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MCM301-Communication Skills Lecture No: 3 “Interpersonal Communication” Problems Discussions and Solutions Fall 2013

 Lecture Outline:

Interpersonal Communication

Behavior and Interpersonal Communication

The Contextual View

Interpersonal communication is contextual

The Developmental View

Functions of Interpersonal Communication

Gaining Information

Building a Context of Understanding

Establishing Identity

Interpersonal Needs

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Interpersonal Communication
Interpersonal communication occurs when two (or a few) people talk face to face. Conversations,
dialogues, and small group discussions are interpersonal exchanges. Each person also operates
interpersonally during the exchange. Thus, an exchange with just two people involves at least three
communication elements – the unique thinking done by each person and the overriding process created by
the interpersonal exchange.
For example, imagine that you accidentally met your friend after a long time. You had a brief chat with
him. But you think of meeting him again next evening. Your friend at the same time too thinks of having
another meeting with you, in the afternoon, as he is leaving by the evening flight. After some discussion
you agree to meet at the breakfast time as you have a busy schedule the whole afternoon.

Behavior and Interpersonal Communication
In its simplest form, interpersonal relations are the interactions between two or more persons. We keep
coming in contact with other people for personal, professional, social or business reasons. Whatever the
context, there is an interaction between personalities in all these situations. Our perception about each
other is based on the displayed behavior. The environment in which personal interaction takes place is
largely determined by the behavior of the parties involved.
All behaviors are motivated. The motives however, may be known or unknown, clear or unclear,
controlled or uncontrolled. The net result is the variety in behaviors. Behaviors determine the quality of
interpersonal relationships by directly influencing every transaction in interaction. In the organizational
context, interpersonal relations become extremely important for smooth functioning of the system, greater
coherence, and convergence of effort and minimization of conflict.
To communicate well, we need to know our frames of reference and ourselves and to be able to assess
other people. Only then can we hope to find the best ways in which to communicate effectively with
them, both to pass information and build relationships. Some of the reasons we do not assess other people
well are given below:
• We assume that people would behave the same way in every situation.
• We try too hard to put everyone into consistent categories.
• We are too influenced by first impressions.
• We are positively influenced where we have common characteristics with other people, e.g. same
school, same function.
• We are too influenced by apparent negative points, e.g. if someone is not very good at short-term
decision making, we might assume that he/she is not going to be good at long-term planning
• We make constant errors because of our own limited frames of reference and self-concept.

The Contextual View
Interpersonal communication differs from other forms of communication in that there are few participants
involved. The interact-ants are in close physical proximity to each other, there are many sensory channels
used, and feedback is immediate. An important point to note about

The Developmental View
We have many different relationships with people. Some researchers say that our definition of
interpersonal communication must account for these differences. These researchers say that interacting
with a sales clerk in a store is different than the relationship we have with our friends and family
members. Thus, some researchers have proposed an alternative way of defining interpersonal
communication. This is called the developmental view. From this view, interpersonal communication is
defined as communication that occurs between people who have known each other for some time.
Importantly, these people view each other as unique individuals, not as people who are simply acting out
social situations.
Interpersonal channels include conversations and dialogues, interviews, and small groups.
Conversations involve unstructured, informal, and slightly purposive communication transactions. They
may not relate directly to business, but nonetheless contribute to smooth business functioning. Dialogues
introduce purpose in relatively structured and formal transactions. The interview is a special type of
dialogue. It involves purposes such as appraising an applicant for a job or disseminating information to
the media.
In the directive interview, the interviewer commands the transaction. In the nondirective interview, both
parties give direction to the interview. The stress interviewer uses emotion-laden questions to determine
how well the stress interviewer handles stress. The depth interview involves a directive probe into the
Small groups include four to ten people, with location, time, topic, purpose, formality, designation, and
cohesion having an impact on the transaction. Methods for conducting group meetings include problemsolving,
educating, brain storming, and role-playing.

Functions of Interpersonal Communication
Interpersonal communication is important because of the functions it achieves. Whenever we engage in
communication with another person, we seek to gain information about them. We also give off
information through a wide variety of verbal and nonverbal cues.

Interpersonal Needs
Finally, we engage in interpersonal communication because we need to express and receive interpersonal
The three identified needs are:
1. Inclusion: the need to establish identity with others.
2. Control: the need to exercise leadership and prove one's abilities. Groups provide outlets for this
need. Some individuals do not want to be a leader. For them, groups provide the necessary
control over aspects of their lives.
3. Affection: the need to develop relationships with people. Groups are an excellent way to make
friends and establish relationships.

Feel free to ask in case of any ambiguity.


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