Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Effective Communication in Teams: Receiving Messages

In order to work cooperatively and successfully as a team, we must develop the skills to communicate effectively. While my previous article focused on tips for sending messages, this article will describe some helpful tips for receiving messages. Receiving a message skillfully is just as important as sending a message, and the way we listen and respond to a message sent by a team member can have an impact on our relationship. When we listen and respond in ways that are accurate and relevant, we communicate to our teammate that we care about what they have to say and have a desire to understand them. When we fail to listen and respond inappropriately we send the message that we don’t care about what our teammate has to say and are not interested in understanding them. Here are a few tips when receiving messages!

Tip #1: Actually Listen
Often when we are receiving messages from our teammates (either verbal or non-verbal messages, such as gestures and facial expressions), we are preoccupied with our own feelings and ideas, which may prevent us from actually receiving the intended message. When a teammate is sending an intentional message, such as sharing an idea, strategy, or a feeling they are experiencing, try to stay present and actually take in the information so you can respond accordingly.

Tip #2: Try Paraphrasing
It may feel awkward at first, because it doesn’t come naturally, but when someone communicates a message to us, try paraphrasing it back to him/her. Paraphrasing means simply restating the message in our own words. For example, if a teammate says in a group discussion “I feel like no one is listening to me”, you may reflect this back by saying “you feel like you’re not being heard in this conversation”. Paraphrasing can help ensure that you’ve understood the message, while at the same time, making the speaker feel validated and heard in his/her expression of the message.

Tip #3: Check the Meaning
After paraphrasing, or reflecting back the meaning of the message in our own words, it can be very important to check if you got it right. When you paraphrase and then ask your teammate “is that what you mean?” after they have communicated an opinion, idea, or feeling, it provides him/her with the opportunity to agree or clarify the message. Once again, this communicates to the sender of the message that we care about what they are saying and it is important to us that we understand the meaning of their message. This can increase trust in a team and suggests your desire to cooperate. 

In teams, we should constantly be focused on developing strong, meaningful relationships that are not only personally rewarding, but also help to bring us closer to our mutual goals. When we focus on receiving the messages being sent by our teammates, reflecting them back through paraphrasing, and making sure we accurately understand the meaning and intention of the messages, we are communicating to our teammates that we care about them. Therefore communicating does not only help a team achieve mutual understating, but it also helps us to strengthen our relationships.
For more information, see Johnson (2014). Keep an eye out for my follow-up article on tips for overcoming possible obstacles to communication!

Johnson, D. W. (2014). Reaching out: Interpersonal effectiveness and self-actualization (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Written by Shea Wood, M.A., CCC

Dynamix: Teambuilding for Kids and Teens, since 2002.

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