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Chapter 8
Interpersonal Communication
Interpersonal Communication
Components of the communication process
1. The sender
2. The receiver
3. The message
4. The channel
5. The noise – “any stimulus that interferes with
accurately expressing or understanding a
6. The context – environment
Nonverbal Communication
General principles of nonverbal
1. It conveys emotions
2. It is multichanneled
3. It is ambiguous
4. It may contradict verbal messages
5. It is culture-bound (e.g. eye contact)
Figure 8.9. Detecting deception from nonverbal behaviors. This chart summarizes evidence on which
nonverbal cues are actually associated with deception and which are believed to be a sign of deception,
based on a research review by DePaulo, Stone, and Lassiter (1985).
More Effective Communication, continued
Conversation skills: five steps for making
successful “small talk”
1. Indicate you are open to conversation by
commenting on your surroundings.
2. Introduce yourself.
3. Select a topic others can relate to.
4. Keep the conversation ball rolling.
5. Make a smooth exit.
More Effective Communication, continued
Self-disclosure – “the act of sharing information
about yourself with another person” is important to
adjustment for several reasons.
1. Sharing problems with others plays a key role in
mental health.
2. Emotional self-disclosures lead to feelings of
3. Self-disclosure in romantic relationships is
associated with relationship satisfaction.
More Effective Communication, continued
Tips for effective listening
1. Signal your interest in the speaker by using
nonverbal cues
Face the speaker squarely.
Lean toward him or her.
Try not to cross arms and legs.
Maintain eye contact.
More Effective Communication, continued
Tips for effective listening, continued
2. Hear the other person out before you respond.
3. Engage in “active listening” by
– Asking for clarification if information is
– Paraphrasing what the person said by restating
the speaker’s main points to ensure you have
interpreted correctly.
4. Pay attention to the other’s nonverbal cues.
Communication Problems
Communication apprehension – “or anxiety
caused by having to talk with others” is usually
followed by one of four responses:
1. Avoidance – choosing not to participate.
2. Withdrawal – “clamming up” in conversation you
cannot escape.
3. Disruption – the inability to make fluent
4. Overcommunication – (e.g., nervous speech).
Communication Problems, continued
Barriers to effective communication
1. Defensiveness – “excessive concern with
protecting oneself from being hurt”.
2. Ambushing – listening carefully only to then
verbally attack the speaker.
3. Motivational distortion – hearing what you
want to hear.
4. Self-preoccupation – being so self-absorbed
the other person cannot equally participate.
Interpersonal Conflict
Beliefs about conflict
– Most people believe any kind of conflict is
– However, avoiding conflict is usually
counterproductive and leads to a selfperpetuating cycle (see Figure 8.12).
Figure 8.12. The conflict avoidance cycle. Avoiding conflict can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle: (1)
people think of conflict as bad, (2) they get nervous about a conflict they are experiencing, (3) they avoid
the conflict as long as possible, (4) the conflict gets out of control and must be confronted, and (5) they
handle the confrontation badly. In turn, this negative experience sets the stage for avoiding conflict the next
time—usually with the same negative outcome. (Adapted from Lulofs, 1994)
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
• Five types of conflict
1. Pseudoconflict – false conflict from game
2. Fact-based conflict – disagreement about
factual issues.
3. Policy conflict – disagreement about how to
handle a situation.
4. Value-based conflict – disagreement that
occurs when people hold opposing values.
5. Ego-based conflict – emphasis on winning
over resolving the conflict.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
Styles of managing conflict
– Two dimensions (concern for self and concern
for others) underlie five distinct patterns of
managing conflict (see Figure 8.14).
1. Avoiding/withdrawing (low concern for self
and others).
2. Accommodating (low concern for self, high
concern for others).
3. Competing/forcing (high concern for self, low
concern for others).
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
Styles of managing conflict, continued:
4. Compromising (moderate concern for self and
5. Collaborating (high concern for self and
While compromising simply involves
“splitting the difference”, collaborating
involves finding a solution that is maximally
satisfying to both parties.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
Dealing constructively with conflict
– Make communication honest and open.
– Use specific behavior to describe another
person’s annoying habits rather than general
statements about their personality.
– Avoid “loaded” words.
– Use a positive approach and help the other
person “save face”.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued
Dealing constructively with conflict, continued
– Limit complaints to recent behavior and to the
current situation.
– Assume responsibility for your own feelings
and preferences.
– Try to use an assertive communication style.
Verbal Judo: Handling Criticism
• Only 1 person in this world has the
power to put you down – You.
Other’s criticism is either right or wrong.
– If they’re wrong then there’s no
reason to be upset
– If they’re right then there’s still no
reason to be upset unless you believe
you must be perfect.
Verbal Judo: Handling Criticism
• How to respond to criticism to enhance your
sense of mastery and self-confidence
– Step 1: Empathy
• Ask a series of specific questions to find
out exactly what he or she means.
• Avoid being judgmental or defensive
• This tends to defuse anger & hostility
• This encourages problem-solving
Verbal Judo: Handling Criticism
• Step 2: Disarming the critic
–Complementary communication
–Find some way to agree with the
–Avoid sarcasm or defensiveness
–Always speak the truth (find the
grain of truth in the criticism)
Verbal Judo: Handling Criticism
• Step 3: Feedback & Negotiation
–Assertively present your point
of view with diplomacy.
–Make the conflict one based
on fact rather than personality
or pride.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued
The nature of assertiveness
– Assertiveness – “involves acting in your own
best interests by expressing your thoughts and
feelings directly and honestly”.
– In contrast, submissive communication
involves “giving in” to others.
Individuals who use this style report feeling
bad about being “pushovers”.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued
The nature of assertiveness, continued
– Aggressive communication is different from
assertiveness and “focuses on saying and
getting what you want at the expense of
– Assertive communication is more adaptive than
either submissive or aggressive
communication, and is a skill that can be
learned through assertiveness training.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued
Steps in assertiveness training:
1. Understand what assertive communication is.
Don’t forget about nonverbal cues.
2. Monitor your assertive communication.
Identify when you are not assertive, find out
who intimidates you, on what topics, and in
which situations.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued
Steps in assertiveness training, continued
3. Observe a model’s assertive communication.
4. Practice assertive communication by using
Covert rehearsal – imagine using
assertiveness in a situation that requires it.
Role playing – ask a friend to play the role
of an antagonist so you can practice.
5. Adopt an assertive attitude.