Communication is a process by which there is a sender and a receiver. Interpersonal communication is a branch of communication between two or more people in an organization, relationship or group. The interpretation of information is crucial in communication and is the basis of a happy marriage, business negotiation, or even the livelihood of a patient in a doctor’s care. Building human relationships is a key element for humans as we are social beings. In communication, there are many influences of how messages are perceived. Emotions, intensity, demeanor, and gestures play a factor.1 Understanding the importance of communication is derived from understanding the communication process, the contexts, and the principles.
The purpose of interpersonal communication is for achieving interpersonal goals. Sellers would want to build an interpersonal relationship with a buyer to maintain an account. A wife would want to maintain a solid interpersonal relationship with her husband and children in order to maintain a healthy marriage or family. Interpersonal communication can be measured by structure rather than the process or form.2 Because interpersonal communication happens in different settings, different situational contexts, there are several rules that can be followed to allow the exchange of information to play favorably or to obtain and maintain a relationship of importance. A-1: Why do we communicate?
In order to understand communication as a subject we need to understand theories of communication. A simple theory of communication is need-need. As a toddler we can communicate to our parents that we are hungry. In the different stages of childhood crying is a form of communication. If a baby cries they can be hungry, sleepy, tired, or uncomfortable. As we age we learn to communicate in order to fulfill our needs. Our communication is conditioned over time. There is also Pavlov’s rule of conditioned and unconditioned response. Humans like dogs learn to “connect a stimulus to a reflex”.4 This is explained in psychology but it is also a learned form of communication. This experiment measured reflexes, response, and habits. Pavlov’s dog related the ringing of a bell to food. As Pavlov rang a bell and presented food the dog salivated. Overtime the dog built a response to the stimuli. Through time Pavlov was able to ring the bell and achieve the same results without the presence of food. The dog still communicated to Pavlov that he was expecting food or was hungry through the product of salivation.
Crying when we want something is a learned response to getting what we need or what we want. Speaking is another form of communicating our wants and needs. Although crying is a response that is built in to us language is acquired for us to communicate effectively. Instead of crying, a child can state, “Mom, I am hungry.” and their mother can prepare a meal as a provider. When the child grows up, he may tell his secretary, “Answer the phone.” and communication as a director.
A-2: How to understand Interpersonal Communication
The communicator sends a message. The receiver accepts the message. The perceptual screens set up by a communicator and a receiver influence the clarity, quality, accuracy, and the quality of the message.1 Screens consists of cultural differences, beliefs, values, age, gender differences, flexibility, communication styles, and listening styles. The messages are action-oriented, content-oriented, and time-oriented. Messages should be sent and received withholding judgment and with full attention. They should be free of ego, internal and external noise, un-biased, and in effort to building a positive relationship. A goal of interpersonal relationship is to be free of conflict and toward an interpersonal goal.
Communication is unavoidable. Even not communicating communicates something. By ignoring someone intentionally communicates that you do not want to communicate with them. Engaging in conversations with someone communicates that you want something from them. “One cannot not communicate” is a fundamental axiom of communication.3 Simple communication with someone insinuates the need for social interaction as humans. Even though there is not a financial gain, the gain is interacting with another person. Absence to an event or meeting suggests communication. Absence can mean to a receiver that you had more important things to do although from a sender’s standpoint, their absence was unavoidable. Even though the sender was not physically present they are still sending a message that is filtered through the receiver’s screen and their perception. Because communication is unavoidable, it is important to communicate messages that you wish to send and not messages that are sent unintentionally.
A-3: When Communication Goes Bad
Because miscommunication occurs from time to time and at times messages can be interpreted negatively, it is important to build effective communication skills. While it exist that even effective communication can go sour, having a strong foundation of skills will prepare you for the long haul. Misunderstanding can happen from time to time and can progress the more they are discussed. 3 Consider having a relationship with someone that from your eyes began strong and has maintained a strong course. One night you invite your girlfriend to dinner saying that it is date night and she is excited.
When she arrives, she realizes that you have brought another friend along. You sent the receiver a false message. Because you said it was date night, your girlfriend screened your message to say “Let’s go out for a drink?” She doesn’t say anything about the situation even though she is upset. Two weeks later, it happens again and this time she is extremely upset. You have no idea that you have done anything wrong and the more the subject is discussed the more heated the conversation becomes. Nothing you can say or do will relieve the situation. This is an example where fine tuned communication skills are important. Because the message is interpreted differently by you and me, one person may not see what the big deal is while another might think that the boyfriend is scared to be alone with his girlfriend and therefore invites a third party.
These situations are unavoidable. It is an example of why fine tuned communication is important. By saying what is truly meant, there is a greater chance that a situation like this may not occur in the beginning or in the future. Instead of saying, “Let’s go out for a drink?”, you should say, “Let’s have a drink, just the two of us?” or “Let’s have a drink with friends?”. These are two different statements which cannot be screened in the way it was when it read “Let’s go out for a drink?”
A-4: Communication Costs
Interpersonal communication can cost you a job, a client, and even your life. Depending on how you communicate can send a message of happiness or of hate. Cultural, gender, age, and social differences can harbor different styles of communication. Because the world is diverse, it is important to understand that everyone communicates differently. The way we communicate in the United States is different than the way people communicate in Brazil, China, and any other country. Business is run differently cross-culturally but the foundation of business is interpersonal communication. In the United States, business meeting can take place at a restaurant, a board room, or through video-conference. At a restaurant, alcohol may present which communicates a relaxed style of communication. In a board-room, being tardy communicates that you are not serious about doing business.
In Brazil there is a different approach to communicating inside and out of business. If a meeting starts at three o’ clock, expect people to arrive late. Don’t expect to get to business as soon as you walk in the door. Brazilian meeting usually start late and begin with social interaction. Dress attire is informal to American business but is accepted to them. There is also a difference in how people of higher rank are addressed. For example, Americans tend to practice a first name basis whereas the Portuguese use formal pronouns like Mr. and Mrs.. Not understanding the way in which other cultures communicate can cause a lot of confusion and create hostility in a business relationship.5 The last thing you want to do is insult another company that you are doing business with by arriving early to a meeting and wanting to commence as soon as you arrive. This practice conveys that all you want is a business transaction and not to build a relationship with the other company.
Communication can also cost when you are not careful with what you are communicating. Certain things can get you into serious legal trouble. A sexual harassment file can land you in big trouble with a company’s human resources department even though you feel like you did nothing wrong. The differences between the way in which genders communicate varies. Unwelcome remarks such as “Babe”, stares, or hand or body signs constitute sexual harassment.2 These forms of communication are identified as a Hostile Work Environment. Because a female is accustomed to calling everyone “Babe” she may use the term loosely around her friends and at work. If a man uses the same term at work he may draw upon himself a sexual harassment claim.
Another way communication costs is when communication on paper is interpreted differently by separate parties on paper. A legal document is a rough form of communication that can protect a company from losing millions of dollars in a lawsuit due to the misplacement of something as minuscule as a comma. Negotiation skills require heavy communication skills regardless if the negotiation is win-win, win-lose, or lose-lose. By demanding something, you are communicating your way to a lose-lose situation. Opening up to the other party and figuring out their wants and need create an opportunity for a win-win outcome. Win-lose is example of a lawyer communicating to a jury why a defendant is guilty or innocent. Ethical communication gets positive results.2 Refraining from saying negative things earns you respect from others. Accepting the other person reinforces positive behavior rather than judgment.
A-5: The Importance of Listening
Listening is a form of communication and can build a strong interpersonal relationship. There are different types of listening including active, reflective, and dynamic. The barriers of listening are attitudinal, cultural, environmental, gender, lack of training and physiological.2 Listening failures can be costly. The ability to listen carefully to important messages is a key to effective leadership. Listening skills are important in a variety of careers making selling a prime example. As always, barriers will make listening a harder task so it is important to eliminate or work around them. Poor listening results from hearing problems which can only be solved with the use of a hearing aid. Other people have auditory discrimination, sequencing, or memory which may appear as if they are not listening or paying attention to what is said but is not intentional. 2 The thought process can interfere with listening. After our brains are done processing words and sounds there is still empty space in the brain. Instead of using the empty space to fantasize or daydream, use the empty space to develop a deeper listening and to listen to the meaning of a speaker’s words.
Attitudinal barriers can make listening more difficult. Preoccupation occurs when personal concerns make it difficult to keep your mind on the subject. Some preoccupation is inescapable.2 By maintaining your focus on the speaker as much as possible, the benefit of building a relationship with that person because a reality. Egocentric attitudes place a damper on interpersonal relationships. Egocentrism involves preventing the learning of new information over what you believe is more important. Self-centered listeners are likely alienated from important groups because they are not open to other people’s ideas. Mindless listening requires careful attention. It is the automatic reaction to other people’s messages. Mindful listening is a careful attention and response to messages. Another important thing to remember is why you are listening in the first place? Are you listening to gain something, or to understand something? Can you listen while withholding judgment? Listening skills can save you from conflict and fighting. It will prevent you from guilt and righteousness.6
A-6: You’ve Got To Want It
Solid communication skills don’t appear out of thin air. It is something that is worked on over time, through experience. In Every Moment Counts, Chapter 3 mentions a section called “You’ve got to want it.” Self-motivation is necessary in order for communication to occur. You cannot expect for things to just happen the way you want them to. There also has to be a willingness to change communication habits and personal habits to point an interpersonal relationship in the right direction. As with anything, improvements become easier with time and so does communication. Another important section of Every Moment Counts called “Don’t just think about it, do it!” relates to how in to a relationship you are with someone. Good intentions are just that until they are acted upon. Following up on your promises encourages a strong relationship. By doing this it shows that you are in it. Like the author states, “Paying attention to a marriage as you do to your car” is a valuable piece of advice.6 This is not only true for marriages but for any type of interpersonal relationship.
A-7: Developing a Relationship
Whether you are building a relationship with a partner or a client, make sure you put their need first. Commit to establishing a relationship with your audience. This will help you later on in the course of your relationship if you need to persuade or satisfy them. Make sure you don’t establish a need-need relationship from the beginning. Don’t make it a habit of only going to someone when you need or want something rather do offer what you can to help your audience. The beginning stages of a relationship involve some sort of contact. This can be something physical or verbal. Involvement occurs as you maintain an interpersonal relationship via e-mail or through social outings. It can also occur over years depending on the type of relationship is at play.
There is a reason that we develop relationships. This can be a social or a business need. A student may engage in conversation with a faculty member because he or she wishes to gain insight on a career path also known as networking. Throughout the course of a student’s collegiate experience they may network with different people around campus. As much as a student may need networking to secure a career after graduation, if they provide a give-give relationship their networks will always be there for them in the future. The student isn’t the only person gaining in a relationship of networking with a professor. The professor may gain by electing the student to participate in research or work-study. The student may also influence other people to become more involved with communicating with their department enticing needed changes to curriculum or encouraging others to take certain classes that may help them in their field of study. The initial contact in this relationship that has formed can be a simple gesture of saying “hello” while walking through the halls.
1. Organizational Behavior
2. Toward an Implicit Theory of Interpersonal Communication
Myron Wish and Susan J. Kaplan
Sociometry , Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1977), pp. 234-246
Published by: American Sociological Association
Article Stable URL: http://blume.stmarytx.edu:2146/stable/3033530 2. Communication at Work
Simple Rules for Success in College, 2nd Ed., A. Cirlin (Isocratic press; Texas) 1997 3. http://www.understand-andcure-anxietyattacks-panicattacks-depression.com/Pavlovs-dog.html
6. Every moment counts