I can’t begin to count the times; I have said that to my kids or husband. I can normally tell by the glazed- over look in their eyes, they did not hear me ask them to empty the dishwasher or take the trash out. Also, lately with remotely working, I have been sitting on a Zoom meeting and will scan the grid of those also on the call and notice the same glazed-over look, and I realize they haven’t heard what I am saying.
“Listening is at the heart of all successful communication” (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014 p.39), and to understand the message we need to actively listen to the speaker. While active listening should be what we do, sadly most do not, it takes time to learn how to listen and work to make the act of active listening a natural act. Dean Brenner, an expert in persuasive communication and founder/president of The Latimer Group stated in a 2018 article for Forbes there are three ways to be more engaged in what you are hearing, fully engage meaning to turn off your cell phone and truly focus, take notes and repeat key information this is advised is similar to what Moran, Abramson & Moran (2018) state the active listener needs to demonstrate, with paraphrasing and summarize the information. By doing this, the speaker can confirm their message is clear and concise.
“Good communication skills are mutual respect skills” (Foster, 2020) by fully listening and demonstrating you have an understanding for the message the speaker is delivering, you are showing them respect and interest for the topic. This action has the “unique power of diminishing the magnitude of potential communication problems” (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014 p.40).
Listening is only part of the communication process, 80 to 90% of communication is our non-verbal actions and reactions, this includes “our posture, physical movements, eye contact, and our psychological presence” (Foster, 2020). This is where we need to pay attention to types of hand gestures that in on culture could mean one thing but in another has a different meaning. Moran, Abramson & Moran (2014 p.50) give an example as the A-OK gesture, in the United States it means things are great or that the person understands however, Brazilians view the same gesture as obscene and in Japan it means money. Knowing there could be a potential misunderstanding, both the listener and speaker need to be cognoscente and show respect to each party, paying attention to not only their listening skills but also their non-verbal skills including hand and arm gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions.
There is no handbook or set of standard rules that tell us global communication guidelines but Moran, Abramson & Moran (2014 p. 52) do provide several tips that researchers have identified behaviors most important for intercultural effectiveness
- Demonstrate respect
- Respond to people in a nonjudgmental, non-evaluation manner
- Recognize that your exact knowledge, beliefs, and perceptions are unique and valid only for yourself
- Demonstrate empathy
- Listen carefully and try to show you’ve understood by saying what you think the speaker has said
- Have tolerance for ambiguity
- Turn odd your behavior auto-pilot and actively manage how you interact with others
- Demonstrate a willingness to adopt different roles and adapt your behaviors
While we may not be able to always avoid communication misunderstandings by following those general tips, we can reduce the chance to offend or disrespect persons of cultures that may differ from your own.
Brenner, D. (2018). To Communicate Well, Listen First. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/01/03/to-communicate-well-listen-first/#6943e4be32a9
Foster, N. (2020). Barriers to Every Day Communication. Retrieved 14 September 2020, from https://www.mediate.com/articles/foster.cfm
Foster, N. (2020). Good Communication Starts With Listening. Retrieved 14 September 2020, from https://www.mediate.com/articles/foster2.cfm
Moran, R., Abramson, N., & Moran, S. (2014). Managing cultural differences. Abingdon: Routledge.