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Communication Skills, Report Writing, and Courtroom Testimony for Forensic Analysts

Communication Synergies

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Photo of man and woman conversing in silhouette
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Verbal skills usually develop early in life as our parents and other family members coax us to smile, speak, or behave in certain ways. Patterns of speech, intonations and inflections, and facial expressions are learned during these as well as other interactions and become innate parts of our communication repertoire. We typically use more informal dialogic styles when speaking with family and friends, and we select more formal directed language during professional communications. Our written skills develop somewhat later, and many of us become acquainted with the alphabet, words, phrases, and paragraphs during our school years. Frequently, emphasis is placed on the logical flow of ideas and the creation of compelling arguments, especially as our assignments progress from primary grades through our college or professional educations. What we often fail to recognize is that the most effective way of communicating ideas to any audience includes a combination of both verbal and written methods.

The concept of synergy is best used to describe the joint use of verbal and written methods, suggesting that their blending multiplies effectiveness. We learn difficult information more quickly from repetition. Repeated exposures also create a familiarity that is more likely to result in acceptance of controversial material. Processing complex ideas during a conversation with a professional colleague or at a formal meeting has the disadvantage of control by another party who may or may not communicate ideas at a rate consistent with our assimilation abilities. However, the credibility of verbal messages is enhanced greatly by the delivery and self-presentation of talented communicators. Written messages often are self-paced, meaning the receiver can decide how fast or how slow to peruse the information. Yet the social influence inherent in verbal presentations is lacking, relying instead on more fact-based sources of credibility. In the end, the strengths of one method compensate for the weaknesses of the other.

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