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Get Paid For Listening – The Power of Communication in Business – A Story
Recently, a friend recited to me a beautiful story. A Story richer in meaning then most I have read or heard. It is a story of a girl, her father and a certain old man. In retrospect, the moral of the story could probably be the source of the wisdom that saved Toyota, the world’s largest automobile manufacturer, when it recently faced its biggest threat yet….a sticky accelerator.
Effective communication entails good listening: A story
There was a girl, who like it is the case with most daughters, held a special place in her father’s life. Naturally so, they spent a lot of time together. The father of the girl being a good parent, always took effort to make time spent with his daughter as wholesome as he could.
Since the girl was not yet at that age where awkward conversations on her menstrual flows would have dominated the conversations, her father chose to use the long periods of time they spent together, to pass on lessons that he considered to have held him in good stead through out his life.
The lesson on the art of communicating
Among many other things, the girl’s father chose to stress to his daughter, the art of listening.
So it came to be that the little girl acquired extraordinary listening skills. Even at an early age, her friends would frequently marvel at how she could clearly remember conversations that they had ages ago. The little girl got so good at listening, that she could effortlessly recite both past and present conversations with an exactness that was astounding as it was envious.
What was the point of all this listening?
It happened that an old man, lived next door to the girl and her father. Every morning, the old man and the girl’s father would converse over the short picket fence that the two shared for hours on end. This ritual had been an event that doted the entire existence of the little girl. As a consequence of its routine nature, it had become hardly noticeable to the girl. In fact, if you were to ask her, the conversations mattered little to her. To our little listener, all that was just mundane adult talk.
As the girl grew up, she became better at her unique gift, it soon caught the attention of her teachers, strangers and inevitably her father. The girl, on her part, saw no better use for her gift in listening, save for it being a means by which she could amuse friends and foes alike. To her, it was just another thing.
However, her father had other plans. He decided to task the girl further. After making it known to her how much she had made him proud, he asked one more thing of her: To start listening to what the old man said.
The father also made it a point to make it clear to his daughter that the task would only be completed when she knew what those morning conversations were all about.
In doing this, he (the father) explained to her (the girl) that he appreciated how much she could remember and subsequently recite, but he still required more from her. For her to accomplish this extra bit, all she had to do was to listen to the old man.
The moral of story
Time passed and the girl indulged herself in her new task. Finally, after a while, her father came to her and asked her if she had found out what it is that the conversations the he and the old man usually had were about.
Instead of the usual recital the girl would have normally performed, she had this to say, “The old man talks of many things. Most, are about his many the many regrets of his life.”
At this juncture, father looked at his daughter and had equally fewer words, ” Now go forth my daughter and listen to the birds, listen to rocks…..listen to the universe.”
Role of communication in Business and the workplace
Communication serves as a medium upon which business transactions occur. It enables market needs to be assessed, products to be subsequently developed, distributed & marketed and disputes arising from business transactions to be settled. The sum product of which is that communication is the paper upon which business deals are struck.
In today’s globalized economy, communication is of particular importance. This is principally because companies increasingly need to understand new clients and work in cultural environments that different from those in their home countries.
Quite often, cultural and language differences come in the way of communication. For example, a common expression like a smile may be easily mis-interpreted in some parts of the world. While it is commonplace to think of a smile as a sign of happiness, in most African cultures, a smile may be an indication of embarrassment. This is especially so if the person smiling appears recoiled, facing the ground or perspires in otherwise ambient conditions.When a similar breakdown in communication occurs in the workplace, the concerned organization faces the danger of failing to meet its objectives.
On a lighter note it is said that in earlier times, exposure of the teeth, as as one does when smiling, indicated aggressiveness; a fact that early explorers realized too late on encountering indigenous tribes.
Eye contact is another example, while eye contact is desirable in American culture; in Japan, insisting on eye contact may be seen by the other party as impolite and deemed an intrusion of personal space.
On Communication courses: Effective Communication is best learned when both taught and experienced
The importance of effective Communication in business is stressed in many of the lecture rooms where future CEO s, CFO s, MD s and Company Presidents are nurtured. Communication studies is also an integral part of MBA courses and is also offered as a stand alone course in many business schools, colleges and universities.
On the other hand, it is an open secret that Business coaching, the in vogue phenomenon in Small & Medium Enterprises development, is entirely dependent on good communication.
The signs could not have been anymore obvious, this apparent “obsession” with communication in the spheres of business training, highlights the axle- rod- like kind of importance of communication in any form of business including even Online trading portals.
Now that we have appreciated the gravity of this issue, I will not turn this article into another rant or attempt make it some pathetic semblance of a classroom; but in keeping in with the manner of my start, I will profile, regurgitate and contextualize the thoughts of more esteemed individuals. The thoughts of leaders drawn from across the board who at some point cared to speak on this diverse and critical subject.
My wisdom for this unusual approach, stems from recognition that the situation at hand is far from the expected. In spite of the range of communication theories developed in the recent past, effective communication still remains an elusive condition. A condition, that we have seen to be an absolute must for starting, growing and succeeding in business.
This approach should not be seen as a mockery of formal training regimes, as it in essence heavily borrows from such tried and tested programs. In addition, it is my view that communication theories dispensed in business schools and in training workshops (aimed at developing human resource), offer the student the added advantage of acquisition of a deeper understanding of the subject area. This deeper understanding, equips learners with more flexible communication and interpersonal skills.
However, it is of note that most of these training opportunities are offered at a premium. This makes them largely inaccessible to most would be entrepreneurs and business owners.
Q:What is communication etiquette?
As a matter of necessity rather than a form reprieve; entrepreneurs can utilize simple, easily understood and accessible tools to improve their communication skills. An area where improvements can be made in order to ensure profitability in business is communication etiquette. The key in understanding etiquette lies in understanding what effective communication entails. Viewing it in this light, any behavior or act that stands in the way of communication is then considered to be uncouth. To enable us put this in perspective, we need to consider the words of a man who is acclaimed for his prowess in the trade of communication. Irish literary Critic, Playwright and Essayist- George Bernard Shaw. I
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw- Winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, image via Wikipedia
A: George Bernard Shaw’s articulations enable us to crystallize the “Etiquette” in business communication into four guiding self- explanatory principles that must be considered when communicating:
* What is being communicated i.e the Message.
* When to say it i.e the Time.
* How to say i.e the Form of communication medium.
* Whom to say it to i.e characterization of the Recipient.
The what, the when, the how and the whom-so to say are the guiding beacons that should be sought by any business owner groping in the darkness of ineffective communication.
Practising these four principles entails being a good listener.
Why good listening equals success in business
According a theory fronted by a scholar in the field of communications, Hayakawa, the quality of communication is directly influenced by the quality of listening. The listening referred to here involves more than simply hearing the sounds of words and maintaining a polite silence while at it, or the perfect recital of words like the girl in the story above did. It involves actively pursuing the meanings intended by the conveyor of the message, with the sole aim of attempting to interpret the message from the perspective of the conveyor of the message (refer to story end).
An apt allegory for this would be found in the common saying ” to wear someone else shoes ” only that this time you would have to walk in them as elaborated in Hayakawa’s description of what listening should entail below:
” Listening means trying to see the problem the way the speaker sees it – which
means not sympathy, which is feeling for him, but empathy, which is experiencing
with him. Listening requires entering actively and imaginatively into the other
fellow’s situation and trying to understand a frame of reference (life experiences)
different from your own.”
This approach to listening is rooted in the premise that a word may hold different means to different people in lieu of their life different life experiences. A common example cited to illustrate the power this knowledge holds in conducting business is the hilarious fiasco that the entry of a leading European confectionery company into American markets turned into. The company had chosen the unfortunate name- “Zit” which in American urban language refers to a pimple, the kind that trou