Jun 17, 2011

Communicating at Work - Interpersonal Skills

Original Title in English: 'Communicating at Work, Principles and Practices for Business and Professions'
By Authors: Ronald B. Adler, Jeanne Marquardt Elmhorst
Publisher: McGraw-Hill International Edition, 9th edition, Singapore
ISBN: 978-007-126575-9
Proposed Translation in LANGUAGE by TRANSLATOR
Book Review: This text book is used as teaching material at UBIS-University of Business and International Studies, Geneva. http://ubis-geneva.ch  or see http://myUBIS-class.blogspot.com
About the Author(s)
Ronald B. Adler is on the faculty of Santa Barbara City College, where he specialises in organisational and interpersonal communication. He is the author of 'Confidence in Communication: A Guide to Assertive and Social Skills' and coauthor of 'Understanding Human Communication, Interplay: The Process of Interpersonal Communication' as well as the widely used text 'Looking Out/ Looking In'. Professor Adler is a consultant for a number of corporate, professional, and government clients and leads workshops in such areas as conflict resolution, presentational speaking, team building and interviewing.
Jeanne Marquardt Elmhorst is an instructor in communication studies at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her courses reflect the variety in the communication discipline: business and professional, public speaking, listening, intercultural, and interpersonal. Jeanne lived and taught in Asia for three years and continues to find opportunities to travel, to study and volunteer in other countries. She enjoys designing and presenting communication training for business and not-for-profit clients. 

People Skills

People skills are an essential ingredient for success in any career. These skills create a positive communication climate in which people feel valued. The key to building a positive climate is confirming communication, which conveys respect for the other person, even during a conflict. Confirming messages are phrased in descriptive 'I' language. They focus on solving problems, not imposing solutions. They are honest, show concern for the other party, demonstrate an attitude of equality, and reflect the communicators's open-mindedness.

One way to create and maintain a positive communication climate is to offer praise. There are several guidelines for praising effectively: Make praise specific and sincere, praise progress, praise intermittently, and relay praise to others.

In the real world of business, however, praise is not always appropriate; sometimes criticism must be given. The climate of a relationship can be enhanced by offering criticism in the most constructive manner. The chances of acceptance of criticism are best when a critical message is framed in a way that considers the content by limiting remarkes to one topic, making sure they are accurate, defining the problem clearly, and showing how attending to the criticism can benefit the recipient. Choosing the most credible critic and making sure the remarks are appropriate to the context is another way to maximise the chances that criticism will be well received: delivering remarks as part of a positive relationship, accepting partial responsibility for the problem, and accompanying criticism with an offer to help. Finally delivering the criticism in a face-saving manner and a nonjudgmental tone can lead to a nondefensive response.

When on the receiving end of another person's cirticism, several responses can prevent defensiveness. One approach is to seek more information by asking for examples or clarification, guessing about details when necessary, paraphrasing the critic, and asking what the critic wants. Agreeing with the facts of the criticism or with the critic's perception are also potentially effective.

On-the-job conflicts are inevitable so it is important to handle them constructively. Understanding that conflicts are not all the same requires communicatiors to first explore whether the conflict is about a topic, a process, the relationship, or one's ego. Second, recognise that one can choose from five ways to handle conflict: avoiding, accomodating, competing, collaborating, or compromising. Each has both advantages and drawbacks, sosituational factors will usually govern which one to use at a given time.

Next, consider how you will negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. Negotiations can take four forms: competitive, lose-lose, compromise and win-win. The approach that parties take often determines the outcome. 

Successful negotiating includes these steps: Clarify your interests and needs by distinguishing between ends and means, pay attention to timing, and prepare nondefensive ways to begin. Then follow steps of a win-win approach by identifying each parties' ends, brainstorming, evaluating possible solutions, implementing and following up on a solution.

Further readings on Conflict and Conflict Management

'The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defence' -
http://adrr.com provides a method of using words to deal with conflict situations.
'Work 911'
http://work911.com provides over 1000 articles organised into categories of communication, anger management, work-related issues, and stress.
'Workplace Solutions'
http://wps.org is a chock-full resources and links to articles that deal with conflict resolution and reducing violence in the workplace.
The International Association for Conflict Management
http://iacm-conflict.org brings scholars and practitioners together to study and develop conflict management skills in many settings. Find links to articles, research, and more organisations.

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