Civility: Essential communication skills

Civility is the ultimate relationship skill.

Communication skills help create positive interactions in social and business relationships. It is not how something is said that creates understanding and closeness or defensiveness and distance, but the tone of the voice that is used. A positive tone of kindness in the voice empowers each person to communicate. A negative tone diminishes the listener and creates a barrier in which the listener becomes defensive and stops listening to the message. Both the speaker and listener lose.

In conversations, listening can be more helpful than speaking; asking can be more helpful than telling. In communication interaction, it is important to be interested. Being interested and a good listener can help create positive relationships.

"Who, what, when, where, why and how" questions can initiate rapport between individuals. The importance is being able to zigzag back and forth during the conversation in which one person takes turns speaking and sharing; the other person listens and can connect into the conversation and share similar experiences.

A bore is someone who takes over the whole conversation. He talks about himself and his opinion in an attempt to impress others with his power. He speaks and tells more than asks and listens. He creates verbal overload on the part of the listener. If you ask a question, you will receive an answer that continues on and on. While this person may be knowledgeable, he leaves you wanting to disconnect, rather than interact. There is no real mutual sharing, listening, or interaction. Never does this person ask about you.

He talks to you, rather than with you. He has a need for the attention to be totally on him. This person lacks sensitivity and empathy. His opinions are all that matter, and whoever will listen is the target of his need to feel important and to cover up his own insecurities.

How many people do you know like this? They make it difficult to create intimacy or to interact with them. If they only understand that all they have to do is to care and listen more, their anxieties and need to control would lessen.

In creating relationships, always be the one to extend yourself to others. People don't care about you until you show a genuine interest in them. If you are a host/hostess, know how to fill a void if there is a lull in the conversation. Being a careful listener will help you know how to direct the attention and question to the other person.

Be sensitive and inclusive. Everyone needs to feel important and valuable.

DIANA OLSON, MA AICI CIP, is an etiquette & civility specialist/image stylist. Contact her at (626 )584-9761, or e-mail

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