Letter of Advice
Dear Engaged Couple,
I am well pleased to learn about your interest in my advice for your relationship, especially with regards to how to infuse and apply interpersonal communication for the best results in your relationship. In the course of my interpersonal communication class, I have been able to learn and equip myself valuable skills that touch on diverse concepts and aspects that raise both the competence and quality of interpersonal communication and hence are pertinent in preserving the health and value of relationships. Of these aspects, I have selected five to guide you and this is based on an evaluation of their particular importance in your relationship.
Fundamental Principles and Misconceptions to remember for Effective Interpersonal Communication
There are many fundamental principles/rules that can be applied to all contexts and instances of interpersonal communication and it is of essence to bear these principles and rules in mind because a competent understanding of their meaning, potential effects, and significance is key in facilitating effective and productive interpersonal communication that is supportive of a healthy relationship between or among the communicating parties. Inescapability, irreversibility, complex, and contextual characteristics as well as the nature of interpersonal communication are the five main principles that I intend to address (Wood, 2010, p. 27-29). Within the social environments, human beings tend to assess and judge others by the behavior that they exhibit, instead of their intent (Oliver, 2006, p. 19). The basis and essence of inescapability lies in the fact that human communication is unavoidable, and consequently, human beings have to influence and manage their communications actively as this affects their relationships with others depending on their objectives.
The principle of irreversibility is based on the inability of humans to annul, undo, or overturn any communication that they have had hence it calls for human communication to be careful, open-minded, and to take rational considerations of the content, approach, and other features before the communication (Oliver, 2006, p. 19-23). The complicated property considers the complex nature of all communication based on the large number of variables that it may comprise of and as such communication engages diverse variables that may include the self-concept, personal discernment of the communication’s receiver, the receiver’s self-concept, and the receiver’s ideas concerning the communicator. When combined, all these variables influence the content, approach, context, as well as other properties of the communication. Because of its complexity, researchers argue that communications feature the transfer of symbols for the ideas of different parties, as opposed to the ideas themselves.
They further contend that even though words have an inherent, fixed meaning, or even being the same, communicators use them in diverse ways. Elements of interpretations, conceptions, understanding, and uses of words differ greatly among human beings and this only builds up to the complexity and intricate nature of communication (Wood, 2010, p. 27-29). The essence of the principle for human communication is actually founded on its implication of a broad range of possible misunderstandings that can take place in the process of communication which can have an impact on the communicated and received message. As such human beings ought to consider the essential factors in their communications.
The contextual nature of communication addresses the essence of the environment in terms of quality, meaning, as well as productivity of human communications. Communication cannot happen in isolation from relevant and applicable contexts that affect the psychological environment, the relationship between involved parties, the applicable situation, the physical environment, or even the practical cultural setting. The psychological context are centered on the involved the individual or collective desires, values, personalities, and attitudes of the parties, while the situational and environmental contexts are more concerned with the psychosocial and physical environments in the communication. The significance of culture in the communication is more linked to the learned and acquired behaviors and rules that govern and affect the interaction (Oliver, 2006, p. 19-23). The essence of this principle is more centered on the critical roles that environmental and contextual features play in establishing the quality and productivity of communication.
In interpersonal communication misconceptions concern the errors in judgment and decision-making that humans commit when interacting with others in the context of communicating with them. Personal feelings and attitudes play a critical and fundamental role during the communications between parties, and this is demonstrated well in the contextual principle. People who communicate develop and use stereotypes concerning the subjects of communication to model their ways and approaches of transmitting the message or communicating in other ways and inaccurate conceptions and assumptions concerning others inevitably affect the way, content, as well as approach of communication. Most misconceptions entail preferential treatment or prioritizing oneself and personal interests within the context and objectives of communication.
With regards to the interpersonal communication, misconceptions are further embedded in the misunderstandings that persons may have concerning the objectives and methods of communication, especially with regard to the efforts that are geared towards achieving desired results (Wood, 2010, p. 27-31). The first misconception is usually about the quantity and consistency of communication in relation to attaining the desired objectives and this misconception features the common belief that excessive or consistent communication yields higher productivity during the communication process. However, the truth is that excessive or sustained communication, such as pestering or nagging the subject, does not necessarily yield or promote productivity in communication and in fact, in reality, extreme (excessive) communication often undermines the productivity, competence and efficiency of the message.
Another common misconception centers on the belief that words usually convey or carry the meanings of communication. In actual sense, the meaning or sense of a communication does not lie in the applied words, and as such, mere utterance of a word does not mean or imply communicating it. The meanings of used words in a communication are dependent on a wider variety of factors that exceed the used words, and may include the cultural, physical, situational, and relational contexts of communication (Wood, 2010, p. 21-24). The third aspect with regards to misconceptions in interpersonal communication is about the correlation of productive or successful communication and mutual or shared understanding between the communicator and the subject of communication.
Success in communication is not necessarily implied by or based on mutual understanding, and in particular where the involved parties possess different interpretations that show varied comprehension of the content, substance, and objective of the communication. In contrast to popular conceptions, communication does not represent a specified means of solving all problems between or among the communicators (Oliver, 2006, p. 23-25). Knowledge about these misconceptions is more important as it helps individuals to decipher the genuine nature and purpose of communication, in a manner that they can acquire the capacity to influence and tailor their communications to fit their intentions, objectives, and interests.
Barriers to competent Interpersonal Communication
The barriers to productive communication come in varied forms of obstacles that undermine the effectiveness, quality, productivity, and efficiency of communications. Such obstacles can lead to the failure of the communication process or even undermine the efficiency of the deployed methods and approaches for the productive and successful transmission of a message to the subject. A common form or exhibition of the obstacles to effective communication entails the reception of the message by the subject in a manner that the communicator did not intend.
There are indeed many barriers that may occur or emerge at any point in the course of communication and hinder effective communication. Such barriers cause distortions of the messages, precipitating the risks of wastage of time and resource through confusion, misinterpretations, and subsequent efforts as well as commitments to correct them (Krauss, 2002, p. 3-10). By definition, effective communication is a combination of efforts geared towards overcoming such barriers and ensuring the conveyance of concise and clear, unambiguous messages that effectively reveal the message intended by the communicator, comprehensively and accurately.
Communication barriers encompass a wide array of physical, cultural, psychological, and language-based obstacles that undermine the efficiency and productivity of communications. One ought to be aware of these obstacles and master their solutions so as to have effective communication. One such hurdle is incorporating jargon – speech/language past the commands of the receiver – in conveying messages. By using a language that is over-complicated or strange to the subject, or incorporating terms that require a specific comprehension that supersedes the capacity of the subject, the communicator undermines the ability of the subject to receive the communicated message effectively.
Another form of obstacle that hinders effective communication is about the application and prevalence of psychological barriers and taboos whereby individuals may have difficulties in expressing their feelings/emotions, especially because of the trauma and extreme sensitiveness of the topic. Some cultures may have certain customs and traditions that forbid the expression of some feelings as taboos hence restricting the abilities of individuals to communicate about them effectively (Krauss, 2002, p. 2-8). The lack of interest, motivation, and attention towards a topic, a lack of knowledge with regard to the subject, and the irrelevance of the topic to the receiver are some of the other obstacles that hinder effective communication.
These range of barriers specifically address the obstacles that prevail against effective listening, and hence prevent the competent reception of the messages from the communicator. They undermine the capacity of the receiver to grasp the meaning and substance of the communication, because they interfere with the physical and psychological commitment and capacity to receive and interpret the message efficiently. Differences in the perceptions, perspectives, attitudes, and viewpoints of the parties involved represent another obstacle that ultimately prevents productive communication. This category of barriers is significant because it acts as a distraction of the personal capacity to comprehend the topic – a factor that can critically affect the message transfer efficiency.
Physical disabilities are also representations of another variety of obstacles that can hinder the effectiveness in communication. Disabilities such as sensory difficulties – speech, sight, and hearing problems – can impede the capabilities of communicators and receivers to transmit and receive the message effectively. Differences in the use of language and proficiency, cultural differences, and personal prejudices and expectations can represent other obstacles. In addition, cultural differences among individuals may result in differences in the abilities of individuals to interpret the methods and content of communication, whilst the personal prejudices play a key role on the development of personal assumptions and stereotyping that may interfere with the deduction and inference of correct conclusions and interpretations from communications (Krauss, 2002, p. 5-8).
It is thus necessary for individuals involved in interactions, such as an engaged couple, to comprehend these obstacles competently so that they can manage their methods and means of communication in accordance to their objectives. As mentioned above, the barriers to productive communication are a combination of a variety of obstacles that undermine the effectiveness, quality, productivity, and efficiency of communications. These obstacles can lead to the failure of the communication process and also undermine the efficiency of the deployed methods and approach for the productive and successful transmission of a message to the subject.
The Development of Self Concept
As the complex principle holds, interpersonal communication is about the application and interplay of a wide range of variables that affect the quality, productivity, and process of communication. Self-concept is a major variable that defines the private understanding of an individual with regard to what he/she represents and it falls within the contexts of social participation. The broad understanding and knowledge of the self, including the social, physical, and psychological identity, can influence how an individual carries out communication with regard to his or her ideas of their position, meaning, and significance in relation to others within the social setting.
The development of self-concept happens as the individual grows and experiences the society as well as its beliefs, ideas, habits, institutions, and processes. Self-concept is therefore developed through learning and experiences in the social environment of an individual’s upbringing, educational development, family context, and social institutions (Schwartz, 2001, p. 7-8). It materializes in the early months of a person’s life, and is also subsequently shaped, remodeled, and modified based on lessons from repeated and perceived experiences in the social environment, especially concerning the person’s significant others such as family members or guardians, peers, and instructors in schools. In broad terms, experiences in the social setting that are consistent with the self concept tend to enhance the perception of an individual with regard to him/herself, while those that are inconsistent with it represent threats to their perceptions.
Such threats can advance the individual’s rigid organization of the self-concept with the aim of protecting and preserving their identity. The inability to get rid of these inconsistencies and their impacts in the life of the person can result in the emergence of emotional and psychological problems, such as shyness, faulty patterns of thinking, and overgeneralization. The social development theory by Erik Erikson spells out a succession of conflicts that children experience in their development of a self-concept, with positive reactions from significant others causing an enhancement in these perceptions and negative responses resulting in adverse personal responses. For instance, the infancy stage represents a trust versus mistrust conflict based on feeding, whereby reliable care and affection promotes a child’s trust while lack of this enhances mistrust.
The availability of consistent encouragement from significant others in the life of a child promotes positive levels of self-esteem in the child, and on the other hand, the lack of support for autonomous and initiative-taking behavior undermines the self-esteem of the child (Schwartz, 2001, p. 9-11). Therefore, the self concept is a direct result of social forces and experiences that chart the path of development and establish the variety of the individual’s perception of the self and his/her abilities, significance, and potential relative to others, based on positive or negative reinforcements of behavior, habits, thoughts, and orientations.
Strategies for Active, Empathetic, and Critical Listening
Active, critical, and empathetic listening comprises of skills that reflect the commitment of an individual to understand the communicator and the implications of his/her message. Applicable strategies in this commitment entail actively managing one’s behavior and the approaches of interaction with the communicator as he/she conveys the message. These skills are categorized into three principal pools namely attention competences, skills that foster listening, and feedback provision competences.
In addition, attention skills entail giving the speaker undivided attention, by setting aside any distracting thoughts, looking directly at the speaker, resisting rebuttals, responding to body language, and avoiding any environmental disruptions like side talks (Salem, 2003, para. 5-10). To demonstrate active listening, the receiver can display skills such as occasional nodding, the use of smiles and facial expressions, the adoption of an open and welcoming posture, and applications of comments to encourage the speaker to continue. Provisions of feedback can be done through using strategies such as reflecting and rephrasing the comments made by the speaker, seeking clarifications on certain points, and occasionally making a summary of the speaker’s comments (Salem, 2003, para. 4-10). These strategies make up valuable approaches to demonstrate vigorous, empathetic, and critical listening, hence securing the confidence and trust of the communicator in the interaction process and enhancing the relationship.
The Power of Words in creating and Impacting on Behavior, Attitudes, and Perceptions
Words have an enormous potential in communication, and they can have a wide range of effects including informing and persuading to easing suffering and emotional pain, hurting, and starting, intensifying, or ending a conflict. Words can either communicate an intended point or undermine the comprehension of ideas and ultimately destroy relationships and it is important for one to put this into consideration when communicating. Words have connotative (symbolic) and denotative (dictionary) meanings or definitions, and their effects on communication depend on the context and variables in which they are used including the timing, the situation, the subject’s interpretation, and many other things.
Different words offer a variety of concepts or meanings, and these include the symbolic meanings evident in diverse cultural and situational contexts. The meaning and impact of words on attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions also differ with the applications of a variety of vocal techniques such as tone, articulation, pitch, emphasis, and pace, with diverse effects that include perceptions of empathy, hostility, cynicism, scorn, friendliness, mistrust, etc (Kraus, 2002, p. 3-8). Generally speaking, words that demonstrate consistency with the cultural interpretation of the receiver, situational need (empathy, agreement, etc.), the environmental context of communication, and the relational setting between the communicator and the receiver tend to positively impact on behavior, attitudes, and perceptions, and vice versa.
I wish you prosperity in your relationship and hope that my review of these five aspects of interpersonal communication that are pertinent in the case of your relationship shall prove useful in your interaction.
Krauss, R. (2002). The Psychology of Verbal Communication. Columbia University, retrieved on November 19, 2013 from: http://www.columbia.edu/~rmk7/PDF/IESBS.pdf
Oliver, W. (2006). “Introduction to Interpersonal Communication”. Chapter 1, Understanding Interpersonal Communication, retrieved on November 19, 2013 from: http://oliver.efri.hr/~stratmen/West,%202006.pdf
Salem, R. (2003). The Benefits of Empathic Listening. Beyond Intractability, retrieved on November 2013 from: http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/empathic-listening
Schwartz, S. (2001). “The Evolution of Eriksonian and Neo-Eriksonian Identity Theory and Research: a Review and Integration”. Identity: an International Journal of Theory and Research (1, 1: 7-58), retrieved on November 19, 2013 from: http://www.researchgate.net/…Eriksonian…Eriksonian…/79e414fbbd3abad38f….pdf
Woods, J. (2010). “A First Look at Interpersonal Communication” Chapter 1, Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters. Stamford, USA: Cengage Learning, retrieved on November 19, 2013 from: http://www.cengagebrain.com/content/wood67647_0495567647_02.01_chapter01.pdf
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