Communication is a two-way street. It requires both parties to take turns in speaking and
listening. However, the key to communicate effectively is to listen attentively and give meaningful
feedback in the exchange. The conversation will be more enjoyable when both persons are tracing the
Tools for Listening
Some tools that are useful in communication are clarification, reflection and summarising.
Clarification allows us to ensure we have understood the message by the speaker. In doing this,
you may ask the speaker to repeat himself or herself if you did not understand what was said. For
example, you could say, “I am sorry I didn’t quite understand what you mean. Could you repeat that
please?” Another example would be verbalising what you think the speaker meant, and then asking,
“Am I understanding you correctly?”
Reflection involves repeating what the speaker said back to them, with the added component of
emotions and feelings. You may use the exact same words or paraphrase them while doing so. This
would allow the speaker to feel heard and create a more engaging discussion. Using key words spoken
by the speaker can also be a form of reflection. An example of a reflecting sentence would be,
“I hear you have been struggling with this project for a few weeks now. I feel your frustration and anxiety in meeting the deadline.”
Summarising might be the longest part of the conversation. It helps to track the content spoken
and it is the tool which gels the conversation together, ensuring that both parties are being heard and
understood. During work conversations, many ideas and content are being exchanged. Hence, this is
great for tying things up together midway or towards the end of the discussion.
Tools for Speaking
Each of us have different personalities and therefore, we adopt different ways of speaking. Some
of us speak while thinking, which we call ‘thinking aloud’. Some of us think and process first, before
speaking. Thus, when people of different personalities come together for a discussion, it can possibly
cause room for miscommunication.
If you are a person who thinks aloud, it would be helpful to lay it upfront and say
“I am thinking aloud about this idea. I have not decided whether I want to do it, and I am opening it up for discussion.”
If this person’s a team leader, it gives clarity to his co-workers that it is not a confirmed idea, and it is still
at the discussion phase.
For someone who thinks before speaking, he may appear aloof because of the silence he
exhibits. However, he can present himself as an active participant by saying, “I am thinking about it. Let
me organise my thoughts and come back to you on this.”
Choice of Words
The interesting part of language is that people attach different meanings to the same words. This is
apparent in different cultures. Thus, if you work in a cross-cultural environment, it is important to seek
clarification on the meaning of words. For instance, the sentence, ‘It is special’, holds a positive connotation in the Singapore context, but a negative meaning in the Australian context. It could potentially cause a rift in the work relationship if no clarification was made by either party. If unsure, it often helps to check with your co-workers or Google.
In closing, the goal of effective communication would be for both speaker and listener to reach the same
understanding of the discussion, which is an integral part to achieve efficient work standards. Using the
suggested tools will improve your communication in the workplace.