What is interpersonal communication?
Whether you’re in school, at work, or even a restaurant, interpersonal communication is a critical part of any environment where you’re interacting with others. Interpersonal communication can be defined as all of the elements that go into the process of exchanging information, ideas, and feelings between people. This encompasses more than just the words we say – it includes the four types of interpersonal communication: oral communication, written communication, nonverbal communication, and listening. All of these elements work together to help convey a message to someone else.
- Interpersonal communication is the process of exchanging information, ideas, and feelings with other people
- The 4 types of interpersonal communication are: oral communication, written communication, nonverbal communication, and listening
- Examples of interpersonal communication are phone calls, Zoom meetings, text messages, class lectures, body language, facial expressions, and written letters
- Strong interpersonal skills are critical whether you are a student, a job candidate, an employee, a manager – or any combination of these positions
What are the 4 types of interpersonal communication?
As the name indicates, oral communication is any form of spoken communication. This involves what you say, as well as how you say it, including what words you choose, how loud or quiet you are speaking, the speed that you’re speaking at, the tone and the pitch of your voice. Even with a simple phrase like “Hi, how are you?”, there can be endless ways to communicate this by changing how you phrase and say it.
This includes all types of written verbal communication: emails, reports, text messages, PowerPoint presentations, cards, post-it notes, and more. This isn’t just limited to words either, it includes drawings, emojis, even GIFs that help you deliver a message. Being able to write effectively is critical in any environment, but especially the workplace where so much communication takes place over platforms like Slack and email.
Nonverbal communication encompasses all the communication cues that don’t involve any actual words. This includes things like body language, hand gestures, eye contact, the tone of your voice, and even how much physical space you give another person while speaking to them.
When you think of communication, you often think of what’s being said, but listening is a huge part of interpersonal communication as well. There’s a difference between listening and active listening. Active listening involves being engaged with the person speaking and displaying verbal and nonverbal cues that indicate that. It also involves paying attention to not only what is being said but the nonverbal communication that goes along with it. Practising active listening, it makes others more comfortable sharing with you.
What are examples of interpersonal communication?
You likely use interpersonal communication in some form every day, whether you realize it or not. Here are some examples of interpersonal communication for each of the four categories:
- Oral communication: formal conversations, informal conversations, presentations, interviews, speeches, elevator pitches, phone calls, video conferences, meetings
- Written communication: websites, letters, faxes, postcards, contracts, Slack messages, brochures, emails, text messages, greeting cards
- Nonverbal communication: facial expressions, body language, posture, gestures, eye contact, space, voice, tone, movement
- Listening: nodding, eye contact, asking and answering questions, facial expressions, empathizing, leaning forward
What are key skills to improve your interpersonal communication?
Some key interpersonal skills that are useful in the workplace include:
- Body language
- Negotiation skills
- Conflict resolution
- Teamwork and collaboration skills
- Awareness of others
- Networking skills
- Decision-making skills
- Public speaking and presentation skills
Take our FREE DISC Assessment to learn about different personality types and strategies to improve your communication in the workplace.
Watch this video to learn how DISC works and how it can help you in your career:
How does interpersonal communication help you?
As a student…
Students find themselves in so many situations that require good interpersonal communication. These include being in classes, working on group projects, giving presentations, applying for jobs, taking part in extracurriculars, and networking, to name a few. Developing interpersonal skills is important to thrive in any of these environments, whether academic or social. They will help you become better at expressing yourself, have a better learning environment, and build connections that will help you in the long run.
As a job candidate…
When you’re applying for jobs, interpersonal skills are critical to helping you stand out as a job candidate. Firstly, many people find jobs through people they know – interpersonal communication helps you build these relationships that can propel you forward professionally. When applying to jobs, written communication skills help perfect your resume and cover letter. And finally, during interviews, all of the types of interpersonal communication come into play. Interviewers are looking to see if you match a set list of criteria, but above all else, they’re looking to see if you are the right fit for the company, and interpersonal skills will help you demonstrate that you are.
As an employee…
In the workforce, good interpersonal skills will help you become a great colleague and worker. In most workplaces, you’ll have to interact with others. Interpersonal skills are key when communicating with different stakeholders at your job, in fostering strong relationships and working well with others. These skills will also help you understand others, thus enabling you to make the best decisions for everyone involved.
As a manager…
When you are in charge of a team, it’s important that your interpersonal communication skills are strong. Firstly, you can’t set and reach goals for your team unless you’re able to communicate them well. In leadership positions, relationships are especially important as you liaise between different levels of the corporation. Good interpersonal skills can also help you motivate your staff to do their work more effectively and promote a better team culture. These skills will allow you to become more approachable, which is critical as when your employees have issues or concerns, they should feel comfortable working them through with you.
At the end of the day, no matter what your job is or what stage of life you’re at, you have to communicate effectively. People who are able to clearly articulate their ideas and feelings, without shame, resentment, or any negative feelings, typically go further. Like with any other form of self-improvement, improving your interpersonal communication is a lifelong journey, so why not start today?