By Jason Klaiber
[Image retrieved from sbu.edu]
In coordination with The Competitive Edge Certificate (The EDGE), management professor John B. Stevens presented a talk titled “Understanding and Being Understood: Communicating in the 21st Century” at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Walsh Auditorium.
The EDGE, a program offered by the Career and Professional Readiness Center, instructs participating sophomores, juniors and seniors about the professional skills most desired by employers and graduate schools.
Stevens, the owner and operator of JB Stevens Organizational Solutions, outlined the presentation with a series of principles, starting off with the idea that words alone don’t convey the entirety of a person’s message. He revealed that 7 percent of what we interpret in a message relies on words, while tone of voice makes up 38 percent and non-verbal action accounts for the remainder.
“You can only really tell tone of voice and non-verbal in person,” said Stevens. “[That’s why] text messaging and emails are such delicate and difficult ways to communicate—because we can’t see a big part of talking and communicating.”
Stevens instructed the audience to split up in groups of two and three to discuss when it’s necessary to listen and what makes listening difficult. After reclaiming the room, Stevens asked everyone to recall in thought what the person to their right said during the short discussion, which he said wouldn’t be an easy task for everyone.
Stevens said that getting distracted by one’s surroundings and especially thinking about one’s own end of the conversation can disrupt listening.
“When you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next, you can’t be concentrating on what someone else is saying to you at the same time,” said Stevens. “It’s difficult for the brain to do two things at the same time. You have to make a conscious decision to decide to listen to someone else.”
Stevens added that there’s a distinct contrast between listening and hearing.
“As I’m talking, my vocal cords are creating sound waves that are being emitted,” said Stevens. “Your eardrums are hearing those sound waves. The brain says, ‘There’s a sound out there, and it sounds like words.’ That’s called hearing. Listening is taking the words when they come into the brain and saying, ‘I’m going to do something with that—I’m going to try to interpret it, I’m going to try to understand it, and I’m going to try to do something with it.’”
Stevens’ second principle details that effective listening can provide one with valuable information and a level of involvement with others.
“If you listen to somebody, and you really pay attention to them, it can provide a level of involvement that can help you with your relationships at work or at home or with friends or with anyone,” said Stevens.
Stevens acknowledged the usefulness of listening in the business world, such as in negotiations with customers about products they order.
Stevens said that demonstrating interest with eye contact and a nod, asking questions and repeating back what you heard are ways to improve listening skills.
“You need to engage other people and really pay attention to what it is they’re saying,” said Stevens. “This will help you to reduce ineffectiveness in listening.”
Stevens ended his talk by zeroing in on email etiquette and showing examples of poorly written emails.
“In the working world, you have to think about how you’re addressing people,” said Stevens.
Stevens said that proofreading for spelling and grammar, filling in the subject line and including a signature at the end of the email are characteristics of proper email etiquette.
Stevens also stressed the importance of correctly using the “to” and “Cc” features.
“We need to be careful when we send an email,” said Stevens. “You need to think about who’s going to read this, but more importantly, who will read this.”
Stevens said that opening the email with a greeting, stating your purpose, relaying the facts, incorporating a recommendation—such as “have a nice day”—and including a conclusion are the five steps to crafting the proper email.
Junior sociology major Courtney Brinsky viewed the talk as informative.
“It’s useful for when we’re in the business setting,” said Brinsky. “Sending emails is how a lot of businesses communicate.”
Junior English major Luis Rodriguez believed the talk was helpful.
“It was interesting to learn about how much we actually focus on non-verbal communication,” said Rodriguez. “You think about it, but you also don’t think about it at the same time.”