“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw
While writing is important, it’s really the focus on verbal skills that makes the difference when it comes to leadership. That’s because the written word primarily appeals to reason and logic, however, speaking appeals to logic and reason, AND arouses emotions, motivates and persuades.
by Murray Johannsen. First Published on June 14, 2014. Last Update: Dec. 21, 2017. Mr. Johannsen also routinely does Live Presentations for corporations and associations. Feel to connect via Linkedin, or by email.
Page Table of Contents
This page lists 6 interpersonal communication skills essential in being able to be understood. There are another six verbal communication skills necessary to influence and lead.
Six Vital Interpersonal Skills
- Two-Way Communication: A Key Foundation
- Choosing the type of LISTENING most appropriate to the situation.
- Mastering NONVERBAL communication
- Using relevant of QUESTIONS
- Developing sound RELATIONSHIPS.
- INTERVIEWING (which consists of elements of the above)
Your Interpersonal communication abilities form the basis both for personal and professional relationships. Not only that, but employers have been saying for years they want employees with stellar communication skills.
Despite it importance, few people spend the time to really understand it or to improve the component skills of interpersonal communication (see the list below). So you might way, the competition is weak.
Still, at some point in climbing the organizational latter, your skills in this area will either make you or break you. Make the investment in interpersonal communication skills, it will pay off many times over. For example, having lousy interpersonal communication skills typically keeps the unemployed from getting a job when they bomb the interview.
“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” — Plato
This video is about principles of communication and how those communication principles impact our thinking. For example, what are the implications of calling someone a loser? And can you not, not communicate?
You might ask, what is interpersonal communication? It simply involves sending a message between two people. Looks pretty simple on the diagram below, but the art is in the practice.
There’s a flow of information between the sender and the receiver. This flow represents both of core problem and the core opportunity. First, most senders fail to monitor their own words. And secondly, the sender fails to receive nonverbal feedback coming from the receiver. This leads to all sorts of problems and misunderstandings.
Communication begins with a source, which is a person, group, or organization that has a meaning it attempts to share. Encoding occurs on the sender side. It’s invisible process in which message is turned from thought to language.
This is the role that causes you to go into when you listen. On the receiver side, there’s a similar invisible process known as decoding. Decoding is the conversion of language into thought or meaning.
To transmit meaning, a source must place this meaning into a series of symbols that represent concepts. In the decoding process, symbols are converted into concepts and ideas that mean something to the receiver.
A sender must also select and use some type of communication medium. The three classic communication transmission channels are: written, verbal and electronic.
A receiver is the individual, group, or organization that decodes the message.
Interference (or Noise)
Sometimes referred to as noise, this really are problems with the process or the environment that prevent listening or hearing.
This is the receiver’s response to a message. In interpersonal communication, feedback should flow back to the sender instantaneously
Interpersonal Communication Barriers
Surprisingly, even this relatively simple form of interpersonal communication barriers (compared to what is going on in groups anyway) is fraught with many types of barriers. A short list includes: encoding problems on both the sender side, bad timing, failure to get feedback, etc. But there is a longer list of 17 communication barriers.
Six Interpersonal Communication Skills
The verbal and nonverbal elements of Interpersonal communication appear to be simple, it has a surprising number of variations. For example, interpersonal communication can be two-way or one-way. If it’s one way, it is sender dominated. The receiver is very passive, in many case, faking it with an occasional acknowledgment statement. In fact, a receiver doesn’t even have to even say anything, they can simply nod from time to time. Faking it comes in handy since one doesn’t have to pay attention to a boring person. As one can see, one-way interpersonal communication creates problems and it has sometimes been called passive listening.
Full-Duplex Mode. Full-Duplex is a term borrowed from communication technology. It basically means that as a sender, you are sending and receiving at the same time. So when you are a speaker, your goal should be to pay attention to both the receivers words and their nonverbal signals.
The reason we do this is to get more meaning from the others’ nonverbals. For example, for example, doing so allows you to determine whether the other person understands you or not.
If I tell you to, “Meet me at the Hollis,” would you know what I meant? Most of us would say no. However, as a sender with great interpersonal communication skills, you would pay attention to nonverbal’s, and be able to see that the other person was confused over the word “Hollis” and then take steps to clarify.
If you can read face, you have an advantage over those that can’t. I used to routinely do this every morning with my bosses since I wanted to know what mood they were in. I happened to have very good bosses, but every once in a while, they could bite the neck off an alligator. Should such a rare event occurred, it was best to say hello, beat a hasty retreat, and hide somewhere.
2. LISTENING: What Excellent Communicators Do Really, Really Well
“The mind is like a TV set, when it goes stops working, it is a good idea to shut off the sound.” — Unknown
“Every ass loves to hear himself bray.” — Thomas Fuller
“General Eisenhower and I didn’t discuss politics or the campaign. Mostly we talked about painting and fishing. But what I remember most about the hour and a half I spent with him was the way he gave me all his attention. He was listening to me and talking to me just as if he hadn’t a care in the world, hadn’t been through the trials of a political convention, wasn’t on the brink of a presidential campaign.” — Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post, April 2, 196
Most people are terrible listeners,but they do know how to fake it pretty well. We do this with techniques such as nodding at the right moment, period acknowledgments such as, “Ah” and “Ah, ha,” and the classic technique present in the marriage, the “Yes, dear.” In fact, we are so good at faking listening, that the average person can’t even tell.
Leaders cannot afford to develop a reputation for unskilled listening, it’s ruinous. Despite this, one of the more common complaints in many organizations is, “My boss doesn’t listen to me.”
Listening is important–it’s hard work–it’s something few people do well. That’s because the interpersonal communication skill called listening requires constant mental energy and it easier to fake it. Technically, faking it involves using certain types of acknowledgement signals to give the sender the impression that we are paying attention when we are not.
Plus there are actually different types of listening. For example, you can listen passively, actively, or emphatically. One can listen to memorize or critically listen as a means of logic checking.
This interpersonal communication skill can be improved, but it requires both knowledge and effort. For many years, I actually did this wrong. I hand thought the fundamental problem was a series of barriers. It turned out, the real problem was one of related of limitations of attention. There are five of these.
- Serial Information drastically diminishing parallel language processing
- Capacity Limitations cause that information overload
- Fatigue counteracts vigilance
- Short Attentions Spans
- Attention is selective — it misses more than it processes
- People focus it internal when they should have it external.
So remember the words of Andre Gide, “Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens, we have to keep going back and begin again.
3. Reading The Signs: The Nature of NONVERBAL Communication Signals
“A newcomer to a certain summer resort was surprised to find a group of men gathered on the lawn one evening shouting numbers at each other. “Sixteen,” one would yell, and all would laugh. “One hundred and thirty-five,” another would say, and all would laugh. “Twenty-seven,” a third would say, nearly choking with glee, and all would laugh. “Two hundred and three,” shouted someone, and this time everyone fell off his chair howling. The laughter continued till some turned blue in the face and had to be pounded to keep them from suffocating. Numbers continued to be called thereafter, and laughter, now more subdued, also continued. Finally the newcomer spoke to one of the men on the fringes and said, “Pardon me, but tell me what’s going on.” ‘Well,” said the other, “this group meets every year at this resort, and night after night we swap stories. Naturally, we all know the stories, so we gave them numbers and save time by calling the numbers.” The newcomer nodded. “I see. But tell me this. When someone shouted, ‘Two hundred and three,’ everyone laughed particularly loudly. Why was that?” His informant chuckled. “Kohl Well, you see, that one we had never heard before.
”The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” — Peter F. Drucker
Nonverbal communication contains meaning than what is embedded in the words. Yet, few individuals pay much attention to it and the average person is rather clueless as to what it all means. Part of this confusion stems from cultural differences. While a smile is universal, the meaning attached to other facial expressions is determined by culture.
Besides cultural differences there are many different types of nonverbal communication. These include: artifacts, haptics, kinesics, facial expressions, paralanguage, gestures, osculesics, chronemics, interpersonal distance, and body movements (Tubbs, and Moss, 2006).
As you know, emotions and mostly communicated though voice characteristics and facial expressions. If you don’t pay attention to these, it is like having the right eye shut and the left one looking left when it should be looking right. You miss so much.
To make matters worse, many people tend to engage in a form of self-talk. This is a special type of self-talk in which the person speaks, but pays not attention to what to the other person. For example, that classic self-talker really doesn’t care whether their words are understood or confusing.
But periodically, they will come out of their mental masturbation to see that you haven’t left. And of course you will nod politely. They in-term will think that you agree with everything they have just said. It’s not that hard to identify the self-talker, all you have to do is look into the eyes. Besides the problem of self-talk, there are many different types of nonverbal interpersonal communication.
4. Great Minds Know How to Use Questions To Communicate Messages
“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” — Chinese Proverbs
“Any idiot can state opinion as fact, but it takes a creative mind to ask the right questions.” — Unknown
For some reason, many executives assume that they have to dominate everyone. This is typically done is through communicating in loud voice with a fast tempo, for a long period of time to prevent someone from being able to speak or ask questions. If a question does get asked, the executive has a fall back position — the two-minute tirade of irrelevancy.
The power of questions can be seen in TV shows where during a trial, the defense attorney or a prosecutor can enhance or destroy a witnesses credibility simply by the using well structure questions.
Without improving this verbal communication skill, effective counseling, therapy and group facilitation is essentially impossible.
Questions are one of the most powerful methods of verifying and extracting information from another. The key is to ask the right question since most people answer them honestly. Many fail to recognize that questions have the power to same goal as persuasive statements. Rather then use statements, it’s better to use questions to encourage the person to discover the answer themselves.
Skillful communication with questions is subtle and more indirect. It possesses the additional advantage that the person typically doesn’t become defensive as a result of during interpersonal communication.
Without using this interpersonal communication technique, group facilitation is essentially impossible. Other situations such as therapy will suffer as a result.
5. Communication Skills that Build RELATIONSHIPS
“You never get a second chance to make a positive first impression” — American Saying
“When someone’s character seems impossible to fathom, observe his friends.” — Japanese proverb
You never get too good at the art of communication. See Which Ones You can Improve
A number of studies over the years have indicated that interviews have a relatively low correlation when it comes to predicting future job performance. Despite this low validity, organizations everywhere make interviews a must pass initiation ritual to access corporate riches.
So while interviews are not that valuable to the hiring agency, they are super important to the job seeker who must act, must project, must skillfully communicate in a way that meets the interviewers criteria for the ideal candidate.
Good interpersonal communication skills produce good relationships–it’s are simple and as complex as that. While Americans tend to de emphasize the importance interpersonal communication skills in building relationships due to the use of contracts in business, Other cultures follow a different set of rules.
For cultures in Asia, for example, business doesn’t begin until the relationship is sound. So if one has bad communicate skills, if you can’t form strong interpersonal relationships, you are like a dentist without a drill.
Additionally, certain types of influence techniques require this use of this set of interpersonal communication techniques. One cannot expectations for example. It has been shown in the psychological research that communicating expectations are incredibly important.
In this area: one uses interpersonal communication to:
- Establish trust
- Build rapport (or being liked),
- Generate Empathy, and
- Create a Positive Impression
6. INTERVIEWING As an Interpersonal Communication Skill Set
What makes interviewing so difficult for many is we don’t do it often enough to get really good at it. The other issue, is that a 20 to 30 minute interview is both high pressure and high stakes. It’s so easy not to say the right thing at the right time.The following interpersonal communication skills come into play during a face-to-face interview.
Watch Nonverbal Communication. Very few people can receive non-verbal feedback from another. Airport is here lies in being able to read the face of the person you’re talking to. You really want to know whether what you’re saying is understood or confusing, for example.
You never get too good at the art of communication. See Which Ones You can Improve
Burley-Allen (1995).Listening: The Forgotten Skill. 2nd Edition. Wiley. Another textbook that we often use.
Baron-Cohen, Simon (2004).The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain. New York: Basic Books.
Bate, Barbara & Taylor (Eds.) (1988).Women Communicating. Norwood, NJ: Ablex
Tannen, Deborah (1991).You Just Don’t Understand : Women and Men in Conversation. This is a classic. It contains many patterns men and women have that lead to miscommunication.
Moss, Stewart, and Tubbs, Sylvia (2006). Human Communication, Principles and Contexts, 11th Edition. New York: Prentice Hall.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116695/Tapscott, Don (1998).Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Tubbs, Stewart (2009). Human Communication, Principles and Contexts, 12th Edition. New York: Prentice Hall. This is one of our teaching texts for our online communication classes.
Cool Stuff on Communication
Jerry McGuire (1996)
Who said the live of a sports agent is easy? Especially one that this one has an ethics, that caused him to give up and a life in the box for that of an entrepreneur. Most famous line, “Show me the money.”
Thank You For Smoking (2005)
Great show if you want to study the fine art of persuasion or marketing of tobacco products. One gets the impression that working as a lobbyist requires a great deal of fast talking and a really low standard of ethics.
Think You Can Pitch: Creatives Break Down Their Art. One of the better descriptions on the art I have ever run across. Definitely one that’s worth listening to.
Communication Skills Test. This site (called Queendom) has many different types of assessments, many offered for free.
This Fast Company article has a number of communication tips — over 55 of them. These form the basis for something called heuristics — the ability to make a good decision based on available.
The Elevator Pitch. We all need a short elevator pitch to explain what we are doing. More art than science, it needs to be practiced.
Borchers, Tim (1999).Interpersonal Communication. Allyn and Bacon. This is a nice overview of interpersonal communication. You will find scholarly views on topics such as: relationship development, self-disclosure, patterns and interpersonal conflict.