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What is communication and how to communicate effectively?

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Communication is what we are trying to do through this writing. We are trying to communicate to you what communication is and how to communicate effectively. Here, we are trying to communicate through writing. If you were watching us on YouTube, we would be communicating to you through verbal and visual means of communication. If we were to communicate with you on the same topic via graphics, that would be another form of communication. So, basically communication is to convey what’s inside us through mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic conventions.

There are basically three sides to communication. One is source (communicator), another is receiver (audience), and third being channel (air, phone, tv, book, paper, picture, etc).

Types of Communication

There are basically three types of communication,

  1. Verbal communication: Communicating verbally (by speaking out)
  2. Non-verbal communication: Communicating through body language, facial expression, touch, gesture, etc, in a form of non-linguistic representations.
  3. Visual communication: Communicating through arts, photographs, graphics, etc.
  4. Written communication: Communicating through writings.

Purpose of Communication in humans

Purpose of communication in humans varies for a range of reasons but the ability to communicate effectively is what makes humans different from the rest of other animals.

Have you watched the movie, “Rise of The Planet of The Apes?”

What happens in the movie is that there is this one ape which has a relatively higher degree of intelligence that it can think and reason. But until that point, the ape was not still that powerful. It was still a pet. The ape then learned to communicate, and through communication, it learned to influence other apes. That discovery of communication made it possible for apes to act collectively, that led to desire for independence, self rule. The movie actually tells what made humans so powerful and superior through the story of the apes.

Only reason humans could rule the world is because it could communicate with fellow humans for a range of reasons. Think of it. It’s because of the ability to communicate, humans could tame a mammoth. “hey! look back. Okay, now it’s turning other side, so hit the other side. Hey you, you attack from back and you from front.” If we were not this good at communicating with fellow humans, we would be just like monkeys, screaming and shouting but no clear instructions or tips and tricks to fight against other species. Not only that, but we share our knowledge and understanding to other humans and new generations so that they learn from our mistakes and lessons, and thus their life and time is saved to learn further and progress further.

Here is another example,

There is this water tank at my neighbor’s house. The tank gets filled once in 15 days. Other times, it is as dry. On one of the dry days, some or other pigeon comes to nest to lay eggs but as the tap gets on, the nest gets destroyed. It feels really sad to see how she struggles to protect the eggs, but what could she do. Eggs get spoiled and she leaves the nest. Again, some other day another pigeon comes and tastes the same fate. So far three pigeons, I have witnessed, testing the same sad fate. That’s the difference between humans and other creatures. If the pigeon was human, she would spread her lesson. If any pigeon tries to repeat the mistake, she will be warned by other pigeons. The pigeons as well will pass down the story and lesson to new ones saving even them from making the mistake.

You see? What makes humans so powerful is our ability to communicate, our ability to spread lessons and knowledge and ability to accept those lessons even without experiencing it. This saves lots of our time and energy without which we would be repeating the same mistakes just like the pigeons.Same applies to human society or country. The country or society where there is a culture of effective communication, knowledge sharing, culture of documenting history, such a society or country as a whole becomes smarter, grow more rapidly as they waste less time repeating the past mistakes. The society or the country that lacks such culture are doomed to get stuck in the same loop.

Hope, you got the point of how important communication is for progress and success. Everything that we know now is the result of accumulated knowledge passed down through communication channels.

Good communication versus bad communication

Now, since we know the importance of communication, we should be aware of good communication from bad communication. We all have been in the situation where the receiver misunderstood us, we got into conflict, we didn’t get things done and many other troubles because there was a “communication gap” or “miscommunication.”

As we learned earlier, the sole purpose of communicating is to transport what’s in our mind – be it knowledge, or thoughts or ideas – into the head of the receiver as it is. When there is a difference in what we want to convey and how the receiver decodes, the miscommunication occurs. SO BAD COMMUNICATION IS NOTHING BUT FAILING TO COMMUNICATE PROPERLY.

What would happen if a hunger-gather had failed to communicate properly while hunting a mammoth? One of the members would die. What will happen if a teacher fails to communicate properly? Students will misunderstand or do not understand the subject.

So the burden always lies on who is communicating more than who is being communicated. It’s the responsibility of the source to communicate effectively. In good communication, the communicator successfully transports/transmits his/her message to the receiver as s/he wanted it to be, whereas in bad communication s/he fails to do so.

There are various reasons why bad communication happens, some of which are:

  1. Lack of clarity – not being precise and concise in what is trying to be conveyed; lack of clarity in voice or presentation.
  2. Ambiguity of words/phrases – Words sounding the same but having different meanings can convey a different meaning altogether. Hence the communicator must ensure that the receiver receives the same meaning.
  3. Cultural differences – where one being said being understood differently due to cultural interpretation. For example, calling someone a monkey may mean ugly in one culture whereas it may mean smart in another culture.
  4. Intellectual differences – Use of jargons, being too technical or academic, that the receiver doesn’t get. It’s easy to say “society evolves over time” for someone who knows what is evolution but if the receiver does not know what is evolution in the first place, the whole sentence may be understood per his/her own level of understanding and interpretation.
  5. Attitude/psychology – Certain attitudes can also make communication difficult. For instance, presenting with ab angry or intimidating tone or style can affect how the receiver decodes the message.

Thus, good communication is the type of communication where the aforementioned things are absent. In good communication, there is clarity and precision on what is trying to be conveyed, in tone and style and pattern and level that the receiver can grasp without feeling intimidated and all that being done considering the cultural background of the receiver.

How To Communicate Effectively

Since you now know the difference between good communication and bad communication and what causes them, effective communication is to consider components needed for good communication and frame your communication accordingly.

So to communicate effectively, there are fundamentally three things to consider:

Message – What are you really trying to convey?

The sole purpose of communicating is to convey something – it could be knowledge, or thoughts or ideas or opinions. Whatever it is, the first thing to consider and be very clear about is what we really are trying to convey to the receiver. As said above, it is the responsibility of the communicator to frame and present in the way the receiver can decode. Most people fail to communicate effectively because they think “it’s the responsibility of the other side to understand what I am trying to say.”

Audience – Who are you communicating with?

Have you ever wondered why you speak like a child while talking to a child? Why do we speak in a professional tone and language in the professional world but same thing when we have to speak in a casual setup or with friends in a cafe, we speak differently? Why do we speak purely in our mother tongue when speaking with grandparents or someone who does not understand English, but while speaking with people who seem to understand English, we speak a mix of English and mother tongue? That’s because we speak according to our audience. So to have effective communication, we should always know who our audience is and communicate accordingly.

Aesthetic – how are you communicating?

Okay so now you know what you are trying to convey, and you know your audience and putting yourself at the par to speak accordingly. All good, but let’s say, you presented yourself in a very unpleasant way. In that case, you will still be failing to communicate effectively. Many of us have stopped watching YouTube videos just within 15 secs because we didn’t like the way the host was talking. Or we stopped reading because the first few paragraphs turned us off. There are many instances where we didn’t give a serious listen to our teacher or elder because we didn’t like how they started or presented themselves while delivering their speech or lecture. Thus, in effective communication, another important thing to consider is the aesthetic side of the presentation. If it is verbal communication, ears get to decide if it is pleasing enough or not. In visual communication, eyes get to decide, and in written communication, our brain, while processing the first few lines and paragraphs and scanning the overall presentation, decides if it is pleasing or not.

This writing itself is an example for you of what effective communication looks like. If we have succeeded to make you read till the end, and you have understood as we wanted you to understand, and we succeeded to write it in a way you could understand, then we have effectively communicated with you through this writing.

With that, thank you so much for reading. If you have any questions to ask or points to add, please feel free to write to us ([email protected]).

NOTE: This article is created for our participants of Online Writing Workshop, and thus only necessary details and information are included as per the need and the objectives of the training.

Knowledge & Infos

How to design a survey questionnaire

This article was originally designed for KMAG Online Writing Workshop and made available to public for knowledge-sharing purpose.

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A survey is a list of questions aimed at extracting specific data from a particular group of people so that the surveyor can gain knowledge and insights into various topics of interest and then mostly generalize the result. How to design a survey questionnaire completely depends upon the purpose behind the survey. Depending on the purpose, questions are framed.

Let’s understand this way, surveyor seeks to know anything based on either of the following grounds:

  1. They don’t know anything, they are curious to find out, and they seek for answers. Example: I don’t know many people smoke and I want to find out by asking everyone out there.
  2. They think they know but they are not sure and they want to find out if what they think they know is actually true or false. Example: I think 50% of Nepalese do smoke but I am not sure yet and I want to validate my assumption by surveying.
  3. They strongly believe that what they know is the facts and now they want to interpret the world based on the “facts” they live by. Example: I strongly believe that smoking is bad and raising tax and making it expensive is the way to discourage people to smoke. I want to survey to find out how many Nepalese believe the same and agree with raising taxes and making it expensive would discouarge people to smoke.

Whatever grounds you are holding, you must frame your questionnaire according to that. So before working on the questionnaire ask yourself if you are trying to know the unknown or are you trying to validate or crosscheck what you think you know or you are trying to pass judgment or views based on your preset theory/hypothesis that your understanding is based upon.

This is how it goes:

You already have a theory and you want to analyze people based on the theory.

Let’s take for example “Job satisfaction Survey.” In this case, as per your theory/hypothesis, to be called “satisfied” one must be displaying so and so traits and views; if not, the person is not satisfied in his/her job. Based on that, you will be designing a questionnaire and see how many people meet the criteria to pass your judgment. If your theory says, highly satisfied people have flexible working hours, one of your questions will be something like “Can you come to your office at whatever time you want and can leave per your own wish as long as you are doing what you are paid for? Yes/No/Depends.” Likewise, there will be other questions set in a fashion to funnel your judgment regarding what percentage of people are satisfied with their job and work.

You have a theory or hypothesis that you want to validate or crosscheck

In this case, you have an assumption but you are not sure of and you want to crosscheck or validate by testing it on people. For example let’s say you think “Most arranged marriage people are unhappy,” and you want to validate your claim or crosscheck the truth in it by surveying among arranged marriage couples. Your questions will be something like “If you have to rate your marriage in terms of joy and happiness in it, how much will you rate on a 1 to 10 scale?” followed by questions like “if you have a time machine, would you go back right before the marriage and take your time to find out someone to have a love marriage? Yes/No/Maybe”

You don’t have any theory or hypothesis and you are only to find out unseen/unknown reality

In this case, you don’t have any preconceived thoughts or assumptions and you are plainly trying to learn or find out in an open-minded fashion.  Like for example, You don’t know how many educated youth from Nepal actually do smoke, nor you know why they smoke despite its negative effect and you are set out to find out the answer by surveying. In such surveys, your questions will be like “do you smoke? Yes/No. “If you smoke, how many cigarettes do you smoke per day?” “despite its negative effect, why do you still smoke?”etc.

Sometimes, you can have a mixed approach, wherein the topic of your interest that you are surveying on, part of it is something you strongly believe being fact, part of it is something you are unsure about, and part of it is something you don’t know a thing about and you are willing to learn.  Like for example, you strongly believe happy couples display so and so traits, and you think couples from love marriages are happier but you are not sure of, and you don’t know at all if personal happiness is valued more in marriage or responsibilities and social factors in the context of Nepal. So part of your questionnaires will be driven by your theory that you consider as being fact, part of it will be intended to cross-verify your assumption, and part of it will be purely seeking truth as it is without any deliberate attempt to frame your assumption.

Bottom line, you should know your ground, the purpose of surveying, what you intend to do afterward, based on which you should be working on your questionnaires.  Your questionnaires will be designed according to your intention, so there is no hard and fast rule but make sure, in the end, you gather all the relevant information so put together to build a conclusion and for that, you need to think about what all needs to be asked to fill up the blocks and connect the dots.

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Art of questioning

This article was originally designed for KMAG Online Writing Workshop and made available to public for knowledge-sharing purpose.

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Questioning is one of the defining traits of human beings. We are humans because we question. We questioned nature and we invented God. We questioned righteousness and we invented religion. We questioned our surroundings and we invented science. Question is the mother of all our beliefs, values, thoughts, and ideas which took us to answers to frame our worldview and life. Without question, there would be no critical thinking, no discourse, and discussions, no wonders, no curiosity. From the time we start speaking, we begin questioning, as you can see how often a 3-year-old kid asks. That curious monkey is what we humans are.

All questions, some way or other, are an attempt of knowing something, unless a rhetoric question (A question like “you eat meat and you call yourself an animal lover?” isn’t really a question seeking for an answer. It’s a rhetoric question intended to taunt or provoke). Though the purpose of every question is to know something, that “something” can be classified into two classes. One, Question being asked to know the answer. For example, “how to go to Ratnapark from here?” “what time is it?” a person asking an expert “what is MCC?” or a student asking a teacher “what is quantum?” In such cases, questions are asked to know the answer. Two, questions being asked not to know the answer but to know the respondent. For example, a teacher asking a student “what is quantum?,” or HR asking question in a job interview, or market researchers asking questions like “Which is your favorite movie?” where the researcher intended to find out genre you like so that can plan the business accordingly.

So basically the purpose of any question is either to know the literal answer or know the respondent analytically and sometimes a mixed approach is taken to build a complete picture of the intended goal.

Whatsoever, questioning is also a form of communication and thus same rules for effective communication applies here – Clarity on what you want to ask, according to the audience, in an approach that feels pleasant and aesthetic.

Sometimes, you ask only one question and you are done and sometimes you ask series of questions to reach to the intended goal. Let’s take a case for example:

In the case of literal question:  You want to go to Tinkune from Thamel but you don’t know how to go.  So first you ask “where do I get a bus for Tinkune?” respondent says “from Ratnapark,” then you ask “how to go to Ratnapark” and the respondent says “from this way” and you ask “what are the timings for the bus?” and so on.

In the case of analytics question:  You want to know how much the respondent spends on restaurant bills. So you ask “how often do you go out for eating?” respondent says “6-8 times a month” how much do you spend in general each time, respondent says “Rs. 500” Back of your head, you calculate and find out how much the person spends monthly over restaurant bills in an analytical way.

People are not always good at sharing their stories or information or views (or in some cases not comfortable or willing to). Questions are a way to help them giving out their story or information or view in pieces. Thus, the burden lies on the interviewer to ask the right question in a manner the respondent will feel comfortable to answer or get the question to answer precisely. Art of questioning is thus all about knowing how to frame questions, connecting one question after another, funneling in an intended way to finally create pieces of blocks to put together to get the complete picture of the topic.

Remember there is always a purpose behind asking any question. No one asks questions for sake of asking. As there is a Nepali proverb najane gau ko baato nasodhnu (don’t ask for the direction to the village that you are not going to anyway). We ask questions only when we want to find out something for an intended purpose. So when you are framing a question, first create a mental image of what is that bigger picture that you want to create or looking for. Then create questionnaires that can lead you to that ultimate goal, can get you all the information and views to assemble together to get the final result or conclusion.

That’s the art of questioning.

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How to introduce yourself

This article was originally designed for KMAG Online Writing Workshop and made available to public for knowledge-sharing purpose.

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For many, one of the toughest questions to answer is when asked “tell us about yourself,” or “who are you?” When someone asks them questions where they have to introduce themselves, they go blank. WHO AM I? hits so hard. That’s because many of them don’t know what makes an identity of a person. Introducing yourself is all about communicating your true identity to the receiving end of the communication. In this article, we will try to cover what makes up an identity and how to introduce yourself by incorporating those components of identity.

We all are unique in our own way. There are 7 billion humans on this planet with their own unique identities. The introduction covers the essential components that make you and only you that when you communicate about who you are, the audience (or the receiving end of communication) gets the exact picture of who you are as you are.  A good introduction is just like good communication where the other side has rightly understood you and learned about you as you are.  Remember that introduction is also an act of communication, thus the fundamentals of communication as we covered in the earlier article are to be taken care of even while introducing yourself. What do you want to communicate? (clarity in message), who are you communicating with? (knowing your audience), and how do you want to communicate? (aesthetic and impressive or intended style) are to be taken care of before everything else.

With that, let’s begin with what makes up our identity:

Identity in a broad concept. Generally speaking, it is qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions, roots, and stories of life that make a person. I am my name, my gender, my community, my profession, my sexual orientation, my cultural background, my roots, my physical attributes, my personality, and many many more things that make me Me and nobody else. There is only one me in this world. I of course cannot tell everyone what makes me Me and bore the other side to death.  That’s why the first rule of introduction is knowing who are you introducing yourself to and what amount of information is enough for the person.  Like for example, if I am in a gay parade, maybe it’s important to introduce myself along with my sexual orientation whereas while in a job interview, I don’t have to unless it is required.

Also, the concept of identity changes from time to time, from region to region and culture to culture.  Like for example, religion used to be part of our identity but it is not so anymore in the modern world.  Or father’s name used to be part of our identity in a patriarchal society but it’s not so anymore.  Thus, you don’t need to unless asked for.  Likewise, what people in the Middle East consider as identity may not be so for people in the West and vice versa.  What the professional world considers identity may not be so in the dating world and vice versa. So, like said above, the first rule of introduction is being aware of who we are introducing to, the situation and culture we are in, the purpose and motive, and what do we want to get from the communication.

Having said that, there are basically 6 things, universally, that make up an identity in the modern world.

Your Name

Your name is the most important part of your introduction and often the first opening statement, though you can choose to reveal it in the end.  Imagine, you met me and you said everything about you but forgot to tell your name! That will be a terrible introduction, right?  So, the first thing that makes up your identity is your name, legal or nickname. The last name is optional.

“Hi, this is me Lakshya…..blah blah blah”  or “Blah blah blah blah….and I am Mr. Lakshya”

Your Profession/Pursuit

The second thing that makes up our identity is how do we spend most of our time over and who we are in that activity.  Students spend most of their time over studying something, working professionals spend most of their time over their job holding a certain position, business people spend most of their time doing business in a specific sector, and so on.  At least 8 to 10 hours of our day, we spend over something and that defines us. So our profession or pursuit is part of our identity. 

Hi, this is me Lakshya, founder of KMAG, an aspiring entrepreneur ……blah blah blah” or if I am just a student “Hi, this is me Lakshya, an MBA student at King’s College ……blah blah blah” or if a freelancer, “Hi, this is me Lakshya, a freelance writer ….blah blah blah

Your place of origin and residence

Being humans, our place of origin and of residence is an integral part of our identity.  Anywhere you go, you always face the question “where are you from?”  “where do you stay?” We, humans, are always interested to know where the fellow humans live or came from.  So while introducing yourself, never miss telling about your place of origin and/or place of residence.

“Hi, this is me Lakshya, founder of KMAG, an aspiring entrepreneur, originally from Nepal, currently living in Sydney ……blah blah blah” or “Hi, this is me Lakshya, founder of KMAG, an aspiring entrepreneur, born and brought up in Kathmandu, living in Tinkune……blah blah blah”

Your accomplishments

When we were born, we were nothing but as we grew we started accomplishing one thing after another and those accomplishments define us.  Academic success, business success, awards, honors, recognition, even relationship and children, they are all our accomplishments.  We worked hard for it and got it.  You can’t just buy it.  You have to earn it and thus it defines you as a person, your ability and intelligence, your prospects, and many other things.  Whatever you think is your biggest accomplishment, insert that in your introduction.  It does not have to always be a “big thing” as an award.  It could be as simple thing as “I am married with a kid.”  Parenting or being in a relationship is no less of an accomplishment. 

Hi, this is me Lakshya, founder of KMAG, an aspiring entrepreneur, born and brought up in Kathmandu, living in Tinkune with my wife. I have twice been elected as President of Youth Council Nepal and recognized by Lion’s Club as an aspiring entrepreneur....blah blah.” If have nothing to say “Hi, this is me Lakshya, founder of KMAG, an aspiring entrepreneur, born and brought up in Kathmandu, living in Tinkune, married to an amazing woman.

Your Values / Likes / Attitudes

Ask a man what he believes in and you can pretty much predict him.  Apart from our objective reality, we all live in our own subjective reality according to what we think, how we see the world, our morals and principles; based on which, our actions are driven, our opinions are built, our plans are formulated, and so on.  Likewise, our interests, our hobbies, our passion, our likes pretty much sum us up.  We all have our own set of beliefs and values, likes and preferences, and that makes up our identity because our outer self is the reflection of that inner self.  So when you are done showcasing your objective reality, bring your inner self in your introduction sharing what you believe in, your values, your principles, your hobbies, and interests, etc.

Hi, this is me Lakshya, founder of KMAG, an aspiring entrepreneur, born and brought up in Kathmandu, living in Tinkune with my wife. I have twice been elected as President of Youth Council Nepal and recognized by Lion’s Club as an aspiring entrepreneur. I carry liberal values and see the world as one big family. I love traveling, reading books. I am a workaholic and good observant, always desperate to learn something ….blah blah blah”

Your future self

So far you have covered your past and present.  Now bring your future self in your introduction.  Things like what you are up to, what you plan to become, what is your destination, who do you see yourself 5 years from now, etc.  All such who do you want to be or what you plan to accomplish or become pretty much defines the road you are heading towards, your motives and drives, and your spirit, and what defines you is your identity. Basically, introducing yourself means not only about telling who you are at the present but also what they can expect you to turn into in the future.  With that, you will give a smooth end to your introduction as now the audience knows who you were, what you have become, what do you think and believe, and where are you heading towards.

Hi, this is me Lakshya, founder of KMAG, an aspiring entrepreneur, born and brought up in Kathmandu, living in Tinkune with my wife. I have twice been elected as President of Youth Council Nepal and recognized by Lion’s Club as an aspiring entrepreneur. I carry liberal values and see the world as one big family. I love traveling, reading books. I am a workaholic and good observant, always desperate to learn something. I am here to make a difference, that in next 10 years, I plan to establish a youth media with a mission of creating an informed society not just for Nepal but for the world.

That’s it for an elevator pitch. The introduction has to be short and sweet yet precise covering all the basic components. Too long will make you sound Me-Me-And-Only-Me. So limit it to 30 seconds. But ya, giving a touch of wit will do no harm.

Please note that there is no one rule that fits all.  You have to tailor your introduction based on who you are talking to, what’s your purpose and motive, what impression do you intend to leave, and many other things that solely depend on the audience and circumstances you are in.  What you position as your values and likes in a job interview may not be the same in dating and vice versa.  In the end, as said above, an introduction is also a form of communication and you are to communicate effectively so that the other side interprets you as you want them to.  The above-mentioned blocks are basic blocks to be considered, but styles and orders are to be set according to your audience and your motive of introduction.

Hope this article helps you to overcome the struggle that you always had to go through when asked “tell me about yourself.”

Since you are here, check this as well:

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