By Marianna Quirós Fonseca - Law Student
Have you ever felt that your communication during an English conversation could have been better? Some people may think that communicating effectively in English is a difficult task to accomplish. In fact, some technical knowledge of the language will always be required. Additionally, there are many elements that can interfere with this process. They are called communication noises. Some of these factors can be controlled, while others not. However, it is important to pay special attention to the ones that depend on oneself. This way it is easier to enhance English communication and to establish conversations with any person, whether they are native speakers or not.
Empathy, body language control, and listening skills are useful strategies that can be applied to communicate effectively in English; they are also soft skills. Perreault (2006) explains that “soft skills are those traits and capabilities that an individual possesses in addition to the individual’s technical and/or knowledge skillset” (p. 125). In the first place, empathy is the ability to understand another person’s life and to perceive his or her current feelings and their meanings (Kalish, 1973). When applied to English communication, it was proven in a study that empathy influences how listeners interpret intonation and meaning when words are ambiguous (Esteve-Gibert et al., 2020). This means that when words are not clear or are grammatically incorrect, empathy helps with the comprehension process.
Another tool to improve English communication skills is effective listening. According to Caspersz and Stasinska (2015), effective listening is more than a cognitive process; it involves not only understanding what is being said verbally but also the non-verbal communication that accompanies the spoken message. In this order of ideas, non-verbal communication refers to the usage of the body to diffuse a message. Dumbrava and Koronka (2009) explain that non-verbal communication includes body posture, head gestures, facial expressions, handshakes, eye contact, and smiles. These elements help the receptors to understand more easily what the speaker intended to say.
Several individuals might argue that they lack one or more of the skills previously mentioned; as a consequence, they are not able to communicate effectively in English. Nevertheless, this is not true at all. Thompson (2019) states that soft skills “can be developed through coaching practice” (p. 12). In other words, soft skills can be learned with some guidance and practice. Like this, when communicating in English it is helpful to dominate some technical usage of the language, but it is more significant to merge it with adequate body language, empathy, and listening skills.
In conclusion, evidence shows that not only technical abilities are needed to communicate successfully in English. Soft skills, such as body language, listening skills, and empathy, can even be more significant than the language proficiency. However, this does not mean that learning English through an educational activity should be left behind; instead, it intends to promote the development of soft skills in this process. These key elements can simplify communication events and might also help to develop self-confidence.
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Caspersz, D., and Stasinska, A. (2015). Can We Teach Effective Listening? An Exploratory Study. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 12(4).
Dumbrava, G., and Koronka, A. (2009). “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” - Body Language in Business Communication. Annals of the University of Petrosani Economics, 9(3), 249–254.
Esteve-Gibert, N., Schafer, A. J., Hemforth, B., Portes, C., Pozniak, C., & D’Imperio, M. (2020). Empathy influences how listeners interpret intonation and meaning when words are ambiguous. Memory & Cognition, 48(4), 566–580. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-019-00990-w
Kalisch, B. (1973). What is empathy? The American Journal of Nursing, 73(9), 1548-1552. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3422614
Perreault, H. R. (2006). Editorial: What Makes the Soft Skills so Hard? Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 48(3), 125–128.
Thompson, S. (2019). The power of pragmatism: how project managers benefit from coaching practice through developing soft skills and self-confidence. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring, 17, 4–15. https://doi.org/10.24384/86ee-ps25