Principles and Misconceptions in Interpersonal Communication
For you to gain a better understanding of interpersonal communication, it would help to familiarize you with the principles of interpersonal communications. A key principle of interpersonal communication is that it cannot be avoided. Communication researchers assert, “You cannot communicate” (West & Turner, 2010, p. 26). You and your partner are therefore bound to communicate even when you think you are being uncommunicative. You cannot prevent the other person from deriving some meaning out of your behavior.
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For example, if you chose to give someone the silent treatment, that is still communication and the person will attach meaning to your silence. The other principle of interpersonal communication is that it is irreversible and once you have said something, you cannot revoke it. Whenever you say something to your partner, it is out and it will have an effect on your relationship. You should therefore exhibit caution since a word said in haste or anger cannot be erased.
Another principle of interpersonal communication is that it is learned. You might take your ability to communicate for granted but it is not a natural thing. Your ability to communicate is learned and as you go through life, you get to refine and cultivate your skills to communicate.
Interpersonal communication is symbolic in nature meaning that communication makes use of symbols. West and Turner (2010) explain that communication is able to occur since the communicating parties mutually agree upon the symbols. Words are symbols and you and your partner understand what words like “sit”, and “car” mean. An important point to consider is that if someone does not understand the meaning of a word, it will not have meaning to him/her.
Many people hold some misconceptions concerning effective interpersonal communication. One significant misconception about interpersonal communication is that it is always a good thing. West and Turner (2010) note that this misconception is promoted by many communication experts who encourage people to communicate at all times.
While it is true that interpersonal communication can yield positive results, it is not always a good thing. When you engage in interpersonal communication with the aim of manipulating, deceiving or abusing your partner, then communication is not a good thing. In such an instance, it would be better if interpersonal communication did not take place.
A common misconception by many people is that interpersonal communication is natural and just a matter of common sense. While communication might seem like the most natural thing to do, effective communication might require skills (Kirst-Ashman, 2010).
When you assume that interpersonal communication is a matter of common sense, you will assume that people intuitively know how to communicate. You will therefore be unwilling to consider that your partner might not be as skilled in communication as you are and this will lead to problems.
Barriers to Effective Interpersonal Interactions
Having identified what effective interpersonal interaction is, it would be of importance to highlight some of the barriers to these interactions. A barrier is something that prevents effective communication from taking place. The first major barrier is noise, which is defined as “any interference with the intended message while a sender is trying to get his/her message across” (Kirst-Ashman, 2010, p.209).
Noise prevents the message being sent from being received correctly by the receiver. This might easily lead to a misunderstanding. Noise also creates a distraction making it hard for a person to concentrate on the communication since he/she has multiple stimuli to focus on.
Another barrier to effective interpersonal communication is the personality factors of a person. Personality factors can interfere with effective communication since differences occur due to individuals having unique personalities (Kirst-Ashman, 2010). A person who has a disagreeable personality will mitigate effective communication.
A disagreeable person will be uncooperative, lacking in understanding, and have a bad nature. He/she might also have a short temper and exhibit irritability. Engaging in interpersonal communications with such a person will be very hard.
The level of comfort that a person feels with relationships also acts as a barrier. Individuals who are introverted generally demonstrate withdrawal from socializing with others. They tend to isolate themselves and avoid interaction with others (Kirst-Ashman, 2010). If your partner is such a person, he/she might not be comfortable with interpersonal communication. This will be a major barrier to effective communication for both of you.
Another major barrier is personal perceptions, which lead to clouded opinions. Kirst-Ashman (2010), states that specific errors in perception cause us to interpret information wrongly. When this happens, we make inaccurate judgments and conclusion on issues.
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This is a major barrier since perception errors cause interpersonal communication to be faulty. Personal perceptions will lead a person to stereotype the other person or jump into conclusions without letting the other person express their views. With a preconceived notion about a subject, one cannot keep an open mind on the subject at hand.
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