Formula for success
According to Leah Davies, good communication depends as much as on actively receiving messages (listening; reading) as on giving messages (talking; writing). Good teachers and schools get both parts of the formula right – and work hard to keep improving.
Being able to communicate is vital to being an effective educator, and in good schools, people communicate effectively. Good communication not only conveys information, but also encourages effort, modifies attitudes, and stimulates thinking. Without it, stereotypes develop, messages become distorted, and learning is stifled. Communication is the process of understanding and sharing information in which listening plays an important role. Intrapersonal or internal communication includes planning, problem solving, self-talk, and evaluation of self and others. It is a continuous process that prepares the speaker to proceed in a clear and concise manner. Interpersonal communication is sharing meaning between oneself and at least one other person. The goal of interpersonal communication is to send relevant and objective messages.
How it goes wrong
We communicate with others, not only verbally, but by how we act. Since we are constantly sending messages, we need to be aware of our appearance, gestures, posture, eye contact, use of space, body movement, what we carry with us, how close we stand or sit to others, and our facial expressions.
When what we say contradicts our nonverbal behavior, mistrust and confusion results because listeners believe what they see.
Sending mixed messages
Sending mixed messages or incongruence between our nonverbal communication can occur frequently in our professional lives, if we don’t take care. For example:
- A teacher frowns and says to a student: “I am pleased you are in my class.”
- An administrator says as he/she looks at a clock: “My door is always open.”
- A teacher scowls and says to a parent: “Johnny is such a delight!”
We must be honest as we attempt to be effective communicators.
Why we don’t listen
Listening, or the process of receiving and interpreting a message is vital for effective communication. It occupies more of our time than talking, reading, or writing. We often forget or misinterpret more than half of what we hear. But – there are reasons why human beings are inefficient listeners:
- We think more rapidly than someone else can talk, so we spend time daydreaming or thinking of what we are going to say next.
- We do not want to grapple with difficult material.
- We are close-minded to the message.
- We jump to conclusions before we hear the entire message.
- We let things distract us.
The importance of listening
Listening requires active participation and energy. It is the responsibility of both the speaker and the listener to make sure that the message was understood. To become a better listener, it is important to think about the five phases of the listening process.
- Giving attention.
- Physically hearing the message.
- Assigning meaning to it.
- Evaluating it against past experience.
- Remembering it.
If the process goes amiss at any point, communication has not taken place.
Communication and school improvement
Effective communication skills that build a positive school environment are self-awareness; sending direct, complete, relevant, congruent messages; listening; using feedback and being aware of what we are communicating non-verbally.
Communication is not only about understanding and acknowledgement: it involves agreement and commitment. As educational leaders, we know we are effective communicators if those with whom we work have a positive attitude toward each other, their students and their school.
By Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Leah Davies received her Master’s Degree from the Department of Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Auburn University. Her professional experience of over 44 years includes teaching, counseling, consulting, instructing at Auburn University, and directing educational and prevention services at a mental health agency.
See more from Leah at her Kelly Bear resources website http://www.kellybear.com/