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a negative reaction. You may react negatively to the person who has difficulty speaking, and that person may react  negativey  to  your  inability  to  communicate  with him or her. The person with a speech problem is frequently sensitive  about  that  problem  and  will  resent  any exaggerated  manner  of  speaking  on  your  part  to overcome  it.  To  overcome  this  barrier,  maintain  a positive  attitude  and  concentrate  on  understanding  the speaker’s words rather than the speaker’s choice of words. Avoiding Language That Reflects Prejudice and Bigotry A major roadblock to effective communication is the use of words that reflect prejudice and bigotry. Such words  show  derision  and  deny  the  equality  of  another person. They give those who use them a false sense of superiority. They also reflect the personal characteristics of the speaker. Prejudice and bigotry and the use of words that reflect those characteristics stem from fear, ignorance, and superstitions. Any term that shows derision could be included in this category, including commonly used terms such as snipe and deck ape. People  use  words  of  prejudice  and  bigotry  as  a judging device—to size people up and to evaluate their traits. Using such terms relieves them of the need to know the person. The fallacy of this practice is that their actions reflect their attitudes and alienate the very person they are trying to help. Everyone has prejudices of some kind. They are a part  of  our  emotional  character  and  the  preconceived opinions  we  have  of  a  person  based  on  insufficient evidence.  However,  prejudices  are  directly  opposed  to our  constitutional  concept  of  justice—that  a  person  is presumed  innocent  until  judged  guilty. Rooting out prejudice takes time and effort, but the results are well worth it. In the meantime, make a constant, conscious effort not to use words that create resentment and anger. Improving  Speech  Habits Some  speech  habits,  such  as  slurred  pronunciation, running  words  together,  speaking  too  fast,  exaggerated drawl  or  brogue,  and  profanity,  interfere  with  under- standing. When a customer with one of these speech defects comes to you for service, concentrate on WHAT is being said—not HOW it is said. That will keep the distraction to a minimum. The  speech  of  the  contact  point  representative  may create a language barrier as well as that of the customer. Therefore,  you  should  analyze  your  own  speech  pattern to determine whether you need to improve your manner of speaking. It’s possible that you may have one or more of  the  habits  discussed  here. Normally, we don’t listen to our own speech, but you can get a reasonably accurate sample of your speech habits by recording an informal conversation and then listening to it carefully. Disturbing speech habits are not too hard to change, but first you must be aware that you have them. If you find that your speech creates a language barrier, make an conscious effort either to eliminate the problem or to compensate for it. To compensate, speak slowly and give the listener time to follow and interpret what you are saying or to ask questions. Avoiding  Confusing  Terminology The  contact  point  representative  sets  the  final barrier through the use of jargon, technical terms, and acronyms  that  confuse  the  customer.  Using  these  terms and acronyms among coworkers who are familiar with them is okay. However, do not use them when speaking to the customer who is not familiar with them. RESPONDING IN KIND Just as you respond to the attitudes of other people, you also respond to their moods. If the customer is in a friendly mood, you are more likely to be friendly. If the customer is in an angry mood, you may become cautious and defensive. If the customer is anxious or worried, your response may be vague and noncommittal. If the customer displays an impersonal attitude, you may do the same. In these situations, you have permitted the customer to set the mood for your contact. Instead of taking the initiative, you have responded in kind. As  a  contact  point  representative,  you  usually behave in an impersonal, detached manner upon your first contact with a customer. You behave in this manner for fear that the person will reject your move by showing no  response  or  by  responding  negatively.  By  first determining the customer’s mood, you feel you haven’t wasted friendliness or good humor on someone not worthy of it. However, the best tactic is to reverse the situation.  Instead  of  waiting  to  detect  the  customer’s mood, you speak up first. By recognizing the customer’s presence  in  a  friendly,  positive  manner,  you  may influence the  customer’s mood. Showing friendliness is very much like having a secret power over the behavior of the customer. If the 3-10

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