Effective Communication Skills

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Building Effective Interpersonal Communication 
Skills:  Self-Assessment Exercise


In today's team-oriented workplace, the development of good interpersonal communication skills is an important key to success.

The following self-assessment exercise is designed to help you evaluate your own 
interpersonal communication skills and style, and provide you with helpful tips for 
becoming a good communicator - and team player!  


Communication Skills Self-Assessment Exercise


In each of the following, read items A, B, and C, then mark the one that best describes your communication style.    (24 total)


1.     ___  A.  When conversing with others, I usually do most of the talking.
        ___  B.  When conversing with others, I usually let the other person do most 
                       of the talking.
        ___  C.  When conversing with others, I try to equalize my participation in the 

        Best answer:  c.   Conversations should be a balanced two-way flow of dialogue.


2.     ___  A.  When I first meet someone, I wait for the other person to make the 
                       introduction first.
        ___  B.  When I first meet someone, I introduce myself with a smile and offer a 
        ___  C.  When I first meet someone, I hug the person.

        Best answer:  b.   It's good to initiate the introduction and introduce yourself
        with a handshake and smile.  If shaking hands is difficult, a quick head nod is
        a good substitute.  Initiating the introduction with a smile and handshake (or
        head nod) helps build rapport.


3.     ___  A.  I usually "warm-up" new conversations with small talk.
        ___  B.  I usually avoid small talk and jump into more important matters.
        ___  C.  I usually avoid starting conversations.

        Best answer:  a.   It's good to initiate conversations with small talk.  Topics to
        warm-up the conversation might include a chat about the weather, news of
        interest, or impressions about the current activity (if you're at a meeting,
        staff party, or other gathering, for example).  

        Examples of conversation starters might be:

        "It's sure warm today, isn't it?"
        "Did you hear about the big accident on the freeway?  Traffic's backed-up for
        "What did you think about the Blazers game last night?"
        "This is a nice party, isn't it?"
        "Could I get you something to drink?"


4.     ___  A.  I make an effort to remember and use peoples' names.
        ___  B.  I don't pay attention to names as I tend to forget them.
        ___  C.  I only learn the names of important people.

        Best answer:  a.   It's good to call people by name whenever possible.  It makes
        a good, lasting impression, and it makes the other person feel important and
        special.  To help remember names, try these techniques:

        Repeat:   After the person tells you his or her name, immediately use it several
                          times in the conversation.

                          "It's nice to meet you, Bob."
                          "I agree with you, Bob."
                          "That was a great joke, Bob!"

        Associate:   Associate the person's name to something unique and special.
                               You might:

Associate the person's name with a unique feature about 
the person.  For example:

"Gilda has beautiful green eyes."

Think - "GG" -  Green Gilda

"Jack tells funny jokes."

Think - "JJ" -  Joking Jack

Associate the name with a visual picture.  For example:

"Sandy" -  visualize a sandy beach.

"Glenn"  -  visualize John Glenn launching 
                  into space.

Associate the name with a personal connection.
For example:

"Brian" -  My uncle's name is Brian.

"Lucy"  -  I had a turtle named Lucy.

        Jot:   Jot the person's name down with an identifying description that will help 
                   jog your memory later.  For example:

"Chuck" -  tall;  glasses;  works in Accounting;  has 
           twin sister; runs marathons;  new to Portland.


5.     ___  A.  I frequently use courtesy words and phrases - "Please,"  "Thank you,"
                      "You're welcome,"  "I'm sorry."
        ___  B.  I occasionally use these courtesy  words and phrases.
        ___  C.  I never use these courtesy words and phrases.

        Best answer:  a.   Regular use of these courtesy words and phrases is important
        to show politeness and build rapport.


6.     ___  A.  I tend to be serious and don't smile often while conversing.
        ___  B.  I smile all the time while conversing.
        ___  C.  I smile at appropriate times while conversing.

        Best answer:  c.   Smiling when greeting people and at appropriate times greatly
        helps build rapport.


7.     ___  A.  I make eye contact while conversing.
        ___  B.  I sometimes make eye contact while conversing.
        ___  C.  I never make eye contact while conversing.

        Best answer:  a.   Making eye contact is important for building rapport.  It gives
        the impression you're interested and engaged in the conversation, and you
        have good self-confidence.  

        Eye contact should include frequent breaks to avoid staring (this can make 
        the other person uncomfortable).  Break eye contact frequently -  glance down 
        to the side, then quickly make eye contact again.  Glancing down to the side 
        is important.  If you instead glance to the side (as if looking out the window, 
        for example) or look up, it gives the person the impression you're distracted 
        and not paying attention to what's being said.  This quickly breaks down rapport.


8.     ___  A.  While conversing, I hold my head still at all times.
        ___  B.  While conversing, I nod my head at appropriate times.
        ___  C.  While conversing, I nod my head constantly.

        Best answer:  b.   Occasionally nodding your head to indicate you agree or
        understand helps build rapport.  Again, it shows you are interested and engaged
        in the conversation.


9.   ___  A.  While conversing, I stand one-foot away from the person.
      ___  B.  While conversing, I stand two- to three-feet away from the person.
      ___  C.  While conversing, I stand five- to six-feet away from the person.

      Best answer:  b.   Your arm's length is the appropriate distance (between
      two- to three-feet).  Standing closer than arm-length makes the other person
      feel uncomfortable (or feel threatened).  Standing a further distance away
      breaks down rapport.


10.  ___  A.  I often stand while talking to a person who is sitting.
       ___  B.  I often sit while talking to a person who is sitting.
       ___  C.  I often lean down while talking to a person who is sitting.

       Best answer:  b.  Communicating at eye level helps build rapport.  So, if the 
       person is sitting and a chair is available, take a seat!  There's one exception -
       If you walk into your supervisor's office or co-worker's office, it's best to ask
       the supervisor or co-worker if you can sit down first.  Even better, wait for an
       invitation to sit.  The person may not have time to talk at that moment.


11.  ___  A.  To end a conversation, I often just leave.
       ___  B.  To end a conversation, I begin to look impatient hoping the person
                      will get the hint.
       ___  C.  To end a conversation, I wrap up with a closing statement.

       Best answer:  c.   It's best to bring the conversation to an end by making a
       polite closing comment or gesture.  Good closing (wrap-up) comments 
       might be:

       "I've enjoyed talking with you."
       "Let me give you my business card."
       "Well, I need to go speak with...."
       "Do you know a person I can contact?"


12.  ___  A.  If a co-worker has put on weight, I say nothing about it.
       ___  B.  If a co-worker has put on weight, I tell the person that he or she has
                     changed in appearance.
       ___  C.  If a co-worker has put on weight, I honestly tell the person that he
                     or she looks fat.

       Best answer:  a.   It's best to say nothing.  Never say anything that might hurt or
       offend the person.  It's called being tactful.  It's always best to give compliments
       only, and only say things that will make the person feel good.

      "I like your dress."
      "That's a nice shirt."


13.  ___  A.  When I'm listening to the speaker, I often cross my arms over my chest.
       ___  B.  When I'm listening to the speaker, I often lean back and turn my body
                     away from the speaker.
       ___  C.  When I'm listening to the speaker, I often lean slightly forward and face
                      my body toward the speaker.

       Best answer:  c.   Leaning slightly forward and facing the speaker shows you're
       interested, and it helps build rapport.  Sitting with your arms crossed over your
       chest gives the message you are defensive.  Leaning back with your body or
       turning your body away from the speaker gives the message that you are bored,
       disinterested, or feel in charge.  Such body language breaks down rapport.


14.  ___  A.  When I cross my leg, I cross my leg facing the speaker.
       ___  B.  When I cross my leg, I cross my leg away from the speaker.
       ___  C.  When I cross my leg, I bob my foot.

       Best answer:  a.   Crossing your leg toward the speaker shows you're interested,
       and it builds rapport.  Crossing your leg away from the speaker gives the message
       that you are defensive, disinterested, or feel in charge.  In essence, you are putting
       up a subtle barrier.  And if you bob or swing your foot, you're sending the message
       that you're anxious or nervous!


15.  ___  A.  While listening, I tend to be distracted by things going on around me.
       ___  B.  While listening, I listen for meaning and ask questions.
       ___  C.  While listening, I watch the person speak, but I don't "hear" a word.

       Best answer:  b.   If you're a good listener, you keep mentally busy searching for
       for meaning in the message, and you ask questions.  This mental "search for
       meaning" helps keep you focused, attentive, and engaged.  If you get easily
       distracted, try taking notes if the setting is appropriate.  Note-taking helps draw
       and focus your attention as you must mentally "search for meaning" and listen for
       information in order to take notes.  This might be helpful in meetings, for example.

       If you watch someone speak but you don't "hear" a word, gauge if you are bored,
       tired, might have a gap between your speaking and listening rates, or are 
       experiencing "emotional deafness."  We all experience emotional deafness 
       on occasion, especially when we're feeling overwhelmed, upset, or nervous.  You
       hear people ask -  "I'm sorry, what did you say?"  or make the comment -  "I have
       a lot on my mind right now.  Could you repeat what you said?"   If it's a frequent
       problem, gauge the source and seek help if needed.


16.  ___  A.  When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I don't
                      comment about it.
       ___  B.  When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I try to
                      change the subject.
       ___  C.  When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I try to
                      relate to the person's feelings and show sensitivity to his or her

       Best answer:  c.  Showing empathy (sensitivity) to another person's feelings helps
       build rapport.  It's called "reaching out to people."  Empathy can be shown by making
       comments, such as:

       "That must have been a scary (or upsetting) experience for you."
       "I felt the same way when that happened to me."
       "I know (understand) how you feel."
       "I can imagine how you feel."
       "I would feel that way too in your situation."


17.  ___  A.  When I discuss a topic, I tend to talk about and focus on positive (good)
       ___  B.  When I discuss a topic, I tend to talk about and focus on the negative (bad)
       ___  C.  When I discuss a topic, I tend to complain.

       Best answer:  a.   Focusing on the positive (good) aspects draws people's attention
       in a favorable way, and people enjoy the conversation more.  People are generally
       more attracted to a person who has a "positive outlook on life."  And when it comes
       to work evaluations, positive-minded people generally do better.  Consider the 
       following examples:

      Positive:        "The plan has some good ideas."
      Negative:      "The plan has some serious problems."
      Complaint:    "No one ever listens to my ideas."

      Positive:        "These changes might have some benefits."
      Negative:      "These changes would be awful."
      Complaint:    "I'm always having to relearn and re-do everything around 


18.  ___  A.  When I have a negative opinion or comment, I just say it.
       ___  B.  When I have a negative opinion or comment, I lead in with a positive
                     comment first.
       ___  C.  When I have a negative opinion or comment, I say nothing.

       Best answer:  b.   It's best to say something positive first, then express a negative
       opinion or comment in a tactful way.  Consider these examples:

       Positive lead:

       "I like many aspects of your idea (positive lead), but it may not work well 
       for this department." (tactfully stated)

       Interpretation:   The idea won't work.

       Positive lead:

       "You did a nice job setting the bread plates and glasses (positive lead),
       but the forks need to be placed to the left."  (tactfully stated)

       Interpretation:   The forks are in the wrong place.

       Positive lead (with empathy):

       "I know you worked a long time on this (positive lead), but it would
       look better retyped."   (tactfully stated)

       Interpretation:   It needs to be retyped.


19.  ___  A.  When I receive unfavorable feedback, I note where I need to improve.
       ___  B.  When I receive unfavorable feedback, I get angry and defensive.
       ___  C.  When I receive unfavorable feedback, I deny the problem, make
                     excuses, or plead ignorance.

       Best answer:  a.   When you receive feedback, it's important to know what you 
       do well, but it's equally important to know where improvements can be made
       to increase your chances for success.  Few people do everything well, and
       you've undoubtedly heard the saying - "No one is perfect."  Simply make note
       of "weak" areas (we all have them!) and make changes needed.  Receiving
       honest feedback is truly "a gift."  It usually means someone cares and wishes
       to see you succeed.


20.  ___  A.  When I give a person negative feedback, I focus on the person's
                      observable work or behavior and offer suggestions.
       ___  B.  When I give a person negative feedback, I focus on what I don't like
                     about the person.
       ___  C.  When I give a person negative feedback, I simply tell the person what
                      to do right.

       Best answer:  a.   When you give negative feedback, you should focus on and
       communicate your observations of the person's work or behavior, not focus on
       nor judge the person.  Focus on performance, not personality (or personal traits).
       After sharing your observation about the person's work or behavior, offer a
       suggestion in a tactful way.  Consider these examples:

       Example 1:

       "The forms you completed were thoroughly done (positive lead), but I
       notice (observation) there are a few spelling errors (work feedback).
       Perhaps they can be corrected with correction fluid (suggestion)."

       Important:  Notice it says -  "...there are a few spelling errors"
       instead of -  "you made a few spelling errors."  Leave out 
       "you" whenever possible.

      Example 2:

       "Your presentation covered the main points very well (positive lead),
       but I noticed (observation) contact information was left out (work
  I wonder if it might be good to include a contact name 
       and phone number (suggestion)."

                 Notice it says -  "...contact information was left out"  instead of -
                 "you left out contact information."  It avoids using "you."

     Example 3:

                "I like your ideas (positive lead), but it appears (observation) the delivery
                (communication style or behavior) weakens them.  Perhaps they could be
                written down and handed out to everyone to review (suggestion).

                          Notice it says -  "...the delivery weakens them"  instead of -  
                          "you weaken them."  It avoids using "you."


21.  ___  A.  When I give a person negative feedback, I do it around others so
                      everyone can hear.
       ___  B.  When I give a person negative feedback, I do it in front of the 
       ___  C.  When I give a person negative feedback, I talk with the person alone
                      in a private place.

       Best answer:  c.   It's always best to meet the person privately and away from
       other people so others can't hear.


22.  ___  A.  When I disagree with a person, I listen first, ask questions for clarification,
                      then disagree non-judgmentally.
       ___  B.  When I disagree with a person, I quickly point out the person is wrong 
                      and why.
       ___  C.  When I disagree with a person, I say little or nothing.

       Best answer:  a.   It's fine to disagree, but it's important to disagree agreeably.
       This means you should:

       1)  show respect for the other person's ideas,
       2)  listen attentively until the person is done,
       3)  ask questions if needed,
       4)  disagree non-judgmentally, and, if possible,
       5)  offer an alternative solution.

Consider these examples:

"I respect your view, John, (shows respect) but I think the problem is due to a 
lack of time (point of disagreement).  One way to solve the problem might be 
to computerize repair reports (offered solution)."

"I hear what you're saying (shows respect), but it seems the staff would do 
better, not worse, with flextime schedules (point of disagreement).  I would 
suggest we try it for six months (offered solution)."


23.  ___  A.  When I'm in a group, I tend to frown a lot.
       ___  B.  When I'm in a group, I tend to smile and use humor at appropriate times.
       ___  C.  When I'm in a group I tend to be serious.

       Best answer:  b.   At appropriate times, it's always good to smile.  And when 
       used at appropriate times and in appropriate ways, humor is beneficial for
       group dynamics.  Humor helps "break the ice" when people first meet.  Humor
       helps relieve stress and tension.  A humorous observation and comment helps
       lower the heat when a heated discussion gets too "hot."  And most importantly,
       humor helps build team cohesiveness.

       If you observe people at a gathering, you'll notice people naturally gravitate
       toward people considered "approachable."  Approachable people are the ones
       who smile;  they are the ones who add humor and lightness to
       conversations;  and they are the ones who make fun of themselves in a self-
       deprecating and humorous way.  In any group setting, smiles attract, and
       humor bonds people together.  Do you know a good joke?

       Idea:  If you're like many people who have difficulty remembering humorous
       lines, puns, anecdotal stories, or jokes, consider creating a humor file.  Clip 
       and save humorous jokes, stories, and puns from the newspaper.  Write down
       and save jokes and funny stories you hear.  Your file will be a good resource
       to draw from for upcoming social events and gatherings.  


This last item has four choices (A, B, C or D).  Which one best describes you?

24.  ___  A.  I'm a "hands-on" person.  I tend to:

prefer hands-on experiences and activities;

focus on tasks to be done;

refrain from discussions;

think in a logical and organized way;

do things in an orderly way; 

have difficulty adjusting to change.

       ___  B.  I'm a "thinker."  I tend to:

enjoy listening to a logical presentation of ideas;

enjoy analyzing problems and finding systematic ways
to solve problems;

enjoy creating models based on theory and information;

like structure and organization;

act slowly in making decisions;

show more interest in ideas than people.

       ___  C.  I'm an "explorer."  I tend to:

try things by trial and error;

explore practical uses for ideas and theories;

make decisions that provide quick solutions;

decide quickly;

take risks;

enjoy change;

rely more on people for information.

       ___ D.  I'm a "free thinker."  I tend to:

base views and opinions on feelings;

enjoy tossing around ideas (brainstorming);

approach and view problems and experiences
from different perspectives;

rely on intuition, not logic, for making decisions;

dislike structure.

              Best answer:  The one that fits you!    The four choices above describe and
              identify four communication (and learning) styles, and no one style is better
              than the other.  This part of the exercise merely serves to illustrate how people
              can (and do) think, act, learn, and communicate differently.  Each person in 
              a group may have a different style.

              How well you are able to recognize, respect, and adjust to other people's
              way of communicating and "doing things" is a key to success when working
              with a supervisor, group of people, or class instructor.  

              For example, if you are a "free thinker" - you like to brainstorm ideas and do
              what "feels right" -  you might find it frustrating working with (or learning from)
              a "thinker" - a person who focuses on and approaches tasks and ideas based
              on logic, reasoning, and organized structure.  The "thinker" would be equally
              frustrated working with a person or group that loosely brainstorms ideas all

              How successfully "opposites" work together largely depends on how willing 
              and well each person is able to adjust to the other's style. Flexibility and 
              compromise are key.

              If you find yourself working with a supervisor, co-worker, team player, or
              instructor who has a style that differs from your own, recognize and respect
              the other person's individual style, and learn to accommodate the person's
              style as much as possible.

              Consider these "how-to" tips:

              How to accommodate a "hands-on" style:

arrive promptly;

pay very close attention to deadlines;

don't procrastinate or made excuses;

be organized;

accept structure;

try to do things in an exact and precise way;

make brief and "to-the-point" comments (don't ramble);

minimize discussion - get to the task;

ask questions in a brief, concise way;

use concrete terms and explanations (not abstract);

do things in sequential and orderly steps;

discuss and show practical applications;

demonstrate to illustrate an idea or point;

allow for "hands-on" project-type tasks.

   How to accommodate a "thinker" style:

arrive promptly;

pay very close attention to deadlines;

don't procrastinate or make excuses;

be organized;

use outlines, charts, graphs, and spatial mapping
to show information and the relationship of ideas;

provide data;

provide documentation;

be open to the use of abstract explanations and terms;

support information with facts (proof);

support views and opinions with logic and evidence;

focus on main ideas, related details, and logical 

be open to topics that allow for debate;

be patient with quick and sudden moves from idea to idea;

allow for research-type tasks.

   How to accommodate an "explorer" style:

be open to new ideas;

be open to change;

allow room for creative innovation;

be open-minded to opinions and views;

be attentive;

show interest;

relate ideas to the real world (use real world examples);

focus on processes and applications rather than facts;

be willing to take a risk or investigate;

be be patient with disorganization;

share humor and laugh at jokes;

be patient when jumps from one idea to another;

be willing to discuss ideas;

allow for innovative- and creative-type tasks.

   How to accommodate a "free thinker" style:

smile and be friendly;

be willing to chat and visit;

share personal experiences;

participate in discussions and activities;

lean forward - be attentive and show interest;

use gestures and positive body language;

use humor;

be sincere;

use images, pictures, and color;

apply personal meaning to ideas;

show how ideas and details apply to life;

show interest and concern for people;

be patient if describes extensively;

avoid questioning or challenging the person's insight or logic;

be patient with interruptions;

be open to use of metaphoric language and expression;

don't force structure - allow room for flexibility;

allow for interactive-type tasks.


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