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Communication is a vital part of human interaction. It is the exchange and convey of experience, thoughts, feelings, desires, emotions and knowledge. It includes a sender transmitting an idea to a receiver. Effective communication (encoding - decoding) takes place only if the receiver comprehends the exact information that the sender planned to transmit. Human communication may include additional ways of transmitting information - facial expressions, body language and behaviour. It is the most essential method for building and maintaining personal and professional relations. The highly social world we live in is based on various ways of communication - one-way and two-way; verbal written, verbal spoken and non-verbal one; interactive and transactive, intentional or unintentional; inter- and intra-communication. In addition to shaping our personality and the way we are perceived in society, enhancing our communication competences entitle us to various personal and professional benefits. Those may include: improving confidence in social situations, broadening friends' circles, better understanding when reading and/or listening and succeeding in work organizations (Gallagher, 2010).
It is essential to have at least minor familiarity with this art or technique of using words considering the great impact it has on each individual. Not being able to encode and decode messages correctly hides great risks as stated (although a bit overdramatic) in British propaganda during the World War II: 'Careless talk costs lives'. I personally, have expanded those skills during my education. Unsurprisingly, I will enrich and improve those competences mainly throughout my higher education and have done so over the past five weeks. The shaping of my communication abilities is connected directly with the modules and subjects I am studying and indirectly with the way I socialise and involve in group activities in the studying environment. There is a tight connection between the stated abilities and learning. My communication skills are greatly dependent on experiential learning. According to Kolb's 'experiential learning cycle' some examples of the included stages are: mistakes, training sessions, giving/listening to presentations, team discussions (Gallagher, 2010). The latter are the main factors which form my capability for improved interaction. When having made a mistake in the way I complete an activity or approach someone, I reflect on what was the cause for the miscommunication. By reflecting, I learn from my experience and correct the inaccuracy and respectively, advance my skills. Since my time in university, one of the main communication barriers I have faced is the language barrier. Given that I am not a native speaker and I have been taught English at school by Bulgarian teachers, it could be tricky for me to communicate effectively. As an example I will use a situation of miscommunication between me and my personal tutor illustrated in a critical incident sheet (Gallagher, 2010):
What was critical incident concerned with?
An e-mail to my personal tutor concerning an online activity I was not able to fulfil due to a website problem.
Details of what happened
After having explained my problem I received an e-mail criticising me on the informal English I use when approaching university officials. After re-reading my e-mail I realised the reason may be in the use of the word 'Uni' instead of 'university' which I wasn't aware is informal and re-wrote my e-mail apologizing in an official style, in the way I have been taught to write letters. The feedback I received was that it was not appropriate to be sarcastic and rude.
My initial thoughts
I was shocked from being labelled as 'sarcastic' and 'rude' because of the way I re-wrote my e-mail. After contemplating on the situation I realized that the way I thought I am expected to express my thoughts is different to the way native speakers communicate in reality, leading to message ambiguity.
What skills/behaviours did I use?
I used my communication skills to the best I could by apologizing and explaining the situation and asking for advice on how to approach officials.
Performance rating of my skills (1 poor - 5 good)
Confidence rating of my skills (1 -5)
4 (even after my explanation I believe I have not been understood fully)
What have I learnt?
I learnt that I need to improve my language skills and knowledge according to the English communication style.
What will I do differently next time?
I will use the advice from my tutor and copy the pattern people use to address each other in e-mails.
In addition to the language barriers in communication, I have encountered with the issues of impact of culture, differing values and perceptions and jumping to conclusions as well. I can point out the feedback I received on my Online Shopping presentation and the group activities I have been involved in. From the criticism and advice I received on my presentation and group activities, I realised I have quite good verbal written skills but have to work on my verbal spoken ones simply because English is not my mother language. Naturally, not being able to express my thoughts in the correct words could lead to miscommunication.
Furthermore, the carried out training sessions have helped me realise strengths and weaknesses in my communication manner. From the LSQ questionnaire comments, I am aware my emotional control is not that strong, this also may reflect on the way I socialise and is a skill I need to work on. Nevertheless, according to the Skills Tracker and the evidences on my assessment I am quite competent in person to person communication, able to work effectively with others, produce variety of written documents and define a problem due to misunderstanding, identify and carry out a solution.
From reflecting on my skills, I am aware of the communication areas I need to improve in order to achieve as effective communication as possible. Those include improving my emotional control and enriching my language style. I comprehend this is a rather long-term and continuous process. Hoping to do this, I will involve as much as possible in the education course and seek alternative sources for improving those skills such as appropriate literature and exercises and learning from my mistakes.