Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication is real‐time, face‐to‐face or voice‐to‐voice conversation that allows immediate feedback. Interpersonal communication plays a large role in any manager's daily activities, but especially in organizations that use teams.

Managers must facilitate interpersonal communication within teams and reduce barriers to interpersonal communications. Common barriers to interpersonal communication include the following:

  • Expectations of familiarity (or hearing what one is expected to hear). After hearing the beginning comments, employees may not listen to the remainder of the communication because they think they already know what a manager's going to say.
  • Preconceived notions. Many employees ignore information that conflicts with what they “know.” Often referred to as selective perception, it's the tendency to single out for attention those aspects of a situation or person that reinforce or appear consistent with one's existing beliefs, value, or needs. Selective perception can bias a manager's and employee's view of situations and people.

  • Source's lack of credibility. Some employees may negatively size up or evaluate the sender based on stereotypes. Stereotyping is assigning attributes commonly associated with a category, such as age group, race, or gender to an individual. Classifying is making assumptions about an individual based on a group he or she fits into. Characteristics commonly associated with the group are then assigned to the individual. Someone who believes that young people dislike authority figures may assume that a younger colleague is rebellious.

  • Differing perceptions caused by social and cultural backgrounds. The process through which people receive and interpret information from the environment is called perception. Perception acts as a screen or filter through which information must pass before it has an impact on communication. The results of this screening process vary, because such things as values, cultural background, and other circumstances influence individual perceptions. Simply put, people can perceive the same things or situations very differently. And even more important, people behave according to their perceptions.

  • Semantics and diction. The choice and use of words differ significantly among individuals. A word such as “effectiveness” may mean “achieving high production” to a factory superintendent and “employee satisfaction” to a human resources specialist. Many common English words have an average of 28 definitions, so communicators must take care to select the words that accurately communicate their ideas.

  • Emotions that interfere with reason. Tempers often interfere with reason and cause the roles of sender and receiver to change to that of opponent and adversary.

Noise or interference. Noise does not allow for understanding between sender and receiver.