How to Improve Your Interpersonal Communication Skills

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing. – Rollo May

Interpersonal communication competence consists of a set of skills, knowledge about communication, and self-evaluation. Competent interpersonal communication skills include self-disclosure, owned feelings and thoughts, and descriptiveness and support. Whenever we communicate we always do the following two things simultaneously:

1.Representation – We represent some information. We make some statement about the world around us.

2.Presentation – We present the information in a particular way, which will then define our relationship with the other person in a particular way.

Effective interpersonal communication exists when the receiver interprets the sender’s message the way the sender intended it. However, it is so common for people to misunderstand each other. The source of misunderstanding between people is the failure of the receiver to understand correctly the intentions of the sender. Several skills are required to communicate effective.

âÂ?¢Refer to the person you are talking to by name. People are complimented when they know that you are making the conversation personal. Making it personal also means making your message appropriate to the receiver’s frame of reference. For example, the same message may be explained differently to your friend than to a boss or coworker.

�Make your messages specific and complete. When speaking, include all of the necessary information the receiver needs to comprehend your message. You need to communicate the frame of reference you are using, the assumptions you are making, the intentions you have, and the leaps in thinking you are making. Repeating your message more than once and using more than one means of interpersonal communication, such as pictures and nonverbal cues, will help the receiver understand you.

âÂ?¢”Own” your messages by using first person singular pronouns: “I,” “my.” Ownership means taking responsibility for the ideas and feelings that you express. You disown your message when you use terms like “most people,” “some of our friends,” and “our group.” These terms make it difficult to tell what you really think and what you are saying or whether you are repeating the thoughts of feelings of others. Describe your feelings by name, action or figure of speech. Be descriptive. You may describe your feelings by name by saying, “I feel neglected,” by action, “I feel like crying,” or figure of speech, “I feel down in the dumps.”

When you want to express your feelings, you ability to describe them is essential. Explaining your feelings clarifies them to yourself as well as the other person. It often begins a dialogue that will improve your relationship with the other person. Describing your feeling conveys maximum information about what you feel in a more constructive way than giving commands, asking questions, making accusations, or offering judgments. It’s best to use neutral statements such as, “I understand what you’re saying” and “So that’s how you feel about it” until the speaker has completed his or her complete explanation. Or you can paraphrase something that has been said to make sure that you fully understand the idea. Withhold your judgments, however, until the other person has completed talking.

You should always be aware of how the receiver is interpreting and processing your message. The way to be sure is to continually ask for feedback as to what meanings the receiver is attributing to your messages. Concentrate on listening to what the other person is saying. Focusing on the other person’s message will make a major difference in terms of how they feel they’re being received. Listen with an open mind. When you go into a situation thinking that you will not learn anything or that you have all the answers, you are shutting yourself off from effective listening and learning. Ask questions or paraphrase what another person is saying if you have any doubts. Ask for clarification immediately.

The best way to determine if you understand how a person is feeling is through a perception check. You do this by describing what you think the other person’s feelings are, asking whether or not your perception is accurate, and refraining from expressing approval or disapproval of the feelings. A perception check communicates the message, “I want to understand your feeling; is this the way you feel?” it shows you care enough about the person to want to understand how he/she feels. Whatever a person says to you should be interpreted on the basis of what they have said to you in the past, and also what you expect them to say. If you are trying to understand the communication from someone you have talked with before, you need to take into account his/her history.

Avoid jumping to conclusions about the speaker and what’s being said. Listen to the total message before you draw your conclusions. Give a speaker a chance to develop an argument and substantiate major points. While there is a tendency to make snap judgments on the basis of an initial impression, it’s in the best interest of you and your business not to label or stereotype someone after a few minutes.

Interpersonal communication consists of nonverbal messages. Therefore, you have to make sure that you include nonverbal messages. For example, when you nod your head up and down, you are reminding your speaker and yourself that you are attending to the message.

The next time that you complete a conversation, analyze what happened during your interaction. Reflect on what was said or done that was both effective and ineffective. If there was a problem, how did you handle the situation? Then incorporate the positive aspects of this interaction into the way you communicate next time.

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