Want to communicate and interact effectively with people around you? Then master interpersonal communication skills. It’s the secret to becoming truly “good with people.” And a big part that lets you morph into a strong verbal (and nonverbal) communicator.
But why should you learn better interpersonal communication?
Of course, stellar interpersonal communication skills can help you navigate life’s challenges. These essential soft skills also positively impact your personal and professional relationships, boost your career, and bolster negotiations.
In the workplace, hiring managers prefer employees with strong interpersonal (people) skills as they can collaborate and communicate well with their counterparts.
Research shows about 61% of corporate recruiters identify interpersonal skills as among the most essential for 2022 openings — a sobering fact that speaks volumes.
This post will focus on interpersonal communication, its essential elements, and the causes of poor interpersonal communication during the “new normal.”
What is interpersonal communication?
Ever seen two people or more exchange information, share feelings, and brainstorm ideas verbally (with words) or through non-verbal messages? That’s interpersonal communication. Or better, face-to-face communication.
When communicating with someone, what you say (the language used) and how you say it matters greatly. Never mind the non-verbal messages sent through your body language, gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
Provided you’re both in the same place and aware of each other’s presence, you’re in constant communication — whether it’s unintentional or subtle.
Without words, you may be using facial expressions, body posture, etc., to send messages intentionally to the next person through such forms of non-verbal behavior.
Let’s break down interpersonal communication skills into handy elements.
6 Elements of interpersonal communication
Researchers have tried to break down these soft skills into a handful of relatable elements to make interpersonal communication skills more easily understood.
Some common elements include:
1. The communicators
Communication occurs between two people (at least), one talking and the other listening. That said, communication is a complex, two-way process where one person sends the message, and the other receives it. While listening, a person subtly sends feedback to the one talking to them (in the form of head nods, smiles, etc.).
2. The message
Information conveyed verbally is a message. But messages can also be non-verbal, where two or more people communicate through non-verbal cues. Think about body language, gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions.
These non-verbal cues communicate more information about the spoken message. Furthermore, they reveal underlying emotions hidden in the content of speech.
Noise is anything that interferes with communication. For example, “physical noise,” such as a low-flying jet plane or background sounds, can distort a message.
In the context of interpersonal communication, “noise” can be in the form of cultural differences, disinterest, inappropriate body language, and complicated jargon. All these are barriers to effective communication.
Feedback is a message a receiver returns to the sender. Types of feedback messages include changes in posture (indicating that the sender feels uncomfortable with your message), subtle facial expressions, and direct verbal statements.
Feedback is a way for a sender to improve communication, repeat the message, or regulate it. Learning how to give and receive feedback when communicating is essential.
All interactions have a context in which they take place. When interacting with individuals or groups, consider your context:
- Social context. In this context, communications take place while considering the relative status, responsibilities, and roles of the participants involved.
- Situational context. In this context, communications can occur outdoors, in the office, or in a room.
Besides context, the participants’ expectations and emotions significantly affect how you communicate with them.
A channel is how you physically convey a message from one person to another.
For example, the channel used in face-to-face interaction is both vision and speech. You can talk and see the person you’re communicating with.
But it’s different when having a telephone conversation, where you’re limited to the speech channel. You can only talk to the person but not see them.
Mastering these elements is one way of understanding interpersonal communication skills. Speaking of which, why are these skills so crucial in the workplace?
Interpersonal communication and remote work
Remote work has now become the “new normal” for most organizations. Research shows that remote work is here to stay and will continue to increase through 2023. This transition to remote work is impossible to over-hype.
So, embracing excellent interpersonal communication skills is a surefire way to keep customers, managers, and employees well-connected and informed.
The question remains: How can you improve interpersonal communication while transitioning to remote work?
- Ask questions. Many organizations depend on virtual meetings and calls, which causes misinterpretations and distortion of information. Asking practical questions can avoid misunderstandings or crucial issues getting lost in translation.
- Verbally communicate with confidence. When working remotely, ensure to communicate your point with self-confidence verbally. Avoid being too casual. Emphasize your ideas to enhance effective communication in the workplace.
Having stellar interpersonal communication skills enhances effective communication in the workplace. Additionally, it helps you “warm up” to people, making them comfortable while leaving a lasting (positive) impression of you.
But remote working has also had a massive toll on interpersonal communication.
Causes and consequences of ineffective interpersonal communication in the “new normal”
When a team meets remotely, the potential for miscommunicating increases significantly. For example, you’ll find team members suppressing crucial conversations for fear of discussing sensitive topics over online meetings, emails, and calls.
So, what causes ineffective interpersonal communication in the “new normal”?
Here’s a short answer: Asynchronous communication, or when a (remote) team isn’t “present” in a conversation simultaneously.
Besides affecting productivity, asynchronous conversations hinder effective communication — making virtual interactions less creative.
Let’s face it: When working over an explainer video conference or email, you lose the benefits of identifying your colleagues’ non-verbal cues (read: body language).
As a result, ineffective communication creeps in. You start experiencing missed deadlines and disconnection among teams. Mistakes become even harder to catch early.
But guess what?
You can remedy the situation (and increase effective interpersonal communication) by choosing the right instant messaging apps for your remote team.
Maximizing instant messaging helps you connect with your remote team in real time while providing a platform that increases effective interpersonal communication.
Think of it as a hybrid approach that adjusts to your remote team and bolsters strong communication skills in the workplace. It can’t get better than that.