Effective interpersonal communication at work is essential to your career success. Yet it’s often not clearly understood nor easy to improve. After researching on Google regarding how others discuss interpersonal communication, I will offer my own perspective – a detailed definition of what is interpersonal communication and 3 most common myths about interpersonal communication.

What is Interpersonal Communication

Wikipedia defines Interpersonal communication as “the process that we use to communicate our ideas, thoughts, and feelings to another person.” Though I agree with this definition, I find it vague.  I define Interpersonal Communication as the process we use to build relationships with others through communication by effectively doing the following:
  • Understanding the other’s situationin order to build a relationship with someone, we need to be aware of where the other person is coming from.
  • Communicating in the right mannerit’s not just what we say that matters but also the tone we use and how we say it.  Additionally, by considering our understanding of the other person, we figure out how to best our intentions and ideas to that particular individual.
  • Influencing them to listen and/or take action as needed - People are more likely to listen to us when we listen first to them and make efforts to establish common grounds.  When we approach any communication with the intention to create a win-win situation, that’s when we will maximize our influence on others and inspire them to action.

At the end of the day, the purpose of communication is to reach a common understanding, build a better relationship, and/or agree on what to do next if action is required.
3 Most Common Myths about Interpersonal Communication 

It’s immensely difficult to improve your interpersonal communication if you still believe in some common myths.  Here are three of the most common myths:

  1. Myth #1: Focus just on the facts:  Facts are important in a conversation but can’t be the only focus.  Often we spend too much time figuring out what facts we want to communicate and too little time on how we want to communicate them.  Every person we speak to is human with insecurities, ambitions, and biases.   So remember the common adage: “It’s not what you say, but how you make people feel that matters.”
  2. Myth #2: If I am right, I can say so:  It’s never a good idea to kick someone when they are down.  If someone on your team makes a mistake, communicate that but focus the conversation more on where to go from there and allow them to recover.  If your customer over-billed you, you still don’t want to over-step in your communication.  Approach the situation gently and patiently.  It’s always better for the relationship if you give others the benefit of the doubt.
  3. Myth #3: Sugar coat bad news:  Bad news like a layoff message or a message to your boss about a mistake you made at work is difficult to deliver.  It’s important to deliver the message tactfully, but this is not the same as sugar coating.  Sugar coating implies being not direct or clear about the gravity of the message.  While sugar coating a message may make you feel more comfortable, it could confuse the other person or make the listener feel patronized.  Sincerity and a focus on moving forward will help more.   Whatever happened already happened.  So be straightforward and focus on next steps.

For more on this topic and how to improve your communication skills at work, sign up for our Soft Skills Gym membership – an online learning platform to develop your soft skills and accelerate your career success.

I look forward to your comments.  I am always in your corner.

-Lei

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2 Thoughts on “What is Interpersonal Communication – Definition and 3 Myths

  1. Ryan Cook on May 12, 2014 at 9:52 am said:

    I think this article made a lot of great points regarding how to communicate effectively. It’s really easy to overlook interpersonal communication skills as being integral to one’s career. I think it’s really easy to enter the mind set of “it’s just professional interactions, so I don’t really have to care about the other person.” I think it was very prudent of you to note that the other person’s feelings must be considered even in a professional context.

  2. I seriously consider that this is a remarkable blog and I will be coming back
    again to read much more.

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