On a day-to-day basis we work with people who have different opinions, values, beliefs, and needs than our own. Our ability to exchange ideas with others, understand others’ perspectives, solve problems and successfully utilize the steps and processes presented in this training will depend significantly on how effectively we are able to communicate with others. The act of communicating involves verbal and nonverbal components. The verbal component refers to the content of our message‚ the choice and arrangement of our words. The nonverbal component refers to the message we send through our body language. The paraverbal component refers to how we say what we say – the tone, pacing and volume of our voices. In order to communicate effectively, we must use all three components to do two things:
1. Send clear, concise messages.
2. Hear and correctly understand messages someone is sending to us. Our use of language has tremendous power in the type of atmosphere that is created at the problem-solving table. Words that are critical, blaming, judgmental or accusatory tend to create a resistant and defensive mindset that is not conducive to productive problem solving. On the other hand, we can choose words that normalize the issues and problems and reduce resistance. Phrases such as “in some districts, people may . . .”, “it is not uncommon for . . .” and “for some folks in similar situations” are examples of this. Sending effective messages requires that we state our point of view as briefly and succinctly as possible. Listening to a rambling, unorganized speaker is tedious and discouraging – why continue to listen when there is no interchange? Lengthy dissertations and circuitous explanations are confusing to the listener and the message loses its concreteness, relevance, and impact. This is your opportunity to help the listener understand YOUR perspective and point of view. Choose your words with the intent of making your message as clear as possible, avoiding jargon and unnecessary, tangential information.
One can easily misjudge the influence of nonverbal communication. These types of messages are normally shown or demonstrated in many different ways. The way the body is positioned, shrug of the shoulders or similar movements, facial expressions, and the amount of distance and space between the communicators are several examples of nonverbal communication. Body language plays a major role of the perception and understanding of a conversation. Body language is a huge source of communication and it has become so common, that majority of the times, people are unaware of how often they speak using their hands and body movements. The main method that is used to communicate emotions is nonverbal communications. The face is feasibly the utmost significant signal of expressive information. Facial expressions are very easy to distinguish one’s feelings. The most frequently used facial expressions are those that demonstrate passion, energy, and agreement or appreciation, show misperception or monotony, and frown with discontentment. The eyes are mainly easy-to-read in expressing happiness, grief or sorrow, irritation, or misunderstanding. One’s posture can form a sentiment of genuine honesty or emotionless rejection.
Imagine that you are involved in a conversation and the other person is sitting silently resting their folded hands loosely on their lap, a sense of eagerness and concentration is created. Communication will flow consistently and smoothly if the verbal and nonverbal messages are sent consistently. Messages that are inconsistent can cause the listener to become confused. Inconsistency may also be a contributor to a lack of trust and undermine the chance to build a good working relationship. When a person sends a message with conflicting verbal and nonverbal information, the nonverbal information tends to be believed. Consider the example of someone, through a clenched jaw, hard eyes, and steely voice, telling you they’re not mad. Which are you likely to believe? What you see or what you hear? In the criminal justice profession, effective listening is a key factor of routine duties. Law enforcement personnel should be able to understand and comprehend what is being communicated, whether it is an oral statement from someone or interpreting direct orders from a supervisor.
Officers will have some type of communication at one point or another with different law enforcement officers as well as those inside their direct professional group. They will also have interaction with other groups outside of the police department and should be able to communicate with different people on many different levels. Law enforcement officers engage in conversation with individuals, groups, and, in some cases, to the general public on a daily basis. Listening is a critical part of ensuring that each word during the communication is clearly understood to avoid any misconceptions of the conversation. There are five major stages in the listening process that play a role in effective communication. Listening is the learned method of receiving, interpreting, recalling, evaluation, and responding to verbal and nonverbal messages. The ability to comprehend how the listening process works provides the basis needed to understand why we listen, including different types and styles of listening. Overall, listening assists in achieving all the communication goals (physical, instrumental, relational, and identity). Listening is also essential in educational, professional, and personal environments.
Barriers are persuading aspects that inhibit or interrupt the constant communications circle. These barriers interfere, revise, or change the information. When a barrier can be identified beforehand and prevented, the communication will be less complicated and proceed smoothly. There are different things that can cause a breakdown in communication. A frequent cause of communication barriers is when an individual is concerned about personal or professional status. The four basic categories, or types, of obstacles to effective communication are emotional barriers, physical barriers, semantic barriers, and ineffective listening. Each one can result in either the sender or the receiver to ineffectively communicate. Emotional barriers may be present in either the sender or the receiver.
An individual’s experiences in life sometimes influence their communication skills. Physical barriers are the characteristics of an environment that make communication more difficult. Semantic problems are those that cause a failure to decide on the meaning of certain terms, with a resulting loss in the ability to communicate with understanding. The final barrier to effective communication is ineffective listening–failure to hear or receive what the other party is transmitting. There are several strategies that can be utilized to overcome communication barriers in criminal justice. During the communication process with another person, it is very important to remain on the topic at hand to avoid disinterest in the conversation that may lead to a misinterpretation of the conversation and will less likely form a use of unnecessary phrases or words.