Communication involves several factors: receiving, storing, retrieving, giving, and interpreting information. It’s important that members of a group communicate freely with each other. Exchange of information often involves a “transaction,” a stimulus followed by a response. It’s important that these transactions be kept open and complimentary. Crossed or blocked transactions result in people talking “at” one another with no real communication. As a result, information is not exchanged.
Information is received through hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, and smelling. It’s obvious that we receive information by reading what is written or listening to what is said—and we often do a poor job at these. We also receive powerful messages through facial expressions, body language, an individual’s general appearance, costume, etc. The more ways we use to gather information, the better information is received, understood, and put to use.
Most people store the information in their memories. The memory can be supported with notes, sketches, written references, and similar techniques.
Retrieving or recalling information is important. It is often closely related to how the information is stored. People known for outstanding memories have simply developed an effective retrieval system. These include memorizing, memory joggers, repeating the information as it’s received, note taking, and skillful use of references.
Giving information involves the same five senses used to receive it. In giving information, however, speaking or writing is clearly, using visual methods, watching and being sensitive to the group, asking for feedback, and summarizing what has been given results in effective transfer of information.
Interpreting information is vital. In many cases the information was given and received, but somehow communication did not result. Blocks to communication include motivation (one of the two parties did not thing the information was very important), conflict (two messages did not agree), experience (your background or prejudices cause you to not accept what is said), personal dislike (you dislike the other person so you filter out what he says), distractions (you don’t receive because something else is on your mind or something happens to shift your attention), an attitude (you think you already know all about the topic).
Most people learn about 11 percent of what they know by listening but 83 percent of what they know by seeing (observing or reading). People recall 10 percent of what they heard but can recall 50 percent of what they both see and heard. Thus a multimedia approach to communicating is vital.
Clear communications is essential. Avoid initials, acronyms, technical jargon, and unfamiliar words in communicating with others. Aim for “Walter Cronkite English”. The success of establishing and maintaining a group will depend largely on how well its members communicate with those outside the group.
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