Effective Interpersonal Communication: Workplace Context


Communication is a way of passing information from one place to another. It is a skill that is learned. Communication can be verbal or nonverbal. This means it can be learned in various ways (Association for Communication Administration, August 1995). Communication is defined as a person receiving from and giving information to another person on the subjects of perceptions, personal needs, knowledge, and desire (Valenzuela, 1992). The participants of interpersonal communication are few and physically close to one another. The relationship between those interacting is notwithstanding.

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Principles of effective interpersonal communication

Intentional/unintentional communication: the message being delivered may be deliberately meant to be received by a definite recipient; however, sometimes one may receive information not intended for him or her. Someone may without intention overhear another person (Johnson, 2003). Those at the workplace should ensure that there is the right information flow to the intended recipients so that it does not create misinterpretation that may lead to loss of one’s job or negative effect on the company’s normal operations. Employees and employers are constantly involved in series of regular meetings; this requires mandatory communication without which information can impossibly flow amongst the stakeholders.

Communication is a must: human beings are social animals. There are a lot of social transactions taking place. For these transactions to be successful communication must form part of social business. In short, Communication is inevitable. At the workplace, individuals work in different departments which are centrally coordinated. This means the employees must keep on communicating either through face-to-face, phones or emails. This implies that for the effective running of business entities it is important to have employees and employers who have high interpersonal communication skills.

Communication is irreversible: once information has been released from the sender and received by either intended or unintended recipient it can never be recalled back. An additional explanation may only offer clarity. Once information is released it can never be recalled back to avoid possible damages it may course. This is the reason a communicator should take care not to release information that is likely to be misinterpreted, especially at the workplace. Due to the irreversibility of the given information, it is crucial to master the most of better interpersonal communication skills. This will guide against releasing controversial information to fellow workers and even employers.

Communication is complicated: interpersonal communication is never simple. A simple statement may be perceived differently by different people. In some situations, ambiguity may pose the challenge of the recipient getting the right interpretation of communicated information. In many workplaces, there are employees from different communities who have varied meanings for particular symbols or the use of figurative languages. A person from a given community, at the workplace, may use a symbol to communicate and the symbol may be misinterpreted by the recipient who can come from a different community with a negative meaning of the symbol. Taking into account the complexity of communication one should be culturally sensitive and elaborate on the meaning of uttered words or used symbols to avoid misunderstandings (Hybels and Weaver, 2007)

Misconceptions of interpersonal communication

Communication and shared understanding: the mere mention of information or words does not necessarily mean the recipient(s) will get the real meaning of it. It should never be assumed that the recipients will always get the right interpretation of passed information. People coming from different cultures have different interpretations as regards the use of symbols and phraseologies. For example in some communities wild animals may be used figuratively to praise and reinforce members’ actions and domestic ones used in negative terms, another community may take it in the reverse. Given these backgrounds, a person should find out first about such unshared meanings before communicating in a multicultural context.

It is better to communicate more: this kind of misperception argues that when you are misunderstood you should talk more to make it clear. Talking more is not a good idea; it can only make one’s communication be misunderstood further. Most communicants believe that when misunderstood they should talk more in an attempt to clarify their point. This is common with those whose lies are detected. They always want to add more information to ensure their lies become the “truth”. The effect of talking more at work may make fellow workers dislike an individual; whether it is the employer or the employees.

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Communication is a natural skill: communication is not a natural skill. This misperception believes that some are endowed with the skills of communication naturally while others are not. The reality is that communication can be learned over time. This starts right from childhood (Johnson, 2003). In a work environment employees can adapt a standard communication through learning. For instance, the way the armed forces communicate with their commanders. There is always office communication etiquette. This varies from organization to organization.

Barriers to effective interpersonal interactions

Organizational barrier: brought about by status, strict regulations, organizational culture, and climate. An organization may have laid down limited privileges to junior employees, letting each employee work in an enclosed workstation, and setting a culture where employees don’t interact before certain times.

Interpersonal barrier: the employer may not trust the employees based on his or her perception of the ability of the employees to handle a task the right way. There may also be a lack of knowledge on non-verbal signals. In this case, one may not understand the meaning of a signal communication from the communicator. Too much work with limited breaks creates a time shortage for employees; they work long hours without ample time to reach out to one another. The interpersonal barrier can also be erected by poor relationships amongst employees (McFarland, 2010). The barriers are not limited to those discussed in this paper. Other varied barriers can hinder interpersonal communication.

The process by which self-concept is developed and maintained

Self-concept refers to the holistic complexity of the dynamic and organized system of learned beliefs, attitudes, and opinions that individuals hold to their existence (Purkey, 1988). Self-concept is based on action and thought. This means that self-concept can be formed through one’s behavior (Catley, 2009). Individuals are always concerned with what makes them look distinct from the rest.

Maintenance of self-concept happens through psychological inferences, attribution, and mental inferences. Self-concept is often viewed as self-fulfillment. This can also be through selective memories. For example, one may remember the day he or she first stood in front of people and given a speech but will be quick to dismiss the day he or she did something embarrassing (Catley, 2009) An Individual will blame himself or herself for doing something inconsistent with self-concept. It is also important to note that the self-concept is a counterpart of self-esteem; the two are components of the psychological self (Catley, 2009).

Strategies for active, critical, and empathic listening

Listening is amongst the important skills one can have for communication. The way one listens determines his or her effectiveness at the workplace and the quality of his or her relationship with workmates (Mindtools, 2006-2010). Becoming a good listener enhances productive capacity and the ability to persuade and influence. This requires a high level of self-awareness. Good listening also prevents possible misunderstandings and conflicts that may arise (Mindtools, 2006-2010). Good listening goes beyond just getting what the other person says but also understanding the meaning of words uttered by the communicator.

Active listening has about five elements. These include paying attention, providing feedback, showing signs of listening, responding appropriately, and judging later (deferring judgment). Not everybody has good listening abilities, however with constant practice, one can improve on his or her listening ability (Mindtools, 2006-2010).

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Empathy is defined as the ability to put one’s self into another’s personality. It takes the form of questioning and listening in a structured manner. In this case, there is an emotional and intellectual connection. Empathic listening enhances active listening (Mindtools, 2006-2009). The use of this listening technique helps one to win the trust of others, especially at the workplace. It can diffuse the notion of harshness that employers or workmates may have.

Using names during communication renders it effective. Workmates should master one another’s names so that during communication they use names to refer to their intended recipients. This will reduce the chances of another person receiving and interpreting the meaning of information not intended for him or her. As a recipient one should be attentive in order not to misunderstand information intended for him or her. In the case where communication is not understood the recipient should ask for clarification. It is also important to show value to the people as you talk. Such a person should ensure he or she talks less. Only give important information and answer questions precisely whenever asked.

Another strategy is that one should always do the talking. He or she should allow others to also have time to speak. This will help others feel part of the conversation. It is important to look for signs that show you could be boring the participants of the conversation. Again the communicant should not use lengthy works, long pauses, and inconsistent non-verbal signals. Note also that keeping eye contact with the recipient shows how much the conversation is of value; about ninety-five percent of our daily communications are non-verbal(Dicks, 2010 )

The impact of gender and culture on interpersonal communications

It is argued that the way men communicate is different from that of women. Sex difference may play a part in behavior and cognitions that relates to communication with others (Michell, 1999). Researchers argue that language is gender-neutral. The perceived difference in the way men and women communicate goes beyond the actual minimal. In some cultures, it is not required that women participate in conversations with men in public. They have their places in the kitchen, fetching firewood, and doing household chores. This affects the way such women communicate at their job places which may include male workers. Even in cases where they are allowed to interact and converse with men they are limited to some extent (Kirtly, 2009).


Interpersonal communication is the act of transferring information amongst individuals who are in close physical contact. This type of communication does not take into account the relationship between or amongst communicants. Interpersonal communication is not a natural endowment; it is acquired through learning and experience. Principles of communication include it being mandatory, irreversible, complex, and either unintentional or intentional. It has got also misconceptions which are that talking more is good, there are shared meanings, and it is a natural endowment. Barriers to effective interpersonal communication include restrictive organizational cultures, strict rules and regulations, mistrust amongst employees, communicants, and or tension between employers and employees.

Self-concept refers to the holistic complexity of the dynamic and organized system of learned beliefs, attitudes, and opinions that individuals hold to their existence (Purkey, 1988). Self-concept is based on action and can be formed through psychological behavior and cognition. It includes what makes an individual discernible from other people. It is maintained through avoiding actions not consistent with these distinctive features.

For effective interpersonal communication, an individual needs to have active, empathic, and critical listening abilities. This helps one to win the trust of others and also have the power to convince and persuade. It is also important to note the role of gender in interpersonal communication. The issues of cultural requirements of gender during interpersonal communication play a major role when it comes to interaction between genders. In the current society men and women from different cultures work together, this requires some basic understanding of the cultural background by both the communicant and the recipient.

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Association for Communication Admin. (1995). Web. 

Catley, M. (2009). The Self – Developing the Self-Concept. How People Create and Maintain a Set of Stable Beliefs. Web.

Dicks S. (2010). Top 7 Strategies For Effective Communication. Web.

Hybels, S. & Weaver, R.L., (2007). Communicating effectively (8th Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Johnson, R. (2003). Reaching Out. Web.

Kirtley, D. (1999). Weaver. Women’s Studies in Communication, Vol. 22. Web.

McFarland, E. (2010). The-Barriers-to-Effective-Communication. Web.

Mind Tools Ltd (2006-2010). Mind Tools material provided by Mind Tools Ltd of 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PY, United Kingdom. Web.

Purkey, W. (1988). An Overview of Self-Concept Theory for Counselors. ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services. Web.

Valenzuela, Scherba j. (1992). National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities. Web.

National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities, 1992. Web.

Mind Tools Ltd 2006-2010 Mind Tools material is provided by Mind Tools Ltd of 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PY, United Kingdom. MINDTOOLS.

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