A Comprehensive Guide to Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal Communication

The process that facilitates the exchange of information, i.e. thoughts, feelings, and ideas, between a couple or more people, be it verbal or non-verbal is referred to as “Interpersonal Communication”.

What is Interpersonal Communication?

It generally tends to include the face-to-face transfer of information, through verbal speech, facial expressions, gestures, body language, etc. The effectiveness of a person in clearly conveying his/her message to other people determines how good that person is at interpersonal communication. Basically, just whatever is said, is not all that makes up Interpersonal Communication. In fact, how something is said is equally as important as what is, and thus the people who are successful, tend to be people with great interpersonal communication skills. Big organizations generally make use of several forms of interpersonal communication every day, like client meetings, communication between employees, project discussions, and others. Presently, due to Covid-19, the major working population has been forced to ‘Work from Home’, and online constitute the major percentage of employees’ interpersonal communication. The level of interpersonal communication determines a person’s ability to work in teams.

What Are the 4 Types of Interpersonal Communication?

In terms of the basic elements of interpersonal communication, there are several different types of possible communication that can be grouped into four basic categories: Verbal, Listening, Written, and Non-verbal communication.

1. Verbal

Whenever individual talks or even makes any kind of an audible sound(even a “hmm” of “Ahh!” for example), that person is creating verbal communication. In excess of the content of what the person is saying and the context in which it is being said, verbal communication can also include the additional auditory factors like intonation. This basically means, how our voices rise and fall in tone as we speak and can also change the way in which the words are meant to be interpreted.

For example, a simple phrase like “Have a nice day” can have a host of different meanings depending on how it is said. It can be said in a friendly manner, sarcastically, or even, very ominously. 

2. Listening

Chances are that every individual has at some point in life, been accused of “hearing but not listening” to what someone else was saying. This difference between the two concepts can seem to be nuanced at first until you understand the meaning behind the message. Basically, hearing is an involuntary and effortless response of the human body, while listening means you must be focused and intend to hear.

Hearing is the automatic response of any creature that has working ears. Listening however requires you to make an effort. It has a purpose and requires you to concentrate, so as to understand what the speaker is sharing.

3. Written Communication

When a message is conveyed via written symbols, it is a practice of simple written communication. Anything from emails and text messages, to any kind of formal memoranda and reports, written communication is the cornerstone of the majority of information sharing in all types of businesses. In case a piece of information that is complex and/or lengthy needs to be shared, it is usually conveyed by using written communication. To that end, written communication is often taken to be more valid in legal terms, than spoken words are. That is the reason why it often serves as the “official” mode of communication. Written communication may also include emojis, which assist in conveying further emotional information and context, which can be hard to deduce from just the words themselves.

4. Non-Verbal Communication

Trying to get meaning across to another person without using any words (either written or verbal) is essentially termed as Non-verbal Communication. Non-verbal Communication refers to everything from facial expressions, body gestures (“jazz hands,” anyone?), body language, specific postures, etc.

In order to get a sense of exactly how much information can be communicated via Non-verbal Communication, we must consider that even mime artists are able to tell entire stories even though they do not utter a single word. Added to that, Non-verbal Communication often complements the spoken communication. For example, simple hand gestures like the ‘air quotes” or a shoulder shrug, add extra, if not an entirely different meaning to the words that are being spoken.

Importance of Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace

All types of workplace business are now mostly carried in via online channels of communication. However, it is still very important that you possess proper speech skills so that you are an effective member of your team. This means that having effective interpersonal skills is imperative for making your business successful. The following are a few instances that show how important interpersonal communication is, for developing your career and optimizing your workplace productivity.

Problem Solving

Interpersonal Skills are extremely necessary since they allow individuals to discuss problems and compare the benefits and the disadvantages of the alternatives before they come up with the solution. Like, the Brainstorming Exercises, which are often carried out at workplaces, are situations where interpersonal skills come into play. In these exercises, everyone needs to treated with respect and they must not be made to feel uncomfortable to express, their ideas, thoughts, views, etc.

Alignment with Business Goals

Lack of proper communication between the employer(s) and employee(s), can turn out to be extremely harmful to any business and can turn into a big loss, in a very short time. In case the manager and/or leader is unable to properly communicate the necessary tasks, the employee(s) can easily become very frustrated with and disconnected from the business goals. Therefore, the managers have to be able to clearly propagate the business strategies to the employees, via proper online and offline communication and using the correct communication tools.


The American Psychological Association, put forward the numbers of their research for everyone to see, which stated that around 25% of all the US employees, have no faith in their employers, and only about half of them trust that their bosses are truly being open with them. Lack of transparency and faith, from both sides of the spectrum, are arguably the most important and common factors for poor communication in the workplace. It is of utmost importance that people must develop and hone their Interpersonal Communication Skills so that they can improve workplace communication and instill faith among their fellow workers.

Change in Management

The supreme importance of Interpersonal communication is clearly visible when there is a change in management effort within any organization. In case all the information regarding the change, the probable shift in the business strategy, etc. is effectively communicated to the employees, they will find it easier to adapt to the change and align with it, thus in turn they will work together, to successfully implement the change.

Company Culture

Any organizational culture requires well-executed interpersonal relationships so that it can thrive. So the culture becomes increasingly positive and more synergic if the employees can hone their Interpersonal Communication Skills. On the flip side, bad interpersonal relationships mean confusion, negativity, and a series of inevitable and nasty conflicts. This is detrimental to the fabric of a harmonious working environment and ultimately destroys it, sharply reducing employee productivity, while also adversely affecting the company.

Employee Recognition

Good Interpersonal Communication also effectively means better employee recognition. Employees, when they have proper interpersonal relationships amongst each other and also with their superiors, they are more likely to recognize any high-quality work performed by their peers and also provide constructive feedback.

Workplace Miscommunication

Employees tend to find those managers much more approachable, who maintain a professional working environment, a positive attitude, and promote open workplace communication. Employees, if they feel like they can open up to the decision-makers, it negates any type of workplace miscommunication to a large extent and instances of gossip, rumors, etc. are a lot less likely to occur.

Personal Relationships

Effective Interpersonal skills are also extremely necessary to create and maintain meaningful personal relationships in the workspace. Individuals, who possess high levels of interpersonal communication skills, can thus create and maintain healthy relationships with their colleagues, superiors, etc., and work far better as a team.

Effective Management and Leadership

The ability to nurture interpersonal relationships creates trust in the workplace. That, coupled with clear communication, are all crucial skills for effective leadership. If a manager possess poor interpersonal communication skills, it can be a major cause for irritation and confusion among the employees. In fact, there is a huge necessity for management officials to work on their interpersonal skills, in comparison to the same, for the average employee.

Employee Success

Good interpersonal communication skills are also required so that managers can assist employees in doing their jobs successfully. Leaders have to be able to pass on the proper guidance to the employees that enables them to perform their tasks and achieve business objectives. On top of that, they must be the ones to teach their subordinates good interpersonal communication skills.

Conflict Management

Conflict is quite common in the workspace, and one cannot always expect that the employees will resolve conflicts in a calm and contained manner. So, when conflicts start to arise, interpersonal communication becomes imperative for resolving them. Conflict management simply is not possible without effective interpersonal communication. In fact, all types of conflict management strategies, that make use of communication to resolve high-tension situations in stressful environments, are a lot more successful.

Career Development

As arguably all types of employers are on the lookout for workers who have good communication skills, continuous improvements made upon interpersonal communication skills can bring about career progressions for the majority of employees. In a survey that was conducted by the Workforce Solutions Group, it was found that in excess of 60% of employers claim that the applicants are not showing sufficient communication and interpersonal skills to be considered for the jobs on offer. Along with that, the increasing prevalence of communication technologies means that the employees and communicators now need to adapt to all the up and coming employee communication trends.

Remote Work

The novel Coronavirus has forced the whole world into a phase of lockdown. This huge “Work from Home” phase has clearly brought to light the necessity of communication in the workplace. This heavy usage of remote work has led to interpersonal communication among colleagues, peers, managers, leaders, etc. to be disrupted. So, it has become more important than ever before. In order to keep all their cultures open and transparent, management officials need to go on driving, engaging workplace conversations even at a time when the employees are physically not present in front of them.

Crisis Management

Coupled with remote work, many employers will remember 2020, also as the year of extensive crisis management. One of the major characteristics of a huge number of large organizations, that perform crisis management successfully, is the ability to propagate interpersonal communication within the workplace.

What Are the Few Examples of Interpersonal Communication?

Humans Beings are an extremely social species. As a result, we are constantly in communication with one another. Research has shown that people speak between 7,000 to 20,000 words every single day, to each other. To put that into context, on the higher end of the spectrum, that is equivalent to reading out the average novella, over the course of just one day.

Interpersonal communication is all around us and happens all the time both in our personal lives and in the business world. In fact, it is often one of the most important aspects of a person’s job description. So let us take a closer look at some of the most common forms of Interpersonal Communication:

1. Phone Calls

In the year 1876, Alexander Graham Bell, one of the inventors of the telephone, spoke the first words that were ever transmitted over the phone line. They were spoken to his assistant, and as historic as they may be, the words were equally mundane: “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.” Since then, there are over trillions of words that are spoken over phones every single day. That is a lot of information that is conveyed through spoken words and intonation only, through just a simple medium of communication. The introduction of video calling has allowed us to also enjoy the benefit of having a live feed of how that person is speaking those words, as in their body gestures, postures, etc. This is an extremely important form of Interpersonal Communication. The importance of video calling has increased in leaps and bounds over the course of this year since almost the entire global population was restricted to working from home.

2. Meetings

They can be conducted in person (as they were before this global pandemic) or by utilizing video calling services, but meetings have always been a mainstay of the business experience. Over either of these forms, meetings are message transfers between two or more people, making it another important and necessary form of Interpersonal Communication. That being said, you have to remember that requesting a meeting mean you are still asking someone to reserve his or her precious time to attend that meeting. Therefore, you have to make sure that it is of utmost importance to convene the meeting and that the information cannot be clearly and effectively conveyed over other communication mediums.

3. Presentations

The overreliance on slides may be fizzling out, but presentations remain a mainstay of the corporate conference room, even to this day and probably in the near future too. A well-communicated presentation can be a huge plus point for any project and it will help galvanize the team together. The best thing about the presentation is that they always provide clearly put visual (written) information. This helps in negating any kind of miscommunication. There can also be graphs, images, etc. included in the presentation to further clarify the message and even sound cues to complement the visual information.

4. Emails and Texting

Despite the fact that a host of pundits like to bemoan the fact that, we tend to spend a lot of time interacting with screens (be it desktops, laptops, mobiles, etc.) rather than with another human being, the undeniable fact is, we live in the digital age now. As a result, we keep using the screens to interact with one another other – mostly through written communication.

The Pew Research Center has conducted studies that have shown that a minimum of 97% of all smartphone owners on the globe text regularly. This amounts up to about 26 billion (on average) daily texts that are sent just in the United States of America alone. That is a huge amount of interpersonal communication through just one medium of communication.

Summing It All Up

Interpersonal Communication is a vital and potent form of communication that just not solely rely on words to convey the meaning. It is an amalgamation of cues emerging from voice, bodily gestures and language, facial expressions, and others. Effective and good interpersonal communication is the bedrock upon which you can build strong relationships, in your personal and business lives. Good communication always the catalyst for action. When done right, it can transform ideas into action. 

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