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What Is Interpersonal Communication?
Interpersonal communication is the way in which two or more people express information, thoughts, feelings, and desires to each other, either face-to-face or through a medium such as a telephone, email, or social media. In-person interpersonal communication encompasses both verbal and nonverbal communication, including body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Interpersonal communication skills are also known as soft skills, social skills, or emotional intelligence.
6 Elements of Interpersonal Communication
There are many factors that go into interpersonal communication, each of which can have a major impact on the communication’s effectiveness. The primary elements of interpersonal communication include:
- Communicators: Effective communication is dependent on the presence of two or more people. These communicators send and receive verbal and non-verbal messages to each other as part of the communication process.
- Message: The information relayed between the two communicators is known as the “message.” A message’s significance or meaning can be conveyed through the literal content of the communicator’s speech as well as nonverbal cues like body language, tone, eye contact (or lack thereof), and other physical indicators. These physical signals can add additional meaning, depth, or clarity to the message.
- Feedback: At any given moment during interpersonal communication, there is a sender (the person relaying the message) and a receiver (the person receiving the message). Feedback refers to signals sent from the receiver to the sender to indicate that they either did or did not understand the message. These may be verbal signals (such as saying “I understand”) or nonverbal signals (such as nodding your head in agreement). This feedback allows the sender to alter or adjust the message to ensure it is being properly received.
- Noise: In communication theory, “noise” denotes anything that twists or garbles the meaning of the message, thus increasing the likelihood of miscommunication. Noise may include cultural differences, the use of unfamiliar jargon, or inattention on the part of the person receiving the message.
- Context: Every piece of human interaction takes place in a different context, and these contexts can affect the efficacy and meaning of communication. A message may be received differently if it takes place in a boardroom, a bedroom, or at a ballgame. The relative social or hierarchical status of the communicators is also a useful context to consider during interpersonal communication.
- Channel: The method through which the message is delivered is known as the "channel.” When two people are talking face-to-face, the eyes, mouth, and ears of the participants are the channels. As technology has evolved, so too have the channels that we interact with on a day-to-day basis. For instance, online communication is usually limited to interpreting the visual information of words or images.
4 Reasons Interpersonal Communication Skills Are Important
Effective interpersonal communication skills are critically important both in the workplace and the social situations of everyday life. Having strong interpersonal skills can help you in the following areas:
- Conflict resolution: Regardless of your job description, you will likely encounter difficult situations between coworkers that require conflict management. This will require you to listen to your team members and work with them towards the common goal of resolving the conflict.
- Leadership: Being an effective leader involves maintaining a positive attitude, demonstrating assertiveness, and motivating others to reach their highest potential. Developing an effective communication style and good listening skills are essential elements of leading your team to success. Interpersonal skills and leadership skills are therefore one and the same.
- Negotiation: Real-world problem solving requires constant negotiation. Whether you’re negotiating a deal between clients or handling office politics, negotiation requires the ability to listen to all sides and advocate for your own position in order to come up with a solution that satisfies all parties. Good communication is necessary during this process of cooperation and compromise.
- Teamwork: One of the most important skills at any job is the ability to be a team player. Collaborating with coworkers requires people skills and verbal communication skills, as you must be able to communicate your own goals and listen to the goals of others in order to achieve a desired outcome.
3 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Communication Skills
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Some people seem to be naturally blessed with the ability to maintain rich interpersonal relationships due to their high interpersonal skill levels. However, much like public speaking, interpersonal communication is a skill that can be practiced and improved. Here are some tips to help you improve your interpersonal communication skills:
- Try active listening. Active listening means listening with unbroken concentration and responding to the information being given. Rather than passively receiving the information, you listen patiently, ask questions to clarify, and summarize the information back to guarantee your full comprehension. Employ the basics of face-to-face communication—making eye contact, smiling, or otherwise reacting nonverbally to the information—to demonstrate that you are fully present.
- Be aware of your body language. Our body language communicates just as much, if not more, than our words. If you find yourself crossing your arms or otherwise closing your body position, it might suggest that you are being defensive. If you’re constantly fidgeting or shifting your weight, you may come across as nervous. Practice keeping your body still and open, which projects self-confidence and sends the signal that you are willing to receive information.
- Don’t talk over people. If you find yourself talking over or interrupting people during a conversation, you’re likely sending the signal that you aren’t fully listening to what they’re saying—even if that’s not what you intend. Prove that you value what the other person is saying by letting them finish their full thought and not jumping in until they’re finished.
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