Communicating Skills: Listening and Speaking


Communicating Skills: Listening and Speaking


Besides personal appearances, another important way in which your personality comes across is when you communicate with each other. The word communication is derived from the Latin term communicate or communication both of which mean to share. Therefore communication is a process of sharing, transferring, or exchanging information, idea, views and feelings between two or more persons.

Communication is the very essence of human interaction. In any sphere of life, it is difficult to get along without communicating with others. In the service industry, it is just impossible.

Sometime you will observe that in order to make communication effective, there must be a 'sender' and a 'receiver'; a message, a medium and a feedback. The sender sends the message to receiver through a medium which may be oral, written or non-verbal. Similarly, the receiver responds to the sender's message by giving feedback to the receiver.

This ensures that the receiver has:

• Received the message, and

• Either understood the message or has not understood the message, so she/he requires a clarification.

Without feedback, communication is incomplete.


Listening and Speaking

Experts estimate that we spend about 11 per cent of our time in writing, 15 per cent in reading, 26 per cent in speaking and 48 per cent in listening. But are you really listening? In the hospitality industry, it is essential to listen first and then to speak because listening involves hearing and understanding. When you listen first you are then able to speak effectively because you have properly understood what the listener wants. Thereby your effort is to give total satisfaction to your customers.

Human nature being what it is, people are often prejudiced and biased. It is evident in the manner in which they communicate. This acts as a barrier and adversely affects your communication.

Some of the common barriers are:

1. Preconceived notions: at times you pre-judge people before they speak, thus allowing your opinions and ideas of them come in the way of what they are trying to say.

2.Words: many words in English and in other languages have different meanings relating to the context of what is being said. You must be careful not to use words that may cause confusion in the receivers mind. So use words that are simple and easily understood.

3.Poor listening skills: listening means understanding the speaker, not only hearing her/his words. So listen to what is being said. In fact, one of the pitfalls which people are prone to is mental dissipation or subconscious mind wandering. The only way to overcome this kind of mind wandering is through a determined effort- to listen carefully.

4. Stereotyping: this placing people into blocks and forming opinions about them e.g. tourists’ wan drugs: businessmen are crooks: workers create trouble. Politicians are shrewd; youth are irresponsible. Take a positive approach towards people and what they say, and avoid such preconceived notions.

5. Emotions or feelings: anger, hate, jealousy, worry, sorrow could influence peoples' judgment and prevent them from thinking seriously and fairly. Hence, while on job avoid these negative.

6. Wrong channels or medium: This is giving long messages over the phone or detailed messages verbally. The receiver may forget or get confused. Always be crisp and to the point.

7. Poor verbal skill: this is like speaking too fast or too slow, too loud or too soft or keeping a monotonous tone of voice. Often you are unable to articulate properly because your lips and facial muscles are tight. To be an effective speaker, your lips, facial muscles and articulating organs must all be flexible.

8. Confusing the message: this speaker is speaking without thinking of what you really want to say. This can confuse the receiver.

9. No rapport with listeners: unable to arouse the listener’s interest due to lack of involvement of the listener in the subject is another barrier.

10. Unconvincing: The speaker is, at times, not convinced about the subject or not sure about the facts or the purpose of the occasion. In fact, in this industry, as perhaps in most jobs, you must be aware of the rules and procedures and be able to explain and justify them. Sometimes you may feel that certain rules are being violated by a guest in a hotel for instance. How would you deal with this situation? A certain degree of firmness and professionalism should be used to deal with such matters. In fact you can be both polite as well firm at the same time. For example see this conversation: "you are breaking rules you can't do this, we will throw you out of the hotel" "well sir, this is not acceptable to the management. Please don't do it, it might lead to unpleasantness (good).

11 Accepting criticism: often you or the services you offer may be criticized by your customers. You must be able to accept criticism without being over-defensive, over apologetic.

In order to avoid these pitfalls there are several things that you might attempt to do.

First of all you should enjoy communicating with others. At the same time you need to improve your poise and confidence. In the beginning you need to be conscious of the need to improve yet you cannot appear self-conscious. Also remember, that the skills of communication are to be constantly developed and you keep learning though experience and interaction. Your aim should be to effectively communicate your ideas clearly, confidently, creatively, interestingly and persuasively.

To be able to achieve this you must know your job well, be sure of the rules and procedures and be well informed.

In the tourism industry, you are constantly interacting with all sorts of people, including foreigners. They may need information about our country, its politics, people and culture. So make it a point to read the daily newspaper, magazine, section of newspapers, travel magazines and other promotional literature from the tourist departments.

There is no harm in picking up books that train you to be a better listener and speaker. These books will give you certain points to self-improvement:

1.           Develop a keen mental attitude,

2.           Know and understand the people you have dealt with,

3.           Make your conversation polite, clear and interesting,

4.           Enunciate your words clearly,

5.           Be persuasive, forceful and direct without being authoritative

6.     Empathizes i.e. develop the capacity for participating in the other person's feelings or ideas. In fact, this may be the most important ingredient for successful communications.



The manner in which you use your voice not only helps you to develop your personality but also improve your customer relations. Here are some hints on how to use your voice effectively.

Volume: just loud enough for your customers to hear. Not too loud for everyone else nearby to hear nor too soft for your customers to strain themselves.

Pace: you have to speak at the speed at which you customers can hear and understand what you are saying. If it is fast, they might have difficulty trying to catch up; if it is slow, it's boring.

Pitch: you should from time to time as the situation demands, change the pitch and tone of your voice. In this way you will command your customer's attention.

Enthusiasm: if you genuinely like your customers it will reflect in your voice. This will in turn involve your customer in whatever you are saying. You cannot speak correctly unless you breathe correctly. Diaphragmatic breathing is the key to a pleasant and a well projected voice. Without diaphragmatic breathing, it is impossible to control your voice or to utilize its full range. Incorrect breathing is the origin of most speakers' troubles.

Here is an exercise which will help you breathe properly:

1.           Volume:

2.           Pace:

3.           Pitch:

i. Put your hand on your stomach.

ii. Breathe deeply. Your stomach and your hand should move forward.

iii. Now exhale by pulling your diaphragm in. The diaphragm pushes against the lungs and forces the air out.

Don't think of the biological make-up of the voice, the throat, or the palates. Just imagine the air coming through a tube from the lungs and out your mouth. Repeat this exercise several times a day.


Telephone Conversation

So far in this unit, we have concentrated on face-to-face interactions. In the hotel and tourism business, however, telephone conversations play an important role: you may have to make room bookings over the telephone, give information or just take down messages. The fact that you cannot see the speaker or the listener on the other side of the telephone line makes a lot of difference to the language you use. In a face-to-face conversation you can see each other's reactions. The facial expressions and gestures give a cue to the feelings of the participants in the interaction. These extra linguistic features of face-to-face communication are missing when you speak on the telephone. You, therefore, have to be very careful in your speech on the phone so that nothing is missed by the listeners-or by you. You may often have to repeat things and speak very clearly so that important words are highlighted and the message received.

Again, in a face-to-face conversation one tends to be more spontaneous, while in a telephone conversation one uses certain set phrases.

Let's look at some of the telephone conversations given below: Case-1 (good)


Good morning. 'The Residency Guest House'

(working in

(in a polite tone)

a guest house)

Mr Rufus:

Morning. Could I speak to Mr. George please? Room no



Hold the line sir ...

(brings out his

pen and paper)

I'm afraid he's not in. Can Itake down the message?

Mr Rufus:

Could you tell him to call Matthew Rufus at 684296


Could I have your name again please?

Mr. Rufus:

Ah yes, it's Matthew Rufus-Matthew Rufus


(Interrupting) and the no. Sir is 684296.

Mr. Rufus

That's right.


He'll get the message sir.

Mr Rufus:

Thank you


You are welcome, sir.

Case 2 (bad)


Guest house (in harsh tone)

Mr. Rufus:

Could I speak to Mr. George in No 7, (Sunil without any

answer connects Rufus to George room. Mr George is not

in. The bell keeps ringing. After some time Sunil comes

back on the line).


He is out

Mr. Rufus: In that case could I leave a message? (Sunil shouts to

another colleague)

(He could have kept his hand on the receiver after telling

Rashid to wait a second)


What is the message?

Mr. Rufus:

Tell him to call Matthew Rufus at 684296


OK OK (keeps the receiver down)

As the case in telephonic conversation, while making announcements on the public address system also you have to be polite, to the point with an effective voice.

Non-Verbal Communication

In our communication, as much as 67 per cent is being said without a word being spoken! This is done through body posture, gestures by hands, eye contact or facial expressions. This is commonly known as body language or non-verbal communication.

Posture: Posture plays an important role in our communication with people. So if you have to stand, stand in an upright position, avoid leaning on the counter or on the table because that looks sloopy.

If you have to sit, make sure that the trunk of your body is in an upright position, avoid leaning on the counter or on the table and keep your hands to yourself except for making gestures.

Whether you are standing or sitting, the trunk of your body should be upright, you may relax below the waist.

Eye Contact: of all parts of the human body that are used to transmit information, the eyes are the most important and can transmit the most subtle nuances. With our eyes we can often make or break another person. How? By giving her/him human or non-human status.

With your eyes you can exude friendliness and warmth to your customers. If you are looking at one or two persons at a time you can look at them at the same time: but if you are dealing with three or more persons at a time, than make it a point to look at each one of them, so that each one participates in what you are saying.

Through eye contact, you can also judge how your message is being received and vary your communication intelligently.

Facial expressions: Most of us go through our normal working life wearing a mask to cover our true feelings. For instance, we smile constantly because smile is a sign not only of humor or pleasure, but it is also an apology, a sign of defense or even an excuse.

You may have to sit down next to a stranger in a crowded restaurant. Your weak smile would say "I don't mean to intrude. but this happens to be the only vacant place.

You brush against somebody in a crowded street and your smile says:

"I'm not really being aggressive but forgive me anyway".

And so you smile your way through the day, though in fact you may feel angry and annoyed beneath the smile. This is our mask. But sometimes your mask slips up and the true feelings are revealed. While, it is, to some extent important socially to wear a mask, but if you genuinely like people your smile will be warm and enthusiastic, and this would make your customers feel good and comfortable in your presence.

Space: You must have noticed that you feel uncomfortable if a stranger stands very close to you while speaking to you. You perhaps feel that your "territory" has been threatened or breached. Dr. Edward T. Hall has studied how human beings use "space" to communicate certain facts and signals to other people. This is now known as science of Proterozoic. He has come up with four distinct zones in which most people operate:

i. Intimate distance,

ii. Personal distance,

iii. Social distance, and

iv. Public distance.

This distance may vary from culture to culture. However, we suggest that you maintain a social distance of four to seven feet while talking to your customers.

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