Communication: Improve your game

Would you like to improve your communication skills? Effective communication involves both talking and listening. It can be compared to a game of catch in which the words are the ball. This article will try to give you a different way to think about your “communication game.”

The pitcher and the catcher

If communication is the game of catch, think of the person who is speaking as the pitcher, and the person who is listening as the catcherThe message is the ball.

Here is how the game should work:

  • The speaker aims the message accurately, sending the “pitch” so the listener can follow it.  The speaker follows the flight of the message to see if it reaches the target.
  • The listener watches the speaker carefully, tries to follow the “pitch”, and lets the speaker know when the message has been received.
  • The listener then makes sure the speaker is ready before returning the pitch.

Some people are great pitchers, but poor catchers. Some people are great catchers, but poor pitchers. If both sides are good at speaking and listening, their communication can be more successful.

Ways to improve the “game”

The pitcher does not just “throw” the message, he prepares it.

  • Preparation means planning ahead:
  • Thinking about the message you want to deliver, and practicing the delivery
  • Delivering the message clearly when you are ready
  • Maintaining good eye contact with the catcher
  • Delivering the message slowly and directly to the catcher
  • If your message misses the catcher, changing your position and trying again from another angle

Listening is an important and often overlooked part of communication that can have a strong influence on the communication process, and your relationships with others.

Good communicators practice “active listening.”  This means making a real effort to hear not only the words, but also letting the other person know that you are listening. Letting the other person know that you are listening can be as simple as nodding your head or saying a simple “uh huh.”

Active listening involves:

Paying attention – Look at the speaker directly.  Avoid being distracted by your thoughts or things around you

Showing that you are listening – Face the speaker.  Nod occasionally. Make small verbal comments like “yes,” and “uh huh.”

Providing feedback – State what you’ve heard back to the speaker.  Ask questions to clarify specific points.

Avoid interrupting – Don’t judge.  Allow the speaker to finish.

It takes a lot of concentration to be an active listener. Remind yourself that the goal is to concentrate on the message and really hear what the other person is saying.

Can you be both the catcher and the pitcher?

While the listener is keeping good eye contact with the speaker, the listener is preparing for the next message, concentrating so he can follow it through the air.  Whether or not he catches the message, he gives feedback so the pitcher will know if he was successful.  The listener then takes the time to prepare to send his message.
Remember: you cannot be the pitcher and the catcher at the same time!