What Is Interpersonal Communication – Definition and 3 Common Myths

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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 want to 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.” I completely agree with the definitions but still find them vague. To me, Interpersonal Communication is the process we use to build relationships with others through communication by effectively doing the following

  • Understanding the other’s situationwe can’t build relationships with others if we don’t take time to listen and be fully aware of where the person we are speaking with is coming from.
  • Communicating in the right mannerit’s not what we say that matters but also the tone we use and how we say it based on our understanding of them that can help the person we speak with listen and understand our intentions and ideas
  • Influencing them to listen and/or take action as needed – 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.

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 filled with insecurities, ambitions, and bias. So remember the common adage – “It’s not what you say but how you make people feel that matters.”

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. It’s always better for the relationship if you give others the benefit of the doubt.

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 as direct or clear about the gravity of the message. While sugar coating a message may make you feel more comfortable, it won’t help as it can confuse or make the listener feel patronized. Sincerity and a focus on moving forward help more. Whatever happened already happened. So be straightforward and focus on next steps.

For more on this topic and how to improve your interpersonal communication at work, stayed tuned for this future post on 7 Tips to Effective Interpersonal Communication. I look forward to your comments. I am always in your corner.

– Lei

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