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Effective Interpersonal Communication

Effective interpersonal communication in personal, professional, and diverse contexts depends upon a combination of verbal and non-verbal skills and knowledge which help individuals to react and communicate with other people. Effective interpersonal communication requires choosing the right behavior at the right time. The difference in perspectives regarding interpersonal transactions also provides useful insights regarding individual preferences.

Confidence and social style followed by individuals have a crucial impact on their interpersonal communication in all spheres of life determining effective skills and strategies used in communication process. Interpersonal Communication Defined Effective interpersonal communication requires skills with which people perform the appropriate acts in response to the situation. These acts must fit the systems’ expectations (e. g. , culture or group) and they must present the proper image. The actions people take must fall within the expectations of culture, unit, and interpersonal relationship.

In meeting these criteria, interpersonal actions establish the norm so people learn what to expect and how to respond, or reciprocate, to interpersonal encounters. On the one hand, this reflects the impact interpersonal behaviors have on how others behave (Knapp and Vangelisti, 2004). Expectations go hand in hand, because willingness to complete tasks, for example, creates a cooperative feeling in the relationship. Although it is readily apparent that people are likely to act differently with different people, other situations also require the proper adaptation, hence the proper image becomes important (Polcar and Weger, 2002).

The performance must be consistent with the image desired in the interpersonal encounter. For instance, in a job interview, for example, people somehow must put forth a desire to be hired, a sense of confidence in abilities, and some humility regarding preparedness at this moment in careers. In so doing, people are likely to convey a willingness to learn as well as the ability to contribute. The issue is to know when to show strength and when to show vulnerability, which is the essence of effective interpersonal communication. Learning to understand and adapt to the demands of the situation will make us more effective (Wood, 2003).

The Impact and Role of Competence in Interpersonal Communication The definition of interpersonal competence includes the ability to adapt appropriately to situational or environmental variations and to develop interdependence. The two variables of assertiveness and responsiveness are used in a wide variety of other tests ranging from conflict management to performance appraisal systems to leadership. Following Wiemann and Backlund (1980):

The cognitive perspective views communicative competence “as being a mental phenomenon distinct and separated from behavior …competence is indicative only of potential performance or capability The communicator need not perform the communicative behavior, but merely possess the ability to do so (p. 187, cited Flauto, 1999, p. 96). Communication competence is clearly situational and, more often than not, dependent on the abilities of both individuals. In professional sphere, the most obvious measure is the bottom-line performance. Because there is significant evidence linking communication and productivity, this is not an altogether incorrect measure (Arnold and Haas, 1995).

Conscious competent persons mean individuals who are aware of the reasons for their competence. They can replicate their successes, consciously adapt to changing circumstances, and correct their failures. The conscious incompetent are individuals who are not yet professionals, but they have the advantage of knowing they have to learn. This awareness allows them to experience growth and development (Canary et al, 2002). The unconscious incompetent group assumes effective interpersonal communication is easy, comes naturally, and therefore does not take a great deal of work.

This group is likely to reach their level of incompetence early in their careers (Arnold and Haas, 1995). Finally, the unconscious competent are very good at many of the things they try, but they do not know why. So, when it comes time to replicate particular behaviors, they are not certain what caused the success in the first place. In addition, when these individuals fail, they cannot identify the reasons. Although these four categories are not exclusive, they do draw attention to the pragmatic side of interpersonal communication effectiveness (Wood, 2003).

When faced with difficult verbal communication situations, organizational members may choose to present inconsistent statements to maintain the strategic advantage of being able to claim deniability. Flauto (1999) makes a strong case for the importance of some strategic ambiguities in organizations as a means for maintaining interpersonal relationships and supporting status distinctions. There are times when the only way to deal with apparently impossible situations is to be unclear. For instance, many employees have been faced with a situation where a compliment was required for something they did not think was well done (Wood, 2003).

When individuals construct and disseminate messages in both face-to-face and mediated communication contexts, there is always some measure of uncertainty about the effects that the messages will produce. Uncertainties concerning communication competence, goals, plans, affective states, and beliefs may conspire to produce either pleasant or unpleasant surprises (Wood, 2003). For the most part, message producers are not conscious of the manifold outcomes, both desirable and undesirable, that their messages may effect in those who receive them.

Nevertheless, such strategies as seeking information, focusing on primary goals, contingency planning, plan adaptation, accretive planning, and framing can be used either to hedge against unanticipated effects or to nullify them as they arise during ongoing communication episodes. The framework articulated here does not require that these coping strategies be deployed consciously, although each one of them can be used intentionally (Wood, 2003). Qualities of Confidence Competent interpersonal communicators utilize five qualities: confidence, immediacy, interaction, expressiveness, and other-orientation (Canary et al, 2002).

The performance people present must be consistent with the image desired in the interpersonal encounter. People are striving to be judged as competent. In a job interview, for example, they somehow must put forth a desire to be hired, a sense of confidence in abilities, and some humility regarding preparedness at this moment in careers (Wood, 2003). In so doing, people are likely to convey a willingness to learn as well as the ability to contribute. The issue, of course, is to know when to show strength and when to show vulnerability, which is the essence of effective interpersonal communication.

Following Knapp and Vangelisti (2004) learning to understand and adapt to the demands of the situation will make employees more effective. Leaders and subordinates, however, may differ on their perceptions of a wide variety of organizational matters. One summary of current research found differences between superiors and subordinates on the superior’s leadership style and the subordinate’s, performance and obstacles to good performance, skills and abilities, concern over pay, and authority (Knapp and Vangelisti 2004). In addition, these two groups differed over how much time a job takes to learn and how subordinates should allocate their time.

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