Interpersonal Communication Skills

When a baby is born, more often than not, the moment he realizes his mother’s protective, nurturing, familiar womb is no longer his place of residence, he lets fly a torrent of baleful, perhaps even horrified screams.   Doctors smile, fathers beam, mothers breathe, all the while baby boy is trying his darnedest to express his innermost feelings and thoughts. Interpersonal communication at its most essential. I am hungry; I am cold; I am scared. Fast forward 16 years, and he still coos in his mother’s ear – only this time it’s to borrow the car…

Unfortunately, we often lose the ability – or the desire – to be so forthright with our communication tactics. We often will doubt ourselves, and subsequently that which we believe we need to express. Personal desires, biases, fears, and prejudices will cloud our connection with what we know is true, and those character defects will often shove our best intentions aside and replace them with false meaning and significance. Communication breaks down. We don’t say what we mean. We don’t listen honestly and productively.

Rather than listen, process, and reflect while someone is speaking to us, we instead drown out their ideas with our own inner dialogue of, “What am I going to say next.” This doesn’t work. But we do it anyway.

Developing productive, insightful interpersonal skills is imperative if one wants to truly work symbiotically and efficiently with their co-workers. Being able to not only express your own thoughts and reflections, but to also be willing to let other individual’s concepts take hold in your fertile field of intellect are skills that will benefit both individual and institution. And fortunately, with a little practice – and a little letting go – mastering such productive communication skills isn’t all that tough.

However, there are a few deal breakers that must be embraced.

The old “my way or the highway” mantra must be kicked to the curb. One must be willing to accept that someone else’s concepts and views could be valid and effective. Unfortunately, this means relegating one’s ego to the backseat. That is not to say that one should  become a passive individual. On the contrary, in order to be able to let go of ego, one must be confident and comfortable with one’s own designs and ideas. One must possess a vision of forward movement. However, one must also be willing to let the path shift and change as necessary for the good of the company.

One’s sense of assertiveness is crucial in maintaining positive interpersonal communication skills. Too often people cower behind imagined reactions and responses they feel will bludgeon their fragile egos. They either don’t say anything, or they only say what they believe their colleague or supervisor wants to hear. They avoid confrontation at all costs. Ego must be abandoned. Pride is messy and counterproductive. However, one’s intelligence, insight, and honest reflection on a situation must be celebrated and shared – so long as one fully accepts the fact that one’s ideas aren’t the only circus in town. In choosing, as Dylan Thomas says, not to “go gentle into that good night”, we become leaders and heroes. In not fearing to communicate those notions that we know come not from our pride and our ego but from our intellect and our connection with the greater cause, we will motivate and embolden others to do likewise. Only then will forward movement occur.

Finally, to maintain productive interpersonal oral communication skills, one must have the ability to choose one’s words carefully and wisely. Confidence and vision must be applied. The words we choose, the tone we apply, and the body language we maintain will depend upon what we know about the individual with whom we are conversing. In order to know that person in such a way that you will be able to manipulate your own diction and delivery, you must be willing to take a few strides around the room in her shoes.

We’re brought into this world yelling and screaming our needs, fears, and desires. Some folks never really move beyond this technique. However, for those who are willing to put their backs into it a bit, we can forge new relationships, open previously closed hearts and minds, and win one for the good guys just be being willing to listen and learn speak our truths.

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