Tag: Body Language

Communication Skills for Building Teams

Communication Skills for Building Teams

Strong communication skills are essential for assertive interaction with others in a team. Humans are social animals and communication is a very important part of our daily life. Every interaction we have with another person including, face to face, over the phone, chatting online or even texting is communication happening, and having strong communication skills will benefit every type of interaction we encounter.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Listening and Hearing in Teams

Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something that one consciously chooses to do. Listening requires concentration so that the brain processes meaning from words and sentences.

Listening leads to learning, but this is not always an easy task. The normal adult rate of speech is 100-150 words per minute, but the brain can think at a rate of 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker’s or the recipient’s next words.

As opposed to hearing, listening skills can be learned and refined. The art of active listening allows you to fully receive a message from another team member. Especially in a situation involving anger or a tense interchange, active listening allows you to be sensitive to the multiple dimensions of communication that make up an entire message. These dimensions include:

The occasion for the message: What is the reason why the team member is communicating with me now?

The length of the message: What can the length of the message tell me about its importance?

The words chosen: Is the message being made formally? Is it with aloofness or slang?

The volume and pace: What clues do the loudness and speed give me?

The Pauses and Hesitations: How do these enhance or detract from the message?

Non-verbal clues: What does eye contact, posture, or facial expressions tell me about the message?

Empathy is the capability to share and understand another’s emotions and feelings. Empathetic listening is the art of seeking a truer understanding of how other team members are feeling. This requires excellent discrimination and close attention to the nuances of emotional signals. According to Stephen Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, empathetic listening involves five basic tasks:

  1. Repeat verbatim the content of the communication; the words, not the feelings
  2. Rephrase content; summarize the meaning of the words in your own words
  3. Reflect feelings; look more deeply and begin to capture feelings in your own words. Look beyond words for body language and tone to indicate feelings.
  4. Rephrase contents and reflect feelings; express both their words and feelings in your own words.
  5. Discern when empathy is not necessary – or appropriate.

Asking Questions in Teams

Active listeners use specific questioning techniques to elicit more information from speakers. Below are three types of questions to use when practicing active listening in your team.

Open Questions

Open questions stimulate thinking and discussion or responses, including opinions or feelings. They pass control of the conversation to the respondent. Leading words in open questions include: Why, what, or how, as in the following examples:

  • Tell me about the current employee orientation process.
  • How do you open the emergency exit door on an A320 aircraft?

Clarifying Questions

A clarifying question helps to remove ambiguity, elicits additional detail, and guides the answer to a question. When you ask a clarifying question, you ask for expansion or detail, while withholding your judgment and own opinions. When asking for clarification, you will have to listen carefully to what the other person says. Frame your question as someone trying to understand in more detail. Often asking for a specific example is useful. This also helps the speaker evaluate his or her own opinions and perspective. Below are some examples:

  • I can tell you are really concerned about this. Let me see if I can repeat to you your main concerns so we can start to think about what to do in this situation.
  • What sort of savings are you looking to achieve?

Closed Questions

Closed questions usually require a one-word answer, and effectively shut off discussion. Closed questions provide facts, allow the questioner to maintain control of the conversation, and are easy to answer. Typical leading words are: Is, can, how many, or does. While closed questions are not the optimum choice for active listening, at times they may be necessary to elicit facts. Below are several examples of closed questions:

  • Who will lead the meeting?
  • Do you know how to open the emergency exit door on this aircraft?

Body Language

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication involving the use of stylized gestures, postures, and physiologic signs which act as cues to other people. Humans unconsciously send and receive non-verbal signals through body language all the time.

Non-verbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. It is the single most powerful form of communication in a team. Nonverbal communication cues others about what is in your mind, even more than your voice or words can do.

According to studies at UCLA, as much as 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues, and the impact of performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication.

In communication, if a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language rules every time.

 

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How to Connect With Your Team Through Interpersonal Communication

Sadly, talking and listening has often been seen as a tool for simply communicating with other people, but not for building connections and networks. This assumption doesn’t recognize the fact that interpersonal communication is a great tool to connect with your team members on a deeper level and form a connection with them. Speaking interpersonally allows both parties to feel more at ease and open up to one another. Just remember to be an active listener and watch your own body language.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Give Respect and Trust

It is a common courtesy in any conversation to treat the other person respectfully and professionally. By treating their ideas and opinions respectfully and with due consideration, you are showing respect by hearing them out, listening to them, and considering what they have to say with an open mind. When communicating with your team, it is important to build rapport and trust by speaking with each other respectfully and giving each other your full attention. After all, they deserved to be treated with dignity and courtesy for their thoughts and opinions. In addition, give your trust to them and let them know that you feel confident enough to speak with them openly. The motions and feelings we put out into the world will come back to us, so don’t be afraid to speak openly with your team. They will be impressed that you can give respect and trust so freely and appreciate the effort you are trying to make with them.

Related: Trust Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Be Consistent

Consistency is a key factor that builds interpersonal relationships. Being consistent in what we say and do shows knowledge and reliability because it helps build a familiar base to start from. Your team members will want to communicate with you because you will become a factor they know they can trust and depend on. In addition, ensure that your actions are consistent with what you say – in other words– do what you say you’ll do. If you say you will meet someone after lunch to review a report, ensure that you are there early to greet them. If you volunteered to give a speech at the next work convention, be prepared ahead of time and be ready when the day arrives. Showing you are consistent in turn shows how reliable you are and what an asset you can be for the team. Take a few minutes to reflect back on your actions and note if they have been consistent over time. Are there behaviors you can change? What can you do differently in the future?

Always Keep Your Cool

Keeping our cool in tight or stressful situations can be tough and takes a lot of skill to make it through gracefully. It is perfectly normal to feel embarrassed or hurt when someone does something you don’t like, such as speaking rudely to you or pointing out a mistake you made. Our first instinct is to possibly lash out at them or try to retaliate by hurting them in return. But the key to strong and professional communication is to keep your cool at all times and not let the negative feelings take over. When something happens that may send you over the edge, take a minute to reflect on what was said and what happened. If needed, you should step away for a few moments to compose yourself. Don’t deny the other team member to their opinion, but let them know how you feel and how it affects you. Kinder team members will back track their statements and try to address the problem in less negative terms. If the team member is unwilling to give respect, realize that their opinion may not be worth the fight.

Tips for keeping your cool:

·         Try not to take words personally

·         Stop and reflect what was said, not how it was said

·         Make a note to learn from this experience

·         Ask yourself if the person had reason for what was said – if so, what can you do to change it?

Observing Body Language

Body language can speak volumes between people, even if it does not have words to accompany it. Many times people may say one message, but their body language can say another, meaning they may not be truthful in what they say. By observing and becoming more aware of body language and what it might mean, we can learn to read people more easily and understand some of their body movements. By better understanding their movements, you can be better prepared to communicate with them, while at the same time better understanding the body language you may be conveying to them. Even though there are times that we can send mixed messages, we can try to get our point across using certain behaviors. Our body language affects how we act with others and how we react to them, as well as how they can react to ours.

 

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What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

When you are communicating something to your team, your body is sending a message that is as powerful as your words. When talking about body language, remember that our interpretations are just that – common interpretations. For example, the person sitting with his or her legs crossed may simply be more comfortable that way, and not feeling closed-minded towards the discussion. Body language can also mean different things across different genders and cultures. However, it is good to understand how various behaviors are often seen, so that we can make sure our body is sending the same message as our mouth.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Think about these scenarios for a moment. What non-verbal messages might you receive in each scenario? How might these non-verbal messages affect the verbal message?

  • Your boss asks you to come into his office to discuss a new project. He looks stern and his arms are crossed.
  • A team member tells you they have bad news, but they are smiling as they say it.
  • You tell a co-worker that you cannot help them with a project. They say that it’s OK, but they slam your office door on their way out.

In this article we will show you how to use body language to become a more effective communicator. It is also important that as a team leader you learn to interpret body language, add it to the message you are receiving, and understand the message being sent appropriately.

All About Body Language

Body language is a very broad term that simply means the way in which our body speaks to others. We have included an overview of three major categories below.

The way that we are standing or sitting

Think for a moment about different types of posture and the message that they relay.

  • Sitting hunched over typically indicates stress or discomfort.
  • Leaning back when standing or sitting indicates a casual and relaxed demeanor.
  • Standing ramrod straight typically indicates stiffness and anxiety.

The position of our arms, legs, feet, and hands

  • Crossed arms and legs often indicate a closed mind.
  • Fidgeting is usually a sign of boredom or nervousness.

Facial expressions

  • Smiles and frowns speak a million words.
  • A raised eyebrow can mean inquisitiveness, curiosity, or disbelief.

Chewing one’s lips can indicate thinking, or it can be a sign of boredom, anxiety, or nervousness.

Interpreting Gestures

A gesture is a non-verbal message that is made with a specific part of the body. Gestures differ greatly from region to region, and from culture to culture. Below we have included a brief list of gestures and their common interpretation.

Gesture Interpretation
Nodding head Yes
Shaking head No
Moving head from side to side Maybe
Shrugging shoulders Not sure; I don’t know
Crossed arms Defensive
Tapping hands or fingers Bored, anxious, nervous
Shaking index finger Angry
Thumbs up Agreement, OK
Thumbs down Disagreement, not OK
Pointing index finger at someone/something Indicating, blaming
Handshake Welcome, introduction
Flap of the hand Doesn’t matter, go ahead
Waving hand Hello
Waving both hands over head Help, attention
Crossed legs or ankles Defensive
Tapping toes or feet Bored, anxious, nervous

 

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Communicating with Your Team – Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Non-Verbal Communication

Your body language, voice intonation and use of silence can speak louder than the words you use. By improving on your non-verbal communication skills, you can ensure that you are sending the right message to your team.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Communicating Through Your Body Language

Body language includes your posture, facial expression, gestures, and bodily movements. More often than not your team will pay more attention to your body language than to what you are saying. If one’s body language is inconsistent with the verbal message, the verbal message loses credibility.

Body language includes the following aspects:

  • Eye contact is one of the most crucial aspects of body language. Steady eye contact indicates that you are paying attention while the lack of eye contact can be viewed as defensiveness, nervousness or social withdrawal.
  • Facial expressions can usually be linked to certain emotionsAnger is often revealed by sharp stares, crunched eyebrows and the baring of teeth. Teary eyes and drooping lips usually indicate sadness.
  • Posture also plays a critical role in non-verbal communication. Slumping in a chair is often seen as a sign of disrespect and inattention. Walking with one’s head and shoulders down can be interpreted as a sign of nervousness or low self-esteem. Traditionally puffing out one’s chest is interpreted as pride.
  • Specific movements are associated with certain messages. Nodding is a sign of agreement and raising fists are normally interpreted as a challenge or sign of anger. Frustration is often indicated by the stomping of feet.
  • Physical contact forms part of body language.  Handshakes, hugging, slapping and punching all form part of communication.

How You Say Something is Important

The way you deliver information to your team is crucial and forms part of non-verbal communication. A change in tone or inflection can change the way a statement is interpreted.

  • Your tone of voice is the way you use changing pitch to convey a message. The same message can be delivered using a rising, dipping or falling intonation. Changes of tone can make a message upbeat or depressing depending on the speaker’s tone. Changes in tone help identify the purpose of a sentence.
  • The meaning of a word can change by emphasizing different words or syllables.
  • Pace and rhythm place a role in how your team perceives a message. The speed of your speech and the use of pauses can change the meaning of the words spoken. If you speak too quickly your team my find it difficult to understand you but if you speak too slowly they may become bored.
  • Volume is important and how softly or loudly you speak matters in communication. A too soft voice can communicate nervousness or lack of assertiveness while a loud voice can communicate anger or aggression.
  • Pronunciation and enunciation play a role in how well a message comes across. You need to develop your skills in pronunciation and enunciation to ensure that your team understands you correctly.

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