Effective communication takes into consideration the people involved, the nature of the message, and the circumstances.
Interpersonal communication is the art of getting along with and communicating effectively with other people--especially in a one-on-one setting.
Social communication is communication that occurs in your personal and your community life, while professional communication is communication that takes place on the job or is related to your career. Studies indicate that 70 percent of our day is spent working and interacting with other people. Thus, remember that appropriate interpersonal communication is respectful communication. For example,
- When you speak to a person, you make direct eye contact
- When you meet your prospective boss, you offer a firm handshake
- When you bring a friend into your house, introduce her or him to your family
Knowing how to act or behave in a given situation is necessary for interpersonal communication success. Hence, tact and courtesy are needed.
Courtesy refers to the way that you treat people. It means politeness is when you are courteous, and you exhibit respectful consideration for others; in addition, you show good manners. Tact refers to the way you deal with people diplomatically. You try to say or do what is most fitting, based on the occasion.
When communicating with other people, it is important that you use the correct tone, or the mod that you verbally--and non-verbally--create. In addition to your words that you use, your tone is the "attitude" that you give to others.
Most people think of an aggressive tone or communication approach is often pushy and brash. The aggressive approach wants to win at all costs, even if that means intimidating manipulating, or belittling others in the process.
A non-assertive tone or communication approach shows a lack of action and energy. A non-assertive person rarely speaks and often appears disinterested.
The middle ground between aggressive and non-assertive is the assertive tone or communicative approach is direct, yet tactful. Assertive communication know when to talk, when to keep quiet, and how to give their opinions in a manner that is courteous and respectful. People who use the assertive tone create an overall mood of harmony because they always consider these specifics before acting or speaking:
- Location--is this the right place to talk?
- Timing--is this the right time to talk?
- Intensity--what can I do to keep calm and not come off as overbearing?
- Relationships--how well do I know the person to whom I'm about to speak? Also, how does each person's role and responsibility affect the situation?
Whether in social or professional situations, the assertive communicator has a warm friendly voice; uses respectful words; has a calm, relaxed appearance; sends positive nonverbal signals to others; and makes direct, yet nonthreatening eye contact. Using an assertive tone will help you solve problems and avoid shouting matches.
Beware of Gossip
Rumor spreaders or those who act as they are "in the know," are not seen as true friends and, overall, are not trusted. Studies at both Purdue University and Ohio State University confirm that when a person makes a positive or negative comment about someone else, listeners associate those qualities with the speaker as well.
When you have the people skills, you exhibit the ability to work well with others because you take the time to make them feel at ease. The possessing such skills know and then apply certain polite communication procedures that are just appropriate anywhere.
Those with people skills know the value and appropriateness of (1) making introductions, (2) participating effectively in conversations, (3) offering and receiving criticism, and (4) giving clear and accurate directions.
If you are with a friend and others join you, social and business "appropriateness" demands that you know how to introduce people. Here are a few suggestions:
- Stop what you are doing.
- Be friendly.
- Address everyone by name. "John, Maria--I would like to meet my coworker, Constance."
- State what you are doing. "She and I have been working on that inventory report that is due on Monday."
- Introduce the others. "Constance, this is John who works in the Production Department; and this is Maria, who works in Advertising."
- Ask a question or make a comment to get the others talking. "John, I think that you and Constance are form the same part of the country. Didn't you say that you were from Texas?"
- Work to make everyone feel included in the conversation.
Participating Effectively in Conversations
Conversation, or dialogue, is the oral exchange of thoughts and feelings involving two or more people. Avoid falling victim to three conversation killers:
- Talking too much (motor-mouth or know-it-all)
- Talking too little (bored or uninterested)
Offering and Receiving Criticism
The word criticism means "an evaluation or a judgment." We usually hear this word used in a negative context, where someone or something is being corrected or reprimanded.
Offering Criticism--convey a constructive interpersonal communication attitude. Giving criticism should be viewed as a way of encouraging someone to improve. Therefore, use language that shows tact and politeness.
Receiving criticism--paying close attention to constructive criticism is the way that we learn how to get better both as friend and as a worker. Here are some steps to follow:
- Maintain composure.
- Allow others to finish what they have to say.
- Don't interrupt.
- Be a good listener.
- Ask questions courteously.
- Thank the person for her or his thoughts and observations.
Giving Clear and Accurate Directions
When directions are unclear, then the people involved are themselves unclear on how to complete a task or get from point A to point B in an effective, efficient manner. Socially and professionally, remember the four ABCs when it comes to pointing people in the right direction:
- Always be clear
- Always be complete
- Always be concise
- Always be considerate
Always Be Clear
- Think before you speak.
- Go slowly.
- List your directions in sequential order.
- Use transition words (such as firsts of all, next, or finally).
- Stress key words, such as action verbs (turn, copy, or print) or concrete nouns (red light, computer, folder, or time sheet).
- Eliminate unnecessary words and steps.
- Watch for nonverbal signs of confusion.
- Ask for the directions to be repeated back to you when you've finished.
Always Be Complete
Be thorough. Don't assume that people can fill in the blanks or that they "know" what you are saying.
Always Be Concise
Be brief with your directions. Get to the point.
Always Be Considerate
Consider the appropriateness of the following:
- Location--Is this area too noisy for these directions to be heard?
- Timing--Is this the right time to give directions? It's just about noon; I guess I'll wait until after lunch instead.
- Tone--I can't be aggressive. I don't want to make everyone nervous and on edge.