When two or more people are in the same place and are aware of each other's presence, then communication is taking place, no matter how subtle or unintentional. Without speech, an observer may be using cues of posture, facial expression, and attire to form an impression of the other's role, emotional state, personality and/or intentions. Although no communication may be intended, people receive messages through such forms of non-verbal behavior.
Interpersonal communication is the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages: it is face-to-face communication.
Interpersonal communication is not just about what is actually said - the language used - but HOW it is said and the non-verbal messages sent through tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and body language.
Thus, Interpersonal Communication is Contextual
In other words, communication does not happen in isolation. There is:
1. Psychological Context: that is who you are and what you bring to the interaction. Your needs, desires, values, personality, etc., all form the psychological context. ("You" here refers to both participants in the interaction.)
2. Relational Context which concerns your reactions to the other person--the "mix."
3. Situational Context deals with the psycho-social "where" you are communicating. An interaction that takes place in a classroom will be very different from one that takes place at some party.
4. Environmental Context deals with the physical "where" you are communicating. Furniture, location, noise level, temperature, season, time of day, all are examples of factors in the environmental context.
5. Cultural Context includes all the learned behaviors and rules that affect the interaction. If you come from a culture (foreign or within your own country) where it is considered rude to make long, direct eye contact, you will out of politeness avoid eye contact. If the other person comes from a culture where long, direct eye contact signals trustworthiness, then we have in the cultural context a basis for misunderstanding.
Four Principles of Interpersonal Communication
These principles underlie the workings in real life of interpersonal communication. They are basic to communication. We can't ignore them
1. Interpersonal Communication is In-escapable
We can't ‘not communicate’!!
The very attempt not to communicate communicates something. Through not only words, but through tone of voice and through gesture, posture, facial expression, etc., we constantly communicate to those around us. Likewise, through these channels, we constantly receive communication from others. Even when you sleep, you communicate.
Remember a basic principle of communication in general: people are not mind readers.
Another way to put this is: people judge you by your behavior, not your intent.
2. Interpersonal Communication is Irreversible
You can't really take back something once it has been said.
The effect must inevitably remain. Despite the instructions from a judge to a jury to "disregard that last statement the witness made," the lawyer knows that it can't help but make an impression on the jury. A Russian proverb says, "Once a word goes out of your mouth, you can never swallow it again."
3. Interpersonal Communication is Complicated
No form of communication is simple.
Because of the number of variables involved, even simple requests are extremely complex. Theorists note that whenever we communicate there are really at least six "people" involved: 1) who you think you are; 2) who you think the other person is; 3) who you think the other person thinks you are; 4) who the other person thinks /she is; 5) who the other person thinks you are; and 6) who the other person thinks you think s/he is.
We don't actually swap ideas; we swap symbols that stand for ideas. This also complicates communication. Words (symbols) do not have inherent meaning; we simply use them in certain ways, and no two people use the same word exactly alike.
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