butts and so on. This is saying ‘Here is what I will do to you!’. Physical items may be used as substitutes, for example banging of tables and doors or throwing. Again, this is saying ‘This could be you!’

Sudden movements: All of these gestures may be done suddenly, signaling your level of aggression and testing the other person’s reactions.

Large gestures: The size of gestures may also be used to signal levels of aggression, from simple finger movements to whole arm sweeps, sometimes even with exaggerated movements of the entire body.

Submissive gestures: There are many gestures that have the primary intent of showing submission and that there is no intent to harm the other person. Hands out and palms up shows that no weapons are held and is a common pleading gesture. Other gestures and actions that indicate tension may indicate the state of fear. This includes hair tugging, face touching and jerky movement. There may also be signs such as whiteness of the face and sweating.

Small gestures: When the submissive person must move, then small gestures are often made. These may be slow to avoid alarming the other person, although tension may make them jerky.

4. Boredom

When a person is bored, they whole body is telling you. So if you are trying to persuade them, don’t bother (unless you are trying to bore them into submission).

Distraction: A bored person looks anywhere but at the person who is talking to them. They find other things to do, from doodling to talking with others to staring around the room. They may also keep looking at their watch or a wall clock.

Repetition: Bored people often repeat actions such as tapping toes, swinging feet or drumming fingers. The repetition may escalate as they try to signal their boredom.

Tiredness: A person who feels that they are unable to act to relieve their boredom may show signs of tiredness. They may yawn and their whole body may sag as they slouch down in their seat, lean against a wall or just sag where they are standing. Their face may also show a distinct lack of interest and appear blank.

Reasons for boredom

  • Disinterest: If the person is not interested in their surroundings or what is going on, then they may become bored. The disinterest may also be feigned if they do not want you to see that they are interested. Watch for leaking signs of readiness in these cases.
  • Readiness: A bored person may actually be ready for the actions you want, such as closing a sale. Sales people are known to keep on the sales patter long after the customer is ready to sign on the dotted line.

5. Deception

When a person is seeking to trick or deceive you, they there are many different body signals they may use. A deceptive body is concerned about being found out — and this concern may show.

Anxiety: A deceptive person is typically anxious that they might be found out (unless they are psychopathic or good at acting), so they may send signals of tension. This may include sweating, sudden movements, minor twitches of muscles (especially around the mouth and eyes), changes in voice tone and speed.Many of us have hidden anxiety signals. These signals are almost impossible to stop as we start them very young.

Control: In order to avoid being caught, there may be various signs of over-control. For example, there may be signs of attempted friendly body language, such as forced smiles (mouth smiles but eyes do not), jerky movements and clumsiness or oscillation between open body language and defensive body language.

Distracted: A person who is trying to deceive needs to think more about what they are doing, so they may drift off or pause as they think about what to say or hesitate during speech. They may also be distracted by the need to cover up. Thus their natural timing may go astray and they may over- or under-react to events. Anxiety may be displaced into actions such as fidgeting, moving around the place or paying attention to unusual places.

Reasons for deception

There can be many good reasons for deception.

  • Persuading: Deception may be an act that is intended to get another person to say or do something.
  • Avoiding detection: Deception also may be more self-oriented, where the sole goal is to get away with something, perhaps by avoiding answering incriminating questions.

6. Defending from attack

When a person is feeling threatened in some ways, they will take defensive body postures. The basic defensive body language has a primitive basis and assumes that the other person will physically attack, even when this is highly unlikely.

Covering vital organs and points of vulnerability: In physical defense, the defensive person will automatically tend to cover those parts of the body that could damage by an attack. The chin is held down, covering the neck. The groin is protected with knees together, crossed legs or covering with hands. The arms may be held across the chest or face.

Fending off: Arms may be held out to fend off attacker, possibly straight out or curved to deflect incoming attacks.

Becoming small: One way of defending against attack is to reduce the size of the target. People may thus huddle into a smaller position, keeping their arms and legs in.

Rigidity: Another primitive response is to tense up, making the muscles harder in order to withstand a physical attack. Rigidity also freezes the body, possibly avoiding movements being noticed or being interpreted as preparing for attack.

Seeking escape: Flicking the eyes from side to side shows that the person is looking for a way out.

Pre-empting attack

  • Giving in: Pre-empting the attack, the defensive person may reduce the, generally using submissive body language, avoiding looking at the other person, keeping the head down and possibly crouching into a lower body position.
  • Attacking first: Aggressive body language may also appear, as the person uses ‘attack as the best form of defense’. The body may thus be erect, thrust forward and with attacking movements. Where attack and defense both appear together, there may be conflicting signs appearing together. Thus the upper body may exhibit aggression whilst the legs are twisted together.

7. Emotions

With careful observation, emotions may be detected from non-verbal signs. Remember that these are indicators and not certain guarantees. Contextual clues may also be used; in particular what is being said to the person or what else is happening around then.

Anger: Anger occurs when achievement of goals are frustrated.

  • Neck and/or face is red or flushed.
  • Baring of teeth and snarling.
  • Clenched fists.
  • Leaning forward and invasion of body space.
  • Other aggressive body language.
  • Use of power body language.

Fear, anxiety and nervousness: Fear occurs when basic needs are threatened. There are many levels of fear, from mild anxiety to blind terror. The many bodily changes caused by fear make it easy to detect.

  • A ‘cold sweat’.
  • Pale face.
  • Dry mouth, which may be indicated by licking lips, drinking water, rubbing throat.
  • Not looking at the other person.
  • Damp eyes.
  • Trembling lip.
  • Varying speech tone.
  • Speech errors.
  • Voice tremors.
  • Visible high pulse (noticeable on the neck or movement of crossed leg.
  • Sweating.
  • Tension in muscles: clenched hands or arms, elbows drawn in to the side, jerky movements, legs wrapped around things.
  • Gasping and holding breath.
  • Fidgeting.
  • Defensive body language, including crossed arms and legs and generally drawing in of limbs.
  • Ready body language (for fight-or-flight)
  • Other symptoms of stress

Sadness: Sadness is the opposite of happiness and indicates a depressive state.

  • Drooping of the body.
  • Trembling lip.
  • Flat speech tone.
  • Tears.

Embarrassment: Embarrassment may be caused by guilt or transgression of values.

  • Neck and/ or face is red or flushed.
  • Looking down or away from others. Not looking them in the eye.
  • Grimacing, false smile, changing the topic or otherwise trying to cover up the embarrassment.

Surprise: Surprise occurs when things occur that were not expected.

  • Raised eyebrows.
  • Widening of eyes.
  • Open mouth.
  • Sudden backward movement.

Happiness: Happiness occurs when goals and needs are met.

  • General relaxation of muscles.
  • Smiling (including eyes).
  • Open body language

8. Relaxed body

A relaxed body generally lacks tension. Muscles are relaxed and loose. Movement is fluid and the person seems happy or unconcerned overall.

Torso: The torso may sag slightly to one side (but not be held there by irregular tension). It may also be well balanced, with the shoulders balanced above the pelvis. It does not curl up with fear, though it may curl up in a restful pose. Shoulders are not tensed up and generally hang loosely down.

Breathing: Breathing is steady and slower. This may make the voice a little lower than usual.

Color: The color of the skin is generally normal, being neither reddened by anger or embarrassment, nor pale with fear. There are no unusual patches, for example on the neck or cheeks.

Relaxed limbs: Relaxed limbs hang loosely. They do not twitch and seldom cross one another, unless as a position of comfort.

Arms: Tense arms are rigid and may be held close to the body. They may move in suddenly, a staccato manner. Relaxed arms either hang loosely or move smoothly. If arms cross one another, they hand loosely. Any crossing, of course can indicate some tension. Folding arms may just be comfortable.

Hands: When we are anxious, we often use our hands to touch ourselves, hold ourselves or otherwise show tension. Relaxed hands hang loose or are used to enhance what we are saying. They are generally open and may shape ideas in the air. Gestures are open and gentle, not sudden nor tense.

Legs: Legs when sitting may sit gently on the floor or may be casually flung out. They may move in time to music, with tapping toes. They may be crossed, but are not wound around one another. Note, that position of the legs can be a particular sign of hidden tension when the person is controlling the upper body and arms. When they are sitting at a table, what you see may be relaxed, but the legs may be held tense and wrapped.

Relaxed head: There are major signs of a relaxed person in their face.

Mouth: The person may smile gently or broadly without any signs of grimacing. Otherwise the mouth is relatively still. When talking, the mouth opens moderately, neither with small movements nor large movement. The voice sounds relaxed without unusually high pitch and without sudden changes in pitch or speed.

Eyes: The eyes smile with the mouth, particularly in the little creases at the side of the eyes. A relaxed gaze will look directly at another person without staring, and with little blinking. The eyes are generally dry. Eyebrows are stable or may move with speech. They do not frown.

Other areas: Other muscles in the face are generally relaxed. The forehead is a major indicator and lines only appear in gentle expression. The sides of the face are not drawn back. When the head moves, it is smoothly and in time with relaxed talk or other expression.

A significant cluster of body movements has to do with romance, signaling to a person of the opposite sex that you are interested in partnering with them.

From afar: From afar, the first task of body language is to signal interest (and then to watch for reciprocal body language).

Eyes: The eyes do much signaling. Initially and from a distance, a person may look at you for slightly longer than normal, then look away, then look back up at you, again for a longer period.

Preening: There are many preening gestures. What you are basically saying with this is ‘I am making myself look good for you’. This includes tossing of the head, brushing hair with hand, polishing spectacles and brushing or picking imaginary lint from clothes.

Self-caressing: Remote romantic language may also include caressing oneself, for example stroking arms, leg or face. This may either say ‘I would like to stroke you like this’ or ‘I would like you to stroke me like this’.

Leaning: Leaning your body towards another person says ‘I would like to be closer to you’. It also tests to see whether they lean towards you or away from you. It can start with the head with a simple tilt or may use the entire torso. This may be coupled with listening intently to what they say, again showing particular interest in them.

Pointing: A person who is interested in you may subtly point at you with a foot, knee, arm or head. It is effectively a signal that says ‘I would like to go in this direction’.

Other displays: Other forms of more distant display that are intended to attract include:

  • Sensual or dramatic dancing (too dramatic, and it can have the opposite effect).
  • Crotch display, where (particularly male) legs are held apart to show off genitalia.
  • Faked interest in others, to invoke envy or hurry a closer engagement.
  • Nodding gently, as if to say ‘Yes, I do like you.’

Up close: When you are close to the other person, the body language progressively gets more intimate until one-person signals ‘enough’.

Close in and personal: In moving closer to the other person, you move from social space into their personal body space, showing how you would like to get even closer to them, perhaps holding them and more…Standing square on to them also blocks anyone else from joining the conversation and signals to others to stay away.

Lovers’ gaze: When you are standing close to them, you will be holding each other’s gaze for longer and longer periods before looking away. You many also use what are called ‘doe eyes’ or ‘bedroom eyes’, which are often slightly moist and with the head inclined slightly down. A very subtle signal that few realize is that the eyes will dilate such that the dark pupils get much bigger (this is one reason why dark-eyed people can seem attractive).

Touching: Touching signals even closer intimacy. It may start with ‘accidental’ brushing, followed by touching of ‘safe’ parts of the body such as arms or back.

9. Body positions

The body in fearful stances is generally closed, and may also include additional aspects.

Making the body small: Hunching inwards reduces the size of the body, limiting the potential of being hit and protecting vital areas. In a natural setting, being small may also reduce the chance of being seen. Arms are held in. A crouching position may be taken, even slightly with knees slightly bent. This is approaching the curled-up regressive fetal position.

Motionlessness: By staying still, the chance of being seen is, in a natural setting, reduced (which is why many animals freeze when they are fearful). When exposed, it also reduces the chance of accidentally sending signals, which may be interpreted as being aggressive. It also signals submission in that you are ready to be struck and will not fight back.

Head down: Turning the chin and head down protects the vulnerable neck from attack. It also avoids looking the other person in the face (staring is a sign of aggression).

Eyes: Widening the eyes makes you look more like a baby and hence signals your vulnerability. Looking attentively at the other person shows that you are hanging on their every word.

Mouth: Submissive people smile more at dominant people, but they often smile with the mouth but not with the eyes.

Below diagram gives some of the gestures and the possible meaning of it

Body Language

Report Writing

A report can be defined as a testimonial or account of some happening. It is purely based on observation and analysis. A report gives an explanation of any circumstance. In today’s corporate world, reports play a crucial role. They are a strong base for planning and control in an organization, i.e., reports give information which can be utilized by the management team in an organization for making plans and for solving complex issues in the organization.

Report writing is an essential skill for professionals in almost every field. Each kind of report has its characteristics. An enquiry report or a survey report is essentially a fact-finding report and should bring out the facts clearly. A Directors’ Report, on the other hand, is the detailing of the developments or the progress relating to the business organization during a particular period. A committee report may not only bring out facts and figures, but also cover the alternative viewpoints expressed by the members and final recommendations.

A report discusses a particular problem in detail. It brings significant and reliable information to the limelight of top management in an organization. Hence, on the basis of such information, the management can make strong decisions. Reports are required for judging the performances of various departments in an organization.

An effective report can be written going through the following steps-

  • Determine the objective of the report, i.e., identify the problem.
  • Collect the required material (facts) for the report.
  • Study and examine the facts gathered.
  • Plan the facts for the report.
  • Prepare an outline for the report, i.e., draft the report.
  • Edit the drafted report.
  • Distribute the draft report to the advisory team and ask for feedback and recommendations.

The essentials of good/effective report writing are as follows-

  • Know your objective, i.e., be focused.
  • Analyze the niche audience, i.e., make an analysis of the target audience, the purpose for which audience requires the report, kind of data audience is looking for in the report, the implications of report reading, etc.
  • Decide the length of report.
  • Disclose correct and true information in a report.
  • Discuss all sides of the problem reasonably and impartially. Include all relevant facts in a report.
  • Concentrate on the report structure and matter. Pre-decide the report writing style. Use vivid structure of sentences.
  • The report should be neatly presented and should be carefully documented.
  • Highlight and recap the main message in a report.
  • Encourage feedback on the report from the critics. The feedback, if negative, might be useful if properly supported with reasons by the critics. The report can be modified based on such feedback.
  • Use graphs, pie-charts, etc to show the numerical data records over years.
  • Decide on the margins on a report. Ideally, the top and the side margins should be the same (minimum 1 inch broad), but the lower/bottom margins can be one and a half times as broad as others.
  • Attempt to generate reader’s interest by making appropriate paragraphs, giving bold headings for each paragraph, using bullets wherever required, etc.

Notwithstanding these features specific to the reports, there are certain essential features good report writing:-

1. Issue in perspective

The first essential for any good report is to bring out the issue in its proper perspective emphasizing the pros and cons. Be it a progress report; a survey report, an analytical report or an enquiry report, the subject should be presented in an unbiased and objective manner. Both the positive and negative aspects of the issues studied should be covered in the report.

2. Authoritative facts and figures

The report writer should ensure that the facts and figures quoted in the report are authentic and reliable. The data quoted in the report is likely to be made use of by several other individuals and agencies. When the data quoted is taken from secondary sources, care should be taken to see that the sources are reliable and cross-verified.

3. Maintain a judicial approach

The report writer should keep to measurable facts and verifiable details. Impressionistic statements and inaccuracies will have to be avoided. A good report calls for an effective assessment based on authentic facts and figures. Human errors, biases and any kind of selective reporting have no place in report writing. Good reports are those where the report writer maintains non-partisan attitude.

4. In-depth analysis

Any report that does not go into the details of the subject studied may turn out to be peripheral requiring additional information. The reporting authority or the report writer, as the case may be, should make it a point to meticulously go about collecting all related information for inclusion in the report.

5. Alternative viewpoints

The purpose of a report is to get the facts in proper perspective. There should be an intention to get the inputs or views from different persons who are in a position to throw light on the subject or incident under study. Although the final recommendations may be based on a consensus or majority view, the fact that some other views were also expressed during the course of deliberations or enquiries should also be mentioned.

6. Appropriate annexures

Most reports contain relevant annexures, which cover additional information which is pertinent to the matter dealt within the-body of the report. Such annexures normally include charts, graphs, relevant statistics, questionnaires and so on. Care should be taken to ensure that any such’ charts, maps and tables are relevant to the matter under study and enhance understanding.