Interpersonal Communication is a form of communication between people that occurs daily within different social networks and is a process that is not easily defined. One of the ways of defining interpersonal communication is to compare it to other types of communication.
Interpersonal communication differs in many ways to other types of communication as there are fewer individuals involved in this type of communicative activity as the participants involved are in close proximity to each other, such as interviews, meetings, parent and teacher relationships etc. Interaction on these levels is different to interaction between friends and family members, as the latter is on a more personal level.
The process of being communicative develops when a fact is observed or an idea has been formulated by an individual (the sender). This observation is then translated into a message that is relayed to another person (the receiver) who must then interpret the message and provide feedback. This indicates that the message has been correctly understood and appropriate action can then be taken in response to what is being said.
In some cases mistakes can be introduced with regard as to how an individual may interpret this process, for example, misunderstandings can occur if the sender has not communicated on a level of understanding or if the receiver has not listened carefully and fails to provide adequate feedback.
One-way and two-way communication
In general, interpersonal communication can be seen as either one-way or a two-way system of communication. One way communication is when an individual communicates with others without the expectation of feedback whereas a two-way system requires some form of interaction from colleagues. In Kurt Lewin’s leadership style this is called an autocratic style where the leader takes decisions without consulting others. Lewin said that this style caused the most level of discontent (Lewin, K. et al). During my placement I experienced different forms of communication, which was either over the telephone or in person, e.g. meetings or conferences.
One way communication is a faster and easier way of communicating for the sender as they do not have to deal with any questions or disagreements for others whom they are communicating to. I experienced this type of communication during my first day on my placement when I had to attend a Council Conference. The speaker of the conference was a councillor who was relaying the achievements that had taken place with other organisations. The communication involved in this speech was a formal one that did not entail any form of discussion.
One-way communication is a controlling style of communication that is used to direct individuals and therefore gain their compliance. This has been used by the manager on my placement, which enables them to employ power and manipulate to reinforce the message they are trying to get across. This can be an effective way of communicating with employees in a rather controlling way but this can also alienate employees.
In contrast to this two-way communication involves the sharing of information between individuals rather than directing behaviour. Individuals are encouraged to express their ideas so that a mutual understanding can be reached.
The events I experienced in a two-way conversation involved myself and colleagues from my placement. This was a meeting that was scheduled to discuss events and activities that were about to take place which my colleagues were organising for International Women’s Day. Ideas had to be put forward and feedback was relayed as to how these events were going to take place. I found this type of communication quite interesting as I could give a response as to what was going on and how I was going to go about being involved.
Sometimes our culture can have a huge effect on the way we communicate with others. When two individuals of different cultures communicate they can often find it difficult to communicate at equal levels. I found this evident when I was working on my placement as the majority of clients that came in were from South Asian backgrounds. Their understanding of English was minimal so gestures were made with hands so they could relate to what was being discussed if the discussion was in English. This was something I experience when we had a meeting with the Asian women, as one of my (Asian) colleagues conducted the meeting which was mainly spoken in their mother tongue. It was relayed to me what was being said by others in the meeting. However, even when two cultures speak the same language there is always room for misunderstandings.
Assertiveness is having the ability to honestly express your opinions, attitudes and feelings without breaching the rights of others. Many individuals find that it is easier to be assertive in some situations than in others. Being assertive with a complete stranger can be easier than with someone you know very well. I noticed this in myself when I had to communicate with other members of a team if we were having a meeting that required each of us to interact with each other. I had difficulty doing this when I first started my placement but found it much easier when I got to know the other members of my group who I would be working with. Some of the clients that came to visit the project, some of whom I had known for years on a personal level I found I could communicate with them easier because I was used to talking to them. Assertion is a way of dealing with things openly and honestly with others while showing some form of respect and not putting others down. It is in between aggression and non-assertion (passivity) (Csoti, M) 1988).
Working in groups
When working in groups it can be determined the language we speak, or the different accent that we may hear and other aspects such as different cultural practices we may have adopted and the level of education we may have received.
There are different kinds of groups that we can be in such as: groups within college, women groups, ethnic groups, friendship groups, religious groups and social groups.
Johnson and Johnson 1987 identified that there are seven major emphases. A group according to Johnson and Johnson is a collection of individuals who interact with one another, a social unit that consists of two or more persons who perceive themselves as belonging to a group, a collection
It has been said that reflective practice is on of the ways in which we learn from our experiences. This was something I have done while attending my placement. Reflective practice is a way of taking our experiences as a starting point for learning.
Donald Schon (1983) names two types of reflective practice. One is reflection-in-action and the other is reflection-on-action. Gibbs reflective cycle is a cycle of what happened, what we may be feeling and thinking, what was good or bad about the experience that was felt, what sense could be made of the situation, what, if anything could have been done about the situation, and if this situation arose again what would be my action plan.
I reflected on certain aspects of my placement. One particular memory was my first day when I was told I would be attending a conference which would also be attended by councillors in my area. My first thought of this is that I was very nervous at the thought of even been in a meeting of this kind as it would be my first time.
Having strong interpersonal communication skills are very important for organisations that supervise the work of others. Good interpersonal communication skills are essential in processes such as: management, counselling, mentoring and parenting skills. The majority of individuals think that they can communicate very well, however some people feel apprehension when they are in uncomfortable situations and most of us can improve our interpersonal communications skills.
Transactional communication is viewed as a process involving both the sender and the receiver. This theory takes into account people’s experiences of culture, personal history and hereditary.
Bull, P (1984) Body Movement and Interpersonal Communication
Csoti, M (1988) How to be a people person
Lewin, K et al. (1939) Patterns of aggressive behaviour in experimentally created social times. Journal of Social Psychology, (10), Pg, 271 – 301