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Serengeti Skill #5

Show your support for the Elephants!

The communicating elephant

The elephant shows us that the art of good communication depends on both verbal and non-verbal signals. Within each parcel of words we deliver is buried a non-verbal message that provides insight into what the words really mean. Skilled communicators understand the need and nuances of both.

Just as it is for elephants, successful relationships between people—in life and business—depend on good communication. Effective communicators understand that it’s not always best to use a lot of words when relaying an idea. In fact, the more words we use, the more our message can be obscured.

Each parcel of words we deliver are accompanied by a nonverbal message that provides insight into the spoken meaning. Skilled communicators understand how critical both verbal and nonverbal exchanges are, and frequently display the following characteristics:

  • They’re skilled at both listening to and actually hearing other people, and take time to comprehend the details in their message.
  • They are interested in advancing the discussion beyond just a series of shared monologues and into a true dialogue. They realize that taking a positive approach can make others feel more confident, and in turn, more likely to cooperate.

Without candid feedback, you have no real way of letting people know how effectively they’re accomplishing what they’ve set out to do—or how they affect you. Some people are willing to accept and even seek feedback, whereas  others have a tendency to see it as criticism. Those who prefer to avoid it will often respond negatively. They’ll close themselves off, and quickly become inactive listeners.

People who receive feedback openly are truly willing to hear what the other person is saying. They are interested in pursuing the conversation and are genuinely interested in getting others’ opinions.

There are two approaches when it comes to giving feedback. An ineffective delivery is aggressive, and focuses on the other person’s weaknesses. It is often vague, insensitive, disrespectful, and delivered in a judgmental tone. A positive delivery, on the other hand, focuses on providing valuable and constructive commentary that allows the recipient to effect change. People who provide feedback in a constructive manner are the most capable at truly connecting with—and helping—another person.

Maximizing This Skill

Empathize with the other person’s point of view when you’re delivering your message, and make a genuine attempt to hear what they’re saying. Be an active listener by giving and receiving quality feedback. This necessitates thinking before speaking and crafting a reply that addresses the speaker’s position, and not just your own. It requires that you wait, formulate and be clear.

Remember, communicating is only effective if both the sender and receiver understand the same information.  This is the key to building successful relationships.

Becoming a fruitful communicator requires keeping your focus on all four sources of communication:

•        Improve verbal communication by concentrating on “hearing” what the other person is attempting to say, and not on your own ideas; listen and respond to their message.

•        Ensure that your non-verbal communication—such as gestures, mannerisms, posture, facial expressions and eye contact—matches your verbal message.

•        Good written communication must focus on the axiom that “least is best.” Be precise, grammatically correct, clear and concise—especially when using electronic forms of exchange.

•        Effective visual communication involves using photography, signs, symbols, etc. that do not confuse your verbal and written message.

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  • I am happy to be an elephant!!! WOO HOO….and being 8 months pregnant, I feel like one too! This was a quick and fun little survey! Thanks Aunt Barb!

  • Being an elephant is a good thing 🙂

  • Elephant 🙂

  • I love this ….Hit me dead on.

  • Elephant!

  • wow very true…

  • Kathy

    Elephant…that’s me, very true.

  • Nessa

     Er…didnt hit me dead on at all. Im not positive, im just a good listener…well im not even that i pretend to listen and sometimes do. So…er…dunno ;D

  • lexy

    Yay! I’m an elephant!

  • Janetfinley

    “I mean what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful 100 percent.” — Horton

  • Not that graceful, but I’ll take it since I’m not either:-)  And @eb238cfdaf36e410a82fb2e1649117a2:disqus I agree with Horton too:-) 

  • Lisa

    An elephant discribes my style while interacting with people

  • Sherri

    I guess this means that having an elephant in the room can sometmies be a good thing!

  • matt

    i cant belive it im an elephant i am suprished

    • matt


  • Rosanna

    Well my Dad always said I had the grace of a baby elephant!  Guess I grew up…lol

  • Rosanna

    Well my Dad always said I had the grace of a baby elephant!  Guess I grew up…lol

  • Dave

    OK I’m an elephant – have trunk will travel…

  • eleonora

    Yes…. I am en elephant…..

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  • Sixmayes

    Thought I’d be a Wilda Beast but I’m an Elephant!

    • Maybe you are both – Elephant first and wildebeest second. Thus an excellent communicator that is tenacious!

  • Tonya

    I agree!!!…effective communication is what I believe in.

  • Aly in ABQ

    Not sure if I am so much an elephant as much as I am not the other animals.  Does that make me an elephant by default or a defective elephant? 

    • Defective! Not at all. Each of us is a part of each animal, yet not a part of each as well. Which characteristics and skills do you feel more strongly represents you?

  • Judy

    Interesting….  I would not have thought that I was an elephant.   Now to capitalize on it:)

  • Sarahill

    Loved your talk @ the OREA conference in Toronto, Mar 1, 2012

  • Toders67

    Was very surprised buy my animal (elephant) as this is part of me but didn’t think it was the predominate character trait.  Stefan great job at the WCR Luncheon today. 

  • I had no idea which animal to expect, but was still surprised it was Elephant!

  • Vanessa

    Hmmm, I thought for sure I would be the giraffe and was surprised to turn out to be the elephant. I love some of the qualities of the other animals and wish I could master some of their skills. It makes sense though, I am a listener and communicator and that is why I know I am in the right profession. 

  • Charlaone

    I thought I might be an elephant as soon as I learned what the various animals were.  I have always had great affection and respect for elephants, and would love to be able to help with their survival.  However, I had no idea what animal my answers were leading to!  The lion or the cheetah would have been great as well – I *love* cats – out of the big cats, my favorites are the tigers.  Still, I am very happy to be an elephant – I certainly have a memory like one!  I’ve heard that it is the ELEPHANT that is the *real* king of the jungle…no other animal dares attack the adult ones, apparently. 

  • Ruth Popek

    Interesting, I would have thought cheetah, since I love cats, but the presence of the elephant and the kindness they show to each other is pretty amazing.

  • SellingTheCityLV-Tina Haugen

    Awesome!! It’s great to hear something about your self through another perpective!

  • Dawn Boyd

    WOW ….. I was surprised to see that I was an Elephant!  But, it fits me to a “T” … who knew! I love this!!