I wrote this module to be presented in Leadership Center Pratama class, March 2007. I promised to publish it in this site. Besides, I hope that this module will be useful for they who are interested in communication. This module is very simple and fundamental because I only had approximately 1.5 hours speaking about communication to students from other departments. That’s why I talked about interpersonal communication, the very basic skill in communication. Suppose you are interested to know more about communication, just feel free to add comments. Happy reading.

A Glance of Interpersonal Communication

To be presented in LC Pratama, March 2007

Written by Ria Angelia Wibisono©*

What will you do if I ask you to communicate? I’m sure that most of you will speak! Thinking that communication = speaking is very common. That’s why people think that if you are a good speaker, you are a good communicator too. If you learn communication study in university, they will teach you to speak. If you are not speaking, it means you are not doing any communication. Is it right? Yes, but not absolutely right.

So, What is Communication?          

Waltzlawick, Beavin and Jackson made a famous statement: ‘we cannot not communicate’. This statement is based on the understanding that communication is not always intentional, it can happen unintentionally. That’s why, Miller defined communication as a process when someone brings message to others intentionally to influence the receiver’s behavior. On the other hand, there are some definitions that state communication as a process to share meanings, even if the sender of message doesn’t mean to do it         

But a good formula of communication came from Laswell, who said that to describe communication, we must answer the question who says what in which channel to whom with what effect. From this formula, it is clear that communication consists of :                

Who     says what    in which channel    to whom   with what effect

Sender  message         channel              receiver           effect

Some people said that effective communication happens when the receiver get the same effect as the sender wished. But others said it has happened after the sender sent messages, no matter what effect the receiver gets. I’d rather use the first condition to define an effective communication in this class. I think in organization or committee, it is very important to ensure that there’s no misunderstanding or misinterpretation among the members.

Nonverbal Communication: Communicating Beyond Words

Back to the concept that communication can be unintentionally, I want to explain about nonverbal communication. According to Larry Samovar and Richard E. Porter, nonverbal communication involves all stimuli (except verbal stimuli) in a communication setting that have potential message for the person. It can be both intentionally and unintentionally, but usually there are more unintentional messages in nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal communication is very significant in interpersonal communication. Ray L. Birdwhistell said that 65% of face-to-face communication is nonverbal, while Albert Mehrabian said that 93% meaning of face-to-face communication is gained from nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication can be behavior such as body gesture, face expression, appearance, eye contact, touch, odor, and paralinguistic; and also space, time, and silence. So, you must not forget those factors in communicating with others. Remember, everything in you bring messages to others.

Nonverbal communication is more likely to be misunderstood rather than verbal, because it’s hard to control people’s perception about you. So, realize your nonverbal factors. Manage them in a way that people can get the right perception you want about your self. For example, when you become a leader, you must create a positive aura about you in people’s mind. Put on fashionable clothes to make them thinking that you are up-to-date. Speak with clear articulation, calm tone, so they know you are a nice. Have a regular eye-contact while speaking with them; it communicates your self confidence. Be on time, keep your promise, let them see your integrity.


Communicating : What For?

You may ask why must we study communication? Why the committee of this Leadership Center put communication as one of the material? For your information, Thomas Harrel, a professor in business from Stanford University said that the most significant factor that make a people success is his/her habit to speak. And John Callen said that the most important thing for a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is his/her expertise in communication.                

Communication is a way to get your basic needs (according to Abraham Maslow, the basic needs of human are physical needs, safety, social needs, rewarding and self-actualization). By communicating, you actualize your self. You tell people about your presence among them. If you choose not to communicate intentionally, you let them make a wrong conclusion about you. For example if you don’t speak up your thoughts in a meeting, they will conclude that you have no idea while you may have some.          

If you have a good communication habit, you will have a good health. If you like to keep your problems for your self, you don’t want to share it with others, be careful, you will get cancer easily. But if you manage conflict by wrong communication action: explosive anger, aggressive… you will get a heart attack soon. When you are lack of action that communicates affection and care, you will be a rude people. Good communication makes you happy, and it can create a great relationship with others.          

All of you are students and someday you’ll become architects, industrial engineers, designers, contractors, managers, and so on. That’s all because of communication! By communicating, your teachers and lecturers don’t keep their knowledge for themselves but share it with you.

Another Reason to Learn Communication

 *      There are seven first-order interpersonal skills you need to survive in the working place: interpreting other’s behavior, presenting yourself, communicating, persuading, using power, working in groups and meetings, leading and facilitating groups and meetings. All of those skills actually based on your communication skill, right?

*      Intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence are two of the seven multiple intelligences. Those kinds of intelligence can be developed by communication. So, to be called a multi-intelligent people you must be a good communicator!

*      Communication is irreversible. You can’t undo your spoken words just like you edit your file in Microsoft Word. So, you have to manage your communication so that it won’t bring bad effect to anybody.

Self Concept: Know Your Self Better, Love Your Self More         

After you know the advantages of communication, I’ll explain you first about self-concept. Communication is closely related to self-concept. To be a good communicator, you must have a positive self-concept. You must think positively about your self. Self-affirmation can be a way to increase positive self-concept. Start your day telling to your self how beautiful, smart, and nice you are. Know your self better day by day, and let people know more about you too.         

 Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham found a model called Johari window. In this window you can see that people have four areas in themselves. 

The Johari Window

  Open(you know, people know)   Blind(people know, you don’t)
 Hidden(you know, people don’t)  Unknown(you don’t know,people don’t know) 

          The first two windows on the top are public areas, while the others are private area. The public areas are parts of your self known by others. If you know that you are stubborn and people know it too, we can put this fact in the open area. If people know that you are lazy but you don’t realize it, put it in the blind area. In hidden area, you hide facts about your self from others. In unknown area, there are your personalities that are unknown both for you and others.          

It’s the best when your open area is bigger than others. It means that people know you as well as you do. If they know you better than your self, you must wait until somebody tells you that you are talented in singing because you can’t find it by your self! If you hide too much from others, it won’t be easy to make friendship with them. It will hard for them to speak to you since they know nothing about you. And if your unknown area is very big, I suggest you to take some personality tests to discover who you really are.


Some Tips in Listening and Speaking          

After having good self-concept, which is the main base of communication (intrapersonal communication – your communication with your self), you will have to face others in interpersonal communication (daily communication between you and others, happens in two or more persons, but not too many, it will be a group communication). So, how to communicate effectively with others?

First, I want you to be a good listener. God creates us with two ears and just one mouth to make us listen more than speaking. You must remember that communication is not merely about sending messages, but also receiving it. If hearing is a normal process when your ear catches sound from environment, listening is more than that. Listening is the way you intentionally try to understand a message. You can listen to understand something, to evaluate, to appreciate or to show your empathy. To improve your listening skill, you can :

  • Improve attention
    1. Focus only on relevant details
    2. Have a clear purpose of listening
    3. Use extra time to summarize content and review structure
    4. Keep a positive attitude; don’t assume you’ll be bored
  • Improve interpretation by increasing comprehension
    1. Pay attention to content, not peripheral cues
    2. Separate inference from observation
    3. Prepare yourself by knowing about the topic
  • Improve interpretation by increasing acceptance
    1. Control your emotions
    2. Acknowledge your biases and delay final evaluation
  • Improve retention
    1. Decide what information needs to be stored
    2. Mentally rehearse and review material to be stored
    3. Use special memory aids
    4. Seek out feedback, i.e. ask questions

Then, how to deliver message successfully? You must really know about your receiver’s characters. The better you know them, the better you will communicate with them. Reading their nonverbal message is also essential to know their psychological condition when listening to you. There are some elements that make messages easy to process. I’ll mention it all and below those elements you can find some suggestions to use the elements in a way that help you communicate better.  

  • Elements that capture attention

a.      Increase voluntary attention (kind of attention that occurs when person willfully focus his attention on a stimulus because of his personal plans and goals) by tying messages to receiver’s goals, needs, and plans

b.      Increase involuntary attention (attention spontaneously attracted by the intrinsic properties of a stimulus, it lies outside one’s control) by presenting concrete, easily visualized idea

  • Elements that enhance interpretation by increasing comprehension
    1. Relate new material to familiar material
    2. Adapt messages to the learning and interest levels of your audience
    3. Provide opportunities for feedback – read their nonverbal message
    4. Use repetition
  • Elements that enhance interpretation by ensuring acceptance
    1. Relate proposals to receiver’s current beliefs
    2. Offer receivers an incentive for accepting your proposals
    3. Encourage audience members to make positive cognitive responses; increase their active involvement in processing you message
  • Elements that increase retention
    1. Use active rehearsal and repetition
    2. Make information personally relevant to receivers
    3. Associate recall with appropriate triggers
    4. Provide a simple, vivid summary of main ideas

Suggested Reading

To know more about self concept, you can read :

1.      Rakhmat, Jalaluddin. 2003.  Psikologi Komunikasi. Bandung: Remaja Rosdakarya 2.      Narramore, Mark. 2000. Menuju Citra Diri Kristus. Jakarta: Bina Communio

To know more about introduction to communication, you can read :Mulyana, Deddy. 2002. Ilmu Komunikasi: Suatu Pengantar. Bandung: Remaja Rosdakarya

To know more about human communication, you can read :Trenholm, Sarah. 2005. Thinking Through Communication.
Boston: Pearson Education, Inc

To know more about communication as interpersonal skills at work, you can read:Guirdham, Maureen. 1990. Interpersonal Skills at Work. Wiltshire: Prentice Hall