What are Interpersonal Skills?Interpersonal skills are the life skills we useevery day to communicate and interact withother people, individually and in groups.Interpersonal skills include not only how wecommunicate with others, but also our confidence,and our ability to listen and understand. Problemsolving, decision making and personal stressmanagement are also considered interpersonalskills.People with strong interpersonal skills are usuallymore successful in both their professional andpersonal lives. They are perceived as more calm,confident and charismatic, qualities that are oftenendearing or appealing to others. Being moreaware of your interpersonal skills can help youimprove and develop them. We provide anextensive library of articles to help you learn aboutand improve your interpersonal skills.Interpersonal skills are also sometimes referred toas soft skills or people skills.A list of Interpersonal Skills could include:
Listening SkillsCommunication SkillsStress ManagementVerbal CommunicationAssertivenessDecision MakingProblem SolvingNon-Verbal CommunicationListening SkillsListening is not the same as hearing. Hearingrefers to the sounds that you hear, whereaslistening requires more than that: it requires focus.Listening means paying attention not only to thestory, but how it is told, the use of language andvoice, and how the other person uses his or herbody. In other words, it means being aware ofboth verbal and non-verbal messages. Your abilityto listen effectively depends on the degree to
which you perceive and understand thesemessages.Principles of listening:A good listener will listen not only to what isbeing said, but also to what is left unsaid or onlypartially said. Listening involves observing bodylanguage and noticing inconsistencies betweenverbal and non-verbal messages. For example, ifsomeone tells you that they are happy with theirlife but through gritted teeth or with tears fillingtheir eyes, you should consider that the verbal andnon-verbal messages are in conflict. Listeningrequires you to concentrate and use your othersenses in addition to simply hearing the wordsspoken.1. Stop TalkingWe have two ears but only one mouth. Dont talk,although you may need to clarify when the otherperson has finished speaking.2. Prepare Yourself to ListenFocus on the speaker. Put other things out ofmind.
3. Put the Speaker at EaseHelp the speaker to feel free to speak. Remembertheir needs and concerns. Nod or use othergestures or words to encourage them to continue.4. Remove DistractionsFocus on what is being said: don’t doodle, shufflepapers, look out the window, or similar. Avoidunnecessary interruptions.5. EmpathiseTry to understand the other persons point of view.Look at issues from their perspective. Let go ofpreconceived ideas.6. Be PatientA pause, even a long pause, does not necessarilymean that the speaker has finished. Never finish asentence for someone.7. Avoid Personal PrejudiceTry to be impartial. Don’t become irritated anddon’t let the person’s habits or manner distract youfrom what they are really saying.
8. Listen to the ToneVolume and tone both add to what someone issaying.9. Listen for Ideas – Not Just WordsYou need to get the whole picture, not just isolatedbits and pieces.10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal CommunicationGestures, facial expressions, and eye-movementscan all be important.What is Interpersonal Communication?Interpersonal communication is the process bywhich people exchange information, feelings, andmeaning through verbal andnon-verbal messages:it is face-to-face communication. Interpersonalcommunication is not just about what is actually
said - the language used - but how it is said and thenon-verbal messages sent through tone of voice,facial expressions, gestures and body language.When two or more people are in the same placeand are aware of each others presence, thencommunication is taking place, no matter howsubtle or unintentional. Without speech, anobserver may be using cues of posture, facialexpression, and dress to form an impression of theothers role, emotional state, personality and/orintentions. Although no communication may beintended, people receive messages through suchforms of non-verbal behaviour.Elements of Interpersonal CommunicationSee also: Listening SkillsMuch research has been done to try to breakdown interpersonal communication into anumber of elements in order that it can be moreeasily understood. Commonly these elementsinclude:The CommunicatorsFor any communication to occur there must be atleast two people involved. It is easy to think aboutcommunication involving a sender and a receiverof a message. However, the problem with this wayof seeing a relationship is that it presents
communication as a one-way process where oneperson sends the message and the other receives it.In fact communications are almost alwayscomplex, two-way processes, with people sendingand receiving messages to and from each other. Inother words, communication is an interactiveprocess.The MessageMessage not only means the speech used orinformation conveyed, but also the non-verbal messages exchanged such asfacialexpressions, tone of voice, gestures and bodylanguage. Non-verbal behaviour can conveyadditional information about the message spoken.In particular, it can reveal more about emotionalattitudes which may underlie the content ofspeech.NoiseNoise has a special meaning in communicationtheory. It refers to anything that distorts themessage, so that what is received is different fromwhat is intended by the speaker. Whilst physicalnoise (for example, background sounds or a low-flying jet plane) can interfere with communication,other factors are considered to be ‘noise’. The useof complicated jargon,inappropriate body
language, inattention, disinterest, and culturaldifferences can be considered noise in the contextof interpersonal communication. In other words,any distortions or inconsistencies that occur duringan attempt to communicate can be seen as noise.FeedbackFeedback consists of messages the receiverreturns, which allows the sender to know howaccurately the message has been received, as wellas the receivers reaction. The receiver may alsorespond to the unintentional message as well as theintentional message. Types of feedback range fromdirect verbal statements, for example "Say thatagain, I dont understand", to subtle facialexpressions or changes in posture that mightindicate to the sender that the receiver feelsuncomfortable with the message. Feedback allowsthe sender to regulate, adapt or repeat the messagein order to improve communication.ContextAll communication is influenced by the context inwhich it takes place. However, apart from lookingat the situational context of where the interactiontakes place, for example in a room, office, orperhaps outdoors, the social context also needs tobe considered, for example the roles,
responsibilities and relative status of theparticipants. The emotional climate andparticipants expectations of the interaction willalso affect the communication.ChannelThe channel refers to the physical means by whichthe message is transferred from one person toanother. In face-to-face context the channels whichare used are speech and vision, however during atelephone conversation the channel is limited tospeech alone.Tension and anxiety are very commonproblems in society today, and many people willsuffer from symptoms of stress at some time in
their lives. You may encounter stress from anumber of sources including:Personal Stress which may be caused by thenature of your work, changes in your life orpersonal problems.Stress in family or friends, which in turn mayaffect you.Stress in your colleagues, which again may affectyou.As the effects of stress can be, at the very least,unpleasant this article sets out to give an overviewof stress, together with its causes andconsequences, and the means by which it can beavoided, confronted and reduced.What is Stress?Stress is a response to an inappropriate level ofpressure.Stress can be described as the distress that iscaused as a result of demands placed on physicalor mental energy. Stress can arise as the result of:AnxietyAnxiety is caused when life events are felt to bethreatening to individual physical, social or mental
well-being. The amount of anxiety experienced by an individual depends on:• How threatening these life events are perceived to be.• Individual coping strategies.• How many stressful events occur in a short period of time. Tension Tension is a natural reaction to anxiety. It is part of a primitive survival instinct where physiological changes prepare the individual for ‘fight or flight’. This sympathetic response, as it is known, results in a chemical Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) being released in the body and causes muscles to tense ready for action. Blood vessels near the skin constrict to slow bleeding if injury is sustained and to increase the blood supply to the muscles, heart, lungs and brain. Digestion is inhibited, the bladder relaxes, and sweating, the heart rate and breathing increase. The person affected becomes more alert, their eyes dilate and a surge of adrenaline gives rise to an increase in energy. These responses are extremely useful in situations of physical danger but, unlike for primitive humans, many of the anxieties of modern life are
not ones that can be solved by a ‘fight or flight’ reaction or by any physical response. Modern day stressful situations tend to continue for much longer periods of time and an immediate response does not relieve the anxiety-provoking situation. Therefore, prolonged states of anxiety can lead to symptoms of stress which prevent the individual from returning to his or her normal, relaxed state. Physical Signs of Stress In addition to feeling uneasy, tense and worried, physical sensations of continued stress can include:• Palpitations• Dizziness• Indigestion or heartburn• Tension headaches• Aching muscles• Trembling or eye twitches• Diarrhoea• Frequent urination• Insomnia• Tiredness• Impotence People are often unaware that they are suffering from stress and visit the doctor with symptoms of
indigestion, muscle pain, headaches, etc. Severestress can lead to panic attacks, chest pains,phobias and fears of being seriously ill.Continued stress can lead to feelings of lethargyand tiredness, migraine, severe stomach upset andsleeplessness. As with all such symptoms,medical help should be sought. However, oncesymptoms are recognised as being caused by stressit is possible to control and reduce stress levels.This can be done through learning a numberof stress reduction techniques.Stress-Inducing Events and SituationsSkillsYouNeed.co.ukWhile individuals have a range of events orsituations that are particularly stressful to them,most people would agree that major events such aslosing a job, divorce or money problems would bestressful for anyone.The following list is compiled from the answersgiven by a large number of people as to how hardit is to readjust to different life changing events. Ahigh score shows that people find it hard toreadjust to that event, which in turn indicates ahigh stress factor.
Event: Score out of 100Death of a spouse or partner 100Divorce 73Marital separation 65Death of a close family member 63Personal injury or illness 53Marriage 50Loss of a job 47Marital reconciliation 45Retirement 45Change in health of a family 44memberPregnancy 40Sexual problems 39Addition of a new family member 39Death of a close friend 37Change to a different kind of work 36
Taking on a large mortgage 31Change of responsibilities at work 29Son or daughter leaving home 29Spouse starts/stops work 26Starting or leaving school 26Trouble with the boss 23Change in residence 20Taking on a loan or H.P. debt 17Change in eating habits 15Vacation 13Christmas 12Minor violations of the law 11Life changes can have a direct effect on health,either good or bad. Of people who have a ‘lifechange score’ of 200-300, half exhibit healthproblems in the following year. Of those with ascore over 300, 79% become ill in the followingyear. The most stressful change is the death of aspouse. Widowers have a 40% higher death rate
than normal and have high rates of illness anddepression.It is not only unpleasant events that can bestressful. It seems that almost any change involvesstress in readjusting and, if possible, it would seemwise to not have too many changes in life at thesame time if this is at all possible.In addition to stress being caused by events,certain situations can lead to an individual feelingstressed; although as mentioned before the degreeof stress will depend, amongst other things, on thatindividual’s coping strategies. The environmentcan also serve to make us stressed: for example,noise, crowds, poor lighting, pollution or otherexternal factors over which we have no control cancause us to feel anxious and irritable. Adjusting tomodern-day life can also be a source of stress. Wenow communicate with people in many differentways, e.g. through the Internet, mobile phones, andvarious broadcast media, and the expectation of aquick response has increased. We also have manymore commodities available to us and some peoplefeel an expectation to maintain a certain lifestyleand level of consumerism. In addition, for manywomen it is now the norm to manage a full- or
part-time job and to be the primary carer nurturinga family.All of these changes mean that stress is nowunfortunately commonplace in both our personaland professional lives. Indeed we could argue thata programme of stress management, focussed onstress prevention as much as relief, is an essentialpart of modern living.
Verbal CommunicationOpening CommunicationIn many encounters, the first few minutes areextremely important as first impressions have asignificant impact on the success of furthercommunication. Everyone has expectations andnorms as to how initial meetings should proceedand tends to behave according to theseexpectations. If interpersonal expectation is
mismatched, communication will not be effective nor run smoothly, and negotiation will be needed if relations are to continue. At a first meeting, formalities and appropriate greetings are usually expected: such formalities could include a handshake, an introduction to yourself, eye contact and discussion around a neutral subject such as the weather or your journey may be useful. A friendly disposition and smiling face are much more likely to encourage communication than a blank face, inattention or disinterested reception. Reinforcement The use of encouraging words alongside non- verbal gestures such as head nods, a warm facial expression and maintaining eye contact, are more likely to reinforce openness in others. The use of encouragement and positive reinforcement can:• Encourage others to participate in discussion (particularly in group work)• Signify interest in what other people have to say• Pave the way for development and/or maintenance of a relationship• Allay fears and give reassurance
• Show warmth and openness. Effective Listening Active listening is a very important listening skill and yet, as communicators, people tend to spend far more energy considering what they are going to say rather than listening to what the other person is trying to say. The following points are essential for effective and active listening:• Arrange a comfortable environment conducive to the purpose of the communication, for example a warm and light room with minimal background noise.• Be prepared to listen.• Keep an open mind and concentrate on the main direction of the speakers message.• Avoid distractions if at all possible.• Delay judgment until you have heard everything.• Be objective.• Do not be trying to think of your next question while the other person is giving information.• Do not dwell on one or two points at the expense of others.
• The speaker should not be stereotyped. Try not to let prejudices associated with, for example, gender, ethnicity, social class, appearance or dress interfere with what is being said. See also our section on Listening Skills.
Assertiveness is a skill often referred to in socialand communication skills training. Oftenwrongly confused with aggression, assertiveindividuals aim to be neither passive noraggressive in their interactions with other people.Although everyone acts in passive and aggressiveways from time to time, such ways of respondingoften result from a lack of self confidence and,therefore, are inappropriate expressions of whatsuch people really need to say.Non-assertiveness may be seen as the use ofinefficient communication skills, whereasassertiveness is considered a balanced response,being neither passive nor aggressive. This articlelooks at the rights and responsibilities of assertivebehaviour and aims to show how assertiveness canbenefit the individual.What is Assertiveness?The Concise Oxford Dictionary definesassertiveness as:“Forthright, positive, insistence on the recognitionof ones rights”In other words:“Assertiveness means standing up for yourpersonal rights - expressing thoughts, feelings and
beliefs in direct, honest and appropriate ways." Itis important to note also that "By being assertivewe should always respect the thoughts, feelingsand beliefs of other people”Assertiveness concerns being able to expressfeelings, wishes, wants and desires appropriatelyand is an important interpersonal skill. In all yourinteractions with other people, whether at home orat work with employers, customers or colleagues,assertiveness can help you to express yourself in aclear, open and reasonable way, withoutundermining the rights of yourself or others.Assertiveness enables an individual to act in theirown best interests, to stand up for themselveswithout undue anxiety, to express honest feelingscomfortably and to express personal rights withoutdenying the rights of others.Passive, Aggresive and AssertiveSee also: NegotiationBeing PassiveResponding in a passive or non-assertive waytends to mean compliance with the wishes ofothers and undermines individual rights and self-confidence. Many people adopt a passive responsebecause they have a strong need to be liked by
others. Such people do not regard themselves asequals because they place greater weight on therights, wishes and feelings of others. Beingpassive results in failure to communicate thoughtsor feelings and results in people doing things theyreally do not want to do in the hope that theymight please others. This also means that theyallow others to take responsibility, to lead andmake decisions for them.A classic passive response is offered by those whosay yes to requests when they actually want to sayno. For example,“Do you think you can find thetime to clean out these cupboards today?” Atypical passive reply might be “Yes, Ill do it afterIve done the shopping for Mrs. Smith, made animportant telephone call, finished the filing,cleaned the windows and made lunch forgrandma!” A far more appropriate response wouldhave been “No, Im unable to do it today as Ivegot several things I need to do.” It is obvious thatthe person responding passively really does nothave the time, but their answer does not conveythis message. The second response is assertive inthat the person has considered the implication ofthe request in the light of the other tasks they haveto do.
By responding passively, individuals are moreinclined to portray themselves in a negative lightor put themselves down and, as a result, mayactually come to feel inferior to others. Passiveresponding can encourage treatment that reinforcesa passive role. While the underlying causes ofpassive responding are often poor self-confidenceand self-esteem, passive responding itself canserve to yet further reduce feelings of self-worth.You may find that you respond passively,aggressively or assertively when you arecommunicating in different situations. It isimportant to remember that any interaction isalways a two-way process and therefore yourreactions may differ, depending upon yourrelationship with the other person in thecommunication.Being AggressiveBy responding in an aggressive way, the rights andself-esteem of the other person are undermined.Aggressive responses can include a wide range ofbehaviours, like rushing someone unnecessarily,telling rather than asking, ignoring someone, ornot considering anothers feelings.
Good interpersonal skills mean you need to beaware of the different ways of communicating andthe different response each approach mightprovoke. The use of either passive or aggressivebehaviour in interpersonal relationships can haveundesirable consequences for those you arecommunicating with and it may well hinderpositive moves forward.Aggressive behaviour fails to consider otherindividuals views or feelings. Rarely will praiseor appreciation of others be shown and anaggressive response tends to put others down.Aggressive responses encourage the other personto respond in a non-assertive way, eitheraggressively or passively.It can be a frightening or distressing experience tobe spoken to aggressively and the receiver can beleft wondering what instigated such behaviour orwhat he or she has done to deserve the aggression.If thoughts and feelings are not stated clearly, thiscan lead to individuals manipulating others intomeeting their wishes and desires. Manipulationcan be seen as a covert form of aggression whilsthumour can also be used aggressively.
Being AssertiveBeing assertive involves taking into considerationboth your own rights, wishes, wants, needs anddesires, as well as those of the other person.Assertiveness means encouraging others to beopen and honest about their views, wishes andfeelings, in order that both parties actappropriately. Assertive behaviour includes:• Being open in expressing wishes, thoughts and feelings and encouraging others to do likewise.• Listening to the views of others and responding appropriately, whether in agreement with these views or not.• Accepting responsibilities and being able to delegate to others.• Regularly expressing appreciation of others for what they have done or are doing.• Being able to admit to mistakes and apologise.• Maintaining self-control.• Behaving as an equal to others.
Decision makingIntroduction / OutlinePeople often find it hard to make decisions. Wecant decide if this is an introduction or outline!Some people put off making decisions byendlessly searching for more information orgetting other people to offer theirrecommendations. Others resort to decisionmaking by taking a vote, sticking a pin in a list ortossing a coin.Regardless of the effort that is put into making adecision, it has to be accepted that some decisionswill not be the best possible choice. This articlelooks at one technique that can be used in decisionmak ing thatshould help you to make effectivedecisions in the future. Although the followingtechnique is designed for an organisational orgroup structure, it can be adapted to an individuallevel.What is Decision Making?In its simplest sense, decision making is the act ofchoosing between two or more courses of action.However, it must always be remembered that theremay not always be a correct decision among the
available choices. There may have been a better choice that had not been considered, or the right information may not have been available at the time. Because of this, it is important to keep a record of all decisions and the reasons why decisions were made, so that improvements can be made in the future. This also provides justification for any decision taken when something goes wrong. Hindsight might not be able to correct past mistakes, but it will aid improved decision making in the future. Effective Decision Making Although decisions can be made using either intuition or reasoning, a combination of both approaches is often used. Whatever approach is used, it is usually helpful to structure decision making in order to:• Reduce more complicated decisions down to simpler steps.• See how any decisions are arrived at.• Plan decision making to meet deadlines. Stages of Decision Making Many different techniques of decision making have been developed, ranging from simple rules of thumb, to extremely complex procedures. The
method used depends on the nature of the decision to be made and how complex it is. The method described in this article follows a number of stages. These are:• Stage One: Listing all possible solutions/options.• Stage Two: Setting a time scale and deciding who is responsible for the decision.• Stage Three: Information gathering.• Stage Four: Weighing up the risks involved.• Stage Five: Deciding on values, or in other words what is important.• Stage Six: Weighing up the pros and cons of each course of action.• Stage Seven: Making the decision. Framework for Decision Making SkillsYouNeed.co.uk Listing Possible Solutions/Options Generally, the possible solutions will have been thought up during the earlier problem solving process, either through brainstorming or some other idea generating process (see our article on: Problem Solving). In addition, a decision will have to be made from a selection of fixed choices. Always remember to consider the possibility of not making a decision or doing nothing and be
aware that both options are actually decisions in themselves. Setting a Time Scale and Deciding Who is Responsible for the Decision In deciding how much time to make available for the decision making process, it helps to consider the following:• How much time is available to spend on this decision?• Is there a deadline for making a decision and what are the consequences of missing this deadline?• Is there an advantage in making a quick decision?• How important is it to make a decision? How important is it that the decision is right?• Will spending more time improve the quality of the decision? Responsibility for the Decision: Before making a decision, it needs to be clear who is going to take responsibility for the decision. Remember that it is not always those making the decision who have to assume responsibility for it. Is it an individual, a group or an organisation? This is a key question because the degree to which responsibility for a
decision is shared can greatly influence howmuch risk people are willing to take.If the decison making is for work then it is helpfulto consider the structure of the organisation thatyou are in. Is the individual responsible for thedecisions he or she makes or does the organisationhold ultimate responsibility? Who has to carry outthe course of action decided? Who will it affect ifsomething goes wrong? Are you willing to takeresponsibility for a mistake?Finally, who can take the decision? When helpinga friend, colleague or client to reach a decision, inmost circumstances the final decision andresponsibility will be taken by them. Wheneverpossible, and if it is not obvious, it is better tomake a formal decision as to who is responsiblefor a decision. This idea of responsibility alsohighlights the need to keep a record of how anydecision was made, what information it was basedon and who was involved. Enough informationneeds to be kept to justify that decision in thefuture so that, if something does go wrong, it ispossible to show that your decision was reasonablein the circumstance and given the knowledge youheld at the time.
Non Verbal communication Interpersonal communication not only involves the explicit meaning of words, that is the information or message conveyed, but also refers to implicit messages, whether intentional or not, which may be expressed through non- verbal behaviours. Non-verbal communications include facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, gestures displayed through body language (kinesics) and the physical distance between communicators (proxemics). These non-verbal signals can give clues and additional infomation and meaning over and above spoken language. Non-verbal messages allow individuals to:• Reinforce or modify what is said in words. For example, people may nod their heads vigorously when saying "Yes" to emphasise that they agree with the other person, but a shrug of the shoulders and sad expression when saying "Im fine thanks,” may imply that things are not really fine at all!• Convey information about their emotional state.
• Define or reinforce the relationship between people.• Provide feedback to the other person.• Regulate the flow of communication, for example by signalling to others that they have finished speaking or wish to say something. Many popular books on non-verbal communication present the topic as if it were a language that can be learned, the implication being that if the meaning of every nod, eye movement, and gesture were known, the real feelings and intentions of a person would be understood. Unfortunately interpreting non-verbal communication is not that simple. As covered in Interpersonal Communication, the way communication is influenced by the context in which it occurs. For example, a nod of the head between colleagues in a committee meeting may mean something very different to when the same action is used to acknowledge someone across a crowded room. Interpersonal communication is further complicated in that it is usually not possible to interpret a gesture or expression accurately on its own. Non-verbal communication consists of a
complete package of expressions, hand and eyemovements, postures, and gestures which shouldbe interpreted along with speech (verbalcommunication). The forms of interpersonal communication that are not expressed verbally are called non-verbal communications. These include:• Body Movements (Kinesics)• Posture• Eye Contact• Paralanguage• Closeness or Personal Space (Proxemics)• Facial Expressions• Physiological Change
Interpersonal communicationFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaInterpersonal communication is usually definedby communication scholars in numerous ways,usually describing participants who are dependentupon one another. It can involve one ononeconversations or individuals interacting withmany people within a society. It helps usunderstand how and why people behave andcommunicate in different ways to construct andnegotiate a social reality. While interpersonalcommunication can be defined as its own area ofstudy, it also occurs within other contexts likegroups and organizations.Interpersonalcommunication is the process that we use tocommunicate our ideas, thoughts, and feelings toanother person. Our interpersonal communicationskills are learned behaviors that can be improvedthrough knowledge, practice, feedback, andreflection.Interpersonal communicationincludes message sending and message receptionbetween two or more individuals. This can includeall aspects of communication such as listening,
persuading, asserting, nonverbal communication,and more. A primary concept of interpersonalcommunication looks at communicative acts whenthere are few individuals involved unlike areas ofcommunication such as group interaction, wherethere may be a large number of individualsinvolved in a communicative act.Individuals also communicate on differentinterpersonal levels depending on who they areengaging in communication with. For example, ifan individual is communicating with a familymember, that communication will more than likelydiffer from the type of communication used whenengaged in a communicative act with a friend orsignificant other.Overall, interpersonal communication can beconducted using both direct and indirect mediumsof communication such as face-to-face interaction,as well as computer-mediated-communication.Successful interpersonal communication assumesthat both the message senders and the messagereceivers will interpret and understand themessages being sent on a level of understoodmeanings and implications.
Four Principles of Interpersonal CommunicationThese principles underlie the workings in real lifeof interpersonal communication. They are basic tocommunication. We cant ignore themInterpersonal communication is inescapableWe cant not communicate. The very attempt notto communicate communicates something.Through not only words, but through tone of voiceand through gesture, posture, facial expression,etc., we constantly communicate to those aroundus. Through these channels, we constantly receivecommunication from others. Even when you sleep,you communicate. Remember a basic principle ofcommunication in general: people are not mindreaders. Another way to put this is: people judgeyou by your behavior, not your intent.Interpersonal communication is irreversibleYou cant really take back something once it hasbeen said. The effect must inevitably remain.Despite the instructions from a judge to a jury to
"disregard that last statement the witness made,"the lawyer knows that it cant help but make animpression on the jury. A Russian proverb says,"Once a word goes out of your mouth, you cannever swallow it again."Interpersonal communication is complicatedNo form of communication is simple. Because ofthe number of variables involved, even simplerequests are extremely complex. Theorists notethat whenever we communicate there are really atleast six "people" involved: 1) who you think youare; 2) who you think the other person is; 30 whoyou think the other person thinks you are; 4) whothe other person thinks /she is; 5) who the otherperson thinks you are; and 6) who the other personthinks you think s/he is.We dont actually swap ideas, we swap symbolsthat stand for ideas. This also complicatescommunication. Words (symbols) do not haveinherent meaning; we simply use them in certainways, and no two people use the same wordexactly alike.
Osmo Wiio gives us some communication maximssimilar to Murphys law (Osmo Wiio, WiiosLaws--and Some Others (Espoo, Finland: Welin-Goos, 1978): • If communication can fail, it will. • If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm. • There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message. • The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed.These tongue-in-cheek maxims are not realprinciples; they simply humorously remind us ofthe difficulty of accurate communication. (Seealso A commentary of Wiios laws by JukkaKorpela.)Interpersonal communication is contextualIn other words, communication does not happen inisolation. There is: • Psychological context, which is who you are and what you bring to the interaction. Your needs, desires, values, personality, etc., all
form the psychological context. ("You" here refers to both participants in the interaction.)• Relational context, which concerns your reactions to the other person--the "mix."• Situational context deals with the psycho- social "where" you are communicating. An interaction that takes place in a classroom will be very different from one that takes place in a bar.• Environmental context deals with the physical "where" you are communicating. Furniture, location, noise level, temperature, season, time of day, all are examples of factors in the environmental context.• Cultural context includes all the learned behaviors and rules that affect the interaction. If you come from a culture (foreign or within your own country) where it is considered rude to make long, direct eye contact, you will out of politeness avoid eye contact. If the other person comes from a culture where long, direct eye contact signals trustworthiness, then we have in the cultural context a basis for misunderstanding.