Interpersonal Communication is an integral part of everyday life and human interactions.
For the sake of clarity, let us define Interpersonal Communication; it is face-to-face communication that involves the exchange of information, feelings and meaning between individuals through verbal and non-verbal messages.
Two key things that are important to note here; face-to-face communication and the exchange of non-verbal messages—as they say we are communicating even when we think we are not and no communication is still communication.
Following the indication above, it is clear that from our family and personal lives to our professional lives to our social lives; interpersonal communications plays a huge role in affecting and sometimes, defining the kind of relationships we have with those around us.
In business and professional life, interpersonal communication can go further and influence the progress of teams and whole organisations and affecting the quality of working environments and staff morale.
In the life of citizens, how the government communicates with the people can affect the trust and sense of security that the people in the country at large feel.
Interpersonal communication can be affected by a myriad of factors that include background, gender issues, social status, race, perception, body image, character and personality. And we have to be conscious of not projecting our biases, prejudices, preconceived notions and insecurities on others. We should also be mindful of not projecting our hopeful illusions, expectations, ambitions and preferences on others.
However, in recent years, interpersonal communication has also been highly affected by technology.
The rise of social media, instant messaging, multi-media and communication platforms has affected interpersonal communication.
While technology has come in as a tool with potential to enhance interpersonal communication, it has also come in as an agent that can greatly hinder this same interpersonal communication depending on usage.
For instance, using technology to illustrate on a projector while having a team brainstorming session enhances the cohesion in discussing the topic or idea at play while using your phone to respond to individual emails and messages during a meeting erodes the essence of interpersonal communication as one is now in touch with a machine and not the person or people around consequently, missing out on important information be it verbal or non-verbal. Technology is not a replacement for interpersonal communication.
This is why with this is mind, in the fast and dynamic world we are operating in, it is important that interpersonal communication becomes a continuous part of learning, leadership and management.
From inception levels at primary and secondary schools all the way to universities and learning and development programmes, interpersonal communication should be taken into account. Work interviews and/or induction programmes should include this. Assessment and evaluation programmes should incorporate this as a priority.
We are missing out on important relationships, communication, and information as well as necessary progress because we have forgotten the importance of interpersonal communication.
We also have to keep in mind that no one is born with all the necessary skills to navigate life and that includes interpersonal communication.
We should, therefore, remain open-minded to continuous learning and development.
We need continuous research and curiosity. We need continuous trials and errors until we master the craft.
Writer and trainer Dale Carnegie said: “In talking to other people, don’t begin by discussing the things on which you differ. Begin by emphasizing the things on which you agree. Keep emphasizing, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is method not purpose.”
And sometimes, the only difference that hinders progress is the interpersonal communication at play which affects the method and consequently, affects the relationship and the result.
While at it, we also need to keep in mind that every individual we interact with is unique, as much as some universal laws exist like holding a door for someone is polite; one size doesn’t fit all in everything.
The nature of the relationships also defines the manner of interactions for instance, how you handle your own mother and mother in-law differs; how you handle a colleague and a superior differs.
Let’s not squeeze orange juice for someone likes a strawberry smoothie.
At the end of the day, what all this essentially means is that we need to be able to pay special attention to the different people around us and pay attention to the different interpersonal communication needs around our personal, social and professional interactions so that we achieve success in the various relationships that we have and attain the various goals we are aiming at.
I rest my case.