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Communication Skill Improvement Project

Pick a skill and write a Communication Improvement Plan

Use the heading for each section of your paper.

Paper will be graded on the following: Including each section with headings. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Completeness of descriptions and examples.

Skill:

What type of communication skill do you want to work on improving?

These communication skills are the concepts that were covered in each chapter. Examples: Listening, Perception, Conflict Management, Emotions, Self Esteem

Problem:

Describe the problem that you have now. This problem could only be with one person. How does this communication skill affect your life?

Goal:

In an optimum situation, how would you like this communication skill to be?

Procedure:

Set up a timeline that you will follow for this skill change.

What steps will you take to improve this skill? What is your plan?

Test of Achieving Goal:

Select a situation where you put your plan to work. What happened?

You should attempt to change this skill over a four-week period.

Success:

Analyze the results of your attempt to change this skill. Were you successful?

Example

Communication Skill Improvement Project

Skill

Listening

Problem

My busy lifestyle interferes with my ability to listen effectively and when it comes to listening to others I find myself short on time and patience, expecting that I already know everything that they could possibly be trying to convey to me and that listening does not require my full attention. Furthermore, I seem to be unwilling to take the other person’s perspective when I am listening and it seems to convey to them that they are not important enough to warrant my full attention with regard to their feelings or input. I engage in mindless listening in which I selectively hear what I want to hear, attending only when it seems to involve me directly, assuming that I always understand everything, responding only when I feel it is necessary, which all contributes to faulty remembering. With my limited ability to listen well I am also unable to fully empathize at times because I feel they are over reacting and will eventually get over it.

Goal

My ultimate goal is to realize that people and interpersonal relationships are far more important than my personal goals at the moment as well as any other personal distractions and that these relationships and people deserve my full listening attention in order to cultivate and maintain these relationships, which many will remain an important part of my life for the duration. My goal is to develop listening styles that will contribute to my ability to become a better listener which needs to include, not trying to multi-task when others need my attention, not interrupting, being careful to only offer advice when asked or sure of the advice being given, not be quick to judge, being supportive, using paraphrasing and questioning to clarify understanding, and employing more empathy from their perspective.

Procedure

The measures and procedures that I will use will consist of:

Taking the other’s perspective while listening.

Engaging in more mindful listening, giving the message sender my full attention, making sure I hear what is said.

Attending to what is heard making sure I understand what is said.

Responding sincerely and giving feedback.

Make a conscious effort to remember what was said.

Use perception checking to make sure I understand what was said.

No stage-hogging, pseudo listening, ambushing, or insensitive listening.

Keeping a journal that notes my listening experience after conversations have taken place in order to make the necessary changes or adjustments to ensure that I am in fact becoming a better listener with no ambushing, or insensitive listening.

Keeping a journal that notes my listening experience after conversations have taken place in order to make the necessary changes or adjustments to ensure that I am in fact becoming a better listener.

Making sure that my non-verbal behaviors such as body orientation, posture, gestures, face and eyes are not conveying a conflicting message about my listening.

Test of Achieving Goal

Week One: I was engaging in a conversation with my daughter, one that I had seemingly had a thousand times with regard to her friends and some of the problems they were having. Instead of assuming that I had heard it all before, I decided to stop what I was doing and give her my full attention and consciously made myself aware of my body language as well to make certain that I was focusing on what she was saying and not rolling my eyes to convey the feeling that what she was saying was irrelevant in any way. Furthermore, I engaged in perception checking and paraphrasing to restate her comments to make sure that I understood what she was saying and what exactly her concerns and emotions were about the situation. I asked her question to help her find her own solutions and as noted in our text, “Questions can encourage self-discovery.” (Adler and Proctor II 249) As well I used prompting to help her sort out her emotions and perceived tribulations about the situation. As noted, “Prompting can help others clarify their thoughts and feelings.” (Adler and Proctor II 248) She seemed encouraged after our conversation rather than her normal frustration that she had not accomplished anything while talking to me.

Week Two: During week two I decided to try out my listening skills on my husband who always takes the time to discuss business with me. I must admit that with my busy schedule, school, work and the kids I find myself increasingly unable to stay focused on what he is saying let alone find any interest at times. I know he can tell when I am pseudo listening because on more than one occasion he has point blank said, “I am boring you…” in which I always say no and then realize that my body language, which includes sifting through paper work and looking around while he is talking as well as my lack of any meaningful feedback or paraphrasing clearly shows my non-interest. Instead of continuing on with what I was doing when he sat down next to my computer I promptly put the computer on sleep mode and turned my chair to listen to him while he talked. As well when he described a business proposition that I did not clearly understand I paraphrased his original statement the way I thought I understood it to make sure that I in fact understand. He then clarified his original statement which added more detail and he and I were sure that I understood him.

Week Three: Okay this week was definitely a “two steps forward one step back” situation. I was working on a paper for one of my classes, (not this class…smile) and I was really busy with my daughter and her dance schedule as well as doing work for my father’s business; needless to say, I was over whelmed. My husband was preparing to do a job interview to hire an employee and really needed some input and feedback from me. It seems like we have had these conversations before and I have already given him my advice and so I let him talk to me while I was looking up research material on the internet. It was not until about ¾ of the way through our conversation that he finally said, “you are too busy…” when I realized that I had not even considered my initial list of “better listening techniques” and continued on with my project giving him only a minute portion of my attention.

Week Four: This week I was determined not to fail and so I have begun a ritual of every morning reading over my list of “better listening techniques” in order to stay more aware and focused for the day. This week I added to my list some more helpful suggestions such as making an effort to actively stop what I am doing and listen. As noted, “Listening effectively is hard work.” (Adler and Proctor II 243) As well I made sure that if necessary the conversation could be taken to a quieter, undisturbed location to block out external noise, and made sure that I did not assume the speaker had nothing new or important to say which is known as faulty assumptions. With my daughter, she was having some problems with a friend of hers, nothing new but important to her, and I have already heard the problem before but instead allowed her to express herself. In doing so I realized that she was possibly seeking my advice on the subject but not really sure if analyzing would be a better way to go. Normally I would just pseudo listen in which my advice to her would sound more controlling and condescending and this would make her tune out. I decided to analyze in hopes that she would come up with the answer on her own. As noted, “Sometimes a clear analysis will make a confusing problem suddenly clear, either suggesting a solution or at least providing an understanding of what is occurring.” (Adler and Proctor II 258) The conversation went smoothly and this time did not result in her leaving the room mad at me for half listening or giving unwanted advice or comments like “I told you so” or displaying the attitude that I already know everything. I asked her a few days later if her method seemed to be working with her friends and she seemed encouraged with the way it was working.

Success

Week One: When I referred back to my checklist that I had made for myself to see if I had utilized some effective listening skills, I found that I did pretty well overall, except that I did find myself falling in and out of pseudo listening as I was becoming bored with the topic of conversation and began to assume that I already knew everything that my daughter or husband was going to say and that we had already discussed it a million times before. This is a fault of mine that I definitely do not like when I assume that I already know everything they will say and that since I have already advised her in the past I do not need to listen anymore. This is not so as I realize that she needs a “listening ear” and is not just looking for advice but needs my support without me casting judgment on the matter. I need to work on that area of listening better next time so I do not frustrate her, however she seemed surprised and appreciative that I actually stopped what I was doing and sat down and listened to her.

Week Two: I am beginning to feel more confident that I will be able to change my listening style with more practice. It is taking a conscious effort at this point, but I am realizing that it is not so bad and that when I in fact give my undivided attention it seems to make the conversation go more efficiently and thus more quickly. I am beginning to wonder if my listening style before, which consisted of mindless listening, in fact contributed to the problem because my family could sense that they did not have my full attention and so they felt that they had to keep talking to me which took even more time. My belief was that I had so much to do that it was all but necessary that I multi task while others were talking to me so that I could accomplish more. However, I am beginning to see the value of incorporating better listening behaviors, such as paraphrasing, questioning, supporting etc., to show the other person that I am in fact listening and that what they have to say is of value. As well I have realized that my non-verbal behavior and inattention was not going unnoticed by those seeking my attention when trying to communicate with me and that my attitude clearly was expressing that. As noted, “Nonverbal communication is much better suited to expressing attitudes and feelings than ideas.” (Adler and Proctor II 199)

Week Three: I can honestly say I failed this week, allowing for my perceived busy schedule to crowd out those around me and using the “faulty assumption” approach while listening to my husband assuming that I already knew everything he was going to say. As noted, “When the subject is a familiar one, it’s easy to tune out because you think you’ve heard it all before.” (Adler and Proctor II 243) I realized that I do not make a conscious effort to listen to others when they are speaking and it is easy for me to lapse back into my old habits and that I need to stop what I am doing and listen. If I simply am too busy at the moment I need to tell them can we talk in a half hour or whenever I can give my full attention. I could tell that my husband knew he did not have my full attention and that is when he told me I looked too busy and we could talk later but I could see the hurt in his eyes.

Week Four: What I found from this approach was that because I just analyzed and did not directly “bark” out unsolicited advice, my daughter came up with the solution on her own and felt better for it. The encouraging outcome of this four-week project has been very positive and I am not going to stop here because I have realized not only the impact that it has on me, but the larger impact that my family notices and reacts to my better listening habits. I am making a conscious effort to talk less and listen more, watching my non-verbal speech, getting rid of distractions, steering clear of judgments and negativism, using prompting, questioning and paraphrasing to show that I am engaged, utilizing perception checking when I am wanting to make sure all parties are clear, being supportive and not trying to offer unsolicited advice, taking the other person’s perspective, engaging in mindful listening, steering clear of pseudo listening, and not stage hogging. Another thing that I have learned is that I utilized different listening styles with different members of my family and that seems to work well also because each of them require a different level of understanding and listening from me. Especially with my daughter at her age the last thing that is helpful that I realized was contributing to negative communication was my unsolicited advice. As noted, “It is possible to rely on a response style that is unhelpful. You may be overly judgmental or too eager to advise, even when your suggestions aren’t invited or productive.” (Adler and Proctor II 263)I have realized that each situation as well as the others person’s needs will dictate which listening style is most needed and useful in any given situation. I have noted in my journal that I used more positive non-verbal communication that coincided with my verbal communication and as well I noted that I engaged in more empathic listening and responding and by doing so I have been more able to allow myself to understand a situation from their perspective and not stubbornly cling to my own. As noted, “Empathy involves seeing the situation from the other person’s perspective rather than your own.” (Adler and Proctor II 117) This one aspect alone has softened the communication climate and opened up the door for more personal information to be shared because of my attitude change and level of empathy. This project has encouraged me to try and implement additional changes in my communication style and my next task is to learn better communicational skills with regard to defensiveness and conflict.

Works Cited

Adler, Ronald B., and Russell F. Proctor II. Looking Out/Looking In. 12th ed. Mason, Ohio: Cengage

Learning, 2007.

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