History offers many interesting lessons from which to learn. From the previous series (#2), historical records document the effects and influences of communication. Agricultural information was available during the 1850’s that could have prevented the Irish and German potato famines. However, those who received that information, the landowners, did not share it with those who actually worked the land. Two key elements of communication are hearing and listening. Each has a different definition and therefore a different set of skills. Developing the skills for listening entails a variety of steps and processes that require both knowledge and practice. This section offers both the knowledge as well as the skills for developing listening as an important part of communication between and among individuals and communities.
Do we pay attention to the spoken word or is it simply sound that comes into a person’s ear? This is the question discussed in this issue. Characteristics of active listening include not being preoccupied, not making judgements or thinking about a “best” reply. Thinking is involved in listening making it a complex and nuanced. (Harris, 2006) Strategies that help maintain active listening include, paraphrasing, reflecting, and seeking further explanation from the speaker.
Listening strategies such as P-R-E-S-E-N-T are available to enhance listening. In order to identify these strategies it is important to recognize the role of the sender and the receiver. A list of communication barriers, attitudes, demons and remedies for the sender and receiver illustrate efforts needed to maintain and achieve effective communication. Utilizing suggested skills increases opportunities for a sender and receiver to converge.
Wolvin (2010) identifies these skills as a) adequate knowledge of subject content, b) knowledge of the target audience, c) friendliness, d) empathy, e) flexibility. Skills involved between sender and receiver include a) speak clearly, b) full attention on the part of the receiver, c) formulate a clear message, d) listen carefully, e) ensure that the message is understood.
Communication skills acknowledge the existence and presence of barriers between sender and receiver. Recognizing these barriers increases the communication skill levels for both parties. Sharing goals for the purpose of communication helps to bring the sender and receiver closer together.