How to Add Polish to Your Interpersonal Communication


E-mail, IM, Skype, phone, snail mail — there are more vehicles for communication than ever before.   But when it comes to truly effective communication, there is nothing as good as face-to-face meetings.  That’s because more than 90 percent of the communication we do is nonverbal.  How can you possibly accomplish your communications objectives if the person you are communicating with receives only 10 percent of your message?

Add Strength to Your Words.  When I was growing up I was repeatedly told, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”  That’s what nonverbal communication speaks to. When you meet with someone, you have the opportunity to send your entire message and they have the ability to truly embrace it.  You can share the tone and volume with your voice and place emphasis on certain words.  Your facial expressions, gestures, and body language convey additional meaning that is totally lost with computer-based communications.  There is little room for misunderstanding.

Power Up Your Nonverbal Communication.  When you get together with someone, they have the chance to experience the real you.  If you want to make a good impression you’ll dress properly, and make sure your hair and nails are clean.  You’ll lead with a firm handshake that demonstrates self-confidence and follow up with good eye contact and a winning smile.

Tune In to feedback. Meeting with someone is more personal than using high tech lines of communication.  It gives you the opportunity to build a bond and establish trust.  When you’re talking, you get immediate feedback from the person you are with.  If the response is not what you expected or hoped for, you are in a position to modify it on the spot.

Ramp Up Your Listening Skills. A face-to-face meeting give you the opportunity to listen.  And listening is the most important communication skill we have.  After all, you don’t learn anything when you are talking.  You already know all about what you have to say.  It is when we listen to others that we have the chance to learn about them and what they are sharing.

Being an effective listener means asking open-ended questions and listening carefully to the answers.  Avoid the tendency to interrupt or advise.  Cultivate the ability to make the person you are listening to feel like they are the center of your world while they are speaking.  Let them see how interested you are in what they have to say — even if you really aren’t.  Actively listen.  That means listening intently and processing the information so you are in a position to respond in a thoughtful manner.  Be sure to read between the lines.  And be cognizant of their nonverbal behaviors.

Show That You Care.  Face-to-face communication is an opportunity to establish a common bond.  Make an effort to find an interest that you share. Be sincere.  Be interested.  Be giving. Supplementing your newly polished communication skills with the knowledge you care can work miracles with your interpersonal communication.

Author: Carol Dunitz, Ph.D.

Carol Dunitz, Ph.D. is president of The Last Word LLC, a communication and creative services company.  She is a professional speaker and author of ‘Louder Than Thunder,’ a parable about listening and interpersonal communication.  Dunitz is the playwright, lyricist and composer of ‘Bernhardt on Broadway,’ a musical about Sarah Bernhardt.  She can be reached at 312.523.4774, or

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How to Overcome Blocks to Effective Listening


You have probably heard the saying “we have two ears and one mouth”, implying that we should be listening twice as much as speaking in order to truely connect, understand and communicate with others. Often our thoughts and actions can have an adverse effect on our ability to listen effectively. Let’s look at a few key aspects that relate to this and the skills and techniques we can apply:

1. Assumptions 

Avoid clouding up your listening attention with assumptions about what your client is trying to say, what they really mean, what they want you to hear, etc.  Assumptions are often not accurate and they could certainly prevent you from focusing on what’s being said.  To manage this situation, you can say within your mind “If I’m assuming, I’m not listening.” Tune in on any possible assumptions they might be making based on what you hear. If you feel you need to, check-in with them by asking a question to “pop” any possible assumption and provide clarity for both you and them.

2. Buzz Words

Your prospect or client may have private buzz words which have a definite emotional charge, sometimes positive, sometimes more negative.  When you hear their own buzz words, it may be appropriate to reject or accept the whole message on the basis of their instant emotional reaction to the word or idea.  If you get hooked into the buzz word and its emotional intention, the listening stops.

3. Interruptions

In our haste to share our own ideas, we cut others off. This conveys to your client that you do not value what they have to say, and this can result in the perception of lack of respect. If you have something to say, hold the thought while staying focused on listening to the other person. This may not come easy, but it is important to stay committed towards developing this skill. Make sure they finish their sentence or their message they are trying to communicate and keep the discussion flowing.

4.  Generalisations

If you feel they are generalizing too much, ask them to be more specific. You can do this by asking questions that start with the following:

 “What specifically …”

 “How specifically …”

 “Who specifically …”.


What specifically would you like to achieve during this meeting?”

 How specifically can I be of service to you right now?”

 Who specifically would be most suitable to help you develop the project plan?”


Effective Communication: Serious vs. Funny


Effective communication can be achieved in a serious, formal, funny or informal way.

Check out this video and have a think about what style suits you best.

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