Interpersonal communication is an essential practice that allow people of different ages to interact and exchange valuable information with the use of feelings, verbal and non-verbal messages. It is usually a face-to-face communication that involves several components such as the message, noise, receiver, respondent, channel, context, and noise. The interpersonal communication course has been thoroughly engaging and insightful. I have been able to identify the critical skills involved in interpersonal communication that allow people to engage and interact on a personal and professional level. I have understood the essential skills required to communicate: listening, verbal, non-verbal skills successfully. This information is vital in my career development and personal growth.
During this entire period, I was to keep track of all the activities I took part in, both in class and back at home also reflect upon my live experience that have happened to me. I deduced that effective communication relies on the collaboration of every individual involved to be successful. Miscommunications are common, and they usually happen because of many factors. As the course developed, I learned how to identify these factors, which significantly improved my interpersonal communication skills.
The course was divided into weekly studies. The essential skills were divided into 9 entries, which were taught for 11 weeks. Week 2 and week 3: communication barrier and rapport development. Week 4/5: listening skills, week 6: assertiveness skills, week 7: the assertive focus was on conflict, week 8: verbal communication and use of language, week 9: appropriate non-verbal skills, week 10: cultural difference/ diversity in communication, and week 11: the use of silence and power your communication in the future. I kept a journal for each week to assess the new information and how effective it was in practical situations.
Week 2: Communication Barrier
Language barrier indicates the difficulties faced when both the sender and receiver talk a different language attempt to communicate with each other. This week, i learnt about how language barrier can impact my perception of others as well as interpersonal communication at workplace.
I used to work as a waitress at a Malaysian restaurant in Sydney. Working in a famous restaurant will likely encounter many customers from different countries who speak a different language. I remembered a customer complained because he received a wrong order from me. The customer ordered ‘cuttlefish’ and when the was served on his table, he asked me ‘where is the fish?’. Well, I told him ‘that is cuttlefish’. Which made him confused with my respond and began to complain even more, like i was not telling him that cuttlefish is not fish and that i should have told him what cuttlefish is. I felt annoyed and thinking if he was concerned about that, the customer should have asked at the first place before ordering.
Usually we spend more energy defending our own position than understanding others (communication barrier, ppt week 2). I realise now how this situation has changed my interpersonal skills to see other people’s perception from their point of view.
Reflect upon my experience on the situation, I realise I should be more mindful when dealing with the situation to feel and understand other people from their perspective and meaning as well as improve my interpersonal communication skills.
Week 3: Rapport Development
The ability to comfortably engage with different people and establish a good relationship is always an asset. This relationship goes a long way toward forming partnerships that help in achieving new objectives. Rapport describes a relationship between people or groups that have an understanding of each other’s ideas and feelings that enables them to communicate and work together effectively.
One of my teacher noted that students struggled to create new relationships with their peers, which made the learning process relatively slow and even affected the grades of some of the students who could not work on their own. He placed us in groups for assignments, which allowed us to interact and understand each other. After completing the assignments, we started forming study groups that helped us get through the course and understand concepts much better. Friendships were also formed on a personal level that made the class more enjoyable.
Reflecting on my experience, I am now able to form a mutually beneficial relationship with people on a professional and personal level.
Week 4/5: Listening Skills
Listening is more of a process than activity since it involves critical decisions that enable a listener to receive, interpret, and understand the contents of a verbal message. It is the “conscious processing of the auditory stimuli that have been perceived through hearing” (West & Turner, 2010). This week, we learnt about active listening and the difference between listening and hearing. We all spend much of our time hearing other people speak, but not necessarily listening to what they are really saying. When you listen properly, the activity adds a great deal to the quality of your relationships. When you don’t, your communication and relationships both suffer. (Floyd, 2008)
I tended not to listen to people who did not organise their thoughts, properties, or information that I was already aware of in the first place. It had worked for me because I am a quick learner, and I am quick to interpret situations. I realise now that this always have been the primary issue for me to form a relationship, with my peers and sometimes with my boyfriend.
However, my perspective changed after an event during one of our group assignments. My classmate was outlining our responsibilities, and as soon as I heard the primary objective, I immediately switched off and started planning for the next discussion. Unfortunately, I ended up missing vital details that almost made us fail the subject. I realise how my listening behaviour could negatively impact on others. I quickly rectified the mistake but the situation made me reexamine my behaviour. I was able to understand the importance of listening, and I started utilising this skill which significantly improved my output.
Week 6: Assertiveness Skills
Assertiveness allows a person to express themselves while also respecting the feelings and opinions of others. This week, we looked at assertiveness skills and how to express ourselves around each other adequately.
I am an introvert, so sometimes it is a bit hard to express myself. Initially, my friends thought that I was not a people person, but after spending time together, they started to understand me. The interactions between us made me gain more confidence when around my peers, and I started being more vocal and expressive.
Recently one of my peers gave incorrect diet information to customer. He was one of the experienced staff at my workplace, so no one wanted to correct him. I was aware of how I could approach the situation, so I took it upon myself to respectfully highlight the fault in the information then clarified on what was right. He took the information positively and thanked me for pointing it out.
Reflecting on the situation, I am glad that I spoke out instead of keeping the information to myself. I was able to help my friends learn something new and also boost my confidence.
Week 7: Assertive Focus was on Conflict
In a social setting, conflict occurs regularly on a personal and professional level. During this week, we learned how to deal with conflict using the assertiveness skills that we had learned the previous week. Assertiveness involves standing up for one’s rights without infringing upon those of others, whereas aggression involves the use of noxious stimuli to maintain rights. (Richins & Verhage, 1987).
Reflect back upon what happened during staff meeting in my previous job, we had several social groups that often had issues with each other because of sharing different interests. This always led to disagreements that needed to be immediately addressed. Usually, the issues were minor and did not attract much attention. However, during a discussion about cultural practices, one of the staff made a racial joke that was distasteful to another staff. A fight broke out, but before it could get physical, my manager intervened and sat the two staffs down. He let each person express how they felt about the matter, instead of yelling at them and they came to a resolve that was acceptable by both of them.
I was inspired by his act of courage and the use of assertiveness skills. I also learned a lot from him and started practicing some of the measures he took to contain the situation.
Week 8: Verbal Communication and Use of Language
Verbal communication involves the use of language to articulate information. This week allowed us to learn how to communicate using different languages without being misinterpreted verbally.
This was one of the most exciting weeks of the course. We challenged ourselves to learn how to use different languages to communicate. We struggled at first because of direct translations and difficult pronunciations, but the overall experience was much fun.
When learning how to communicate in these languages, the groups ended up becoming more social with each other. We were given a platform to present a form of a speech explaining a subject matter, and in the end, we asked each other questions to see whether we had understood the message.
The unit was exciting, and we learned verbal cues that we can regularly use when talking to each other. I also learned that languages could bring people together.
Week 9: Appropriate Non-verbal Skills
Non-verbal communication accounts for the majority of communication between people. We say a lot by not using our words, so it is essential to learn how to communicate and read such communications. This week we learned how to communicate and interpret non-verbal cues. Nonverbal communication is more powerful than verbal communication in conveying emotions, attitudes and reaction (Dywer 2013).
Recently in my workplace had one delivery guy who has hearing impaired. I didn’t notice at first until i stood behind him and told him that the food was ready and he was not respond at all, so I touched his shoulder, continued saying that the food is ready to be picked up and increase my sound a bit as I was thinking he may had some hearing issues. Which is he turned and replied with sign language of thank you, I noticed his mouth movement and realised he had a hearing impaired. At the same moment, I made eye contact at him and did some of the body gesturers which could be understood as an action sorry. He looked at me again and nodded with his head. I realise how his unit helped me understand a personal situation, which helped me learn how to connect with people better. I pay more attention to non-verbal cues these days than I did before.
Week 10: Cultural Difference in Communication
The society is made up of people who share different beliefs and traditions. Culture clashes are one of the primary reasons for conflict. This week we learned how to engage with these cultures and communicating effectively.
A friend of mine invited me to their home for family dinner, and when I got there, the family welcomed me by hugging me. I was surprised since where I come from Indonesia, people are not affectionate with new acquaintances as it is highly inappropriate physical touch. However, they were very hospitable, and I enjoyed my time there. This also happened at my workplace recently. As one of our team member is leaving to another country and everyone was hugging him and saying goodbye. When it come to my turn i was of course hesitated to hug him, then we shook hand instead and we both laugh. From this reflection, I learned that culture affects the way people communicate and that good communication can happen between people with different cultures if both accept their differences with open mind. The diversity allows us to explore new ways of communicating.
Week 11: The Use of Silence and Power Your Communication in the Future
Communication involves much talking, but listening is also a critical part of communication. In the final week, our course instructor wanted us to learn how to use all the concepts we had learned together. Silence referred to active listening and attention to detail on what was happening around the communication, which enables a listener to earn trust, boost the confidence of the speaker, and emphasising a point.
I recently had to make a pitch on a proposal in our community. I was worried that they would not warm up to my ideas, so I consistently took silent pauses in between my points for the people to digest the thoughts and understand the need for the project. After several silent pauses, people started to relate to the project, and I gained their complete attention and eventually their trust.
The lessons on silence are a bit complex since some people may be hard to read. However, with enough patience, a person can successfully utilise this concept and power their communication to another level.
When I joined the class, I had set learning outcomes that I expected to achieve. Initially, I expected it to be challenging, but on the contrary, it was exciting. I was able to learn more than I expected, which will be helpful in my academic, personal, and professional career going forward.
Keeping the journal has also been resourceful. I can refer back to critical parts of our study when I am faced with similar situations, and that enables me to handle them accordingly. The outline consists of concepts that we are exposed to regularly, and understanding them makes things much more comfortable to handle.
Culture played a vital role in in-class studies and engagements. Diversity is very beneficial in gaining knowledge. It gives people a different perspective, which aids in resolving different problems such as disputes and conflicts. I also learned new languages and exciting traditions. I am considering conducting a based cultural study so that I can learn even more about the world’s cultures.
Ultimately, the main lesson I learned is the importance of communication. It is used in our everyday life, and it allows us to deal with varied situations. Interpersonal communication is a big part of that as well. It makes communication more productive by eliminating wrong perceptions. I also noted that face-to-face communication is very effective, it eliminates misinterpretations, and immediate feedback leads to better understanding and resolve. I plan to continue exploring new communication concepts and using the knowledge I gained from the class collaboratively.
- Fuller, N (2020). COU101A Interpersonal Communication, Week 2: Communication barrier. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://laureate-au.blackboard.com/
- Floyd, K., Interpersonal communication, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2011, p.218.
- West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2010). Understanding Interpersonal Communication (Vol. 2nd Edition). Boston, USA: Cengage Learning.
- Richins, M.L., Verhage, B.J. (1987). Assertiveness and Aggression in Marketplace Exchanges Testing Measure Equivalence. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 18(1), 93-105. doi 10.1177/0022002187018001010
- Government of Western Australia (2017). Department of health WA, Assertive communication. Retrieved from https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Assertive-communication
- Dwyer, J., Hopwood, N. (2013). Communication for Business and the Professions: Strategies and skills (5th edition). Australia: Pearson.