To speak and to speak well are two things! And, we've all, at one point, in our career have sworn on how "good interpersonal communication skills" are an important asset for any well-rounded professional.
Turns out, cultivating good interpersonal communication can be a tricky thing to master and, at times, needs years of practice. The good thing about it? Once you nail the art, you become the master of effective communicator and avoid the various communication mishaps that sometimes surround the workplace.
So, if you want to hone the skill there is to become the best communication professional; we've got all the details for you – the what, how, and whys of interpersonal communication, making it the most valuable asset in the corporate world.
What is Interpersonal Communication?
Before we use all textbook lingo, to sum up an interpersonal communication definition, it's important to understand the context of interpersonal communication in layman terms.
In simple terms, 'interpersonal' is all about exchanging information face-to-face via expressions, voice, gestures, and body language between two people. However, the effectiveness with which these messages are transferred forms the yardstick of measuring a person's interpersonal skills.
To sum up, interpersonal communication, in essence, sheds light on the process that involves exchanging ideas, feelings, and information between two or more people, either through verbal or even non-verbal forms.
Now, your interpersonal communication definition might vary slightly from the above, but the basic tenets are likely to remain the same. You'll still agree with the thought of how good interpersonal communication skills in the workplace can form a strong foundation for building long-lasting professional and personal relationships. Even stats back this school of thought -
Up to 81% of recruiters identify good interpersonal skills as an essential life skill to survive in the workplace. In today's time, a large chunk of the interpersonal communication at work happens through online forums such as emails, video calls, audio calls, and chats.
So, to be an effective communicator at work, you need to improve your online communication skills to succeed in any job. These skills of communication are measured over the four interpersonal communication concepts.
Understanding the 4 Types of Interpersonal Communication
Think about it - when you're having a conversation with someone, you go "hmmm" when you agree with them, right? That's an example of verbal communication. It's just a way to express a thought without really using words.
When you make an audible sound, it constitutes verbal communication. It's a natural way to keep the conversation going or even express feelings. Most forms of verbal communication come with their sound or intention, which the receiver interprets accordingly. The way you utter these words with the tone can indicate how they are supposed to be interpreted.
For example, even a phrase that's as innocuous as "have a nice day" can have different connotations based on the context in which it's being said. It can be pleasant, curt, courteous, friendly, sarcastic, or even ominous. Try out these different styles and see how people react!
Let's accept this - at some point in your life, you must've been accused of not being a good listener. That's because you're not consciously listening but just hearing things. Hearing and listening have a clear distinction, where hearing is mostly involuntary and doesn't require you to put any effort to concentrate, but listening is intentional and requires focus.
When it comes to hearing, it's an automatic response - anyone who has ears can hear! Listening, however, needs more effort. It requires you to understand what the speaker is sharing and communicate back with a response that a sender is expecting from you.
And no one does it better than Oprah Winfrey! If you’ve watched her talk show, you would clearly notice how she nails being an avid listener and how it's an important part of the entire communication process. It’s this skill of listening intently that helps her connect with the audience and discuss and speak about issues that are on their minds.
When a message is conveyed with written symbols on paper, placards, or even on digital screens, it can be categorized as written communication. From texts to emails and more formal formats such as reports and memoranda, written communication is one of the most sought after methods on how information is shared in the business world.
When information is lengthy or complicated, it needs to be shared precisely, and that's why written communication is perfect. It gets the message across properly, and it is also considered a legally valid way to share information. Anything that's written down can be reused later if needed as proof of the conversation. It is also known as the "official" way of communication.
Written communication can also include emojis, which can convey information emotionally and in a context that can make it harder to deduce from words. Written communication skills can take a few years to perfect, but once they are, it can be one of the most effective forms that can last a lifetime.
Finally, the fourth form of communication is non-verbal, where you can send a message across without words or speaking. It can be achieved easily with facial expressions or specific body language (ex. moving the index finger to say "no").
It's a great way to help people understand how you're feeling without having to use any words - either in written or verbal formats.
To understand precisely how much can be communicated with non-verbal forms, take a mime as a classic interpersonal communication example. They're able to enact particular events and situations without having to speak a word. Their eyes, body, and costumes are more than enough to give you a good idea of what they're trying to convey.
Also, non-verbal communication often complements the spoken form of communication. This is because it can help get points across. For example, using "air quotes" when talking about something with a shoulder shrug means something is not actually what they claim to be.
What are the Elements of Interpersonal Communication?
Before we proceed with the details on the importance of interpersonal communication and why should you improve this skill, there are a few elements of interpersonal communication that can help you understand how it works better -
- The communicators: As a communicator, you refer either to the receiver or the information's sender. There are at least two communicators in any interpersonal communication conversation.
- Message: So, when two people communicate, it's natural that they relay a message across. This message becomes the crux of the communication and is a significant element of interpersonal communication. It can be relayed in different ways - body language, speech, tone of voice, and more.
- Noise: What happens when the message sent is not received as it was intended? This can result in forms of miscommunication, and in the communication lingo, we call it Noise. Examples of such noise include language barriers, jargon, inattention, etc. When it comes to interpersonal communication at the workplace, dealing with noise is an aspect you need to channel effective communication.
- Feedback: The response from the receiver is known as feedback. The message that gets sent back to the person who sent it is important because it allows them to understand whether it has been interpreted the right way or not.
- Context: When a message is interpreted or received in the right way depends a lot on the context. Interpersonal communication is ultimately contextual, and this is all about the environmental factors that can influence communication outcomes.
- Channel: How communication occurs is also essential, and this element is known as the channel or the medium. It can be either offline or online, spoken, or written.
Mastering the Art of Communication from the Most Inspiring Communicators
We can ramble on about the various other intricacies required for being a good communicator at length. However, what's more, important than knowing the subject is to master the art of talking and ideating well. And what better way to learn than a leader? Because -
“You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can’t communicate your ideas, it doesn’t matter.”
You’ve guessed it right! Let’s take inspiration from an excellent communicator - Steve Jobs.
The Apple founder was an influential personality, known not just for his innovative marketing ideas but also for how he revealed his products. Take a look at some of the greatest Apple product launches, and you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of some excellent communication practices.
For example, before even launching the product, Jobs would ensure that the crowd was warmed up. He would do so by constantly playing videos of Apple’s legacy and the impact they’ve had in the world. All purely because it served as a reminder of how long the company had come. It also set the context of the imminent release and simplified the release for Jobs himself.
So what makes Jobs one of the most skilled people when it comes to the art of communication? One of the most significant reasons why Steve Jobs is seen as an excellent orator and marketing genius is his ability to simplify the most complex ideas.
He represented the company’s pillars – dependable, forward-thinking, groundbreaking, and clarity. That’s one of the biggest reasons Apple was able to convince customers and make them lifelong fans of their products.
Another excellent example of a leader who could effectively communicate is Winston Churchill. The ex-Prime Minister of Britain was able to instill hope during a dark time in history by frequently communicating with the public via radio speeches and discourses.
His quotes included messages such as, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The message here is simple and can be deciphered by even the most non-native of English speakers.
Also, to rile up the British troops during the war, Churchill would say: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Short and to the point, these quotes helped Churchill get his message across and ensured that people were more likely to understand and remember them for a long time.
What’s common with both these communication Gurus is how they both focus on other people’s problems, developed empathy, and worked their way towards successfully delivering the message across their audience. And, it's this essence which can help make you a good communicator too.
Good communication skills open up the door to a vast scope of professions, and this is why it’s essential to understand how learning to communicate correctly can help you peak your career graph.
Importance of Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace
In a 2018 Global Human Report, which took the inputs of around 11,000 HR and business leaders, it was discovered that up to 63% of the respondents had identified complex problem-solving as a growing requirement. Up to 52% identify a growing requirement for social skills, putting interpersonal communication at the top of many companies’ agendas.
The above insight emphasizes the importance of interpersonal communication in the workplace and how it facilitates better conversation, better ideas, and ultimately improves collaboration.
From the client to your other colleagues, good communication skills will ensure a smarter way to get things done while allowing you to be liked at the workplace. The better you can simplify your ideas to people, the better is their response to your approach.
Here's how good communication skills can help you as an employee improve productivity and enhance your career development in the workplace -
1. Solving problems
Good interpersonal skills are necessary as they allow people to discuss their issues and help them weigh the many pros and cons surrounding a topic. If you have good problem-solving skills, it becomes more effective as you can share your voice among people and help them feel involved.
2. Aligning with business goals
Poor communication between employers and employees can lead to unproductivity. When leaders and managers don't communicate clearly, team members become more disconnected and uninterested in work. Good interpersonal communication in the workplace helps employees receive a proper direction and goal towards which they can work.
Trust is one of the most critical assets in the workplace, and employees need to feel like they're trusted while also trusting others. If there's a lack of trust, it can lead to poor communication, especially among business leaders and the senior brass involved in ensuring a company's day-to-day affairs.
4. Change management
Good communication skills are also essential to ensure change management efforts happen properly within organizations. It helps employees understand the change better and align with it to implement the said change effectively.
5. Company culture
When interpersonal relationships are executed the right way, it can lead to an organization thriving with the positive work culture. Employees who possess good interpersonal communication skills in the workplace can help an organizational culture become more positive and synergic. Negativity, conflicts, and confusion can lead to bad interpersonal relationships. Ultimately, it can ruin the environment at work and reduce productivity if not done the right way.
6. Employee recognition
Good interpersonal communication skills in the workplace can also drive recognition among employees. When employees have better interpersonal relationships and upper management, they will recognize the excellent work being done and provide quality feedback.
7. Workplace miscommunication
Managers who ensure that professionalism is maintained at the workplace are also seen as approachable. If you're a manager, make sure you always communicate how you're feeling with the team to know where they stand. It can also defuse any tension and help employees speak directly with you.
8. Personal relationships
It's vital to create meaningful connections in the office. As an employee, you spend more than half your life in the office, and your colleagues tend to be your friends outside of the office. Good interpersonal skills can help you build better teams at work and create relationships that can last for life.
9. Management and leadership
Fostering trust and great communication are some of the non-negotiable skills of an effective team leader. When a manager doesn't possess these interpersonal skills, they can confuse employees who begin to work less productively or lose motivation.
10. Employee success
Employee success is another critical factor and is necessary for managers to help their team perform well. Leaders who can pass on crucial information and the right words of motivation will see their employees respond the same way and achieve the company's business goals much faster. These skills also get passed on to the employees who can use it as they progress as leaders.
11. Managing conflict
A good workplace will always have disputes from time to time as ideas and thoughts clash. What's important is that these conflicts are resolved quickly and smartly without bad blood or tension among the parties involved. Interpersonal communication is crucial for fixing these conflicts and softens situations, especially in stressful work environments.
12. Development of the career
As more employers look for employees who have good communication skills, improvements in interpersonal relationships can also bring progression regarding many employees' careers.
A previous survey conducted by the Workforce Solutions Group indicated that more than 60% of employers say applicants do not possess sufficient interpersonal skills to fit in with their organizations.
Good communication skills can also ensure that people work better remotely and cooperate and work as a team, especially during crises. A team that communicates with one another tends to perform better and ultimately do well for the company's overall benefit.
Interpersonal Communication During Remote Work – How to Strike the Balance?
Considering how Covid-19 has transformed our work habits and environment, there's no shadow of a doubt that the culture of remote working is truly upon us. In fact, 99% of professionals wish to take up remote working, either part-time or indefinitely, for the rest of their careers!
With work-from-home becoming the new normal, it's crucial for professionals, especially employers, to ensure that their employees are engaged, well-informed, and connected in these difficult times. This is the time to adapt to newer trends and pay special attention to how you communicate with your employees as they are already experiencing information overload.
Sometimes, it’s all about showing a little empathy. This is how Slack’s CEO, Stewart Butterfield, overcomes the hurdle of remote working efficiently.
He says that the pillars of humility and empathy have helped them grow as a design-oriented company. Something as simple as asking employees questions like – “Tell me more about what you’re working on,” or “What’s been happening since we met?” etc. can help employees feel more included and open up.
As an employer, you need to make your maximum usage of interpersonal communication in the workplace and understand how to make your messages more personalized towards your employees based on their locations, positions in the company, and responsibility.
The need of the hour, right now, is to make way for modern employee communication. Solutions like getting on board with software such as Microsoft Teams can help drive meaningful communication and create a medium that allows your workforce to come together and interact with each other daily.
How To Improve Interpersonal Communication Skills?
Lack of Interpersonal Communication Skills? Here's How You Can Improve.
- While interpersonal communication may not be the #1 skill any employer might want certification for, it certainly helps to know that you can be a perfect team player and feel connected to the corporate family if your communication skills are on point.
- If you do not have the talent for it currently, it does not mean that you cannot improve yourself in the communication sphere. What you perceive yourself to be, how others perceive you, and how you want to be perceived are three good factors to consider when improving your communication skill.
- To improve your interpersonal skills, you will require effort, time, and also useful feedback. The first two can be manifested on your own, but the latter can be quite hard. It is an essential element and requires you to identify people who can do the same.
- Once you can understand these factors, you'll develop skills that help you move closer to your goals. With good feedback, you become aware of how specific messages you send out are interpreted.
- Keep trying and putting in the effort to be an effective communicator. You'll soon notice how people approach you for any help or even consider you to be a leader within your organization and, ultimately, helping you grow as a professional.
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