Communication Skills

Communication is the means of sending or receiving information. In the context of human interaction, this is generally done through speaking, writing and non-verbal signals.

From decisions we make with friends and loved ones over coffee, to numerous hours of conversations we have with colleagues in the office, having the skill to fully understand the communication – especially the hidden communication of others, cannot be overemphasised.

While much of our communication is done consciously and overtly, an equal amount of communication occurs unintentionally, and often without our awareness. Both these forms of communication are vitally important in understanding how a person is thinking and feeling and why here at EIA we put equal emphasis on both sides.

Before we move onto the different types of verbal and non-verbal communication, let’s first focus on laying the groundwork for any successful communication…

Rapport is the first step to good communication. Great communication relies on people feeling comfortable… you never hear about people wanting to move jobs because they feel so at ease with their boss and colleagues do you? Having the ability to make others comfortable through good rapport is a critical skill to become a caring and effective communicator.

Building Rapport

In many cases, rapport comes easy. I imagine you do not have to cast your memory too far back to remember a conversation you had with a stranger where everything just seemed to ‘click’. This click is the sign of some fantastic rapport, and we often see this occurring when we are having a conversation with someone about a shared interest or perspective. The challenge in establishing rapport comes then when we are not discussing things of common interest, or having other difficult conversations. It’s valuable therefore to look at some rapport-building techniques to help make others feel more comfortable and assist with the facilitation of effective communication.

  1. Physical Appearance
    No matter how hard we try to not to judge a book by its cover, we inevitably fall short. Our brains are hardwired to jump to conclusions…we cannot help it. That is why the first tip to building rapport is to approach your clothing (and quite possibly your level of grooming) in a way that would help make someone or a group of people within a given context feel more comfortable. It’s important to stress the ‘given context’, as what may make your clients feel more comfortable, may not be the same as what makes your friends comfortable on a Saturday night out.
  2. Matching the other person
    Matching is when you take your cues from the behaviour of your fellow communicator and follow in a similar style. For instance, if a person is speaking particularly softly and a little quiet, it will help build rapport if you respond in kind. This is not to say you should mimic the other person (this would be irritating and would likely hinder affinity), but that by moving more in their direction, you will be helping them feel more comfortable and in turn get more value from the conversation.
  3. Have a genuine interest in the other person
    One of the easiest ways to build rapport with someone is to be genuinely interested in them as a person. The key word here is ‘genuinely’. People are not stupid, and when you fake interest in a person or something they care about, they know, and they will not feel comfortable opening up to you. Even if you do not particularly like a person, it’s still possible to become curious. Try to understand why they behave the way they do, instead of responding with primal emotion and judging them with contempt, disgust, anger or hatred.
Verbal and Non-Verbal Behaviour

EIA has developed an advanced model for analysing verbal and non-verbal behaviour – Six Channel Analysis – Real-time (SCAnR). SCAnR is a multiple communication channel model for behaviour analysis that has been validated for use in high- stake contexts. The six channels we assess are illustrated here:

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is the sharing of information through the use of speech. It includes the verbal content – the words people actually choose to use, the style in which people talk, and the volume, pitch and speed of their voice.
The ability to communicate effectively will rely heavily on a persons ability to convey information through their spoken words. It’s one of the most sought after skills by employers and contributes significantly to a persons chance of excelling within the workplace.

Here we will look at the verbal communication channels from the SCAnR model:

  • Verbal Style
    This is the detail, structure, plausibility, contradictions and flow of the words we say [delivery]. If we know how someone responds typically if we know their baseline or normal operating behaviour we will be very interested in any change from this baseline. While the change from baseline applies to all five channels, it is particularly relevant in verbal style in relation to pauses or filled pauses, jargon, stuttering and repetitions or changes in pronoun usage and tone of voice.

  • Verbal Content
    This is the words we say or write. Research in this area goes back many decades and continues to this day to seek a language or composition that can discriminate between a credible statement and a non-credible statement because the former is qualitatively and quantitatively different from the latter. This technique and analysis that is given in evidence in some countries in Europe and North America provide a language and structure to enable you to articulate what it is that you intuitively believe to be amiss when otherwise your vocabulary would fail you.

  • Voice
    Here we listen for the changes in pitch, volume and tone can tell us a lot about the emotional states of others. From a phone call alone you can learn to hear these changes in parameters and gain a clear understanding of how a person is feeling.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-Verbal Communication is what is communicated outside of the spoken word. A lot of what we communicate to others comes through our non-verbals…more than you maybe first thought. Within the SCAnR model, there are three non-verbal communication channels to consider. These are:

  • Facial Expressions
    The movement of more than 40 muscles in the face that combine to signal actual emotions and cognitive processes. Work undertaken by Darwin and other 19th century scientists has been advanced by Ekman and others so that now we know that all humans irrespective of race or colour share seven universal emotions. In addition, under some circumstances, these emotions [happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, contempt and surprise] can be given off involuntarily, in less than a quarter of a second revealing a person’s true feelings. Such fleeting images are referred to as micro facial expressions [MFE]. Evolution has dictated that the face is the clearest signal for emotional display.

  • Body Language
    These are the non-verbal signals, other than facial, that can reveal what we are thinking and feeling. The research literature about body language and deception is not straightforward and is heavily influenced by cultural variables. Despite this, it can provide an illuminating insight into a person’s thought processes and emotions.

  • Psychophysiology
    This is the biometrics and the chemistry and the electronics that are going on within our body. While these biometric indicators of what the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is doing often need technical equipment and sensors to pick them up, there are many clues from behaviour and appearance that can point to changes in a person’s psychophysiology and give you a better idea of how that person may be thinking and feeling.

By developing your skills to read and interpret a person speech accurately, you are going to significantly improve your ability to read, understand, and influence others.

Harry Lansley
Article by Harry Lansley

Specialist in Micro/Subtle Expressions and Behaviour Analysis. Harry is certified to the highest level in the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) used for the objective measurement of facial muscle movement.

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