Communication Skills

As a home inspector, I often have some interesting conversations with some of my realtor friends; often they share stories of home inspectors they’ve encountered (I prefer to work with realtors and clients, instead of just being encountered). The number one thing people are looking for in a home inspector is honesty and trustworthiness. The second is knowledge and education. The third – which apparently is harder to find – are verbal communication skills.

How many parts are there involved in effective verbal communication?

  1. Sender
  2. Receiver
  3. Message
  4. Encoding
  5. Decoding
  6. Feedback
  7. Improving communication
  8. Communication elements
  9. Communication obstacles
  10. Effective listening

Let’s start by defining what communication is. Communication is the at the most basic level is described in this handy dandy picture (because nothing communicates better than a picture):

Figure 1Carson Dunlop 2010

In the diagram above we see two gentlemen speaking to each other, and using the five basic elements of communication. The sender, who we’ll call Frank, is communicating to his boss, Paul; the receiver. Frank has an intention for attempting to communicate with Paul; Paul has a perception of the message being sent. Now, Frank and Paul send and receive message via their own filter systems; when Paul finishes receiving the message from Frank – he’ll then use his filter to provide a response (or feedback). By the look of the image, I’d say that Frank just asked Paul for a raise, and Paul responded with a laugh and “In this economy?” (That’s just my conclusion though)

To reiterate: the five basic elements are:

  1. The sender: Who is trying to communicate?
  2. The message: What is the sender trying to communicate?
  3. The medium: How is the send trying to communicate?
  4. The receiver: To whom the sender trying to communicate.
  5. The response (feedback): What was the result or effect of the communication?

Things go well when the sender’s message is understood by the receiver, and for this to happen there must be common ground. Unfortunately, communicating isn’t as straightforward as the five basic elements.

Now, let’s go back to Frank asking Paul for a raise, except let’s refine the communication model:

Figure 2Carson Dunlop 2010

As you can see, we have four new elements, and have removed one (medium). We’re already familiar with some of the elements: sender, message (but this one is updated), receiver, and feedback. So, I’m just going to focus on the new additions:

Encoding: So, Frank has a thought: He’d like a raise. So he prepares all the information in his head as to why he should get a raise and prepares to deliver it to Paul.

Message: Frank could have chosen to write, sign, fax, call, email, video conference, or even sing his message to Paul. That chosen form is the medium. The message is what Frank hopes to communicate (Frank has a beautiful voice and probably would have gotten the raise if he had sung, like Singing in the Rain).

Decoding: that’s when the person receiving the message takes all the information and processes it in their mind. They translate and interpret based on their experience, value system, how they think, to name a few. Hopefully, the original intent may or may not make it through. When the receiver decodes the message and is exactly or close to the sender’s intent – then we have effective communication.

Personal Filter Area: The most important factor in communication is a common encoding and decoding process. For example, if I said: “Olá, como vai hoje? Hoje seria um grande dia de ir à praia.” Would you be able to respond to me? (If you spoke Portuguese, you probably would). It’s important that Frank and Paul have a command of the English language (or whatever language is native to them). Often, we try to relate new experiences to old ones, or a frame of reference.

Noise: This can include actual auditory sounds, a distracting mannerism, odor, or even a piece of clothing may distort the message. Heat and cold. Being tired and or hungry. There are so many things that can be considered noise, and that can affect communication at any of the elements.

Join me next time for “Nonverbal messages in communication”.