Interpersonal Communication
Components of Communication
• Message
• Facts or info
• Channel
• Verbal and nonverbal
• Encoding vs. Decoding
• “Do you understand the words coming out of my
• “Wah way wah wah wah?”
• Noise – distracters
Interpersonal Communication
Components of the communication process
1. The sender
2. The receiver
3. The message
4. The channel
5. The noise – “any stimulus that interferes with
accurately expressing or understanding a message”.
6. The context – environment
Communication is Transactional
Feedback generated
Constant – “You cannot not communicate”
Context specific
• Coca Cola = “Bite the wax tadpole” in China
• Multi-layered
• The seen and the unseen
Tale of 2 Meanings
• Denotation
• The objective meaning of the words or message.
• Connotation
• The subjective, emotional, or personal meaning of
the words and message.
• Good or bad connotation
Nonverbal Communication
85% of message
Facial expressions
Eye communication
Eye contact
Eye contact
Duration of eye contact is the most meaningful
aspect of this channel of nonverbal
Among European Americans, high levels of eye
contact are associated with effective social skills
and credibility.
However, eye contact is judged as offensive by
other cultures (e.g., Native American tribes).
Nonverbal Communication
• General principles of nonverbal communication
1. It conveys emotions
2. It is multichanneled
3. It is ambiguous
4. It may contradict verbal messages
5. It is culture-bound (e.g. eye contact)
Speed of speech
Body language
Kinesics – “the study of communication through
body movements”.
An “open” posture.
A “closed” posture.
hand gestures.
Lying Body Language
• Truth about Lying
Listening Skills
• Hearing
• “He that has ears, let him hear.” - Jesus
• Listening
• Understanding the message
• Empathy
5 Listening Skills
1. Talk less - listen more
2. Careful or undivided attention
1. Gives positive feedback to speaker
3. Reflective listening
• Parroting or paraphrasing
• Structure conversation
5 Listening Skills
4. Summative Reflection
• “Let me see if I’ve got this straight.”
• Summarize and receive confirmation before
5. Awareness and monitoring of Feedback
Rapport vs. Report
• Rapport communication
• Displaying similarities with others
• Most often used by women
• Report communication
• Exhibiting knowledge, skill
• Most often used by men
More Effective Communication
• Self-disclosure – “the act of sharing information about
yourself with another person” is important to
adjustment for several reasons.
1. Sharing problems with others plays a key role in
mental health.
2. Emotional self-disclosures lead to feelings of
3. Self-disclosure in romantic relationships is
associated with relationship satisfaction.
Symmetrical vs. Complementary
• Symmetrical communication
• Matches the senders message
• May result in escalation of tension
• Implies participants have equal power
• Complementary communication
• Complements the senders message
• May deescalate the tension
• Implies one participant has superior power
Barriers to Communication
• Judging
• Proposing solutions
• Avoiding, derailing, or discounting others
Barriers to effective communication
1. Defensiveness – “excessive concern with protecting
oneself from being hurt”.
2. Ambushing – listening carefully only to then
verbally attack the speaker.
3. Motivational distortion – hearing what you want to
4. Self-preoccupation – being so self-absorbed the
other person cannot equally participate.
Communication Problems
• Communication apprehension – “or anxiety caused by
having to talk with others” is usually followed by one of
four responses:
1. Avoidance – choosing not to participate.
2. Withdrawal – “clamming up” in conversation you
cannot escape.
3. Disruption – the inability to make fluent statements.
4. Overcommunication – (e.g., nervous speech).
Interpersonal Conflict
• Beliefs about conflict
• Most people believe any kind of conflict is bad.
• However, avoiding conflict is usually
counterproductive and leads to a self-perpetuating
cycle (see Figure 8.12).
Figure 8.12. The conflict avoidance cycle. Avoiding conflict can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle: (1) people think
of conflict as bad, (2) they get nervous about a conflict they are experiencing, (3) they avoid the conflict as long as
possible, (4) the conflict gets out of control and must be confronted, and (5) they handle the confrontation badly. In
turn, this negative experience sets the stage for avoiding conflict the next time—usually with the same negative
outcome. (Adapted from Lulofs, 1994)
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
• Five types of conflict
1. Pseudoconflict – false conflict from game playing.
2. Fact-based conflict – disagreement about factual
3. Policy conflict – disagreement about how to handle
a situation.
4. Value-based conflict – disagreement that occurs
when people hold opposing values.
5. Ego-based conflict – emphasis on winning over
resolving the conflict.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
• Styles of managing conflict
• Two dimensions (concern for self and concern for
others) underlie five distinct patterns of managing
conflict (see Figure 8.14).
1. Avoiding/withdrawing (low concern for self and
2. Accommodating (low concern for self, high
concern for others).
3. Competing/forcing (high concern for self, low
concern for others).
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
Styles of managing conflict, continued:
4. Compromising (moderate concern for self and
5. Collaborating (high concern for self and others).
– While compromising simply involves “splitting
the difference”, collaborating involves finding a
solution that is maximally satisfying to both
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
• Dealing constructively with conflict
• Be honest and open.
• Be Specific – Refer to specific behavior and not
general statements about another’s personality.
• Be current
• Avoid “loaded” words.
• Use a positive approach and help the other person
“save face”.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
Dealing constructively with conflict, continued
• Assume responsibility for your own feelings and
• Try to use an assertive communication style.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued
1. Understand what assertive communication is.
• Don’t forget about nonverbal cues.
2. Monitor your assertive communication.
• Identify when you are not assertive, find out who
intimidates you, on what topics, and in which
Developing an Assertive Style, continued
3. Observe a model’s assertive communication.
4. Practice assertive communication by using
• Covert rehearsal – imagine using assertiveness
in a situation that requires it.
• Role playing – ask a friend to play the role of an
antagonist so you can practice.
5. Adopt an assertive attitude.
Verbal Judo: Handling Criticism
• Only 1 person in this world has the power to put
you down – You.
• Other’s criticism is either right or wrong.
• If they’re wrong then there’s no reason to be upset
• If they’re right then there’s still no reason to be
upset unless you believe you must be perfect.
Verbal Judo: Handling Criticism
• How to respond to criticism to enhance your
sense of mastery and self-confidence
• Step 1: Empathy
• Ask a series of specific questions to find out exactly what
he or she means.
• Avoid being judgmental or defensive
• This tends to defuse anger & hostility
• This encourages problem-solving
Verbal Judo: Handling Criticism
• Step 2: Disarming the critic
Complementary communication
Find some way to agree with the critic
Avoid sarcasm or defensiveness
Always speak the truth (find the grain of truth in the
Verbal Judo: Handling Criticism
• Step 3: Feedback & Negotiation
• Assertively present your point of view with
• Make the conflict one based on fact rather than
personality or pride.

Interpersonal Communication