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Effective Communications Paper

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Effective communication
Bradley R. Lord
CJA/304: INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS
Instructor: Clark Nissan
September 18, 2013

Effective communication is essential in any workplace, especially within a criminal justice organization. In this paper, the author will discuss the process of verbal and nonverbal communication and the associated components of each, the differences between listening and hearing in communication, the formal and informal channels of communication in criminal justice organizations, and the strategies that may be implemented to overcome communication barriers therein. Communication is defined as “a process involving several steps, among two or more persons, for the primary purpose of exchanging information“(Wallace & Roberson, 2009, p. 15). This process can involve two of the following types of communication: verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication includes transmitting information orally. This type of communication can involve the sharing of information or exchanging ideas between two people or a group. Speaking is just one aspect of verbal communication. Verbal communication does not solely involve the sender transmitting the message to the receiver. Verbal communication also involves listening from the receiver and giving feedback to the sender as a confirmation that the message was understood. In a criminal justice organization, oral communication skills are necessary when addressing members of the public, requesting officer assistance, advising suspects of their Miranda rights, and keeping the chain of command up to speed on current events. Law enforcement organizations require that officers be competent in verbal communication as it is an essential skillset needed when fulfilling official duties. Nonverbal communication includes written communication via reports, memorandums, notes from meetings, notes taken from accounts between officers and witnesses, victims, suspects, etc. Nonverbal can also include facial expressions. Face expressions and body language oftentimes are used to convey emotions when words are absent. The process of communication involves the transmission of an idea through a medium which then receives the message and acknowledges the idea, and in turn provides feedback to the message sender. The first step of transmitting and idea suggests the formation of one or several thoughts and the desire to express these ideas. The next step involves choosing a method of communicating that idea. This can be done through verbal or nonverbal communication. Despite what method is used, it is imperative to know who the audience is and decides what tone the message is to be delivered. The tone, especially with oral communication can make a world of a difference in how the receiver interprets the message. When the receiver receives the message, his interpretation may not be how the message was originally intended to be received. The understanding of the idea or message relies strongly on interpretation of the person receiving the message. The process is completed when the receiver provides feedback to the message sender by clarifying what he or she understood and agrees or disagrees with the message itself. These steps are part of the communication process; if one step fails the communication becomes ineffective. Hearing can include the capacity to hear the audio of the message being received and the words being enunciated, but it cannot ensure whether the message was indeed understood. Hearing is only one part of the communication process. The ability to comprehend by actually listening to what is being said, understanding the message by using the aids such as tone, facial expressions and body language completes this process. Active listening is important to effective communication. Channels of communication in a criminal justice organization help demonstrate how the information flows from one person or group to another. The flow of communication or channels can include formal or informal methods. Formal channels of communication include orders, directives and written memorandums that follow a chain of command. Communication in this scenario usually flows downward from the highest level of the totem pole, such as a police chief down to its subordinates. This type of channel of communication has both its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of using a formal channel promote uniformity within the department. All officers, despite their rank, receive the same information. The disadvantage of using formal channels is that it sometimes stops the free flow of communication. If this channel type of communication is used it does not leave much room for officers to exchange freely any information within their department. That is to say that patrol officers usually are not encouraged to communicate amongst their peers but rather just receive instruction from their superiors. This hinders the department because officers are not encouraged to help one another, communicate with each other and possibly provide or exchange crucial information that might help them execute their responsibilities. Informal channels of communication include “unofficial routes of communication within a law enforcement agency. These channels do not appear on any organizational chart, and they may not be officially sanctioned by the department.” (Wallace & Roberson, 2009). This type of communication usually allows a free flow of information within all those employed in criminal justice organization. The direction of communication usually does not go up or down the ladder of chain of command. It opens up and encourages communication between officers and the different departments that make up the law enforcement agency. It promotes the sharing of information amongst peers that may ultimately contribute to successfully completing their duty of serving and protecting the community together as a team. There are many barriers to effective communication. These barriers include emotional, physical and semantic barriers. Ineffective listening can also be construed as an important barrier as well. Emotional barriers can include an officer having low self-esteem. This officer in question perhaps feels the need to refrain from communicating anything because he lacks self-confidence and is afraid to be put down by his peers. Many agencies have confronted this type of barrier by providing peer support groups so that they can work together to break these feelings of insecurity and promote a sense of trust. Physical barriers can breakdown communication. Physical barriers can include the use of faulty equipment where messages cannot be transmitted from one to another because the radio transmitters are not working or the computers in the vehicles or in the office are down. Having readily available and working technological equipment can help with communication between officers. Other types of physical barriers are perhaps the distance between officers when they are communicating. Shortening the distance can help provide a feeling of camaraderie and trust. Semantics involve the selection of words you choose to aid you with your communication. Obviously if you choose the wrong word, the communication will not be as effective and the entire message can be misread. Ineffective listening can also play a role in hindering the communication process. If one is not engaged in the speaker because perhaps they do not find the speaker or his/her topic interesting enough, or perhaps you already have your biases or set opinions on what is being said and so you are listening with a closed mind, this can lend to ruining the communication between you and the sender. In order to overcome the above mentioned barriers, you must first understand what kind of barrier is preventing the flow of communication. Once pinpointing the type of barrier you can proceed to try and remove those barriers so that you can become an effective communicator. Emotional barriers can be dealt with by working on self-improvement such as going to counseling for depression or self-esteem issues can help. Law enforcement agencies can provide help with finding the right person to talk to or by providing a peer support group you can join to help deal with these types of emotional barriers. Physical barriers can be handled by ensuring that all equipment used within the department is adequately functioning and therefore the lines of communication can remain open. If the physical barrier involves distance between officers, then that distance needs to be shortened so that the communication between these officers allows for better exchange between them. Barriers that involve semantics can be improved upon by going to school or studying grammar, and word selection. The internet is a great way to explore tools that can help with improving your communication skills with words. Identifying what barriers are preventing someone from exchanging information and finding appropriate solutions to overcome these challenges will ensure a better and more effective way of communicating. In conclusion communication is a vital part of life. Without proper communication, the exchange of ideas and messages cannot be conveyed between people in either a personal or professional setting. Communication within a criminal justice organization is just as important. Learning how the process of communication works and identifying the barriers that breakdown communication is a handy tool when faced with problematic situations that demand such skillsets. Communication is crucial with the execution of law enforcement duties.

Reference: Wallace, H., & Roberson, C. (2009). Written and Interpersonal Communication: Method for Law Enforcement (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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