There are no secrets that today’s workplaces are not as yesterday’s. With an increase in physical size and cultural diversity, the given assertion cannot be doubted. Passing messages between two colleagues speaking different languages can be a daunting task. In any given organization, Interpersonal communication forms a basic tool at the workplace. It assures proper coordination of activities and is based on the point of relating with others which forms a major aspect of relationships including both personal and business.
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We as individuals spent most of our time exchanging ideas with other people and this shows the importance of interpersonal communication. This paper will therefore seek to define interpersonal communication and examine a number of factors that influence our interpersonal communication. The focus of the paper is based on interpersonal communication at the workplace principle.
Interpersonal communication is defined as the sending and receiving information between two or more people and the understanding of it through use of symbols or language. Interpersonal relationship is seen as the way a person communicates with another individual (Yoder, Hugenberg & Wallace, 1996).
There are several types of interpersonal communication and includes public speaking, small-group or dyadic forms of communication. Public speaking involves interacting with a mass of people while small-group involves interacting with a group of people not in large numbers. On the other hand, dyadic communication is a form of communication between two people and may be through sending and receiving letters between two people or a telephone conversation between two people.
Importance of interpersonal communication
In order to be competitive at the workplace, a team needs to interact frequently and openly. Team members must communicate with each other irrespective of the distance between themselves since there is advancement in technology and therefore this does not matter. The team at the workplace needs to communicate for it to become successful and consequently, if there is no proper communication, the result is that their goals will never be achieved (King, 2000).
The manager or the leader at the workplace should not only always communicate with the members of the team but also be able to check the progress of work of each individual and the group as a whole. Frequent check up by the manager will ensure that the work is done at the proper time and deadlines are met. The leader or manager of the team should use direct communication in order to avoid misinformation at the workplace and also make sure that every member is notified if there are any changes that have occurred.
Studies that have been carried out show that when there is good communication in an organization, there is increase in productivity and also better progress in individual work. This sounds quite true because good communication improves relationship of the manager and the workers which will boost their morale towards work.
Communication is fundamental system in entire organizations found around the world. For instance, organizations rely on all forms of communication from nonverbal to verbal during their daily running of business duties. An organization may also depend on information being properly encoded or decoded so that the staff can easily understand the message that is intended to be passed out.
In Enron there is an argument that “Enron executives invested an incredible amount of time and energy, and literally spent millions of dollars on accountants and lawyers, in order to make their activities so complex they were not likely to be discovered, much less understood or prosecuted against them”(Barlow, 1996). This is a perfect example to demonstrate how important interpersonal communication is because it shows how the complex behavior of the executives led to poor communication with the outside world.
Communication is vital in all departments of an organization. For instance the work mates may communicate amongst themselves during the working hours. Occasionally, communication at the workplace will depend with the entire surrounding and in case it is a noisy factory the employees are compelled to use nonverbal mode of communication such as gestures, facial expression or use of signals.
Employees are also expected to communicate with their bosses and the communication can be either through writing or verbal. On the other hand, verbal communication may be vital in situations such as communication between the supervisor and employee in order to find out if the assigned work has been done properly while written communication may become useful if the intended information to be passed out is in large amount.
Principles and misconception in effective interpersonal communication
There are four principles that try to explain the effective means of interpersonal communication. These principles look to interpersonal communication as irreversible, complicated, contextual and inescapable (King 2000).
Like a chemical reaction, interpersonal communication does not offer chance for reversal of what has been uttered. Whenever an individual utters certain words, the effect caused by these utterances will not be forgotten even when the speaker makes corrections. As a proverb says, “Once a word goes out of your mouth, you can never swallow it again” (King, 2000, p. 54).
Interpersonal communication is a complex affair because of the many dimensions required to ensure success. Since there are various ways to communicate, it becomes impossible to choose the proper way of communication.
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Interpersonal communication strongly depends on the environment around which the conversation is taking place and the parties communicating. Some of the contexts that interpersonal communication relies on are psychological, situational, relational, environmental and cultural contexts.
Last, interpersonal interaction is inescapable because people have to communicate and thus this fact can never be avoided. Communication does not entail only words but the use of gesture, facial expression, posture etc therefore this means that people are in constant communication with each other. The primary purpose of these principles is to ensure interpersonal communication becomes an effective means when dealing with a means of development or a given conflict.
However, there are misconceptions (conflicts) resulting from effective interpersonal communication. These misconceptions are brought about during the application of the aforesaid principles of interpersonal interaction. Normally, interpersonal communication is inescapable therefore they can result in confusion when they are interpreted in many ways.
To make matters worse, being irreversible means the misconceptions can never be modified in terms of an orderly deliverance of the topic. Misconceptions in effective interpersonal interaction can also be brought about by lack of knowledge regarding the topic or context that is being discussed. Interpersonal communication can become complicated when there is diversity of languages and the individuals involved can not understand each other.
Barriers to Communication
Physical barriers mark one of the main factors that inhibit communication. This may include closed doors of an office, screens that form a barrier, isolated area for people with different status, a large working area for the employees that is isolated from other areas or restricted areas that unwanted persons are not allowed. According to the research that has been carried out, proximity has been highlighted as the most important factor in bringing cohesion to the teams concerned (Borisoff & Merrill, 1985).
The second barrier to effective interpersonal communication is perceptual barriers. This barrier involves the fact that people see the world at different levels depending with where you come from or how and where the individual person grew up. Therefore perceptual barrier is concerned with our thoughts, assumptions that a person makes and also how a given individual perceives the information relayed to him/her.
The third barrier is emotional barrier. Emotional barrier is all about mistrust, suspicion and fear among the individuals at the workplace. Interpersonal interaction is hindered by emotional barrier because there is no open and free communication between the parties concerned at the workplace leading to poor relationships.
The fourth barrier to effective interpersonal communication at the workplace is cultural barriers. This comes in when an individual joins a certain group at the workplace; he/she has to behave in the same particular way as the individuals that were already in that group.
Consequently, the individual will adopt the behavior pattern of the group in order to be rewarded through acts of inclusion, recognition and approval. In groups which an individual conforms better, he/she will be accorded mutual interest while when an individual does not conform better in a given group; he/she will not be straight forward to other individuals hence leading to a poor communication (Mclean, 1999).
The fifth barrier to effective interpersonal communication is language barriers. Language that one is not familiar with may present problems to oneself when attempting to express himself or herself. In the world of today, there are many languages that are used by the people therefore it presents a problem in choosing the official language to be used at the workplace.
The sixth barrier to effective interpersonal communication is gender barriers. There are major differences in the speech pattern of a man compared to that of a woman. For example, it is believed that a woman speaks about 22,000 to 25,000 words per day while a man speaks 7,000 to 10,000 words in a day and in childhood it has been established that girls speak earlier than boys and they use vocabularies twice as much as those used by boys at the age of three years (Mclean, 1999).
The seventh barrier to effective communication is interpersonal barriers. This is as a result of poor relationship among individuals at the workplace hence the parties which are in bad terms might resolve to abstain from meeting and talking to each other. There are six ways that an individual can use to distant himself from others and they include pastimes, withdrawal, rituals, playing game (seek and hide), closeness and working.
Last but not least there is noise as a barrier to effective interpersonal communication. Noise usually interferes with the concentration of a person therefore it hinders proper understanding of the message relayed. For instance, people working in a noisy factory can not use verbal communication and are compelled to use nonverbal mode of communication such as signal, gestures, facial expression, etc
However there are other barriers that are recognized but are not major as the ones discussed above and they include intentional orientation, indiscrimination, allness and polarization.
Development of self concept in communication
For almost a decade now, self concept has been experiencing increased attention and popularity within practice and research. In the studies, it is becoming clear that perception of the self plays an integral role in life. While there are several perceptions, none holds such importance as self perception and hence much has to be done to ensure that every individual perceives the self in the highest esteem. It is this perception that we get the understanding of who we are and the role that we play as an element within the universe. Self concept therefore is important in interpersonal relationship.
Self concept is different from self esteem and self report. “Self esteem is defined as feelings of a person worth and satisfaction towards oneself while self report is what a person is willing and is able to disclose” (Mclean, 1999, p. 12).
Self concept can be defined as the image that someone has towards himself and it influences interpersonal communication at workplace through its sources such as cultural teaching, social comparison and your own evaluations and comparisons (Burgoon, Buller, & Woodwall, 1989).
Self concept is mainly developed by the way an individual communicate with another. Through socialization at the workplace, an individual gets to know much about his personal attributes.
Self concept involves scrutinizing one’s ability in terms of personality, one’s career, relevant skills, physicality and life’s ability. For example, a statement like “I am slow” is an assessment of oneself that leads to self concept and in contrast, a statement like “I am sleepy” will not be a self concept since feeling to sleep is normal and it is only a temporary state. An individual self concept changes with time after identifying the possible crisis and then reassessing oneself.
It is worth to note that self concept is based on the past, present and future selves. Future selves sum up every self that one can become and what an individual thinks he can make himself given time. The possible futures are a general sum up of reflections defined by fears, what one believes are his threats, what ambitions and expectations he has and the standards set for the individual.
Self concept can be well cultivated in an individual during childhood period so that when an individual grows up, he becomes used to himself and this removes fear and threat when socializing with others.
In conclusion, interpersonal communication is fundamental in building good relationships at the workplace which in turn contribute to increase in productivity. This will lead to better salary of the workers hence improved living standards and the welfare of the workers will be catered for in an appropriate manner.
Therefore the principles of interpersonal communication are inevitable. As a result, proper methods should be designed in order to overcome the misconceptions that may result from interpersonal interactions. In addition, the parties involved in interpersonal communication should design ways to overcome the barriers that hinder effective interpersonal communication. If this is managed appropriately, then conflicts will be done away with making the world a better place to live.
Interpersonal communication will also be enhanced through maintaining and developing self concept therefore it becomes of more importance to encourage positive virtues that will instill self concept in an individual. Consequently, vices should be avoided in order to encourage building of self concept.
Barlow, J. (1996). A complaint is a gift: using a customer feedback as a strategic tool. San Francisco:Berrett-Koehler Publisher
Borisoff, D., & Merrill, L (1995). The power to communicate: Gender difference as barriers. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Pr.
Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., & Woodwall, W.G (1989). Nonverbal communication: the communication. New Jersey, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate.
King, D. (2000). Four principles of interpersonal communication. Retrieved from http://www.pstcc.edu/facstaff/dking/interpr.htm
Mclean, S., (1999). The basic of interpersonal communication, unspoken dialogue. New York: Harper & Row
Yoder, R., C. Hugenberg & K. Wallace (1996). Using verbal and nonverbal means of communication. Western College, Arizona: Allyn & Bacon