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What is interpersonal communication and how do we communicate?

Each species have their own form of communicating but it doesn’t always mean they're doing it effectively. To communicate is to ‘convey intended meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs and semiotic rules.’ But it’s not that simple. We also communicate with our words, hands, faces, gestures, body movements, physical actions, electronically and the list could go on. When we combine the act of communicating with how we communicate with others, it becomes interpersonal.

understanding interpersonal communication

Most of us know how to communicate

We’ve been doing it our entire lives, mostly through our native language. But that doesn’t mean we are always doing it well. That’s the most difficult part about communicating: understanding the messages we receive and send. One of the skills that is often requested by employers is interpersonal communication.  Interestingly enough, it’s because not everyone possesses the ability to communicate interpersonally. Communicating with words in general is not easy, which is why interpersonal communication is even more difficult. This type of communication requires a high level of listening and engagement creating positive responses, which is not always easy to master.  Add in all of the digital ways of communicating, and we’ve complicated it ten-fold.

cultural office communication

Meshing others together (interpersonal communication!)

The personal communication between others takes into consideration how words are exchanged, personal body language, and the overall vibe during engagements. It requires self- awareness and awareness of others along with listening, understanding and comprehension of messages. There are, however, different ways to improve your interpersonal skills without taking a class, or reading a ton of ‘for dummies’ books. These few steps will help you to decipher messages being sent by you and received by others so you too can be an interpersonal communication expert.

Smile: No kidding. Whether you’re interacting with others in-person or electronically, you’d be surprised at how many people can sense a smile, or hear one in the voice of someone they can’t see which causes a positive response or reaction from the other person(s).

Listen: This is probably the hardest part about communicating and we don’t even realize it. Most of us think we are listening when, in fact, we are only listening long to enough to form a response to what we are hearing. That’s not listening. Listening is giving 100% attention to a person and being fully engaged with what you are hearing BEFORE formulating a response. Just because you can hear, doesn’t mean you are listening.

Follow: Yep, I said follow, weird right? This isn’t to say ‘don’t be a leader’, but more so to gauge and follow the mannerisms with whom you are engaging. Follow their body movements, facial expressions, engagement level, reactionary sounds, and where their eyes are while they are talking and while they are listening. Doing this will help eliminate the discomfort we might feel when speaking with a new person. We get nervous, it is human nature, but we can control our nerves by following the unspoken movements of those around us.

Slow Down: This is where I get tripped up most of the time. My mind is racing, my words are coming out faster than I can process them and I start to mumble or I stop making sense. I know if I just take some time slow down a bit, I’ll be much more calm, however, for me, I can sometimes lose my thoughts if I’m not processing my responses while interacting. One thing I’m doing to alleviate that issue is to listen and repeat (silently in my head, of course) what is being said. This helps me to listen fully, understand completely, and slow down my thoughts while remembering what is being said. This one isn’t easy, but trying is a step in the right direction.

Wear shoes: Not your shoes, the other person’s shoes. Put them on, think about how they feel, where they might have been, and where they might be going, then give them back. Doing this with everyone you interact with will help you with successful engagement. Sometimes I’m asked for advice, by friends and family, and my first question to them is always “did you put yourself in the other person’s shoes”? Did you imagine what you would be feeling and/or thinking if you were them, and they you? Doing this helps us to learn about how our own actions and how our words and actions could affect other people. This is an especially good technique when you can’t really understand why someone said or acted the way they did with you or others.

Be Calm: There’s nothing more disheartening than witnessing someone who has a difficult time communicating and resorts to anger, yelling, or even the silent treatment. Always be calm because when we’re not, it divulges insecurities and/or deception. Like I mentioned before, interpersonal communication is a skill but we can’t expect everyone to be good at the same skill so just being aware of your own reactions is a step in the right direction, especially if you’re wearing someone else’s shoes.

communicate workplace etiquete

It’s important to communicate effectively in a calm manner so ideas, differences, and thoughts can be shared without destruction of oneself or others. Have more thoughts on this deep topic, engage with us on Facebook or comment below.