Why Interpersonal Communication is Important

For most individuals talking is second nature, easy and uncomplicated, right? If that statement is true, then why is miscommunication a big part of everyday life. Most people when they think of interpersonal communication they do not think of verbal, nonverbal, self-disclosure and male/female communication. It is important to have a thorough understanding of these forms of communication in order for any communication to be effective. “Verbal communication is the use of words to share information with other people. It can therefore include both spoken and written communication. However, many people use the term to describe only spoken communication. The verbal element of communication is all about the words that you choose, and how they are heard and interpreted.” 

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In Bridges Not Walls, it explains that verbal contact is were written word comes into play. “Written words are classified as primarily verbal… they appear in a nonverbal typeface surrounded by nonverbal space, but readers interpret or make meaning primarily on the basis of the words’ verbal content.” When someone talks about verbal communication, written word is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Not long ago it was popular to write people letters and mail them to each other as a way of keeping in contact. As the digital era continues to expand paper letters are dying out and emailing or texting has taken its place. Another traditional source of verbal communication would be books just like textbooks for classes. These books convey information that an individual is trying to impart to another individual.

In my line of work, strict documentation is required and must be maintained. When an individual comes in to open an account or requests a loan, paperwork is filled out and processed. This paperwork helps paint a picture of the clients needs and desires. After our auditing and fraud departments review the documentation, they will email us with the status of the relationship. This could mean we are keeping the accounts or we could discontinue any further relationships because of past activities with another institutions. High levels of verbal communication skills are needed if an individual is going to be able to document and maintain a good relationship in the business world.

“Nonverbal Communication has been defined as communication without words. It includes apparent behaviors such as facial expressions, eyes, touching, and tone of voice.” (What is Nonverbal Communication?) It has been said that the face is the most expressive part of someone’s body. “Most of the time, people are unaware of how much they rely on faces to give and get information.”  Eye contact and gaze are an important part of facial expressions. “Eye contact is one of the first behaviors that infants develop.”  If you disagree with this statement “think about the inferences you make about someone who doesn’t look you in the eye.” 

Only a small part of our communication is done with actual words. Researcher believe that a little more than 50% of communication is with our body language. Eye contact is one of the first things we develop when we are young. “Eye contact serves several communicative functions ranging from regulating interaction to monitoring interaction, to conveying information, to establishing interpersonal connections.” (Communication in the Real World) As adults we often rely on eye contact to tell us if we can trust someone or not. If the person we are talking to does not look us in the eye we tend to think the person is lying to us. Vocal elements or paralinguistic are an example of pitch of your voice, loudness, silence and tone. These elements are all important because they often affect what people think of us or how they view us.

Nonverbal contact is something I use every day in my job. I use it the most when someone comes in and wants to get a loan. Usually the process will start with a client coming in and requesting information about the products we offer. As we talk to the client and find out what they are needing the loan for, we are reading their body language and looking for cues that they are essentially lying to us. My body language is something I struggle with; I have been told by my supervisor that I do not come across as welcoming or inviting because I do not smile. I constantly must work on making myself seem more client friendly. Self-disclosure can be defined as “revealing to another person how you perceive and are reacting to the present situation and giving any information about yourself and your past that is relevant to an understanding of your perceptions and reaction to the present.”

(Stewart, 2012, p211) Self-disclosure has different key points to remember: it concentrates on the present happenings and not the past, you share how you are feeling in current situations, as you get to know people the more topics and in depth conversations you can have, and if your relationship is still in the new stages you need to make sure that the self-disclosure is reciprocated. Simply put “self-disclosure is the process of passing on information about yourself to someone else – whether you intend to or not!” (Midgie, and Mind Tools Content Team) The benefits to self-disclosure include “deepening that relationships by sharing feelings, reactions, personal information, and confidences.”  Your relationships be more meaningful by improving their quality. If you are paying attention to how your partner is reacting to the information you are giving then you can gage the correctness and how appropriate it is.

It is important that you are careful not to disclose too much information. You want to make sure and “only self-disclose when it is appropriate.”  Sometimes it is good to put yourself out there and let others see the “real you.” However, “you should ensure that the frequency and depth of your reactions are appropriate to the situation.”  Self-disclosure is the ability share feelings, opinions and personal reactions with others. By being open with others you are giving them the chance to get to know you. A good thing about self-disclosure is it focuses on what is happening now, instead of a person being judged on their past. Openness allows a person to express their “reactions to people and events and include feelings as well as fact.” Once a person becomes comfortable with self-disclosing, relationships tend to become deeper, more meaningful. This in turn leads to more complex conversations and relationships.

It is said that a healthy relationship is based on good communication and openness. “A relationship grows and develops as people become more open about themselves to each other.”  In a new relationship, self-disclosure is important, this allows individuals to identify common interests and goals. If common goals or interests are identified then it is easier to work toward accomplishing them together if desired. Self-disclosure can come with a few benefits. First you will have deeper more meaningful relationships. Second, the quality of your relationships will improve. Third, by being open with others and sharing your views and feelings you will get a validation to your disclosures. Along with getting validation is making sure you are only disclosing when it is appropriate. “Refusing to let anyone know anything about you keeps others away but revealing too many of your reactions too fast may scare other away.” 

I would relate openness and self-disclosure to something like your first day of school. I remember moving to the city from Shawnee after my grandmother died, I had to go to a new school where I did not know anyone. I met my now best friend of 25 plus years, but I remember wanting a friend so bad and being scared to open up. Over the course of the school year my friend, Kristin and I have become close. The whole time we were growing up during the summer months there was not a day that went by that I was not over at her house or she might be at my house. In the early days of our friendship there is always that tentative feeling of “am I going to say the wrong thing or maybe she will not like the things I like.” Now days we don’t worry about hurting each other’s feelings with our opinion’s or worry if somebody like’s something because we already know how the other person feels or likes.

Male and female communication has been shaped by the perceived gender differences or gender-biased perceptions that are seen in English speaking cultures. “They shape people’s attitudes about careers that are “appropriate” for one sex but not for the other, they lead some women to believe that certain jobs and roles aren’t attainable, and they contribute to the belief that men deserve higher status in society than do women.” (Stewart, 2012, p110) In research studies, women were found to “use communication as a primary way to establish and maintain relationships with others, whereas men generally talk to exert control, preserve independence, and enhance status.” (Stewart, 2012, p111) These studies further revealed that female communication involves more characteristics that are not found in male communication. Some of these characteristics are support, attention to the relationship, inclusivity, concreteness, and tentativeness. Male communication focuses on knowledge of skill, accomplishment of goals, and asserting dominance.

The English language has always been difficult for native and non-native English-speaking cultures to comprehend even without trying to take into count the gender differences placed on words. Research brought about by the women’s movement in the 60’s and 70’s opened the eyes of the people to the “male bias standard American English has contributed to the ways in which English-speaking cultures perceive women and men.” (Stewart, 2012, p110) By changing the public perception on what jobs are good for what sex, it has opened the job market up to females and it allows them to hold career otherwise not attainable. Doctors, lawyers, and policemen are just some of the jobs that have seen a rise in the number of women professionals.

Overcoming male/female communication difficulties in the workplace that are culture related are the hardest. I work for a bank and it is a preconceived notion that it is a man’s banking world or at least in the past it was viewed that way. My experience is that when an older client come’s into the bank and asks for information on a product we offer or some promotion that we are running at the time, they immediately ask ‘Is your manager in or is he out today?’ It doesn’t matter if you know the information they are wanting or not. In the last few years we as a society have really expanded our view on gender roles.  Having this communication difficulty has helped me work on my client presentation and present a more confident image. By displaying this image to my client’s, they can see that I have the answers to the questions that they have. This in turn opens up more doors for me and creates lasting relationships with my client.

With all the different forms of communication out there, it is easy to see how miscommunication between individuals can happen. To avoid any misperceptions a comprehensive knowledge of interpersonal communication is needed to be effective when trying to understand the different types of communication. Spoken and written communication are two important parts of verbal communication. “Excellent verbal communication skills increase the ability of the individuals to share ideas, thoughts and concerns with each other.” Nonverbal communication is most likely the most recognized when you mention facial expressions or any communication without words. In any relationship, self-disclosure is important because it defines the entire relationship and helps someone discover when it is appropriate it be open. English-speaking cultures over the years have contributed to the gender biased perceptions of male/female communication.

References

  1. 2011-2020, (c) Copyright skillsyouneed.com. “What Is Communication?” SkillsYouNeed, www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/what-is-communication.html.
  2. Midgie, and Mind Tools Content Team. “Self-Disclosure: Connecting With Honest, Personal Communication.” Communication Skills From MindTools.com, www.mindtools.com/pages/article/self-disclosure.htm.
  3. Stewart, John Robert. Bridges Not Walls: a Book about Interpersonal Communication. McGraw-Hill, 2012.
  4. What Is Nonverbal Communication? creducation.net/resources/nonverbal_communication/what_is_nonverbal_communication.html.
  5. [Author removed at request of original publisher]. “4.2 Types of Nonverbal Communication.” Communication in the Real World, University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing Edition, 2016. This Edition Adapted from a Work Originally Produced in 2013 by a Publisher Who Has Requested That It Not Receive Attribution., 29 Sept. 2016, open.lib.umn.edu/communication/chapter/4-2-types-of-nonverbal-communication/.
  6. Verbal Communication. (2020). Retrieved 24 May 2020, from
  7. https://www.cleverism.com/skills-and-tools/verbal-communication/
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