Consider a child who is very bright and growing but not yet able to use words. Yet, this child must and does communicate. What messages does she need to receive and to send? How does she do it?
Think of what is must be like to be blind or to be deaf. Have you ever put yourself inside the deaf culture? How difficult is it to be blind? To be deaf? How would you want to be treated? How would you communicate?
What if you were suddenly totally paralyzed in an accident. You were not able to utter a word or move a muscle. Can you feel the panic as you lie in the bed seeing people and things, hearing them speak, but being able to say or write nothing. How would you communicate…and how effectively?
You are deeply in love, but you have been taken captive and place in separate cells on the third floor of a very noisy prison. It is about 150 feet across from one of your cells to the other. You can see each other…day after day…but can hear nothing. How badly would you need to communicate, and how would you do it?
These imaginary situations will help you ponder the necessity, the power, and the methods of human communication. We need to communicate because we are dependent people; we live interdependently in community. We must communicate because we are relational beings with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs that must be shared.
Communication theory studies how communication takes place. It considers non-verbal communication (facial expressions, body position, gestures, and tone of voice) and verbal communication. It is possible to say: “You are bad,” and have it mean at least two different things according to the culture and how it is said. Someone can say, “You are a great friend,” sarcastically so that it means the opposite of what is literally spoken. “Whatever” can mean a whole lot of things depending on its punctuation, how it is said, and in what situation.
We may think of three types or levels of communication. The first is one-to-one, conversation between two people. The second is small group discussion in which conversation goes across a table or room or around a circle. Thirdly, there is public speaking, in what a speaker addresses an audience. Each form has certain potential advantages and disadvantages in terms of communicating true feelings and ideas.
Communication is a process. In public speaking, a speaker attempts to send information and ideas to an audience. This information must first be conceived in outline or picture or story form. The contents of these must then be encoded into words and gestures by the sender or speaker.
These symbols travel through a medium of a particular space and are caught or discarded by the eyes, ears or feelings of various receivers. The message is what is said or how it is said. Noise is anything that interferes with the accurate transmission of a message. External noise can be someone coughing, laughing, or worse. Internal noise might be remembering a fight with parents, worrying about an exam, being afraid of being pregnant, or thinking about a date.
If the stimuli that make up the message is received, they must, to make sense, be encoded by the receiver or listener. In this new form the message will either be rejected, laid aside, put in a file, or acted on. The initial response to a message is called feedback.
Many factors produce good or poor communication whether we are considering public or personal speaking. The clarity of the message, the attitude of the speaker and listener(s), cultural and personal barriers, the situation in which communication takes place, distractions, and the opportunity for feedback and clarification-are all involved in communication. Verbal and non-verbal messages and responses need to be considered. And finally, how does the message gets translated into action or change of character must be considered.
Three Levels of Communication
Consider differences of style, skills, and effectiveness among these levels of communication:
1. one-on-on conversation,
2. small group discussion,
3. speeches to a large group.
Active listening is a key to effective conversation with another person. Listeners want to be sure a speaker is genuine (“for real”) and really cares about them. Poor one-on-one conversation may move along on parallel tracks, both speakers thinking about what they are going to say next. A good listener is entirely focused on the speaker and his or her thoughts and feelings conveyed non-verbally and verbally.
Small groups may have an identified facilitator or shared leadership. When you can’t give full attention to each member of the group, it is getting too big. A diagram of the conversation’s flow should not be heavy lines between a few, but show everyone in the group participating and being heard. A small group should provide each member a sense of belonging (being bonded), of personal growth, and of the accomplishment of some common task.
An effective speaker makes contact with his or her audience so they all feel a relationship to the speaker and personally involved in what is being said. Listeners want to be clear about the point of the talk and its development (or outline). They enjoy good stories and illustrations. And they are drawn into the message when the speaker is passionate about the subject. Spontaneous humor helps, as does keeping the speech shorter than expected, and to the point.
Most experts agree that improvement of communication involves personal growth and the growth of relationships along with practice…and more practice. Practice and feedback are essential in order to develop the skill of a good communicator. That’s how musicians, actors, and speakers get to be great.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How good a communicator do you consider yourself to be? In what form or level of communication (mentioned above) do you think you are most effective?
How do you want to grow as a communicator?
What example of really poor communication could you give?
How can you help others grow to be more effective communicators?
There can be no really effective communication without relationship; there can be no real relationship without communication.
So many problems among (young) people are due to poor communication. Poor communication is one of the chief signs of an ineffective or dysfunctional family.
Youth worker and teacher must be good communicators; they should work on this skills and grow more effective. So much is at stake.
Spiritual growth demands communication in many ways.