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A Conversation

Effective Face-to-Face Communication

By Sue Gench


Stacy: My boss is impossible to talk to when there is a problem.

Bobby: What'd you mean he's impossible to talk to?

Stacy: He doesn't listen what I have to say. When I talk, he interrupts. He's always right.

Bobby: Hmm. Did you ever try to talk to him when he is not under pressure?

Stacy: Of course, I did. He has this attitude "You dare criticize me." He sounds so angry whenever I speak up my mind.

Bobby: How do you talk to him? What's your strategy? Do you listen to him with empathy?

Stacy: I always listen to people without interrupting them.

Bobby: That's not what I mean. I mean: do you give him this impression? "I understand you. Yes, you have a point."

Stacy: When I don't understand him, I can't say "I understand you."

Bobby: I didn't say you should agree with him when you don't.

Stacy: What'd you mean then?

Bobby: Your verbal and body language must convey a positive message to him.

Stacy: How?

Bobby: You listen to him with empathy. Listening with empathy means: putting yourself in other person's situation; understanding his/her situation.

Stacy: I know its meaning. Go ahead. What'd you mean by right body language?

Bobby: Body language means the way we use our body movements or gestures in addition to verbal language.

Stacy: How can I listen with empathy and have a right body language?

Bobby: Well. People react positively when we listen to them with empathy and have a right body language.

Stacy: If he doesn't sound positive, that means I am not listening with empathy and don't have the right body language? Is that what you mean?

Bobby: The tone of your voice, the way you use your hands, you lean forward, have eye-contact, all that counts for body language.

Stacy: My voice? I just say politely what I think. I always have a steady tone of voice. My body language is just the way I am, respectful but honest.

Bobby: Being polite, honest or having a steady tone of voice are not enough for effective communication. You must have the right body language.

Stacy: Explain more. What'd you mean by right body language?

Bobby: You can speak up your mind with a soft tone of voice, by sounding like you are suggesting your opinion rather than being blatant. You lean forward that makes you look receptive. In addition, try to be empathetic.

Stacy: Hmm. Blatant sounds an appropriate word for my body language. I sit straight and say what I think. Well, I'm perhaps tactless when I speak up my mind.

Bobby: That might be the core of your problem.

Stacy: But, that's my nature. I don't have a soft temperament.

Bobby: Sounding empathetic has nothing to do with your nature. It has to do with your body language. You can cultivate body language appropriate for the situation.

Stacy: I'm no longer a kid around the block. How can I cultivate it?

Bobby: Hmm. I think you can begin with this idea: "Never assume you are absolutely right before you listen." We never are absolutely right even in most obvious situations. Therefore, in communication there is no such a thing as either black or white.

Stacy: This is interesting. I mostly believe if I'm right, I am right! Then I speak up my mind.

Bobby: That's not right, Stacy. Your being self-righteous may make you sound rigid. When we are rigid, we don't have a positive body language. We don't show empathy. We don't make the other person feel he is well-worth being listened to.

Stacy: Stop for a moment. If I have a right body language and listen with empathy, will he listen to me? Even though I disagree with him?

Bobby. Of course. He will do much better than now.

Stacy: OK. I should have empathy and positive body language, and what else?

Bobby: Well, there is a lot to it, of course. But we can wrap it up for now as: Listen with empathy; have a positive body language.

Stacy: Let me ask you once more. Positive body language refers to having soft manners, being polite, perhaps putting a smile on my face?

Bobby: Yap. All that counts. We also need to have eye contact with a person we're talking with.

Stacy: Yeah. I know that rule.

Bobby: But, you must pay extra attention to it that you are having eye contact when talking to the person.

Stacy: Ok. I understand what you're saying. What else?

Bobby: As far as I can think of anything else, why not ask questions?

Stacy: I like that. Actually, I always ask questions. People complement me on that. They say I listen carefully and ask good questions.

Bobby: See you've got that one right. You can also ask him for confirmation. By rephrasing what he said then ask: Is that what you mean?

Stacy: Wow! Keep talking.

Bobby: If you ask for confirmation, he will be much easy to talk to.

Stacy: My Goodness. I've learned something today. Thanks, Bobby, so much.

Bobby: You're welcome, Stacy.


face-to-face: in person; adjective and adverb. Talking or meeting with somebody in person; opposite of online communication, communication over the phone; internet communication

communication: Exchanging ideas in a language by way of speaking to other person or writing other person or calling other person, or emailing other person

effective: adjective. Capable of producing a desired outcome

talk with: prepositional verb. To talk with someone. Use 'with' if you are having a conversation; use talk to if you have something to let other person know

interrupt: transitive verb. To cut in and talk before waiting other person to finish talking

under pressure: preposition + adjective. under stress

have an attitude: idiomatic phrase. To show a disagreeable behavior, talk disagreeably, act disagreeably

You dare + verb: We use this verbal phrase when we warn the person not to do something too costly. "You dare come home late when I cook and wait for you." This sentence means this: "If you come home late, I will not serve you dinner, you will have no dinner."

speak up one's mind: prepositional verb, idiom. To express without fear what you think

strategy: noun. A way, style to present one's idea

listen to somebody: prepositional verb. To listen to hear; to respond or act as expected. Use 'to' with listen.

empathy: noun. Putting yourself in other person's situation; understanding his/her situation

impression: noun. The opinion we have of other person's behaviors or self-expresssion through either face-to-face interaction or through other mode of communication.

have a point: transitive verb. To possess a valid idea

agree with somebody: prepositional verb. To think the same as the other person and express it with 'I agree with you'

verbal: adjective. To be capable of using words, expressing his/her ideas with words. Opposite of being 'quiet'

body language: compound noun. The way we look, talk, sound, listen; the way we use facial expressions, hand gestures, and etc

convey: transitive verb. To pass on, give the impression, mean

message: noun. the meaning of what we have say or have in mind

How am I supposed to? What is expected of me? When we don't know what to do, we use this phrase. Example. How I am supposed to write this paper? This sentence means this: I don't know how to write this paper. Please tell me how to do it.

react: transitive and intransitive verb. To show a response to somebody who did something to you; said something to you

temperament: noun. Our emotional side; our way of reacting to others, events, problems, joys, and etc; the way we look to others: calm, nervous, angry, happy, quiet.. Example: "Some of us have a calm temperament and never sound or look angry or upset."" My mother had such a hot temperament; she gets angry so easily."

sound positive: helping verb. What you said gives a positive impression to others

tone of voice: the intensity, pitch of voice. Example: a soft tone of voice, nice tone of voice

count: intransitive verb. To matter. "Your opinion counts.", that means "We value your opinion."

politely: adverbs. In a way of good manners; talking within social norms. An antonym of is 'rudely'

sound: intransitive verb. To voice one's ideas, feelings, and etc. We may sound upset, happy, positive, or angry.

precisely: adverb. Exactly

tactless: adjective. Not being polished; opposite of being tactful

blatant: adjective. Expressing yourself without tact; tactless

your nature: objective pronoun + pronoun. The way you act, think and react to life; your personality plus character

empathetic: adjective. Understanding for others' problems, putting yourself in other person's place

nothing has to do with: idiomatic expression. There is no connection between two things. " My frustration has nothing to do with your English, but with your being stubborn."

it has to do with: idiomatic expression. There is a connection between two things. "His success as a manager has to do with his people skills, communication skills."

cultivate: transitive verb. To work on and develop an attitude. Cultivate empathy; cultivate patience; cultivate tolerance

a baby around the block: idiomatic phrase. To be young and inexperienced

begin with: prepositional verb. To start something with an idea or thing. "I begin my lunch with a soup first."

assume: transitive and intransitive verb. To think before hand. To make judgments on others or situations without enough information

absolutely: adverb. Altogether, precisely, exactly. Commonly used in the US. It suggests agreement with other person's remark in a conversation.

obvious: adjective. Easy to see

either black or white: Idiomatic phrase. To think of ideas as only in two extreme points, like the colors black and white. "Susan is not religious, so James thinks she is not a good person." It is not right for James to regard Susan in terms of either black or white.

self-righteous: adjective. Believing oneself that he or she is always right in a given situation

rigid: adjective. Intolerant, inflexible

to be well-worth: To be worth being considered, listened, taken care of, and etc.

disagree with somebody: prepositional verb. To have an opposite opinion in a matter contrary to the other person's opinion. This verb is used as 'disagree with'.

do much better: idiomatic verb. To act or perform better

There is a lot to it: An informal expression, meaning that there are more ideas of a concept to consider. "There is a lot more to good marriage than only love and money."

wrap it up: Idiomatic phrase. To finish up an event, a conversation, writing or conference with a summary

once more: adverb. To repeat

refer to: prepositional verb. To mean

manner: noun. Way, style

put a smile on my face: To smile even when I don't want to

More or less: adverb. Almost

eye contact: compound noun. Looking at the person right in the eye and keeping your eyes sparingly at the person when talking. Eye-contact makes other person be aware of you are attending the conversation with him or her; you are engaged in the conversation.

confirmation: noun. When conversing, to clarify what other person meant. We rephrase him/her and then ask: "Is that what you mean?"

rephrase: transitive verb. To repeat somebody's statement, by using different verbatim without changing the meaning.

so to speak: adverbial phrase. As if that; almost like. " I had so much to get done last night. I didn't even have time to scratch my head, so to speak."


Contractions: are sounds that are not pronounced when speaking. Some from this conversation are given below.

He's: He is. "is" contracted to 's'

It's: It is. In speaking, the 'is' sound is contracted to 's'.

What's: What is. 'is' contracted 's'

What'd: What do. 'do' contracted to 'd'






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