Interpersonal Communication: Definition, Importance and Skills
To understand what interpersonal communication is, you first have to know how it works and how we can satisfy our needs and objectives. Also, how it connects to broader social and cultural systems.
Interpersonal communication is the process of exchanging messages between people whose lives influence each other in unique ways in relation to social and cultural norms.
This definition highlights the fact that interpersonal communication involves two or more people who are interdependent to some degree and who create a unique bond based on social and cultural contexts.
Therefore, a brief exchange with a grocery store clerk you don’t know would not be considered interpersonal communication, because you and the clerk don’t influence each other significantly.
Obviously, if the employee were a friend, family member, coworker, or romantic partner, the communication would fall into the interpersonal category.
Why to study interpersonal communication?
Interpersonal communication has many implications for us in the real world.
Did you know that this type of communication played an important role in human evolution?
Did you know that interpersonal skills have a measurable impact on our psychological and physical health?
People with higher interpersonal communication skills are better and strong to adapt to stress, have greater satisfaction in relationships and more friends, and have less depression and anxiety. In fact, prolonged isolation has been shown to seriously harm a human being.
Have you ever heard of the boy or girl who was raised by wolves?
Cases of abandoned or neglected children, sometimes referred to as wild children, who survived using their animal instincts but suffered psychological and physical trauma as a result of their isolation have been documented.
In addition to improving your relationships and your health, interpersonal communication skills are highly sought after by potential employers, consistently ranking in the top ten skills in national surveys.
Each of these examples illustrates how interpersonal communication meets our basic needs as humans for security in our social ties, health, business, and careers.
But we are not born with all the interpersonal communication skills that we will need in life. So, to get the most out of our interpersonal relationships, we must learn some basic principles of interpersonal communication.
Interpersonal Communication and our Goals:
Many times we get involved in interpersonal communication to meet certain objectives that we may have. This is because interpersonal communication is strategic, which means that we intentionally create messages to achieve certain goals that help us function in society and our relationships.
Goals vary; depending on the situation and the communicators but ask yourself if you are generally successful in reaching the goals you start a conversation with or not.
If so, you may already possess a high degree of interpersonal communication proficiency or the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in personal relationships.
Imagine that you are the manager of a small company of employees in a marketing agency, where you often have to work on deadlines. As the deadline approaches, you worry about your team’s ability to work without your supervision to complete tasks, so you interrupt everyone’s work and assign all individual tasks to them.
You meet the deadline and you effectively achieved your goal. Over the next month, you learn that some have been talking about how they struggle to work with you as a manager.
Although your strategy was effective, many people do not respond well to strict hierarchy or micromanagement and may have found your way of communication inappropriate.
To become competent interpersonal communicators, we must learn to balance being effective and appropriate.
A competent communicator could have implemented the same detailed plan to accomplish the task in a way that included feedback, making employees feel more included and heard. Here are the Interpersonal Relationships: Definition, Types, and Importance.
What is interpersonal communication?
Interpersonal communication is the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages.
This is not just about what is actually said or the language used, but about how it is said and the non-verbal messages sent through tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and body language.
When two or more people are in the same place and are aware of the other’s presence, then communication takes place, no matter how subtle or involuntary.
Without speech, an observer may be using body language posture, facial expression, and dress cues to form an impression of the other’s role, emotional state, personality, and/or intentions. Although communication is not intended, people receive messages through such forms of non-verbal behavior.
Elements of interpersonal communication:
Much research has been done to try to break interpersonal communication down into a number of elements so that it can be more easily understood.
Commonly, these Elements include:
For any communication to occur there must be at least two people involved. It’s easy to think of communication that involves a sender and a receiver of a message.
However, the problem with this way of looking at a relationship is that it presents communication as a one-way process where one person sends the message and the other receives it. While one person talks and another listens, for example;
In fact, communications are almost always complex two-way processes, with people sending and receiving messages to each other simultaneously.
In other words, effective communication is an interactive process. While one person speaks, the other listens, but while listening, they also send comments in the form of smiles, signals, or jokes, etc.
2. The message:
The message (we transfer through oral or verbal communication) not only means the speech or words used or the information transmitted but also the non-verbal messages exchanged, such as:
- Body language
- Facial expressions
- Voice tone
- Body Gestures
Nonverbal behavior can convey additional information and further clarify the message transferred. It can reveal more about the emotional attitudes that may be the basis of the speech content.
3. The noise:
Noise has a special meaning in the theory of communication. It refers to everything that distorts the message so that what is received is different from what the speaker intends.
While physical “noise” can interfere with communication, other factors are considered noise.
- Using complicated jargon
- Lack of attention
- Inappropriate body language
- Disinterest and cultural differences
In other words, any alteration, distortion, or inconsistency that occurs during a communication process can be termed, Noise.
The feedback is the result of messages from the receiver, which allows the sender to know how precisely and accurately the message has been received and how the receiver reacted to the message.
The receiver can also respond to both the unintended message and the intentional message.
The types of comments range from direct verbal statements, for example, “Say it again, I don’t understand,” to subtle facial expressions or changes in posture that could indicate to the sender that the recipient is uncomfortable with the message.
Feedback allows the sender to regulate, adapt, or repeat the message to improve and precede the communication.
All communication is influenced by the context in which it takes place. However, in addition to looking at the situational context of where the interaction takes place. For example, in a room, office, or perhaps outdoors, the social context should also be considered.
The roles, responsibilities, and relative status of the participants influence the emotional climate and the participants’ expectations of the interaction.
Channel refers to the physical means by which the message is transferred from one person to another.
In a face-to-face context, the channels used are speech and vision. However, during a phone conversation, the channel is limited to speech only.
What are the Key Interpersonal Communication Skills?
Effective interpersonal communication skills are required to form and establish relationships.
There are many different types of interpersonal communication skills. However, we have outlined 11 of the most important skills you need to be an effective conversationalist:
1. Verbal communication:
Interpersonal communication skills are important to most occupations because they help you interact effectively and build relationships.
- Adapt your speech to the audience avoiding technical terminology.
- Match what you are saying with your voice and your body language.
- Reflect on what someone has said by summarizing and paraphrasing.
- Actively listen to what is being said.
- Ask questions to show your interest in what is being said.
- Answer gently using sensible gestures.
2. Active listening:
Active listening is listening beyond the words spoken, understanding the message being communicated. During conversations, the listener often thinks about how they will respond rather than concentrating on what the speaker is saying.
By actually listening, you can provide a more thoughtful response that takes into account the thoughts and opinions of the speaker. This will help the people around you understand that you value and appreciate them.
To develop active listening, you should practice the following:
1. Pay full attention till the end. Give the speaker your undivided attention instead of thinking about your answer.
2. Show the speaker that you are listening and that you are interested: Your gestures and body language are especially helpful for this.
3. Clarify your understanding if there exists any misperception. You need to make sure you understand what the speaker is saying without your judgments and beliefs getting in the way, so be sure to reflect and ask questions.
4. Don’t interrupt or redirect the conversation to continue the communication process without any disturbance.
5. Provide an appropriate response that is honest but courteous.
3. Body language:
Others’ impression of you is roughly divided by:
- Body (visual) 55%
- Voice (sound) 38%
- Words (content) 7%
So, body language is used significantly to understand what is being said.
Pie Diagram on Body Language in Nonverbal Communication:
When communicating with others, your goal is to display open body language, such as a relaxed posture, maintaining eye contact, arms and legs position, nodding, and smiling.
Closed body language should be avoided as it can be perceived as disinterested or even unreliable in a conversation: For example, bending arms or legs, avoiding eye contact, shifting eyes, or fidgeting.
Openness in a conversation leads to long-lasting and effective communication. Not only do you talk to people who have views similar to yours, but you should also talk to those who have opposing views.
Show interest in what they say in order to understand how they think. This will help with your own personal development as it challenges you and people will admire this: Since it shows the willingness to learn from others, even if you disagree.
5. Negotiation skills:
Negotiation is important in many situations. You may need it to resolve a dispute or create a contract.
You need to be able to reach mutual agreements that keep everyone satisfied, even if there is a compromise. Being able to negotiate leads to respect and people will trust you as they know that you look out for everyone’s best interests.
6. Decision-making and problem-solving skills:
For most jobs, you need a very important skill: Thinking of solutions to solve a problem.
This type of creative thinking can help maintain harmony within a team. The general structure for problem-solving is:
- Identify the problem
- Explore all solutions
- Decide which solution to implement
- Implement the solution
- Check the result
7. Conflict resolution:
You may need to resolve a conflict at some point. Active listening and problem-solving are helpful for this, as you will need to hear from all parties objectively and will need to come to a positive resolution.
Resolving conflict is not always a negative experience. Nonetheless, it can be very constructive and provide you with an understanding of secondary issues. For example, maybe a team member is having a hard time at home, making them more irritable.
By forming a plan with the victims, you can help them move forward and manage their difficulties. They may never have experienced this constructive help before your mediation.
Assertiveness is when you confidently express your needs and opinions in a fair, honest, and calm manner while considering the needs and opinions of other people.
People are more likely to appreciate and respect you if you are assertive in your communication rather than passive or aggressive.
- Tell the other person how you feel.
- Listen to what the other person is saying and empathize with them.
- Speak at a normal speaking volume.
- Maintain eye contact during the conversation.
- Avoid words that exaggerate, such as “always” and “never.”
- Use facts instead of judgments.
9. Positive attitude:
People want to be around others who are friendly and have a positive outlook, even when the company or department may be in a difficult situation.
You don’t have to be incredibly sociable, but you do need to develop some kind of positive relationship with your team members to make the workplace enjoyable for everyone.
Teamwork is one of the most appreciative parts of leadership and has the importance of backbone in business success. For a business to function effectively, people must work well together to achieve a common goal.
Some people struggle with teamwork because they think they know how to do the job better than anyone else and they don’t trust others to play their roles. This can create conflicts and damage the overall effectiveness of the team.
If this is something that is difficult for you, help your colleagues whenever you can and ask for their opinions and ideas. Be enthusiastic and open when your colleagues offer their own ideas.
Being empathetic means that you are able to identify and understand the emotions of others, that is, imagine yourself in the position of another person: Being empathetic shows your team that you care for them.
For example, if a manager reacts angrily after discovering that an employee has been late for work because his son is ill, the team is likely to react negatively to the manager.
It would be more favorable for the manager to understand and agree on an action plan with the employee, such as the employee starting work earlier and ending later.
Appreciation and encouragement is the only way to improve your business productivity and that is only possible if you motivate your employees and fulfill their needs. Employees and colleagues will respect and trust you more if you empathize with them and express compassion.
Also, understanding how people feel will help you communicate your thoughts and ideas in a way that makes sense to others and will help you understand others when they communicate.
5 ways interpersonal communication skills will change your life:
Good interpersonal communication makes tough decisions easier to resolve and helps spark goal-oriented conversations.
1. Be smart – work smart:
Interpersonal communication skills teach you to work smarter. Your boss cares more about visible skills than hard work.
Yes, you read that right. Hard work is not the means to an end; it is just a means to working harder.
So, be smart! work smart!
Spend your energy on a combination of high investment tasks and interpersonal communication, and you will see astonishingly impressive results!
Look for opportunities to show the team your worth. When someone throws the ball and you want more responsibility, go for it!
When all is going well, talk to your boss about your interest in similar future opportunities: If the opportunity is more work, just do stellar work on something you’re already working on.
2. You will have more friends:
If you want high-end rewards, it’s good to show a good amount of confidence and exchange thoughts over lunch.
There is a classic episode of friends in which one of the female leads, Rachel, pretends to be a smoker to participate in decision-making outside the office doors with superiors who frequently smoke at work.
This is a great example and takes advantage of interpersonal communication skills.
Now, we certainly wouldn’t suggest harming your body in any way to achieve better interpersonal communication skills. But you can use your happy hours, breaks, lunches, and team-building sessions to collaborate and grow your reputation.
Just start a conversation or invite some like-minded people over for a happy hour, perhaps making it a weekly thing.
Don’t bring up work too often, but subtly texture ideas into the conversation while making sure to ask your coworkers questions. This will spark interest.
Also, talk about what you like to do outside of work. This is a surprisingly effective way to generate new ideas and build networks that you will need for future projects.
3. Better interpersonal communication leads to better pay:
Having good interpersonal communication skills shows your personal investment in the company.
You must use strong interpersonal communication skills to build lasting relationships with coworkers and clients.
Most jobs have periodic reviews of employee work, and bosses use their interpersonal communication skills to get a better idea of their worth as an employee.
You also show the old boss how interested you are in your future there. People who lack interest and drive tend to show poor soft skills, and communicating interpersonally is a critical soft skill.
When it’s time for review, good communication skills will help you show what great work you’ve done, and they can turn a bad review into a promotion interview!
Also, hard work and good communication will show everyone you work with, that you are interested in your work life and the company.
4. Effective communication leave a strong first impression:
Strong interpersonal communication is a ‘winning’ interview. A strong and positive first impression will affect your work and ability to achieve overall goals for years to come. A smile, a strong handshake, an introductory statement, and a show of interest tell people more than an interview could.
In fact, it helps to think of an interview, or similar encounter, as a first date. The other person is deciding what you can offer them in the long run and each part of the body language and what you say affects their expectations in a positive or negative way.
These skills will make people fall in love with you. Studies show that people who have satisfying relationships have strong communication skills and are more likely to land leadership roles. This means that you are letting your best qualities shine through without hesitation when interacting with others.
Are you currently single and thinking, “What about me?”
Okay, you don’t have to be in a relationship for people to love you. There are many other types of relationships that you can create and use in the network without a romantic partner.
Practicing presentations and collaborations inside and outside the workplace helps both your physical abilities and what you get in an interview or in any setting.
Does eye contact and proper greeting can help you find love and success?
And the answer is only “Yes”, eye contact and proper greeting can help you find love and success. The only thing you have to lose is a great opportunity.
5. They help you feel happier with work:
We all know that bad days are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable all the time.
Climbing the corporate ladder or becoming a business owner, means taking a long time to build and combine expertise and communication.
Research shows that even if you don’t love your job or the people you work with, talking to them will make you feel better. This is because our brains are wired to mate and find a community.
We also instinctively explore our power and role in a group when we use interpersonal communication skills. When you go home every day, you will notice your daily victories in the direction of those conversations.
How to implement?
When you have the opportunity to observe some interpersonal communication, make a mental note of the behaviors used, both verbal and non-verbal.
Observe and think about the following factors:
Who are the communicators?
What noise (if any) distorts the message?
What messages were exchanged?
How are comments given?
What is the context of the communication?
You probably do this all the time, unconsciously, but when you actively pay attention to interpersonal communication, you can appreciate its mechanics more.
By observing others, making a conscious effort to understand how communication occurs, you will think about how it communicates and you will be more aware of the messages you send.
This gives you a perfect opportunity to develop your interpersonal communication skills. So, these were all about interpersonal communication skills and their improvements. We hope it will be of interest to you and will help you make brighter your interpersonal conversational skills.
What do you suggest to further improve interpersonal communication skills?
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