Effective Interpersonal Communication

Updated: Jan 18

One of my favorite classes in undergrad studying Marketing was Organizational Communication. It covered various forms of communicating with your staff and colleagues by first choosing the appropriate form to send a message.


We learned the importance of encoding a message so that it can be decoded unanimously by an audience. It’s best to be straight forward and intentionally clear to prevent ambiguous interpretation. What wasn't covered was EXACTLY HOW to phrase such messages. It’s likely assumed that human beings should naturally know the right way to phrase things simply by knowing the language being used. That's rarely the case and I've majored in communications - twice.


It’s been widely accepted as a practice our whole lives that we are supposed to know HOW to communicate with others. What is instead learned in our life, and generously exposed in the book Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erickson, is that everyone is different. How you should communicate per individual should vary based on the receiving ends personality.


I suppose then that it’s no secret this has trickled over into our business communications. Leaders and employees alike struggle with the most important ingredient in progressing a relationship - communication. I am an INFJ in the Myers Briggs personality type. Leaders of organizations have already failed if they are unaware of their staffs personality types.


Over the course of my career, working blue and white collar jobs every year since the age of 15, I’ve learned from incredible communicators. I’ve also worked for some rather miserable communicators as well. Cartoon characters have been made about the latter with raging blush red faces and smoke fuming from the ears. Most of the time when these instances occur, that individual is simply mad at themselves, because they unknowingly lack basic communication skills.


Yes, communication is a two way street. Employers could use a hand at communicating with their employees and those same employees can improve in their ability to communicate with their supervision also.


I find it interesting that there is a stark resemblance in communicating with your significant other as with your employer. They are one in the same. Having been in more relationships than I care to admit, I've learned that open communication is the key to a successful relationship. You have to be willing to speak honestly and directly with both your significant other and employment.


Understanding that you must be willing to take the risk to express your feelings, is important and key to your own sanity, even if it is considered to be a politically outlandish statement. As an employee, you risk losing your job to say what you believe, and as a significant other you could lose the love of your life. Both scenarios are not the end of the world and you have to truly believe that in order to express your feelings intently.


So get over that fear, because it is going to be fine either way. You can find another job (probably a better one) the same way you can find another love in your life. It's going to build character and resilience by your ability to express yourself honestly and openly.


Speaking Your Mind at a Startup

The culture in a start up is going to have less rules and regulations than in a corporate environment. This means it will be equally safe as it is risky to express opinions openly and candidly. This all depends on the level of relationship you have with your direct report. Which means that in order to build HR to be beneficial to the employee, matters should be addressed appropriately.


Leaders are worried about one thing, performance and growth. Start ups are trying to acquire enough profitability to be bought out so the founders and all investors can profit from their investment.


Cultural Background in Speaking Your Mind at Corporate

There are a lot of rules and regulations that you have to follow in a corporate environment. The best thing that you can do in this situation is to know the corporate handbook front to back. Read it and follow it and play the game within such rules.


Leaders talking to staff, negatively

Leaders that lack basic common courtesy when speaking to their employees is due to their risk involved. They have a family who's lives are in jeopardy if they make mistakes, and their own livelihood as well. If they lose their job because a lack of performance, they put their family and/or lifestyle at risk. This is why the senior leaders of a company drill into the next leader in line. It becomes a ripple effect all the way down to the most important roles in the company, the ones with direct customer relations. A lot of their communication style is about egoism.


The "you made me look bad to someone who values me enough to give me a handsome amount of money" is the tone most likely being used. In most cases they don't even realize they are the ones at fault. The blame always starts at the top, and it is usually an error in communication.


Let me share a valuable lesson I was on the receiving end with training my dog. Every time I found myself getting angry at her I eventually realized I was just mad at myself for not communicating the training methods to her correctly.


Are you doing a bunch of firing or having a handful of people quitting? I hate to break it to you but more than likely your leadership is the problem… Which usually comes from your lack of ability to communicate effectively.


Nobody wants to hear that they are the problem. After the first ripple from the founders who had their ego put in check for not delivering the return promised, the next person in the chain of command takes a reaming from the investors they want to then vent their frustration. That leader then gives the same discontent message to their directors who then convey it to the managers and the staff in similar fashion. And the cycle repeats itself from one problem to the next. The "I got bitched out, so let me bitch out who go me bitched out" model is washed up and everyone involved in such jargon is to blame for failing to communicate effectively.


Here's a friendly newsflash, there are always going to be problems. How you convey your message to your staff becomes a reflection of how you become perceived. If you put fear in your employees, they will always perform fearful and never at their best. Just like the lesson I learned training my dog, the best thing that I could have done was to figure out how I could be doing better before throwing angry unfiltered words, especially since I was the problem the entire time.


It is unfair to say that the leaders should all be effective altruists under the circumstances. I'd say the best leaders have self awareness, first and foremost. Another attribute that's vital to be categorized as a best leader, in addition to the ability to communicate, is the ability to encourage innovation and strategic thinking and enable the development of others.


Staff talking to leaders

Mean what you say and say what you mean. That's an ambigram of a sentence. We often time use filler words and fluff words when we are communicating that takes away from what we are intentionally meaning. Speak directly and speak honestly at all times is the best route to follow when communicating to your leaders - public relations 101. Let's say, for example, you want to find out if there is anything you can improve on at work. There are thousands of different ways to say this exact phrase, but say what you mean so you can mean what you say...


≠ I'd like to know some ways that I could be better.

≠ What are a few things I could get better at around here?

≠ I was wondering if you could tell me ways I need improve.

√ Tell me one way I can improve in my role.


We all can use a course to communicate better. We need to be mindful of how we to effectively communicate. Communicating simply is no longer good enough. The word effective means to produce a desired outcome. So to effectively communicate we need to focus on WHAT, HOW and WHEN to get your desired outcome.

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