As I’ve mentioned many times, your ability to work well with people is almost always vital to your productivity and success. And one of the most important of these “people skills” is interpersonal communication.
Communicating well with other people allows you to develop and maintain a more collaborative, understanding, and supportive set of relationships. Ultimately, such relationships will prove extremely helpful in improving both your work and your life.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the considerations involved in developing and exercising effective “interpersonal communication:”
Communicating effectively is not easy, and it’s not automatic. There are a variety of “message barriers” that can arise – usually without our being aware of them – to block interpersonal communication in the same way that a poor connection blocks a conversation on your mobile phone.
“Message barriers” include:
- Not thinking-through, in-depth, the message you are trying to communicate. If you don’t know precisely what you’re trying to say, you can’t communicate it effectively.
- Not considering the best ways to get another person to understand and accept your message. To get your message across, you must speak the language of your audience. Barriers arise when the message sender doesn’t pay careful attention to how the message is phrased – the words chosen and their connotation as well as their denotation, the tone of voice, and the body language.
- Not listening to or trying to understand what the other person is communicating to you. With ears and mind closed, no communication is possible. It can be the same when the message recipient jumps to conclusions or gets so “hung up” on one part of the message that s/he fails to pay attention to the rest of it.
- Misperceptions or misinterpretations of the actual message. These can occur when the message sender and receiver are “coming from” different perspectives, or are focused on different agendas.
Recognizing and Respecting Interpersonal Differences
Effective interpersonal communication requires recognizing and respecting any differences – such as language, background, perspective, priorities, values, responsibility, authority, and personality – between you and those with whom you need to communicate. Such differences can easily put up barriers, but this need not be so. Sometimes, they can offer opportunities to stimulate creativity, learning, and growth.
In addition to looking for commonalities instead of differences, the ground rules here require exhibiting basic courtesies. Interpersonal communication prospers with frequent use of “please” and “thank you,” and when each party is generous with credit for the other person’s effort. It takes very little time to offer basic courtesies, yet they grease the rails for easier, more accurate communication.
The most important behavior is simple acceptance, as much as possible, of what others are communicating and all you can learn from their messages. Not only will this acceptance and learning help you communicate better in the future, they will help you grow as a person. Your efforts to accept and to learn will greatly strengthen your relationships with the people who are important to your productivity and success.
If you’re not among those to whom Interpersonal communication comes naturally, don’t despair. You can definitely learn to improve your messaging effectiveness with the other people on whom you rely for some of your productivity and success.
Even if you never communicate perfectly with others, your concern for effective interpersonal communication will tend to earn you extra forgiveness. Other people will more generously allow you to try again when you start off on the wrong foot and will be more receptive to patching things up should you ever put your foot fully in your mouth.
By the way: stay on the alert as you strive to improve your interpersonal communication. Old, discarded habits may sometimes subtly creep back into your behavior — particularly during times of unusual stress.
The plain fact is this: A great deal of interpersonal communication takes place without your conscious awareness. If you allow your “technical” skills – the ones that make you competent in doing your work – to blot out your efforts and your skills at communicating well with other people, you are short-changing yourself and unduly limiting your productivity and success.
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