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Assertiveness and Self-Confidence



Communication Skills

Strong communication skills are essential for assertive interaction with others. Humans are social animals and communication is a very important part of our daily lives. Every interaction we have with another person including, face to face, over the phone, chatting online or even texting is communication happening, and have strong communication skills will benefit every type of interaction we encounter.

 
Listening and Hearing; They Aren't the Same Thing

Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something that one consciously chooses to do. Listening requires concentration so that the brain processes meaning from words and sentences.

Listening leads to learning, but this is not always an easy task. The normal adult rate of speech is 100-150 words per minute, but the brain can think at a rate of 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker's or the recipient's next words.

As opposed to hearing, listening skills can be learned and refined. The art of active listening allows you to fully receive a message from another person. Especially in a situation involving anger or a tense interchange, active listening allows you to be sensitive to the multiple dimensions of communication that make up an entire message. These dimensions include:

The occasion for the message: What is the reason why the person is communicating with me now?

The length of the message: What can the length of the message tell me about its importance?

The words chosen: Is the message being made formally? Is it with aloofness or slang?

The volume and pace: What clues do the loudness and speed give me?

The Pauses and Hesitations: How do these enhance or detract from the message?

Non-verbal clues: What does eye contact, posture, or facial expressions tell me about the message? 



Empathy is the capability to share and understand another's emotions and feelings. Empathetic listening
is the art of seeking a truer understanding of how others are feeling. This requires excellent discrimination and close attention to the nuances of emotional signals. According to Stephen Covey in "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", empathetic listening involves five basic tasks:

1.   Repeat verbatim the content of the communication; the words, not the feelings

2.   Rephrase content; summarize the meaning of the words in your own words

3.   Reflect feelings; look more deeply and begin to capture feelings in your own words. Look beyond words for body language and tone to indicate feelings.

4.   Rephrase contents and reflect feelings; express both their words and feelings in your own words.

5.   Discern when empathy is not necessary - or appropriate.

 
Asking Questions

Active listeners use specific questioning techniques to elicit more information from speakers. Below are three types of questions to use when practicing active listening.


Open Questions

Open questions stimulate thinking and discussion or responses including opinions or feelings. They pass control of the conversation to the respondent. Leading words in open questions include: Why, what, or how, as in the following examples:

o   Tell me about the current employee orientation process.

o   How do you open the emergency exit door on an A320 aircraft?
 

Clarifying Questions

A clarifying question helps to remove ambiguity, elicits additional detail, and guides the answer to a question. When you ask a clarifying question, you ask for expansion or detail, while withholding your judgment and own opinions. When asking for clarification, you will have to listen carefully to what the other person says. Frame your question as someone trying to understand in more detail. Often asking for a specific example is useful. This also helps the speaker evaluate his or her own opinions and perspective. Below are some examples:

o   I can tell you are really concerned about this. Let me see if I can repeat to you your main concerns so we can start to think about what to do in this situation.

o   What sort of savings are you looking to achieve?

Closed Questions

Closed questions usually require a one-word answer, and effectively shut off discussion. Closed questions provide facts, allow the questioner to maintain control of the conversation, and are easy to answer. Typical leading words are: Is, can, how many, or does. While closed questions are not the optimum choice for active listening, at times they may be necessary to elicit facts. Below are several examples of closed questions:

o   Who will lead the meeting?

o   Do you know how to open the emergency exit door on this aircraft?

 
Body Language

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication involving the use of stylized gestures, postures, and physiologic signs which act as cues to other people. Humans unconsciously send and receive non-verbal signals through body language all the
time.

Non-verbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. It is the single most powerful form of communication. Nonverbal communication cues others about what is in your mind, even more than your voice or words can do.

According to studies at UCLA, as much as 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues, and the impact of performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication.

In communication, if a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language rules every time.

 

Assertiveness and Self-Confidence

 
First Impressions Count

It takes as few as seven seconds - and no more than thirty seconds -- for someone to form a first impression about you.

o   Body language. Remember that body language makes up to 55% of a communication.

o   Dress and grooming. It's less about your budget, and more about clean, pressed, and event-appropriate clothing with neat grooming.

o   Handshake. Use a medium to firm handshake grip, avoiding a week, one handshake or overly firm one that can cause potential discomfort to another.

o   Body Movement. Use a mirror, or enlist the help of a friend to make sure that your movements are not overly active --and that they support the nature of your message.

 
It's How You Say It

We are all born with a particular tone of voice, which we can learn to improve. The goal is to sound upbeat, warm, under control, and clear.

o   Breathe from your diaphragm

o   Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated; avoid caffeine because of its diuretic effects

o   Posture affects breathing, and also tone of voice, so be sure to stand up straight

o   To warm up the tone of your voice, smile

o   If you have a voice that is particularly high or low, exercise it's by practicing speaking on a sliding scale. You can also sing to expand the range of your voice.

o   Record your voice and listen to the playback

o   Deeper voices are more credible than higher pitched voices. Try speaking in a slightly lower octave. It will take some practice, but with a payoff, just as radio personalities have learned

o   Enlist a colleague or family member to get feedback about the tone of your voice.
 

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is a belief in oneself, one's abilities, or one's judgment. It is freedom from doubt. When you believe you can change things -- or make a difference in a situation, you are much more likely to succeed.

As a self-confident person, you walk with a bounce in your step. You can control your thoughts and emotions and influence others. You are more prepared to tackle everyday challenges and recover from setbacks. This all leads to a greater degree of optimism and life satisfaction. 
 


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