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This module has been specifically designed to address communication skills required to operate in the general construction industry. The learning outcomes will either address or partly address, or contribute to achieving units of competency that relate to developing underpinning knowledge and skills for routine workplace communication procedures. The module provides underpinning knowledge and skills in routine workplace communication procedures appropriate to the modern construction industry environment. Learners will be able to: 1. Receive and convey simple routine construction workplace information. 2. Carry out face to face routine communication with both internal and external clients as required by the modern construction environment 3. Work with others to plan and conduct routine construction activities 4. Participate in simple formal or informal construction site meetings to reach agreement on a construction workplace related issue and report outcomes. INTRODUCTION Communication is the interaction between two or more people when they transfer thoughts, feelings and messages. It is the process of transmitting and receiving this information. At work common objectives are hard if not impossible to achieve unless people are able to share their thoughts, ideas and information with one another in a way that produces a common understanding. Successful communication in the workplace environment is vital for both employer and employee. For the employer it creates a good working relations which help to increase efficiency and ensure quality control. For the employee it allows personal growth and development and contributes to satisfaction on the job. The first section of this package will introduce you to the communication process, communication styles, communication barriers, industry terminology and common signage, under the three broad headings of: effective site communication; common industry signage; and industry terminology.


In a workplace environment people are required to become more aware of the way they interact with others. At work you are a member of a team - even if you are the only person in your particular work area. You must communicate effectively with co-workers, clients or suppliers. To communicate effectively at work you will need to listen attentively in order to follow instructions and learn new skills. You must be able to read and interpret information and instructions, communicate verbally with co-workers and clients. It is important that when communicating over the phone, in writing and verbally that the message received is as close possible to the meaning intended.


On a building site, methods of communication occur in a variety of ways including: written verbal non-verbal by plans, specifications, sketches, graphs, site instructions and facsimile; by person to person, telephone, two-way radio or mobile telephone and site meetings; signage, visual displays, symbols, barriers and signals.



Communication occurs between two or more parties, is a two-way process, and may be intentional or unintentional. The relationship between these elements can be understood most easily by means of a diagram (see below) which shows how they combine in the process of communication. The Sender

The originator of the message who encodes a thought, feeling, idea, intention, belief, fact or understanding into words and/or symbols which are transmitted by either speaking, writing or signalling. The Message

The content, that is, the words (spoken or written) or the signs that are transmitted. The Medium

The means by which the message is conveyed, for example telephone, direct conversations, memo, letter etc. The Receiver

The recipient of the message who decodes it and interprets the meaning of the words or symbols.

In an ideal communication event, there would be total agreement between the meaning of the message interpreted by the receiver. However, in real life this is rarely achieved,

because of the circumstances and conditions under which communication takes place. The other important elements that affect communication are: The Context

The circumstances in which communication occurs, that is, place, social environment, cultural environment, work or other situation's. Feedback

The response of the receiver to the message and its meaning; may be confirmation, clarification, acceptance or rejection. Communication is not an instantaneous event but a two-way process that occurs over time and involves a response; hence the process is often described as a loop or circuit. Feedback is the element that closes the loop or completes the circuit. Interference

Any barrier to transmittal that prevents the receiver from understanding the intended meaning of the sender. Regardless of whether or not there can be such a thing as ideal communication, the object of good communication, is to ensure that the understanding of the receiver is as close as possible to the meaning of the sender.

Figure 1


3. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION Effective communication is essential for the following: To make contact with others

For Example: have a conversion, establish relationships, make decisions To exchange information

For Example: Explain an idea, give up and receive instructions, clear up difficult points, ask and answer questions To influence others

For Example : Convince someone to share your ideas, give advice, present evidence To solve problems

For Example: say what has caused problems, consider other possibilities, bring up and select solutions Is the message you send, received and interpreted in the same way? (a)

Figure 2 INTERPRETATION OF A MESSAGE Communication Failure or Breakdown Communication failure breakdown is often caused by: Not being clear about what you want to say ie organise your thoughts. Not looking at the person you are speaking to. Forcing your own ideas on someone without considering the other person. Complicating what you are saying by giving too many details or using words the other person would not understand.

Not speaking clearly. Not picking the right time or place to talk about something. Being vague, not giving concrete examples or enough information to help make clear what you are saying. Pretending or exaggerating. Talking so much that the other person has no chance to comment or ask questions. Putting down, ridiculing, attacking or annoying the person you are talking to. Thinking the other person understands something because you do. Introducing ideas, words or behaviours which will niggle or irritate the other person. Your words do not match up with how you are looking or sounding. Not summarising from time to time and not checking that the other person has understood. Speaking in a flat, monotonous, boring voice, rather than varying the tone and pace at which you speak Speaking for other people and not for yourself Not giving your undivided attention to the speaker Thinking about what you are going to say instead of listening to what the speaker is saying.


Hearing is the physical process of sound waves going into our ears, listening is the psychological process of attaching meaning and remembering what we hear. To listen effectively the listener must concentrate wholly on what is being said. (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) (vii) (viii) Do not talk, it is not possible to talk and listen at the same time. Pay attention, make eye contact with the talker, don't be distracted. Try to put yourself in the talker's shoes to enable better understanding. Take notes if the information is complex or exact details are required. Do not interrupt, be patient and ask questions when the talker has finished. Be aware of non-verbal cues. Ask open questions only to check understanding, try and obtain as much information as possible from the context. Provide feedback to show you have interpreted the information correctly when the talker has finished.



Communication breakdown occurs when a "barrier" interferes with the message getting through, resulting in the communication process being broken or distorted. There are many causes such as inadequate skills in speaking, listening and comprehending. Other reasons may stem from the fact that people see things in different ways (perception). Physical Barriers o o o o Inattention Competing with sound (noisy work site). Poor eyesight. Tiredness. Poor health.

Usually caused by lack of interest, poor listening skills or being easily distracted. Emotions

Emotions such as fear, anger and hate can result in irrational behaviour and communication. Assumption

Assuming that others think or feel the same. Jumping to Conclusions (Presumption)

Hearing part of a message, presuming to know the rest and then switching off. Individual Differences

Culture differences, where different customs and traditions affect the way a message is interpreted. Age, the so-called "generation gap" can result in different interpretations of situations. Educational differences, members of a profession can use jargon not understood easily. Language Barriers, speakers of languages other than English and those with strong accents may have problems communicating effectively. Personal belief differences, in areas such as religion and politics can interfere in communications. Lack of Feedback

One of the most important barriers. The communication circuit is not complete without feedback. Feedback ensures the message or information has been received and interpreted accurately.

Look at the picture on the right and what do you see?

Figure 3


Perception Receiving and understanding simple messages of an informative kind is complicated enough, but receiving and understanding messages about other people is even more complicated. Your personality, your background, your attitudes, your defences, and your moods are going to get in the way when you try to tune in to his/her personality, his/her background, his/her attitudes, defences and moods. Personal Background

Every individual has a unique set of experiences that he/she has gone through since birth. Since no two people have an identical background, they will each interpret messages differently in relation to their past. People in Queensland call a suitcase a port. People in New Zealand call a milk-bar a dairy. Can you think of some serious instances where background could have a strong effect on the way an individual attaches meanings to particular words and phrases? Do you see any difference between the way you might interpret the words below and interpretations that others might place on them, depending on the background. cheap worker fix examination grass job copper management

The items below are often regarded as symbols that can tell us about the personality of the wearer. But according to your personal background you may well attach quite different emotional meanings to the symbols. What kind of meaning do the following have for you? short, tight fitting dress blue jeans plain gold ring on the fourth finger of the right hand police uniform long hair and beard


People see what they think they ought to see and hear what they think ought to hear. Depending on what people expect to happen they will attach different meanings to the same message. See Figure 4 below.

Figure 4


How expectations can restrict decoding. Look at the figure inside the frame. Can you see a familiar three-letter word written there? Keep looking until it appears. You may have to discard some of your expectations about how printed words should be shown in a book of this kind. Expectations can stop you from seeing something that might otherwise be quite obvious. The Need for Messages to Make Sense

If a message is unclear or does not make sense, a receiver may fill in missing details in whatever way helps most in gaining understanding, but, unfortunately, what makes sense for one receiver is not the same for others. Look at an oil painting of a landscape at close quarters and you will see only a patchwork of coloured shapes. Step back and the picture takes on meaning - but ask someone else what they see in the same picture and you may find that what you thought of as a shed, to them is a rock. The four sheep under a tree are really five cows - or are they? 6. NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Along with words a message can be expressed with gestures, movements, signs and expressions. This communication is non-verbal and contributes up to 90% of the total meaning. With successful communication the non-verbal cues match the word spoken to give a clear meaning. Non-verbal communication can be divided broadly into these types: Body Language

Messages sent using parts of the body, eg gestures, posture, eye contact, head movements and facial expressions.

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

A persons build, hair style, clothes and general appearance send very strong messages.


Changes in volume, pitch and quality tell us something by the way words are said not what is said. These factors deal with expression of emotions. Space

The distance we space between ourselves and others conveys a message. This varies from intimate distances with people we are close to, to social distance with strangers. Symbols, Signs, Visual Displays and Signals

These are abundant and cover thing like road signs, maps, safety signs, graphs and signals.

Figure 5


Eye Contact and Facial Expression

If you face another person while riding a bus, do you ever look into his/her face? When do you look? When do you look away? How do you feel if someone stares at you in an elevator, or at a meeting, or in a restaurant? If youre walking down a hallway or a street and see someone approaching, whom you would rather not see, what can you do?

< < < <

turn around look the other way cross to the other side conveniently window-shop

You may cross the street, but most people choose to look anywhere but at the approaching individual. As long as your eyes do not meet, he/she may never know you saw him/her. Or if he sees you he may choose not to acknowledge you. But once you look at each other, its all over; you have to deal with him/her. You have admitted his/her existence and must face the consequences! Signalling with the eye is one means of gaining recognition in our society. If a waitress is very busy and does not wish to deal with you for a while, what does she do? She probably tires to avoid looking at you since once you catch her eye, she has to acknowledge you and respond to you. Teachers often catch a students eye without disrupting the rest of the class. What are other examples of people using eye signals to get recognition. The eyes can be used for flirting, threatening, scaring, conspiring. Muhammad Ali said he would stare at an opponent during the between rounds to shake him up and thus gain a psychological advantage. We use the terms related to the eyes in our communication. Do the terms really have meaning? If so, what do these terms mean. beady eyes cow eyes cats eyes shifty eyes cold stares fish eyes

The way people use eye contact may be different in different cultures. In the Spanish culture it is considered impolite to stare at someone who is talking to you, especially if you wish to show respect for the person. For example, if a student is being reprimanded by someone in authority, it is polite for that student to look down while the other person is speaking. Relationship Between Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

To close this unit lets briefly identify the way verbal and non-verbal messages interact with each other.

< Non-verbal message may repeat or support verbal messages

For example: We need to build a stronger defence system (fist slammed on table, loud noise). The snake was this long! (arms stretched out wide). Im going on vacation (smile, suitcase, camera and map in hand).

Most of the time non-verbal cues will send the same message as the gesture, and so forth. These similar messages may give more emphasis to the senders intention or may clarify the idea for the receiver.

< Non-verbal messages may contradict the verbal messages

For example: How lovely to see you again (bored tone of voice, no eye contact). This punch is terrific (pouring red liquid into the cactus). I really dont want to be group leader (grabbing chair at head of table, smiling, shaking hands). Sometimes the senders words say one thing but his non-verbal cues say something entirely different. When this happens receivers tend to trust the non-verbal messages because people usually do not control these as well or may not realise they are sending them.

< Non-verbal messages may replace verbal messages. You may find that in
certain settings you use only a non-verbal message because it is impossible or inappropriate to send a verbal one. You may be able to wave to a friend a block away when you could never make yourself heard at that distance. When trying to talk to a friend during class, you probably discovered that winks, nods, and hand gestures will get you in less trouble than talking out loud. In some card games people may communicate to their partners or team mates by scratching their nose or pulling their ear and the other people surrounding them do not understand the message.

< Non-verbal messages that stand along are only effective if the receiver knows
the senders non-verbal communication intent.

< Non-verbal messages can regulate verbal messages

If someone gives you a quizzical look when you are talking, what do you do? If someone looks at their watch while you are telling a story, what might you do?

< Non-verbal messages may change the flow of the verbal messages by causing
a speaker to talk faster, to talk slower, to give the other person a chance to speak or to stop talking altogether. If you raise you hand in class, the teacher may stop and call on you to speak. If you look confused, the teacher may slow down or repeat the information. If you keep watching the clock, the teacher may think the period is almost up an may talk faster. If the bell rings and you stand up holding you books, the teacher may stop talking. Therefore, it is possible to regulate another persons speech by your non-verbal feedback.