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Communication Processes in Public Services. How we say it; not just what we say!. NLA/MPLA Conference. ‘Basque’ in Knowledge: Read It, Hear It, Know It @ Your Library November 7, 2003 Incline Village Lake Tahoe. Why am I here?.

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communication processes in public services

Communication Processes in Public Services

How we say it;

not just what we say!

nla mpla conference
NLA/MPLA Conference

‘Basque’ in Knowledge:

Read It, Hear It, Know It @ Your Library

November 7, 2003

Incline Village

Lake Tahoe

why am i here
Why am I here?

Specifically, what is it you want to know about communication?

What aspect of communication do you want to improve in your library?

What do you think are the causes of any communication problems in your library?

communication means
Communication means . . .

Effectively sending & receiving the message

effectiveness depends upon many types of variables
Effectiveness depends upon many types of variables
  • Individual differences
  • Organizational structures
  • Cultural differences
  • A facility that helps or hinders
  • Non-verbal messages
  • Other?
variables include




Knowledge and/or education

Body language

Specialized language

(library speak!)

Physical arrangement of space

Power relationships (real and/or perceived)

Other variables?

Variables include . . .
nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication

Body Language: How we move and how we posture

Facial Expressions: Gender differences especially in amount of smiling

Body Posture: Amount of space, relaxed or formal, types of movements, restless or at rest

Decoding Abilities: The ability to figure out other’s feelings based on nonverbal clues

more nonverbal communication
MoreNonverbal Communication
  • Touching: Who, when, how we touch others
  • Personal Space: The individual “bubble” around an individual that must not be invaded
  • Gaze: Where our eyes are during communication
verbal communication
Verbal Communication
  • Talkativeness: How much one talks, how long one holds the floor
  • Voice Quality: Intonation, pitch, accent
  • Content of speech: What we talk about & our vocabularies to do it
passive listening message sent facts feelings not fully acknowledged nor understood
Sends message

Receives little feedback on message & problem

May be emotional

May not be thinking clearly

Receives little empathy or help

Finds concentration difficult

Has a cluttered mind

Is one jump ahead

May be tense with emotion

Concerned with reply

Has a different perception

Passive Listening: Message sent (facts & feelings) & not fully acknowledged nor understood
active listening message sent fact feelings it is acknowledged understood
Sends message

Receives feedback

Becomes relaxed

Is able to think more clearly

Feels empathy of listener

Is helped to solve problems

Feels better about self

Owns problems & solutions

Makes commitment to solving problem

Has clear mind

Interacts with speaker

Is relaxed

Does not make evaluations

Summarizes facts

Reflects feelings

Helps speaker to solve and own problems and solutions

Active Listening: Message sent (fact & feelings) & it is acknowledged & understood
we need to be aware
We need to be aware . . .
  • Be aware of messages we send ourselves & others through the way we behave, sit, stand, look.
  • Be aware the message we send may not be the message others hear.
  • Be aware that the message we hear may not be what the sender really intended to communicate.
meetings gender differences
Meetings & Gender Differences

Men play meetings like this:

  • Speak at length
  • Use a declamatory voice
  • Interrupt
  • Resist being influenced, especially in public
  • Facial expressions less likely to reveal feelings or thoughts
while women
While women . . .

Tend to play meetings like this:

  • Speak briefly
  • Phase comments as a question
  • Wait turn
  • Smiling (encouraging others, embarrassment, etc.) likely to be interpreted as “agreement with . . .”
  • More likely to reveal self as a means of showing solidarity with or approval of others
what does this mean
What does this mean?
  • How might knowing this help you understand what goes on in meetings?
  • What can you do more successfully communicate in meetings?
The importance of relationship

In our consumer environment, the emphasis has shifted to the quality of the relational interaction between client & staff. While the “answer” still matters, it matters less than the human element.

Relationship factor:
  • Increasing body of knowledge indicating that the key to success in reference & other public service contacts is the relational factor but we are only successful 55% of the time.
  • To judge the success of the relational factor the following are asked:
    • Willingness to return to the library
    • Willingness to return to this staff member
users are different
Users are different!
  • They are not experts, we are.
  • We know how the “system” works.
  • As “experts” we have a hard time seeing things from the user’s viewpoint.
  • We think differently about information.
  • Users seldom present the context of the question or inquiry.
Common causes of failure:
  • Not acknowledging the user
  • Not listening
  • Playing 20 questions – with yes & no answers
  • Interrupting at inappropriate times
  • Making assumptions
  • Not following up
What about the “bad-guy” user?
  • There is no such thing
  • We are all “bad-guy” users of other systems
  • Attitude can greatly affect outcomes & user satisfaction
  • Attitude, conscious or not, affects public relations
Being approachable
  • Be poised and ready to engage users by not being engrossed in other work
  • Establish initial eye contact (cultural differences need to be recognized here)
  • Smile, smile, smile
  • Have open body language
  • Acknowledge the presence of the user
    • Friendly greeting to initiate conversation
    • Standing up, moving forward and/or closer to patron
Using inclusion makes you & the user both winners!
  • Inclusion is a way of making the user a partner.
  • Describe briefly what you are doing
  • Use inclusive language -- “we” “our”
  • Acknowledge user’s contribution
  • Restate the problem or question
  • Indicate that you are listening
  • If appropriate, indicate how much time the task will take
  • Assure the user that it is okay to ask more
Questioning skills
  • Use open, not closed questions
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions
  • Put the inquiry in context
  • Use sense-making questions
  • Reflect content back to user
  • Have clear closure – the art of the tactful ending
points of service
Points of service
  • Think about one-stop shopping concept
  • Consider labels/language used in signage
  • Consider the furniture used at points of contact
  • Hold staff accountable for how they treat & communicate with patrons
  • Provide customer service & communication training as needed
  • Walk the talk - - - model appropriate behavior
Being approachable . . .
  • Acknowledge others waiting for help
  • Remain visible to patrons as much as possible
  • Rove through the area offering assistance
  • Follow-up with patrons whenever possible
  • Invite patrons to return with further/new questions or inquiries.
  • Do you do these things?
  • If not, why not?
success in the first 30 seconds
Success in the first 30 seconds!
  • Nonverbal
    • Eye contact
    • Smiling &Nodding
    • Pausing
    • Posture
    • Tone of voice
  • Oral
    • Acknowledgement
    • Repeating or paraphrasing
    • Listening
Turning off users
  • Provide unmonitored referral
  • Immediately refer the user to somewhere else
  • Imply that the user should have done something else first
  • Tell the user that the info does not exist
  • Signal nonverbally the end of the transaction
  • Warn user to expect defeat
  • Go away & do not return
successful communication is a two way street
Successful communication is a two-way street
  • For organizational communication – remember “do unto others”
  • Two wrongs do not make a right!
  • In general, there is no such thing as too much communication.
  • Individuals are free to accept or ignore what they do not want.
  • You can lead a horse to water, but . . .
setting goals for improving your communication skills
By December 1st, I will improve my nonverbal communication clarity by:

By December 1st, I will improve my verbal / listening communication clarify by:

Setting goals for improving your communication skills
thank you
Thank you!

Mary C. Bushing, Ed.D.

Library Consultant & Educator

Bozeman, Montana

(406) 587-4742 Home

[email protected]