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To Say Is One Thing, To Accept Is Another: Principles Of Effective Communication

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The Essentials Of Communication By Ganiu Bamgbose, PhD, Teaching 'Speaking' As A Communicative Skill

It has been established that communication is one of the most outstanding features of human beings. It has sustained co-existence, helped to manage conflicts/situations and enhanced collaborative efforts.

If all of these and more are the uses of communication, it is, therefore, important to continuously seek to sharpen one’s communicative ability. On these lines, this piece will discuss some principles of effective communication with a view to helping the readership get the best out of interactive exchanges.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw, a renowned writer of the twentieth century, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. Brenda Townsend Hall says that it is not enough to say that you told someone something: “did you check that he was listening, that he understood, that he agreed and that he would carry out the required action?”

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For this, it is in place to say that one major principle of communication is getting appropriate feedback. It is never enough to assume that communication has taken place if one does not get feedback from the interlocutor, especially in spoken communication. Note, by the way, that feedback is an uncountable noun and should not be used in the plural form:
I got a feedback from the client (non-standard).
I got feedbacks from the client (non-standard).
I got feedback from the client (standard).

Moving on, another principle of effective communication is the need to be sure of your intention. Even in what might be a random talk, one must set out with a clear objective in mind. Having a clear objective helps to trigger the right emotional and cognitive responses from your audience. One might be using language to inform, persuade, shock, praise, criticise, shame, please, inspire or even confuse others. Even if the audience is unsure of what the speaker or writer is trying to achieve, such obscurity must be deliberate communicative tact (not, a deliberate communicative tact) on the part of the speaker or writer.

Another principle of communication is attentiveness. Attentiveness is the fact of paying attention and listening carefully. Everyone who will be a good communicator cannot rule out being an attentive listener. In the workplace, for instance, you should not jump in and issue an official warning to a worker you have not listened to. Such warnings sometimes worsen the performance of a person, especially when you have not listened to them. Attentiveness is used in this piece to mean the readiness and willingness to act after listening. Morally speaking, you have no right to take offence at someone you have not listened to.

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Another essential principle of communication is the clarification of doubt. Words can take up different meanings, and the combination of words can result in different interpretations. It is important, on these grounds, for both speakers and listeners to clarify doubts which may be born out of ambiguity.

For instance, the sentence “A decision was taken on the boat” can either mean that a decision was taken while on the boat or that a decision was taken concerning the boat. A speaker must avoid such sentences that could lead to doubt; the listener, too, should not fail to seek clarification when such ambiguous sentences are identified. Speakers focus on their thoughts and may not be mindful of such ambiguous constructions since ambiguity does not happen in their minds, so listeners have to be discerning enough to identify ambiguity.

Also, a very important principle of effective communication is liberality. Liberality is used here to mean the quality of being open to new ideas and being free from prejudice. You are not a good communicator if something suggests to you that your opinion must be upheld at all times. A good communicator respects other people’s opinions and understands that others are not necessarily wrong because we are right and that they are right does not make us wrong.

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The essence of communicating, sometimes, is to understand everyone’s perspective and not necessarily to be adjudged a winner. If this principle of communication is upheld, there will be no factional clashes among members of organisations, the faithful of religions and adherents of ideologies. Interactions, therefore, must go on with mutual respect among interlocutors.

I will conclude this piece with the words of Hall: you can now start analyzing where you are going wrong. What sort of feedback do you allow? Do you understand how to appeal to people’s emotions and reasoning powers? Do you understand what makes your audience tick? Have you tried to find out about their real lives and what is important to them? And are you showing a lack of respect by trying to hoodwink them? By addressing these questions as fully as possible, you will go a long way towards improving the outcomes of your communication.

(c) 2023 Ganiu Bamgbose
Department of English,
Lagos State University

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