What is communication?
Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another.
The different categories of communication include:
• Spoken or Verbal Communication: face-to-face, telephone, radio or television and other
• Non-Verbal Communication: body language, gestures, how we dress or act - even our scent.
• Written Communication: letters, e-mails, books, magazines, the Internet or via other media.
• Visualizations: graphs and charts, maps, logos and other visualizations can communicate
• Communication theory states that communication involves a sender and a receiver (or receivers) conveying
information through a communication channel.
• Communication Channels is the term given to the way in which we communicate e.g. telephone, face to
• Encoding messages: All messages must be encoded into a form that can be conveyed by the
communication channel chosen for the message.
• Decoding Messages: Once received, the receiver/s need to decode the message. Successful decoding is
also a vital communication skill.
• Feedback: Receivers of messages are likely to provide feedback on how they have understood the messages
through both verbal and non-verbal reactions.
• Effective communicators pay close attention to this feedback as it the only way to assess whether the
message has been understood as intended, and it allows any confusion to be corrected.
• An effective communicator understands their audience, chooses an appropriate
communication channel, hones their message to this channel and encodes the message to
reduce misunderstanding by the receiver(s).
• Receivers can use techniques such as Clarification and Reflection as effective ways to
ensure that the message sent has been understood correctly.
A skilled communicator must be aware of these barriers and try to reduce their
impact by continually checking understanding and by offering appropriate feedback.
Interpersonal Communication Skills
• Interpersonal communication is the process by
which people exchange information, feelings, and
meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages:
it is face-to-face communication.
• Interpersonal communication is not just about
what is actually said - the language used - but how it
is said and the non-verbal messages sent through
tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and
• Effective verbal or spoken communication is dependant on a number of
factors and cannot be fully isolated from other important interpersonal skills
such as non-verbal communication, listening skills and clarification.
• Clarity of speech, remaining calm and focused, being polite and following
some basic rules of etiquette will all aid the process of verbal
• In many interpersonal encounters, the first few minutes are extremely
important as first impressions have a significant impact on the success
of further communication.
• A friendly disposition and smiling face are much more likely to encourage
communication than a blank face, inattention or disinterested reception.
• The use of encouraging words alongside non-verbal gestures such as head nods, a warm
facial expression and maintaining eye contact, are more likely to reinforce openness in
The use of encouragement and positive reinforcement can:
• Encourage others to participate in discussion (particularly in group work)
• Signify interest in what other people have to say
• Pave the way for development and/or maintenance of a relationship
• Allay fears and give reassurance
• Reduce shyness or nervousness in ourselves and others.
• Active listening is an important skill and yet, as communicators, people tend to spend far more energy
considering what they are going to say rather than listening to what the other person is trying to say.
• The following points are essential for effective and active listening:
• Arrange a comfortable environment conducive to the purpose of the communication, for example a warm and light room
with minimal background noise.
• Be prepared to listen.
• Keep an open mind and concentrate on the main direction of the speaker's message.
• Avoid distractions if at all possible.
• Delay judgment until you have heard everything.
• Be objective.
• Do not be trying to think of your next question while the other person is giving information.
• Do not dwell on one or two points at the expense of others or be prejudiced with gender, appearance etc.
Reflecting and Clarifying
• Reflecting is the process of feeding-back to another person your understanding of what
has been said. Although reflecting is a specialised skill used within counselling, it can
also be applied to a wide range of communication contexts and is a useful skill to learn.
• Reflecting often involves paraphrasing the message communicated to you by the speaker in your
own words, capturing the essence of the facts and feelings expressed, and communicating your
understanding back to the speaker. It is a useful skill because:
• You can check that you have understood the message clearly.
• The speaker gets feedback as to how the message is received.
• It shows interest in, and respect for, what the other person has to say.
• You are demonstrating that you are considering the other person’s viewpoint.
• A summary is an overview of the main points or issues raised. Summarising
can also serve the same purpose as 'reflecting'. However, summarising allows
both parties to review and agree the communication exchanged between
them up to that point in time. When used effectively, summaries may also
serve as a guide to the next steps forward.
• Non-verbal communications include
facial expressions, the tone and pitch
of the voice, gestures displayed
through body language (kinesics) and
the physical distance between the
• These non-verbal signals can give clues
and additional information and
meaning over and above spoken
Types of Non-verbal communication
• There are many different types of non-verbal communication.
• Body Movements (Kinesics), for example, hand gestures or nodding or shaking the head;
• Posture, or how you stand or sit, whether your arms are crossed, and so on;
• Eye Contact, where the amount of eye contact often determines the level of trust and trustworthiness;
• Para-language, or aspects of the voice apart from speech, such as pitch, tone, and speed of speaking;
• Closeness or Personal Space (Proxemics), which determines the level of intimacy;
• Facial Expressions, including smiling, frowning and even blinking; and
• Physiological Changes, for example, sweating or blinking more when nervous.
• Non-verbal Messages Allow People To:
• Reinforce or modify what is said in words. For example, people may nod their heads
vigorously when saying "Yes" to emphasise that they agree with the other person, but a
shrug of the shoulders and a sad expression when saying "I'm fine thanks,” may imply that
things are not really fine at all!
• Convey information about their emotional state.
• Define or reinforce the relationship between people.
• Provide feedback to the other person.
• Regulate the flow of communication, for example by signalling to others that they have
finished speaking or wish to say something.
• The good news is that most of us learn to interpret non-verbal
communication as we grow up and develop. It is a normal part of how we
communicate with other people, and most of us both use it and interpret it
• The bad news is that non-verbal communication can be very culture-specific.
Importance of Non-verbal
• People tend to have much less conscious control over their non-verbal messages
than of what they’re actually saying.
• This is partly because non-verbal communication is much more emotional in nature,
and therefore much more instinctive.
• If there is a mismatch between the two, therefore, you should probably trust the
non-verbal messages, rather than the words used.A lack of non-verbal message may
also be a signal of sorts, suggesting that the speaker is carefully controlling their
body language, and may be trying to hide their true emotions.
• Questioning is the key to gaining more information and without it
interpersonal communications can fail. Questioning is fundamental to
• Being an effective communicator has a lot to do with how questions are
• Being structured: In most cases the interaction between questioner and
respondent will run more smoothly if there is some structure to the
• Use silence: it is a powerful way of delivering questions.
• As with other interpersonal interactions pauses in speech can help to
emphasise points and give all parties a few moments to gather their thoughts
• What is Effective Feedback?
• For our purposes, we will define effective feedback as that which is
clearly heard, understood and accepted. Those are the areas that are
within your power.
• 1. Feedback should be about behavior not personality
• You are only commenting on how they behaved. Do not be tempted to
discuss aspects of personality, intelligence or anything else. Only behaviour.
• Feedback should describe the effect of the person’s behaviour on you
After all, you do not know the effect on anyone or anything else. You only know how
it made you feel or what you thought. Presenting feedback as your opinion makes it
much easier for the recipient to hear and accept it, even if you are giving negative
• Feedback should be as specific as possible
Think about specific occasions, and specific behaviour, and point to exactly what the
person did, and exactly how it made you feel.
• Feedback should be timely
It’s no good telling someone about something that offended or pleased you six months later.
Feedback needs to be timely, which means while everyone can still remember what happened.
• Pick your moment
There are times when people are feeling open to feedback and times when they aren’t.
• Be Open To Recieving Feedback
In order to hear feedback, you need to listen to it. Don’t think about what you’re going to say in
reply, just listen. And notice the non-verbal communication as well, and listen to what your colleague
is not saying, as well as what they are.
• Be thankful to the person for the feedback
• Interpersonal conflict has been defined as:
• “An expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce
resources, and interference from the other party in achieving their goals”.
• Some element of communication: a shared understanding that there is a disagreement.
• The people involved perceive that their goals are incompatible, meaning that they cannot
both be met;
• They are competing for resources; and
• Each perceives the other as interfering with the achievement of their goals.
Types of Conflict
• There are three types of conflict, Personal or relational conflicts,
instrumental conflicts and conflicts of interest:
• Personal or relational conflicts are usually about identity or self-image, or
important aspects of a relationship such as loyalty, breach of confidence, perceived
betrayal or lack of respect.
• Instrumental conflicts are about goals, structures, procedures and means:
something fairly tangible and structural within the organisation or for an individual.
• Conflicts of interest concern the ways in which the means of achieving goals are
distributed, such as time, money, space and staff.
• The best way to address a conflict in its early stages is through negotiation between
Compete or Fight
• This is the classic win/lose situation, where the strength and power of one
person wins the conflict.
• This is the ideal outcome: a win/win situation.
• However, it requires input of time from those involved to work through the
difficulties, and find a way to solve the problem that is agreeable to all.
Compromise or Negotiation
• This is likely to result in a better result than win/lose, but it’s not quite win/win.
• Both parties give up something, in favour of an agreed mid-point solution.
Denial or Avoidance
• This is where everyone pretends there is no problem.
Smoothing Over the Problem
• On the surface, harmony is maintained, but underneath, there is still conflict.
Emotional Intelligence- Personal
• 1. Self-awareness
• Self-awareness encompasses:
• Emotional awareness
• Accurate self-assessment
• Self-awareness is the skill of being aware of and
understanding your emotions as they occur and as
they evolve. It is wrong to think of emotions as
either positive or negative. Instead, you should
think of them as appropriate or inappropriate.
• 2. Self-regulation or Self-management
• Self-regulation includes:
• Having learned to be aware of your emotions, the
skill of self-regulation relates to managing them
appropriately and proportionately.
• The final personal skills aspect of emotional intelligence is Motivation.
• Self-motivation includes our personal drive to improve and achieve,
commitment to our goals, initiative, or readiness to act on opportunities, and
optimism and resilience.
• 1. Empathy
• Empathy is an awareness of the needs and
feelings of others both individually and in
groups, and being able to see things from
the point of view of others.
• 2. Social Skills
• Social skills encompasses a wide range of
relationship and interpersonal skills. These
range from leadership through to influencing
and persuading, and managing conflict, as well
as working in a team.
Emotional intelligence includes how we understand others and their emotions, and our
actions and behaviours towards them.
There are two key aspects.
Barrier to communication
• Misunderstanding can occur at any stage of the communication
• Effective communication involves minimising potential misunderstanding
and overcoming any barriers to communication at each stage in the
Use of jargon. Over-complicated, unfamiliar and/or technical terms.
Emotional barriers and taboos. Some people may find it difficult to express their emotions and some topics may be completely 'off-limits' or
Lack of attention, interest, distractions, or irrelevance to the receiver. (See our page Barriers to Effective Listening for more information).
Differences in perception and viewpoint.
Physical disabilities such as hearing problems or speech difficulties.
Physical barriers to non-verbal communication. Not being able to see the non-verbal cues, gestures, posture and general body language can
make communication less effective.
Language differences and the difficulty in understanding unfamiliar accents.
Expectations and prejudices which may lead to false assumptions or stereotyping. People often hear what they expect to hear rather than
what is actually said and jump to incorrect conclusions.
Cultural differences. The norms of social interaction vary greatly in different cultures, as do the way in which emotions are expressed. For
example, the concept of personal space varies between cultures and between different social settings.