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Interpersonal Skills

Communication is a process that human beings undertake either consciously or unconsciously. It is a process that human beings undertake in their daily activities. Both verbal and non-verbal methods are used in communication to deliver message and create understanding between the sender and the receiver. “Communication is the process of sharing ideas, thoughts, and feelings with other people and having those ideas, thoughts, and feelings understood by the people we are talking with” (Galvin & Wilkinson, p. 5). Communication involves speaking, listening and observations. Communication failure is caused by breakdown of the link between the sender and the receiver. Measures should be put in place to avoid communication failure by preventing barriers to effective communication.
An overview of the communication process
Communication process involves sending and receiving information from one person to another. The sender encodes the information in a manner that will be understood by the receiver. After encoding the message, the sender sends it through a media to the receiver. After receipt of the message the receiver decodes the contents of the message to interpret the message contained in it. Feedback is required from the receiver to the sender to make the whole process a closed loop. If any of the processes is skipped there is communication breakdown and this may cause poor communication or complete failure of the entire process (Galvin & Wilkinson, p. 5). The communication process involves both verbal and non-verbal communication such that the sender and receiver develop understanding about a particular issue.
Barriers to effective communication
There are four types of barriers to effective communication: physical barriers, linguistic barriers, cultural barriers and emotional barriers. Physical barriers refer to the factors in the environment, challenging stimulus, subjective strain and media ignorance. These physical barriers prevent people from communicating effectively and they may cause poor delivery of information. Examples of physical barriers include closed office doors, people working in an organization separate sections which are physically separated and others. Environmental barriers include high humidity, too much light, poor ventilation, unfavorable temperatures and others. Challenging stimulus is experienced for example when there is noise or when the sender and receiver are separated by a large distance. These aspects may cause sending or receiving the wrong message. Subjective strain occurs when the people involved in communication are affected by stress, sleeplessness, medicinal effects and other factors which may cause poor understanding of the message. Media ignorance is experienced when the receiver is not aware of the medium used by the sender to send the message (Mystic Madness, para. 3).
Linguistic barriers are the factors that are caused by differences in languages and vocabulary. Language consists of words which are used as symbols for communicating ideas. The sender and the receiver interpret words during communication process in their own way. Misinterpretation of the message may result from differences in the languages used in communication. If the sender uses difficult language, the receiver may get a different interpretation of the message. To avoid misinterpretation the sender should format the message in a language that can be understood by the receiver. The sender should send the message in the language of the receiver to avoid confusion and poor interpretation (Mystic Madness, para. 4).
There are many cultures in the world and this creates diversity in the communication methods. A culture refers to the attitudes, believes and norms that a group of people have in common. Some aspects of culture which create communication barriers are “age, social position, mental differences or thinking behavior, economic status, political views, values and rules, ethics or standards, motives and priorities” (Mystic Madness, para. 5). Culture affects communication when people from different cultural backgrounds are involved in the communication process. An example of cultural barriers can be seen where a Muslim and a Christian communicate. The two people may fail to understand each other due to different religious backgrounds. Today, globalization has taken effect and many people interact with each other. Cultural diversity is experienced when working with the global communities and creating unity among all people sometimes becomes a major challenge especially to managers of multinational companies. Communicating with people from diversified cultural backgrounds is a great challenge because there are differences in the way of encoding and decoding messages depending on the cultural background of a person (Mystic Madness, para. 7).
People take situations differently and according to their emotions. Thoughts are the bases for communication and determine the direction communication will take place. When people react suddenly to the messages received, the meaning may be distorted. The receiver should wait until the sender completes sending the message for effective communication to take place. Unfair assumptions may be made about the information contained in the message. For example, a manager may assume that his/her subordinates have understood everything explained to them concerning certain issues. Terror is an emotion that makes people think slowly and/or distort the message send to them. Some people defend themselves when they fail to communicate properly to avoid degradation. Over confidence about oneself also affects the message send by the sender. Such people do not accept that they are wrong neither do they accept the fact that they have inadequate knowledge about something. This makes communication ineffective because the information may be distorted by ignorance and failure to accept the fact that there is inadequate knowledge about a specific issue (Mystic Madness, para. 6).
Factors that assist effective communication
Active listening is one of the factors that assist effective communication. According to Nolan (p. 17), active listening “includes encouraging someone to talk to you, letting him or her know that you are interested, concerned and supportive, and allowing him or her space, time and attention to express feelings and concerns.” Through active listening people are able to get the message that a sender has encoded. When there is breakdown in the listening process people fail to get the intended message and this may lead to misinterpretation of the initial message. The manner in which a person listens determines how easy another person will be in communicating with them. A response is required when communicating with people to ensure they are encouraged to continue passing on the message. Giving no response hinders communication and makes the sender of information fail to communicate effectively. Responding to a person during communication encourages them to provide all the ideas they have (Nolan, p. 17).
Assertive communication is a strategy used to improve communication and to remove barriers to communication. According to Hopkins (para. 1), “assertive communication is the ability to express positive and negative ideas and feelings in an open, honest and direct way.” Through assertive communication a person is able to identify his/her rights and respect the rights of other people. People are able to become responsible for their actions without judgment or placing blame on other people. Conflicts are resolved amicably when assertive communication is applied (Hopkins, para. 2). For example, when managers communicate negative information to employees in an open and honest manner, the employees tend to believe them and this provides a good environment for communication.
Being empathetic about other people is a good strategy of improving communication between people in an organization. Empathy refers to the state of placing oneself to the feelings of other people. For effective communication to take place the sender and receiver must be empathetic about each other to ensure that the intended message is delivered. Learning the emotions of other people to know how they are feeling is important when communicating. Effective communication can only be achieved when there is proper understanding of all environmental factors (Ray, para. 1). When a person is empathetic he/she is sensitive about the feelings of others and is able to communicate properly. Understanding the feelings of other people helps deliver information according to the prevailing conditions and deters a person from communicating when not necessary. For example, a manager communicating information about retrenching some employees should do so in an empathetic manner to avoid adverse reactions from employees.
Effective feedback is an important aspect that improves communication. Feedback system is effective when it is timely, specific, the giver owns it, the receiver understands it, provided in a good environment and supported by an action plan. Feedback is timely when delivered in good time before adverse effects are experienced. For example, the employees should be provided with feedback about their performance before they go on strike. Specific feedback is one that addresses the issues affecting people in an organization. The giver of the feedback owns it by taking responsibility of the ideas appended on the feedback. For example, it is good to use the words “I” and “My” when delivering feedback to people because is creates a sense of responsibility from the person delivering the feedback. In an organization, the giver of the feedback should ask the recipients to rephrase it to get ideas whether they have understood it. A supportive environment is required when delivering feedback because this will prevent alterations on the feedback (Morfeld, p. 1).
Effective communication can only be achieved by proper planning and preparation. The sender must ensure that he/she prepares the information to be communicated to avoid confusion. The message is encoded in a manner that can be understood by the receiver. A good plan about the channels of communication should be made to ensure that no interruptions are experienced when communicating. Planning and preparation should consider all factors which will make the receiver get the right information at the right time. The sender should encode the message in a manner that can be understood by the receiver (Galvin and Wilkinson, p. 6).
Suggestions for strategies to improve communication                                                
In an organization, managers have the obligation of ensuring proper channels of communication are in existence to avoid poor communication. Today technology has played a major role in improving the living standards of people. Technology in communication can be applied to ensure that information is sent and received effectively. Some examples of technologies in communication include the internet, Information Technology, technological machines and others (DeVito, p. 42). Resolving conflicts is a good strategy of improving communication within an organization because conflicts emanate from poor communication. Strategies to improve communication in an organization should be developed by all stakeholders in an organization. Engaging all people ensure that there is proper understanding of the decisions made and eliminates rejection of such decisions.
Creating a good environment for communication should be used as a strategy to improve communication. This means that the sender should consider communicating when there is favorable climate to avoid misinterpretation of information. In addition, managers should develop skills of identifying the best environment to communicate certain information to the employees. To create a good environment, the manager should be empathetic about the feelings and reaction of employees after receiving specific information. Delivering either a positive or a negative message requires preparing people physiologically to receive the message and avoid over reaction.
Communication is an important tool which is used to send information from one party to another. There are several barriers to communication which may affect effective communication and managers should be aware of these barriers to avoid frustrations when communicating. Effective communication can only be achieved by removing all barriers of communication and providing a good environment for the sender and receiver of information to express and receive the message. Modern technologies in communication should be utilized to improve communication and to ensure that barriers to communication are eliminated. Managers should provide a good environment for effective communication to take place in an organization. Therefore, adequate measures should be put in place to avoid communication failure by preventing barriers to effective communication.

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