We talk a lot. Researchers have found that we speak between 7,000 and 20,000 words a day. Communication is a massive part of our everyday lives. Because of this, we must perfect our interpersonal communication skills. A lack of these life skills can hurt our relationships and how we come across to others.
In this blog, we look at the importance of each element of interpersonal communication.
What is Interpersonal Communication?
Interpersonal communication is simply communication between people, such as talking to a partner, friends at dinner, or colleagues during meetings.
Communication is much more than just opening our mouths and speaking. We communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Our tone of voice, demeanour and body language affect how we communicate. Interpersonal communication involves all of this.
A simple example is when we talk or try to talk to babies. We maintain eye contact, adjust our voice to non-threatening, get down to their level and smile while we talk. This provokes a reaction from them, a type of communication.
Why is Interpersonal Communication Important?
Interpersonal communication is vital to establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships in our personal and professional lives.
Good interpersonal communication skills really can get us ahead. We develop them from birth and continue for the rest of our lives. We never stop learning how to effectively communicate. Here are three reasons why interpersonal communication is essential:
Reason 1 – Building and Maintaining Relationships
It’s fair to say that interpersonal communication is the foundation of meaningful and healthy relationships. Clear and open communication builds trust, shows empathy, and enhances our understanding of others. We create deeper personal connections by sharing our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with others.
Reason 2 – Conflict Resolution and Problem-Solving
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, whether personal or professional. We can use interpersonal communication to diffuse conflict and come to a resolution by:
- Expressing our feelings or concerns
- Letting the other party speak while actively listening to them
- Working together to come to a resolution
Without taking the time to do this, conflicts can escalate.
Reason 3 – Personal and Professional Success
Strong interpersonal communication skills help get you ahead inside and outside the workplace. In the workplace, these skills contribute to your ability to work as a good team member, get your message across to those you manage or voice your opinions and ideas to line management.
Outside of work, you can utilise these skills in various ways, like on a first date, when you want to leave a good impression, or even to get you through the sometimes-tense Christmas Day lunch with the family.
Elements of Interpersonal Communication
We can break interpersonal communication into six elements:
Two or more people are needed for communication to occur. All parties are the communicators. If communication is one-way, it’s just being spoken at and not with. All communicators send and receive messages and can express themselves and give feedback. Importantly, everyone involved should actively listen when they are not talking.
2. The Message
The message we send to others incorporates our actual words, facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. These are all elements of non-verbal communication. Our message is received clearly depending on how well we can manage and effectively use our verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
When we think of noise, we think of physical noise, like the office printer or a kettle brewing. But when it comes to communication, noise can also be attributed to inappropriate body language, complicated jargon, lack of attention and even cultural differences and accents.
These things create barriers and distract us, making us focus on them and not on what is being said.
The feedback you receive confirms whether the message you sent was understood. Feedback can be verbal, for instance, responding with “Yes, I understand” or “I don’t understand, can you repeat that”. It could be non-verbal, too. A furrowed brow may be feedback for ‘I have no clue what you just said’ or annoyance. Just like a smile speaks volumes.
The feedback you receive may make you change your output so that you are better understood.
Context of the Communication
How many times have your words been taken out of context? When we think of context, we need to consider the conversation, who we are having it with and even where it’s taking place.
- Situational context is about the environment we communicate in – the manager’s office or the canteen, for example
- The social context concerns the communicators’ position, status, and emotional state. When emotions are running high, what we say can often be misinterpreted
How are you getting your message across? What interpersonal communication channels are you using? When we speak to others face-to-face, we use our voices and they can see us. We are either sitting or standing near them. Or, during video calls, we can be seen and heard (unless we’ve turned our camera off).
If we are having a telephone conversation, our voices are the star of the show.
How to Effectively Use Your Interpersonal Communication Skills
Here are some tips on how you can best use your interpersonal communication skills:
Tip 1: Be Open and Honest
We give off specific signals when we are not being open and honest. We may fidget, sweat or mumble our words. The people we are communicating with may pick up on this and feedback will confirm that you’ve been rumbled. For communication to be effective and positive, it’s best to be yourself and truthful.
Tip 2: Maintain Eye Contact
Now, this doesn’t mean giving your audience a death stare. That would be awkward. Maintaining eye contact doesn’t need to be without blinking.
We all look around as we speak, but not looking at the person or people we talk to or looking down and speaking to our laps gives the impression that we lack confidence. It could also be perceived that we are uninterested or disingenuous.
Tip 3: Listen up
Listening is critical to excellent interpersonal communication. When we listen, we are less likely to interrupt others and fully understand what they are saying. This puts us in a good position when answering them and giving feedback.
Tip 4: Paraphrase
Repeat what you have heard in your own words. This shows that you have listened to and understood what others have said.
Tip 5: Practice
If speaking to others makes you anxious, try practising before you have conversations. Practice with others or even record yourself using your phone. Playing back what you have said and getting feedback from others may take away the nerves.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Don’t just say you want to improve your communication skills; do something about it with our communication skills training course. Learn how to communicate effectively and confidently. These skills can make or break us. You never know; your new and improved skills may land you that promotion or date you’ve been trying to get.