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A major component of the job of a military officer is to communicate effectively with his or her colleagues. Communication is an important aspect in the daily lives of every human being. Although almost every person is endowed with the natural communication skills, some individuals are better communicators than others are.
Interpersonal communication takes place when there is transmission of information and thoughts from one individual to the other wherein a sender passes on an idea to the receiver. Effective interpersonal communication transpires only when there is understanding between the parties involved (Clark, 2008, para.1). Effective communication in the military service is vital.
There are a number of principles and misconceptions in effective interpersonal communications. Misunderstanding between individuals is a fact of everyday life. Effective interpersonal relationship is essential in avoiding conflicts between people in the military. Communication skills are paramount in the military since it is usually made up of people from different races, ethnic backgrounds, gender, and religious affiliation.
These usually pervade contemporary conversations. That is why in the military, effective communication centers on the core principles of competency and civility (West and Tumer, 2006, p.38). Communication competency entails the capability of communicating with thoughtfulness, knowledge, and skills. Competency means that interpersonal communication becomes both appropriate and effective. In the military, communication is used appropriately in realizing the cultural expectations for communicating.
This involves the use of rules, understanding the roles of everyone, and being “others-centered.” Interpersonal communication derives meaning and every communication achieves the intended goal in a conversation or a relationship when the interaction is competent. Having a large repertoire of skills and correctly applying them to avoid conflicts is a characteristic of a competent interpersonal communicator (Pearson, 1983).
The second principle in effective interpersonal communication in the military is civility. This involves accepting the other person as an equal partner in achieving meaning in the course of communication. Civil communication needs sensitivity to the experiences of the partner in communication.
A civil communicator accepts that not all communication encounters will go his or her way, recognizes multiple viewpoints, and refrains from harming others by use of hate speech. A civil communicator only speaks for him or herself (speak in the ‘I’ or ‘I’ statements). One does not assume that he or she holds the same views with his or her counterparts and therefore do not converse to mean that his or her statements are in agreement with the rest.
Sometimes it happens that two people fail to understand one another. Usually, even without realizing it, people may hold some misconceptions regarding how to engage in a fruitful conversation. These misconceptions impair the process of effective communication, especially in the military. The first misconception is that interpersonal communication is able to solve all problems.
However, being skilled in interpersonal communication is not a guarantee that a person is able to work out effectively his or her relational problems. A person can communicate well about a problem without necessarily solving it. Furthermore, effective communication involves both talking and lending a listening ear. Interpersonal communication has been misconceived to be always a good thing. Nevertheless, at times it can be downright nasty and fails to give a rewarding and a satisfying experience.
This brings to the picture the dark side of interpersonal communication. Another misconception is that interpersonal communication is a common sense. If this is true, then why do we have many difficulties conversing with each other? To escape from this misconception, it is essential that other factors such as culture and gender be considered when communicating. Interpersonal communications has been misconceived to be synonymous with interpersonal relationships.
This is not true because profitable relationships do not just appear. Relationships occur when two people have a sense of caring and respect for each other. The individuals must have considerable period to work on their relational issues, not by merely exchanging interpersonal communication. Lastly, interpersonal communication has been misconceived to be always face-to-face. This myth fails the use of other means of communication such as the internet and phones.
In the military service, there are barriers that impair effective interpersonal communication. Several individuals believe that communication is not difficult. This simplistic view may be regarded as correct. Interpersonal communication is uncomplicated. However, it sometimes becomes complicated and upsetting due to the barriers that may be present on the way.
The first barrier in military interpersonal interaction is attributed to physical barriers. These may include marked out territories into which only designated personnel are allowed to enter, closed office doors or erection of barrier screens that break up military personnel of different ranks, and dividing them into various units that physically detaches them from one another.
Studies have indicated that one of the most vital elements for developing cohesive teams in the military is proximity. When individuals in the military have a personal space they can call their own, closeness to one another assist in interpersonal communication since they are able to know each other better.
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Secondly, bypassing is another barrier to effective communication (Guffey, 2008, p.14). Bypassing takes place when individuals engaging in interpersonal communication miss one another with the meanings of their words. For example, when a military boss instructs one of his juniors to “help” with a large mailing to a contracting company but when he arrives at his share, the junior officer discovers that he is supposed to do the whole mailing by himself. In this case, the two people interpreted differently the word help.
Bypassing may be a major conversation obstacle since people generally assume that meanings are found in words whereas in actual sense, meanings are in people. Effective communication requires that both the sender and the receiver attach similar meanings to their words. The wrong use of words is one of the outstanding obstacles to effective communication. Every individual has a different view of each word, and these varied viewpoints are most of the time contradictory.
Another barrier to clear interpersonal interaction is differences in frame of reference. All things that a person sees and feels around him or her are interpreted in his or her frame of reference. Every person’s unique frame is due to a blend of education, culture, expectations, personality traits and other characteristics.
Therefore, every person brings his or her biases and expectations to every communication situation. This obstacle is evident in the military in situations when there is a difference in the frame of reference among the communicators that makes them to see things differently.
For example, in a situation where the American army has ordered some military equipment from the Chinese army and the negotiation process goes slowly than expected. The Americans are eager to reach an agreement while the Chinese are contented that so much time has been taken to build a good rapport with the Americans. Effective interpersonal communicators make every effort to avoid miscommunication by taking care of one another’s frames of references.
Lack of language skill can be a barrier to clear interpersonal interactions. Regardless of how extraordinary the idea is, it usually becomes difficult to be properly understood or appreciated if the communicators have inadequate language skills. Every person requires sufficient vocabulary, a command of basic punctuation and grammar, and expertise in written and oral messages to avoid miscommunication.
Furthermore, poor listening skills can be an obstacle to hearing oral expressions effectively which can lead to poor response. A barrier to effective communication prevalent in the military comes from distractions, for example, emotional interferences, physical distractions, and digital distractions. Effective communication is impeded when a person is feeling happy, terrified, bitter, aggressive, sorrowful, or some other form of strong emotion.
In order to lower the effect of emotions on interpersonal communication, both the sender and the recipient ought to center on the content of the information and endeavor to stay purposeful. Physical interruptions, for example, faulty acoustics, noisy environments, or poor phone connection are able to interrupt effective oral communication. Grammar and formatting errors can impede written communication.
Military personnel are disrupted by multitasking roles, information overload, clashing commands, and being continuously available digitally. For a person to engage effectively in interpersonal communication, he or she must focus on what is important and shut out distractions.
In the military, words have power. Words have the power, to create and affect attitudes, behavior, and perception. The use of proper words is vital since incorrect use of language is able to mess up a relationship that is sometimes fragile between the officers of the armed forces. The connotative characteristic of words is able to hinder clear interpersonal communication since a single word may induce different perceptions to the receivers.
For the military personnel to engage in effective communication, they have to be open to the opinions and behaviors of each one of them. This is because each one of them is different and therefore some level of understanding and change should be met for constructive interpersonal communication to take place (Rosenberg, 2003). This practice enhances positive perception among the officers of the armed forces.
Generally, the military personnel are instructed on five basic essential guidelines for good, clear interpersonal interaction. The first guideline is that they are to desist from using words that have more than one meaning as this can portray different messages to both the sender and the recipient.
They are obliged to use words that have same meaning to both the parties. Secondly, they are advised to use conversant words that are easily understood by everyone in their team. The military are instructed to be brief and to the point, remain on the topic of conversation, and avoid adding non-essential or very different information when communicating.
Moreover, they are advised to provide information in a reasonable and organized manner. They are to provide step-by-step organized information especially when reporting to their seniors. Finally, they are to provide only the facts, maintain specificity, and deliver the real message. These guidelines are important for maintaining good relationships in the army barracks since communication plays a pivotal role for the success of the military, especially during times of war.
As a military officer, one is to develop strategies for active, critical, and empathic learning. These three strategies for learning are essential in effective communication since listening and giving proper response leads to fulfilling interpersonal relationships, strengthening corporation and fosters understanding among the military personnel.
The art of active listening is practiced by becoming mentally engaged to the requirements of the other communicator (Samaritans, 2009, para.2). This does not involve automatic response to sounds, but endeavoring to understand, interpret, and assess what the other person is saying.
Most interactive sections are devoid of paying attention to each other. Distraction comes from thinking of other things or structuring what to express next. Active listening is an ordered technique of listening and responding to one another since it pays attention on the communicator. An army officer is obliged to postpone his or her own frame of reference and desist from personal opinion in order to engage in effective interpersonal communication.
Critical listening involves careful analysis, critical thinking and judgment in effective interpersonal communication. Carrying out an evaluation during listening may be regarded as a barrier during conversation, and this may be true. On the other hand, critical listening takes place when a person still wants to evaluate the words of the other communicator.
For example, when a junior officer is instructed by a senior military official to perform a certain task, he or she has to listen and evaluate before taking an action of accomplishing the duty. The art of critical listening is evident daily, since most often one has to weigh the pros and cons of an argument before making the final decision. The main thing is for one to understand the other party first, before evaluating his or her words.
In practicing empathic listening, it is essential to strive to understand what the other person is expressing from his or her own viewpoint and reiterate back to him or her the essence of meeting his or her requirements. Empathic listening is of essence since the military personnel have to demonstrate concern and love to one another.
This involves going beyond sympathy in striving to get the feelings of one another, exceptional discrimination, and concentration to the nuances of emotional gestures. Being empathic implies feeling exactly what the other person is feeling. If an individual needs others to expose to him or her deep components about them, the individual is under no obligation but to communicate with them empathically since this motivate self-disclosure.
Most personal conflicts that take place in the military are the direct outcome of lack of effective interpersonal communication. Flawed communication is able to cause disastrous results, for example, confusion and a good intention may be unsuccessful. In the military, collaboration with one another is important.
Every military officer should uphold the core principles of competency and civility to overcome the barriers to effective interpersonal communication. Since words have the power to create or affect attitudes, their proper use is paramount. One is obliged to develop strategies for active, critical, and empathic learning for effective communication. Effective communication is helpful in maintaining good interpersonal relationships in the military.
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Rosenberg, M. B. (2003). Nonviolent communication: a language of life (2nd ed.). California: PuddleDancer.
Samaritans. (2009). Active Listening. Retrieved from https://www.samaritans.org/
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