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Hana Kubíčková

Hana Kubíčková

Assistant professor, PhD

Lecturer in Communication skills at the Education Faculty of the Ostrava University 

 

Communication Skills

 

 


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Communication Skills Communication Skills

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Date added: 03/18/2011
Date modified: 03/18/2011
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The word communication is of Latin origin „communicare“, which means connecting something, sharing something. Communication can also be understood as receiving, interpreting and sending messages. Communication is not only speaking, but also listening comprehension, reading, writing, body language, acting. Communication is a way of mutual understanding (Mikuláštík, 2003).

The whole life of a human being is fulfilled with communication with the environment and other human beings. Communication is carried out everywhere where people come into contact, where they work together, speak together, give advice, pass on experience, have fun. It is obvious that we communicate with other people from our birth. As babies, we smile at adults, reach out for them, call them via crying, later we speak with them, inform them, ask questions, answer questions, sometimes we shout at them, at other times we whisper, we embrace them, or we turn our back at them (Bednaříková, 2006).

The main purpose of communication is to start interaction the result of which should be exchanging information, understanding, persuading, making impact on others, changing their attitudes or making them act. Communication is a transfer and exchange of information in spoken, written, visual or action form which is realized among people and is necessary for effective self-expression (Mikuláštík, 2003).

It is possible to communicate in the following ways:

  1. Verbal communication. This means using words both in spoken and written forms.
  1. Non-verbal communication. This means using the body language or outcomes/ products of human activities which surround people(Moslerová, 2004).

The following dimensions of non-verbal communication can be examined:

  • Proximity zone – this relates to the distance between speakers during social communication. The space the speakers observe during their conversation depends on the quality of their relationships. It seems necessary to choose an appropriate distance so that the personal zones of other speakers were not disturbed. If that was not the case, other speakers might feel uncomfortable, which could result in increased difficulty in communication. The zones can be divided into intimate (0 – 45 cms), personal (45 – 120 cms), social (1.20 m – 3.7 ms) and public (3.7 – 7.6 ms).
  • Haptic/tactile dimension – this refers to communication/contact by touch; the touch should be a sign of sincerity, trust and affection. The most common and the safest form of contact by touch is usually a handshake. 
  • Body positioning dimension – this refers to communication via physical positioning of the body. The body position may express open (friendly) attitudes or closed (refusing, unfriendly) attitudes.  
  • Kinesthetic dimension – this refers to culturally unconditioned body movements. It is possible to consider the intensity of a person’s emotions from these movements.
  • Using gestures dimension – this refers to specific culturally conditioned body movements. Symbolic gestures can be translated into words. Illustrative gestures emphasize what a person communicates verbally.  Regulating/control/adjusting gestures are used to open, interrupt and close a dialogue. Adaptive gestures are used to exercise control over emotional feelings.
  • Eye contact dimension – this refers to communication via eye contact, it relates to its length, a number and order of eyewinks, etc.
  • Mimicry – this relates to facial expressions. It usually expresses emotions (Mlčák, 2003).
  1. Communication via actions. Sometimes, words may not be necessary; it may suffice to communicate an attitude, a view, offering to help by converting words into action. In this way, we can express our feelings for other people and present our sense/system of values (De Vito, 2001).

Structure and function of communication

People who communicate together want to convey not only information but also for example, mutual relationships, attitudes and feelings. Communication has a wide impact. So as to understand its meaning better, let us look at the communication process from the point of view of its functions:

  • To inform – this relates to conveying information, news among people.
  • To instruct – this explains meanings, processes, procedures, how to do something, how to achieve something.
  • To persuade – this relates to the impact on another person so as to change his/her view, attitude, or conduct, sometimes this may be called a manipulative behavior
  • To promote personal identity – this refers to the development of self-confidence, self- dignity, self -disclosure.
  • To amuse – this relates to the ability to amuse, make laugh, to interact socially so as to create an atmosphere of well-being and satisfaction.
  • To educate – this is applied in educational institutions where a variety of functions are combined, for example to inform, to instruct, and others.
  • To socialize – this relates to establishing contacts, creating relationships among people, promoting feelings of inclusion and mutual dependence.
  • To confide, to share – this relates to letting off the steam, overcoming difficulties, opening up one’ s heart, mostly expecting another person to listen, to understand, to support and help.

The context in which communication takes place is vital for understanding relationships and the meaning of the message. Communication is a two-way process between two or more people. Each party tries to influence the other/others, to seek support, to establish identity with others. It may occur that some communicative acts do not proceed as required by one party. Then, it is usual to change tactics, to impact on feelings, to bring up an argument which one did not consider before. The process of communication is flexible, speakers always initiate change. It is obvious that it is easier to perceive unusual and exceptional matters rather than commonplace ones.

The basic items of the structure of communication:

  • A sender/ communicator – this refers to a person or a group who send out the message. It is expected that a receiver can understand the message due to his/ her knowledge and information.
  • A receiver/ communicant – this refers to a person or a group who receive a message. The comprehension of a message may be influenced by a receiver’s level of knowledge, expression and experience.
  • A message – this refers to the contents of a message, a thought, a feeling which is conveyed from one person to another. The message can be interpreted in a variety of ways by different people; it may be understood in different ways due to self-experience and its links to the context.
  • Language of communication – even when we use the same language, misunderstandings may occur. The meanings of some words, especially of the abstract ones, may be understood differently in relation to the receiver’s knowledge, personality and experience.
  • Channels of communication – this refers to the means of conveying information. These may be speech organs and verbal communication, or other parts of the body which can be used during non-verbal communication. Other channels are electronic and media communication tools. The latter suffer from a lack of personal contact between senders and receivers of messages.
  • Feedback – responding to a message indicates how the message is received and interpreted. It is a very important indicator of comprehension of both parties participating in communication.
  • Environment of communication – this is the space where communication takes place. It may have a significant positive or negative impact on communication. The individual factors include lighting, the arrangement of a room, the noise, the temperature, a number of participants, etc.
  • Context – that is the situation in which communication takes place. We may speak about internal and external factors of the context/ situation. Internal factors are related to the content of a message and its impact on participants of communication. External factors are related to the external stimuli of communication and their impact (Moslerová, 2004).

Positive and negative evaluation tendencies in communication

Each communication/ interaction usually has some evaluation in itself – either positive or negative, In each interaction there is always expressed some degree of respect, recognition, esteem or the opposite - disrespect, refusal, disregard or contempt (Moslerová, 2004).

Positive evaluation

Positive relationship may also be called positive evaluation. Positive evaluation may be demonstrated by showing respect, recognition and affection for another person. People who demonstrate positive relationships/evaluations in communication with other people are polite, fair, kind, attentive/thoughtful, friendly, etc.

Examples of positive relationships in behavior to other people:

  • To show affection and love;
  • To be open-minded;
  • To show respect and admiration;
  • To meet halfway;
  • To recognize and praise;
  • To show courtesy/discretion;
  • To be thoughtful of another person;
  • To devote time to another person;
  • To encourage another person;
  • To show approval;
  • To show friendliness;
  • To care for the welfare of another person;
  • To enable someone to do something;
  • To forgive, to excuse (Nakonečný, 1999).

 

Negative evaluation/devaluation

Negative relationship may also be called negative evaluation/devaluation. Negative evaluation may be demonstrated by disrespect for other people, by humiliating and belittling them. As a result, other people’s self confidence is lowered, they experience feelings of anxiety; they are hurt because their inner ego is touched. People who demonstrate traces of negative evaluation are big-headed, unfriendly, false-hearted, offensive, etc.

Examples of negative relationships in behavior to other people, according M. Nakonečný (1999):

  • To offend others;
  • To be ironic and laugh at others;
  • To underestimate others;
  • To look down upon others;
  • To interrupt others when they speak;
  • To bully and victimize others;
  • To show mistrust or to abuse confidence;
  • To accuse others unjustly;
  • To overlook, ignore others;
  • To break rules;
  • To cause inconvenience;
  • To slander;
  • To show antipathy and distaste;
  • To pronounce disagreement;
  • To dismiss efforts offered by others;
  • To restrict others;
  • To downplay others;
  • To be arrogant against others.

So, how do you usually communicate? Which type of communication do you prefer – positive or negative? How do people around you communicate?

Do you meet people who communicate in the following ways?

  • They distort information;
  • They have a small vocabulary;
  • Their non-verbal communication prevails over verbal communication;
  • They often use vulgar language;
  • They have their own language and slang;
  • Their speech is coarse, rude, aggressive or obscene;
  • They shorten and simplify sentences;
  • They are not willing to listen to others;
  • They often make up stories and tell lies;
  • They swear and threaten others;
  • Purpose oriented “good” communication prevails;
  • Instances of negative communication prevail.

 

It was on purpose that I concluded my talk on the issue of communication listing the characteristics of the positive and negative evaluation tendencies in communication. Now, I will focus on communication techniques with regards to the expression of relationships among people.

Selected techniques for developing communication skills

As has been mentioned above, communication is a transfer and exchange of information in a spoken, written, visual, or action/performance form. This sub-chapter describes practical examples of selected techniques for developing communication. The selected techniques are aimed at non-verbal, performance forms of communication whose main aim is to express the mutual relationships to the person himself/herself and to others, by means of art, rhythmical and tactile games. A partial aim of the communication activities listed below is to raise awareness of a creative way of sharing information, relationships and opinions, etc. These activities are dependent on a person’s individual understanding and interpretation and they always bring a new, untraditional point of view on the selected issue or task.

1. Feeling the rhythm – individual and group activity

Materials: simple musical instruments which the participants of the game can get hold of, e.g. drums, castanets, flutes, rattles…

Aim: to express relationship towards oneself and others

Procedure: Players make a circle, each of them has his/her own musical instrument. By means of their instruments, the players express their own rhythmical feeling – “as each of them sounds to himself/herself”; then the group listens to the rhythm of the individual participants of the group – as “a person sounds to others”; in the end, the group expresses the rhythm of the whole group.

 

2. Turning a table-cloth over

Materials: a table-cloth (its size depends on the number of players)

Aim:to establish confidence and trust among the members of the group, to develop cooperation, to eliminate barriers

Procedure:A table-cloth is laid on the floor (its size should relate to the number of the participants of the game) => the more players, the larger the table-cloth. The players standing on the cloth must try to turn the table-cloth over in such a way that none of the players touches the floor. The game can be made more exciting by setting the time limit.

 

3. Masks - I.

Materials:body paints, loose clothes, cotton pads for removing make up

Aim:to express our relationship to others, to become aware of how others perceive us

Procedure:The players make pairs; it is useful if the members of a pair know each other and trust each other. The players decide which of them is going to paint as the first and which of them is going to be a model. Then the “painter” chooses the paints according to the way s/he perceives the model, and starts painting his partner’s face so as to create a mask symbolizing his/her partner’s characteristic features. Afterwards, the roles are reversed.

4. Body silhouette

Materials:a roll of paper (e.g. wrapping paper) - size 200x100cms, crayons, water paints, felt-tip pens

Aim: expressing relationship to oneself, expressing self-perception

Procedure: The players make pairs; it is useful if the members of a pair know each other a bit. Each member of the pair lets the other member draw an outline of his/her body. The body position is random, according to the person’s own wish. As soon as all the players have the outlines of their bodies ready, each of them starts to paint their outlines with any paint/ crayons etc. they have at their disposal. After finishing the activity, a discussion over each of the painted body silhouettes starts.

5. Collage and exhibition

Materials: cardboard paper A3, a sufficient number of magazines, a pair of scissors, glue, clothes line, clothes pegs

Aim: self-perception and self-expression

Procedure:The participants of the game look through the magazines carefully, thenthey cut out (tear out) pictures which illustrate their own characteristic features; the collage should describe the personality of a person accurately. They cut out the pictures are then stuck them on the A3 cardboard paper. If necessary, using crayons the pictures can be adjusted so as to depict the personality of the person. Afterwards, the pictures are hung up on the clothes line, and the exhibition can start. All the members of the group gather around each of the collages and each player tries to name the picture using one or two words which express what s/he thinks the picture represents (e.g. a storm, joy, confusion…). The author himself/herself then chooses the most accurate name.

6. Masks - II

Materials:plaster, facial cream, mull/gauze, a pair of scissors, water colors, relaxation music

Aim:relaxation, perception of another person, self-perception

Procedure:This technique is a follow up to Masks – I. It is more demanding in terms of preparation. The participants of the game make pairs; it is useful if the members of the pair know each other and trust each other.  They make arrangements as to who will start making the mask from plaster. The other person puts some facial cream on and s/he lies down on the floor so as to feel comfortable. His/her partner puts some mull over the partner’s face (leaving the nose out). Then s/he puts wet plaster over the mull, leaving out the nose and eyes. The mask will be let to dry a bit, and then it will be taken off the face, together with the mull. The procedure is repeated after the partners exchange their roles. When the masks are dry, each participant of the game paints the mask according to his/her own imagination.

 

Literature used:

BEDNAŘÍKOVÁ, I. Sociální komunikace. Olomouc : Univerzita Palackého, 2006, ISBN 80-244-1357-4.

DE VITO, J. A. Základy mezilidské komunikace. Praha : Grada Publishing, 2001, ISBN 80-7169-988-8.

HÖFLEROVÁ, E., KROHE, P. Komunikační dovednosti. Ostrava : Ostravská univerzita                v Ostravě, 2003. ISBN 80-7042-287-4.

MLČÁK, Z.Sociální psychologie pro učitele odborných předmětů.Ostrava : Ostravská univerzita v Ostravě2003. ISBN 80-7042-242-4.

MIKULÁŠTÍK, M. Komunikační dovednosti v praxi. Praha : Grada Publishing, 2003, ISBN 80-247-0650-4.

MOSLEROVÁ, N. Interpersonální komunikace. Ostrava : Ostravská univerzita v Ostravě, 2004, ISBN 80-7042-692-6.

NAKONEČNÝ, M. Sociální psychologie.Praha : Academia, 1999. ISBN 80-200-0690-7.

VLČEK, B., VLČEK, M. Komunikace a interakce ve výchovně vzdělávacím procesu.

Ostrava : Ostravská univerzita v Ostravě, 2004. ISBN 80-7042-963-1.

VYBÍRAL, Z. Psychologie lidské komunikace.Praha : Portál, 2000. ISBN 80-7178-291-2.

VÝROST, J.; SLAMĚNÍK, I. Sociální psychologie. Praha : Grada, 2008. ISBN 978-80-247-1428-8.

 

Published in: 

Introducing Paneurhythmy: Fit, Creative and Social with the Bulgarian System for Recreation.  Ed. Petrov, L.,  VelikoTarnovo, St. Cyril and St.Methodius University Press: 2010