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Interpersonal Communication

Barriers in Interpersonal Communication and Importance of Barrier Removal

Writing Skills

Letter Writing

Active Listening


Conducting Project Meetings

43.1 Communication

The purpose of communication is to get your message across to others clearly and unambiguously.

Doing this involves effort from both the sender of the message and the receiver. And it's a process that

can be fraught with error, with messages often misinterpreted by the recipient. When this isn't detected,

it can cause tremendous confusion, wasted effort and missed opportunity. In fact, communication is

only successful when both the sender and the receiver understand the same information as a result of the

communication. By successfully getting your message across, you convey your thoughts and ideas

effectively. When not successful, the thoughts and ideas that you send do not necessarily reflect your

own, causing a communications breakdown and creating roadblocks that stand in the way of your goals

– both personally and professionally.

In a recent survey of recruiters from companies with more than 50,000 employees, communication skills

were cited as the single more important decisive factor in choosing managers. The survey, conducted by

the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Business School, points out that communication skills, including

written and oral presentations, as well as an ability to work with others, are the main factor contributing

to job success.

In spite of the increasing importance placed on communication skills, many individuals continue to

struggle, unable to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively – whether in verbal or written

format. This inability makes it nearly impossible for them to compete effectively in the workplace, and

stands in the way of career progression.

Getting your message across is paramount to progressing. To do this, you must understand what your

message is, what audience you are sending it to, and how it will be perceived. You must also weigh-in

the circumstances surrounding your communications, such as situational and cultural context.

Communication In the context of Project Manager

Project Communication Management provides a critical link between “people, ideas, & information” at

all stages in Project Life Cycle. Communication in Project Management is a formal process aid in

“decision making” & help to achieve a successful project. Approximately 70-90% of a typical Project

Manager’s time is spent in Communication according to the following proportion:

Approximately 45% - Listening.

Another ~30%- Talking.

PM's spend ~ 50% of time in meetings.

Communication Management Plan defines how & when various stakeholder receive information &

communicate with each other. Memos, emails etc. are non-formal communication types. Total number

of communication channels between stakeholders is given by the following relationship.

N(N - 1)/2 (where N is the number of stakeholders)


It means that if there are 10 stakeholder in a project, that project will have 45 channels of


Cost of Correspondence

One page business letter that took 10 min to dictate cost between $13.60 & $20.52 in 1996. one can

imagine its cost today. poor writing costs even more since it wastes time, wastes effort and jeopardizes


Characteristics of Effective Communication

Following are some of the characteristics of effective communication.

  • Fostering an “Open Communication Climate.
  • Committing to “Ethical Communication.
  • Understanding–”Dynamics of Intercultural Communication”.
  • Becoming Proficient in Communication Technology.
  • Using an “Audience Centered Approach”.
  • Creating & Processing Messages Efficiently”.

In series of transmission form one person to next, message becomes less & less accurate. Poor retention

of information is another serious problem. It necessitates repeating message & using several channels. It

will obviously require use more than one channel to Communication same message.

Figure 43.1: Percentage of Understanding Lost in Communication

Figure 43.2: Information Loss in Downward Communication


Techniques to Improve Organization Communication

Following are some of the techniques, or process improvements that can improve the communication in

any organization.

  • Emphasis on Teamwork
  • Improve Reporting System
  • Focus on Employees Participation & Involvement
  • Improve Management System
  • Change Organizational Culture
  • Flatter Hierarchy
  • Cross Functional Teams
  • Fewer Control

The function of communication is to provide form in which ideas & purposes can be expressed as

Message. Vocabulary, language, & knowledge play important role in sender’s ability to encode.

43.2 Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication is the process of sending and receiving information between two or more

people. Communication is interpersonal when the people involved are contacting each other as persons,

on a personal level.

Effective Communication is much more than simply transmitting information to employees. It requires

face-to-face contact in environment of “Openness & Trust”. Several aspects of Interpersonal

communication include Talking, Listening, Reading, Writing and the more formalized aspects such as

conducting meetings, interviews etc. and so on.

Elements of Good Talking

  • Voice Quality
  • Talking Style
  • Word Choice and Vocabulary

Three Broad Types of Interpersonal Communication:

  • Oral
  • Written
  • Nonverbal
Oral Communication consists of all forms of spoken Information & Most preferred type of

Communication used by Managers. Managers prefer face-to-face & Tele Communication to written

Communication because it permits immediate feedback.

Written Communication Letters, memos, policy manuals, reports, forms, & other documents are used

to share Information in Organization.

Types of Nonverbal Communication

  • Body Language
  • Space
  • Time
  • Para language
  • Color
  • Layout and Design

43.3 Barriers against Effective Interpersonal Communication

Emotions Sometimes when people communicate an idea or matter across, the receiver can feel how the

sender perceives the subject matter. Often messages are interpreted differently for different people.

Extreme emotions are most likely to hinder effective communication because the idea or message


maybe misinterpreted. It's always best to avoid responding or reacting to the subject matter when you're

upset or angry because most of the time, you'll not be able to think in a clear manner.

This is where the sender manipulates the information that he communicates to the receiver.

The purpose of this is because sometimes people would shape and reform the message so that it appears

and sounds favorable to the receiver. Filtering information may mislead the receiver into thinking into

something favorable and the let down may be upsetting if it's found out that information has been


Overloaded with Information Too much information about the same subject matter may be confusing.

For example, you have 50 e-mails on the same subject matter, each e-mail contains a little part of the

subject matter. It would be better to have one e-mail from the sender which includes all the information

in clear and simple form with only the information you want that you asked for. Normally, the human

brain can only take in so much information to process, overloading it with information will exceed our

human processing capacity, and the receiver would often misunderstand or not understand at all what

the sender is telling them.

Defensiveness Humans tend to refuse for a mutual understanding when they feel that they are being

threatened or are put in a position which they are at a disadvantage. Defensiveness normally consists of

attacking what the sender tells you, putting out sarcastic remarks, questioning their motives or being

overly judgmental about the subject matter.

Cultural Difference Sometimes our culture may be a huge hindrance for effective interpersonal

communication. When two people with different cultures communicate, they often do not understand

each other's cultures and may misunderstand the true meaning of what each other's trying to convey

through such a sense. For example, Japanese people would say 'ha-i' and Americans may misunderstand

that they are saying "hi". This makes the intentions unclear between both people.

Jargon Not everyone understands each other's jargon words. Jargon should be avoided when talking to

someone who isn't familiar with you personally or within your organization.

43.3.1 The importance of removing barriers

Problems with communication can pop-up at every stage of the communication process (which consists

of sender, encoding, channel, decoding, receiver, feedback and context - see the diagram below) and

have the potential to create misunderstanding and confusion.

Figure 43.3: The Communication Process

To be an effective communicator and to get your point across without misunderstanding and confusion,

your goal should be to lessen the frequency of these problems at each stage of this process with clear,

concise, accurate, well-planned communications. We follow the process through below:



As the source of the message, you need to be clear about why you're communicating, and what you want

to communicate. You also need to be confident that the information you're communicating is useful and



The message is the information that you want to communicate.


This is the process of transferring the information you want to communicate into a form that can be sent

and correctly decoded at the other end. Your success in encoding depends partly on your ability to

convey information clearly and simply, but also on your ability to anticipate and eliminate sources of

confusion (for example, cultural issues, mistaken assumptions, and missing information.) A key part of

this is knowing your audience: Failure to understand who you are communicating with will result in

delivering messages that are misunderstood.


Messages are conveyed through channels, with verbal including face-to-face meetings, telephone and

videoconferencing; and written including letters, emails, memos and reports.

Different channels have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, it's not particularly effective

to give a long list of directions verbally, while you'll quickly cause problems if you criticize someone

strongly by email.


Just as successful encoding is a skill, so is successful decoding (involving, for example, taking the time

to read a message carefully, or listen actively to it.) Just as confusion can arise from errors in encoding,

it can also arise from decoding errors. This is particularly the case if the decoder doesn't have enough

knowledge to understand the message.


Your message is delivered to individual members of your audience. No doubt, you have in mind the

actions or reactions you hope your message will get from this audience. Keep in mind, though, that each

of these individuals enters into the communication process with ideas and feelings that will undoubtedly

influence their understanding of your message, and their response. To be a successful communicator,

you should consider these before delivering your message, and act appropriately.


Your audience will provide you with feedback, verbal and nonverbal reactions to your communicated

message. Pay close attention to this feedback as it is the only thing that allows you to be confident that

your audience has understood your message. If you find that there has been a misunderstanding, at least

you have the opportunity to send the message a second time.


The situation in which your message is delivered is the context. This may include the surrounding

environment or broader culture (i.e. corporate culture, international cultures, etc.).


Many people are intimidated by writing. Even so, there are times when writing is the best way to

communicate, and often the only way to get your message across.

Write With Necessary Caution

When writing, remember that once something is in written form, it cannot be taken back.

Communicating this way is concrete than verbal communications, with less room for error and even less


room for mistakes. This presents written communicators with additional challenges, including spelling,

grammar, punctuation, even writing style and actual wording.

Thankfully, today’s technology makes memo, letter and proposal writing much easier by providing

reliable tools that check and even correct misspelled words and incorrect grammar use. Unfortunately,

these tools are not foolproof and will require your support, making your knowledge in this area


The Importance of "Style"

Some of the most basic tips to remember when writing include:

  • Avoid slang words
  • Try not to use abbreviations (unless appropriately defined)
  • Steer away from the symbols (such as ampersands [&])
  • Clichés should be avoided, or at the very least, used with caution
  • Brackets are used to play down words or phrases
  • Dashes are generally used for emphasis
  • Great care should ALWAYS be taken to spell the names of people and companies correctly
  • Numbers should be expressed as words when the number is less than 10 or is used to start a sentence (example: Ten years ago, my brother and I…). The number 10, or anything greater than

10, should be expressed as a figure (example: My brother has 13 Matchbox cars.)

Quotation marks should be placed around any directly quoted speech or text and around titles of


Keep sentences short

While these tips cover the most common mistakes made when writing letters, memos and reports, they

in no way cover everything you need to know to ensure your written communications are accurate

and understood.

While this takes some practice, there are many sources available to assist with writing style, including

“The Elements of Style”, by Strunk and White. One glance in any newsroom or on the desk of even the

most accomplished writers and you are sure to find this small, easy-to-understand, no-nonsense guide to

writing. It is clear, concise and perhaps the best book of its kind. If you plan on writing a great deal of

letters or even proposals, it is strongly recommended that you pick up this nifty guide, which by the

way, will fit in your shirt pocket.

43.5 Letter Writing

When writing letters, it is best to address the letter to an individual. And, when beginning the letter with

a personal name, be sure to end it with an appropriate closing, such as ‘Sincerely yours’. If you cannot

obtain an individual’s name, consider ending it with a more generic (less personal) closing, such as

‘With kindest regards’.

For normal business letters, your letter should start with an overall summary, showing in the first

paragraph why the letter is relevant to the reader. It’s not a good practice to make the reader go past the

first paragraph to find out why the letter was sent to them.

The body of the letter needs to explain the reason for the correspondence, including any relevant

background and current information. Make sure the information flows logically, ensuring you are

making your points effectively.

The closing of the letter is the final impression you leave with the reader. End with an action point, such

as ‘I will call you later this week to discuss this further’.

The Importance of Careful Proofing

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when writing a letter is to check it thoroughly when it is

completed. Even when you think it is exactly what you want, read it one more time. This “unwritten”

rule holds true for everything you write – memos, letters, proposals, etc.

Use both the grammar and spell check on your computer, paying very, very close attention to every

word highlighted. Do not place total faith on your computer here. Instead, you should have both a

dictionary and thesaurus (printed or online) to hand to double-check everything your computer's editing

tools highlight, as these tools are certainly not always reliable, for a variety of reasons.


When checking your written communications, make sure the document is clear and concise. Is there

anything in the written communication that could be misinterpreted? Does it raise unanswered questions

or fail to make the point you need to get across?

Can you cut down on the number of words used? For instance, don’t use 20 words when you can use 10.

While you do not want to be curt or abrupt, you do not want to waste the reader’s time with unnecessary

words or phrases.

Is your written communication well organized? Does each idea proceed logically to the next? Would

some additional headings help? Make sure your written communications are easy to read and contain

the necessary information, using facts where needed and avoiding information that is not relevant.

Again, outline the course of action you expect, such as a return call or visit.

Close appropriately, making sure to include your contact information. While this may seem obvious, it

is sometimes overlooked and can make your written communications look amateurish. This can

diminish your chances of meeting your written communication’s goals.

43.6 Active Listening

It is obvious to say that if you have poor interpersonal communications skills (which include active

listening), your productivity will suffer simply because you do not have the tools needed to influence,

persuade and negotiate – all necessary for workplace success. Lines of communications must be open

between people who rely on one another to get work done.

Considering this, you must be able to listen attentively if you are to perform to expectations, avoid

conflicts and misunderstandings, and to succeed - in any arena. Following are a few short tips to help

you enhance your communications skills and to ensure you are an active listener:

1. Start by Understanding Your Own Communication Style

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. Understanding your personal style of

communicating will go a long way toward helping you to create good and lasting impressions on others.

By becoming more aware of how others perceive you, you can adapt more readily to their styles of

communicating. This does not mean you have to be a chameleon, changing with every personality you

meet. Instead, you can make another person more comfortable with you by selecting and emphasizing

certain behaviors that fit within your personality and resonate with another. In doing this, you will

prepare yourself to become an active listener.

2. Be an Active Listener

People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute (WPM), but they can listen intelligently at up to 300 words

per minute. Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into mind drift - thinking

about other things while listening to someone. The cure for this is active listening - which involves

listening with a purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve

problems, share interest, see how another person feels, show support, etc.

If you're finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their

words mentally as they say it - this will reinforce their message and help you control mind drift.

3. Use Nonverbal Communication

Use nonverbal behaviors to raise the channel of interpersonal communication. Nonverbal

communication is facial expressions like smiles, gestures, eye contact, and even your posture. This

shows the person you are communicating with that you are indeed listening actively and will prompt

further communications while keeping costly, time-consuming misunderstandings at a minimum.

4. Give Feedback

Remember that what someone says and what we hear can be amazingly different! Our personal filters,

assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. Repeat back or summarize to ensure that

you understand. Restate what you think you heard and ask, "Have I understood you correctly?" If you

find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: "I

may not understand you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought

you just said is XXX; is that what you meant?"


Feedback is a verbal communications means used to clearly demonstrate you are actively listening and

to confirm the communications between you and others. Obviously, this serves to further ensure the

communications are understood and is a great tool to use to verify everything you heard while actively


43.7 Presentation Planning Checklist

This presentation checklist will help you deliver successful presentation. This is adapted in part from

“Business Communications: A Cultural and Strategic Approach” by Michael J. Rouse and Sandra



Does your introduction grab participant’s attention and explain your objectives?

Do you follow this by clearly defining the points of the presentation?

Are these main points in logical sequence?

Do these flow well?

Do the main points need support from visual aids?

Does your closing summarize the presentation clearly and concisely?

Is the conclusion strong?

Have your tied the conclusion to the introduction?


Are you knowledgeable about the topic covered in your presentation?

Do you have your notes in order?

Where and how will you present (indoors, outdoors, standing, sitting, etc.)?

Have you visited the presentation site?

Have you checked your visual aids to ensure they are working and you know how to use them?


Make sure you are dressed and groomed appropriately and in keeping with the audience’s expectations.

Practice your speech standing (or sitting, if applicable), paying close attention to your body language,

even your posture, both of which will be assessed by the audience.

Visual Aids:

Are the visual aids easy to read and easy to understand?

Are they tied into the points you are trying to communicate?

Can they be easily seen from all areas of the room?

43.8 Running Effective Project Meetings

Meetings are wonderful tools for generating ideas, expanding on thoughts and managing group activity.

But this face-to-face contact with team members and colleagues can easily fail without adequate

preparation and leadership.

The Importance of Preparation

To ensure everyone involved has the opportunity to provide their input, start your meeting off on the

right foot by designating a meeting time that allows all participants the time needed to adequately


Once a meeting time and place has been chosen, make yourself available for questions that may arise as

participants prepare for the meeting. If you are the meeting leader, make a meeting agenda, complete

with detailed notes.


Managing a Meeting

Choosing the right participants is key to the success of any meeting. Make sure all participants can

contribute and choose good decision-makers and problem-solvers. Try to keep the number of

participants to a maximum of 12, preferably fewer. Make sure the people with the necessary information

for the items listed in the meeting agenda are the ones that are invited.

When an agenda item is resolved or action is agreed upon, make it clear who in the meeting will be

responsible for this. In an effort to bypass confusion and misunderstandings, summarize the action to be

taken and include this in the meeting’s minutes.

Time Keeping

Meetings are notorious for eating up people's time. Here are some ways of ensuring that time is not

wasted in meetings:

Start on time.

Don't recap what you've covered if someone comes in late: doing so sends the message that it is OK

to be late for meetings, and it wastes everyone else's valuable time.

State a finish time for the meeting and don't over-run.

To help stick to the stated finish time, arrange your agenda in order of importance so that if you

have to omit or rush items at the end to make the finish time, you don't omit or skimp on important


Finish the meeting before the stated finish time if you have achieved everything you need to.

Issuing Minutes

Minutes record the decisions of the meeting and the actions agreed. They provide a record of the

meeting and, importantly, they provide a review document for use at the next meeting so that progress

can be measured - this makes them a useful disciplining technique as individuals' performance and nonperformance

of agreed actions is given high visibility.

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