Communicating With a Purpose
Inquire: Goals in Action
Communication should always serve some purpose, and this lesson teaches students how to use that purpose for good by setting goals, evaluating communication channels, listening and asking questions, and standing firm. Communicating with purpose in a group can require some extra steps. This lesson also details two additional aspects of effective group communication: determining one’s role in a group and learning to work as a group.
What is the best way to set goals?
Watch: Group Work Communication
Read: Working Through Discussion
This section walks students through good ways to use communication for setting goals, evaluating communication channels, listening and asking questions, and standing firm.
A goal is an objective that a person wants or needs to meet for a project, task, or assignment. Goals can be as simple as finishing an expense report by Friday or as complicated as using a multi-tiered system to accomplish a large project in incremental parts. Effective goal setting is one of the most important things a leader can do.
First, identify the problem that needs to be addressed. This is the only way to know what needs to be done and to figure out how to do it.
Second, set the overall goal and develop a clear statement of intent. Identify exactly what will be accomplished when the task is complete. A clear statement provides guidance about the goal.
Third, section the goal into smaller, easily managed tasks. A large goal can be daunting. Segmenting the goal into smaller, bite-sized chunks that can be accomplished more quickly will help those involved stay motivated as they work through the tasks.
Fourth, set timelines and follow through. It isn’t good enough to know what someone is supposed to do; they need to know when it should be done. Have a deadline for the overall goal and deadlines for the smaller tasks so that everyone knows when they need to finish their specific assignments. Without these timelines, a leader runs the risk of delays when someone needs the work from a task that is not yet complete. This kind of delay can affect the different moving parts of the overall goal.
Hold the members of the team accountable. Once the plan is in place, it should change as few times as possible. Following through with the plan of action will help to ensure that everyone contributes to getting the goal accomplished.
Evaluate Communication Channels
Once goals have been outlined, it is time to figure out how to communicate those goals to the people involved. When working with a group for a project, it might be helpful to email the goals and schedule to everyone involved. For an agreement between friends, maybe it just needs to be talked about in person or via text message. The best way to determine the most effective channel of communication is to decide which method will be most convenient for everyone involved while continuing to ensure accountability for all.
Listen and Ask Questions
Listening is giving one’s attention to the sounds being heard. Listening allows a person to understand the words being said, rather than simply acknowledging that noise is happening. It is important to listen during conversations and presentations. The primary motivation of listening is to understand what is being said. Too often, people only listen to respond, trying to figure out enough of what is being said to formulate the perfect response to the other person. Instead, it’s important to listen to understand in order to carry on a successful conversation with the other person. This is where active listening comes in. Active listening is a step beyond normal listening and allows for more useful conversations.
After listening to the situation, it is imperative to ask questions. These questions should be focused. Use questions to help accomplish goals, or to clarify goals if any confusion exists. Questions should be specific. Before asking questions, it’s important to first ensure that there are no other resources available to answer the question. No one likes being asked obvious questions that are easily answered, so be sure to avoid asking those types of questions. Take initiative to seek answers whenever possible.
Sometimes people will try to change the terms of a deal. There are some instances where one party should stand their ground. First, stay calm. It can be frustrating when people don’t listen to someone who knows more about a subject than they do. Staying calm and communicating clearly, despite the frustration, will make for a stronger case. Additionally, communicate openly. Be frank and honest, and answer questions openly. Don’t just make an assertion; listen to the other side. When someone else explains their opinion, consider it. But, even when disagreeing with another person’s opinion, don’t simply brush them off. Explain the reason for the disagreement. An open dialog will result in the best outcome, and all it takes is a little patience.
Example: Renting a House
Now that the steps have been explained, it is time to look at them in motion. When someone decides they want to rent a house, the first step is to set a goal. This might mean deciding on an amount to pay for rent, or certain amenities that the house should have such as a washer and dryer or a backyard.
After that, it is time to determine the best way to get in touch with the person renting the properties being considered. Should the house hunter email a real estate agent? Is there an office in town where an in-person visit would be more effective? Is the office manager best reached by phone? Finding answers to these questions is crucial, as is following through on the decided upon channel once enough information has been discovered.
From there, it is time for a meeting where the person renting the house can talk to the would-be renter. In this meeting, the homeowner can explain all of the details and the renter can ask questions, such as when rent might be due or what utilities the renter is responsible for. Asking questions is a very important part of the process to ensure that the renter knows exactly what the deal entails.
Finally, the renter needs to be ready to stick to their guns, so to speak. If the homeowner tries to change the discussed deal or explain that the deal needs to be renegotiated because of someone else being interested, the prospective renter needs to be prepared to hold firmly to what was agreed upon previously. Or, the renter needs to be prepared to look at other options if the house in question does not meet the renter’s goals after asking questions of the homeowner.
Reflect: Effective Communication Channels
Expand: Communicating With a Group
Communicating with a purpose in a group can require extra steps. This section will detail two additional aspects of effective group communication: determining one’s role in a group and learning to work as a group.
Defining One’s Role in a Group
When one is working in a group, it is important to determine how to fit into the group and how to do what is needed. The best first step to help the team succeed is to listen to the employer, manager, or professor, who will tell everyone what the job entails and when it needs to be done. The easiest way to know what is needed is to listen to the person assigning the tasks in the first place.
Second, individuals should know their strengths. Sometimes the leader will need to know what everyone can contribute to a project in order to know what tasks to assign to whom. When a person knows their strengths and can describe them to others, they can help solve problems for the group as they arise because others will know who they can go to for help.
Finally, individuals should volunteer for the tasks that best fit their strengths. Personal growth is an important path to career advancement and group work is an excellent place to grow. When people need help, others can grow their skills by volunteering to help.
Teamwork and Cooperation
Working in a group can be a pleasant experience if everyone in the group cooperates to make it that way. There are three things a person can do to help ensure cooperation: use “I” language, avoid “you” language, and give people the benefit of the doubt.
“I” language is language that reflects how a person feels, thinks, or behaves. In a group setting, this is very important. “I” language is a great way to contribute to discussions and bring attention to feelings about an issue without casting blame or lessening someone else.
On the other end of the spectrum is “you” language, which should be avoided. “You” language is language that tells others what they feel, think, or did. The problem with “you” language comes when someone realizes that another person has no idea what they are thinking or feeling. Telling a person what they did often comes off as a blame game, which is a bad thing that can hurt the cohesion of a group. “You” language should be avoided, as one person shouldn’t speak for others in the group. They are capable of speaking for themselves.
Finally, when in a group, mistakes can happen. Things can go wrong. When it happens, give the members of your group the benefit of the doubt. Assume it was an honest mistake that the group can learn from. Don’t assume it was malicious or incompetent. Everyone in the group is human, so extend some mercy when they make mistakes. It will help turn a bad situation into a learning situation to avoid the problem in the future, build trust between members of the team, and set a precedent of forgiveness in the group whenever someone makes a mistake.
Check Your Knowledge
Use the quiz below to check your understanding of this lesson’s content. You can take this quiz as many times as you like. Once you are finished taking the quiz, click on the “View questions” button to review the correct answers.
0 of 3 questions completed Questions: You have already completed the quiz before. Hence you can not start it again. Quiz is loading… You must sign in or sign up to start the quiz. You must first complete the following: 0 of 3 questions answered correctly Your time: Time has elapsed You have reached 0 of 0 point(s), (0) Earned Point(s): 0 of 0, (0) A person should never stand their ground when talking with people. Defining the goal ahead of time will help a person stand their ground. “I feel like this project is going well” is an example of what kind of language?
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A person should never stand their ground when talking with people.
Defining the goal ahead of time will help a person stand their ground.
“I feel like this project is going well” is an example of what kind of language?
Additional Resources and Readings
An article explaining the difference between “I” and “you” statements
A short video explaining ways to improve listening skills
An article that provides tips on how to set goals for a team
An in-depth explanation of the four listening styles
License and Citations
Authored and curated by Alexander Amos for The TEL Library. CC BY NC SA 4.0
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