Quiz: Are You Are a Good Communicator?

Everybody knows that good business requires good communication. So why are so many offices hotbeds of misunderstanding? One reason is that few people really know how to express themselves, and even fewer have mastered the fine art of listening. Are you a good workplace communicator? Take this short quiz to find out.

1. Rapid responses are the best. If you know how you feel about a situation, don't wait one minute to say so.

True

False

2. Your boss has criticized you in a way that seems arbitrary and unfair. What's the best response?

a. Confront her and express your feelings in no uncertain terms. It's the only way to earn her respect.

b. Stay quiet and try to avoid such situations in the future.

c. After taking awhile to collect your thoughts, calmly discuss your concerns.

d. Carefully move the blame to someone else.

3. Which of these is a key part of "active listening"?

a. Stay quiet when someone else is talking

b. Ask open-ended questions

c. Repeat and paraphrase the other person's main message

d. All of the above

4. When talking to a manager about an important issue, is it better to keep it brief and stick to the facts or to impress him or her with your vast knowledge of the situation?

a. Keep it brief

b. Pile it on

5. Anger is an important negotiation tool. If someone sees your temper rise, they'll probably back down.

True

False

6. You're talking to a coworker who has a short attention span and the responsiveness of a brick wall. What's the best course of action?

a. Ignore him and talk to someone else.

b. Ask questions to make sure he understood what you were saying.

c. Assume he was listening carefully. You don't want to put him on the spot or question his professionalism.

7. Which of the following is NOT a good rule of thumb for using e-mail?

a. Keep the message short and simple.

b. Be very careful about jokes or sarcasm.

c. Use e-mail for sensitive messages that you don't want to say out loud.

d. Don't send messages in anger.

Answers

1. Rapid responses are the best. If you know how you feel about a situation, don't wait one minute to say so.

The correct answer is: False

Your first instinct isn't always best. Even if you feel strongly about something in fact, especially if you feel strongly -- take a moment to think things over. When it's time to give your opinion, you'll be better prepared.

2. Your boss has criticized you in a way that seems arbitrary and unfair. What's the best response?

The correct answer is: c. After taking awhile to collect your thoughts, calmly discuss your concerns.

The American Psychological Association recommends discussing such issues in a calm, non-confrontational tone. Think of yourself as a partner in the business, not a combatant in a power struggle.

3. Which of these is a key part of "active listening"?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

As the term "active" implies, good listening takes more than just two working ears. For starters, you should stay quiet while the other person speaks. Try to look comfortable and attentive uncross your arms and lean forward if necessary. When it's your turn to speak, keep the conversation going with open-ended questions -- who, what, where, and, most importantly, why. After the other speaker has had his or her say, paraphrase the message back to make sure you understand it.

4. When talking to a manager about an important issue, is it better to keep it brief and stick to the facts or to impress him or her with your vast knowledge of the situation?

The correct answer is: a. Keep it brief

Most supervisors and managers prefer short and straightforward conversations. Before you step into their offices, sort out the relevant facts from the needless clutter. When it comes to communicating with your boss, brevity -- combined with accuracy -- will win you major points.

5. Anger is an important negotiation tool. If someone sees your temper rise, they'll probably back down.

The answer is: False

If at all possible, never flash your temper in the workplace. Anything mean or rash that you say in anger could easily cost you the respect of your boss and your coworkers. If your temper starts to flare, cool off for a while before you say anything.

6. You're talking to a coworker who has a short attention span and the responsiveness of a brick wall. What's the best course of action?

The correct answer is: b. Ask questions to make sure he understood what you were saying.

You can check on a person's attention without making it sound like a test or an accusation. For example, you can ask: "Is there a better way to explain what I just said?" or "How would you handle the situation?"

7. Which of the following is NOT a good rule of thumb for using e-mail?

The correct answer is: c. Use e-mail for sensitive messages that you don't want to say out loud.

Never assume that e-mail is confidential. Many companies monitor employees' email, and even if your company doesn't, you could accidentally send the message to the entire company with a slip of a finger. If you have something sensitive to discuss, do it face-to-face behind a closed door.

References

University of Maryland. How to be a great supervisor.

Interview with Steven P. Cohen, president of the Negotiation Skills Company and author of Negotiation Skills for Managers (McGraw Hill).

American Psychological Association. Managing your boss.

Harvard Medical School Ombuds Office. Guidelines for interpersonal communication. No date given.

Service Employees International Union. AFL-CIO. Tips on dealing with the boss. No date given.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Chicago. Making time for leadership.

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