What Is Interpersonal Communication?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 September 2022

Published 6 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interpersonal communication is an essential soft skill that facilitates the flow of work in an organisation. When employees within a company convey ideas to each other and the management concisely, their efficiency increases and they achieve their goals on time. Employers usually look for candidates who have good interpersonal communication skills and teamwork ethic to upgrade their teams. In this article, we will describe interpersonal communication, its types, how you can improve this skill and which professions it benefits most.

What Is Interpersonal Communication?

Interpersonal communication, also known as people communication, is the process of expressing your ideas and opinions to other people. There are many ways to communicate with others and get the work done, including face to face, digital and gestures or body language. An eloquent person usually tries to maintain cordial relations with colleagues and creates a cheerful atmosphere. Proper communication creates understanding between two people with distinct personalities. Here are some examples of interpersonal communication:

  • Active listening: Active listening is different from hearing. It is an exchange of thought, instead of a monologue. Active listening involves understanding the other person's statements carefully by paying attention and providing meaningful responses during the conversation.

  • Team work: For a team to work without disruptions, all team members should be able to exchange ideas and share information accurately. With proper interpersonal communication, the team members can avoid misinterpretations and potential conflicts later in their projects.

  • Leadership: Team leaders or heads usually have excellent oratory skills. In a typical work environment, leaders combine active listening with effective delivery of instructions to encourage employees in finishing their tasks.

  • Dependability: Effective teamwork often involves relying on each other to continue the work without interruptions. So if one of the team members cannot carry out a task, another one can fill in and pick up the workload. However, this sharing of responsibilities is only possible when those team members have an understanding with each other using interpersonal communication.

  • Flexibility: A rigid approach to the opinions of your colleagues can prove to be an obstacle in interpersonal communication. Good communicators respect other views and present any disagreements in a firm, yet polite tone. By keeping an open mind, you can also accept their suggestions or reach a compromise, as long as you focus on finding a solution instead of having a confrontation.

  • Motivation: Motivation is a part of interpersonal communication. Usually, team leads and managers use this concept and encourage the team to achieve their goals. Most leaders use positive reinforcement to reward their teams for excellence because it increases self-motivation and consistency in performance.

  • Empathy: In modern workplaces, employers value emotional intelligence among their employees. Many offices function like a family with a specific culture because employees spend almost 8 to 12 hours together. So, colleagues can become friends and show empathy by providing emotional support, guidance and help. This process creates a healthy relationship between employees and a positive office atmosphere.

  • Patience: Patience works in conjunction with active listening and empathy. Patience is your ability to give enough time to your colleagues or team members and express yourself without getting frustrated. In most conversations, listening patiently with empathy can resolve many underlying issues, leading to a faster resolution of problems or conflicts.

  • Conflict resolution: Even with proper interpersonal communication, a conflict between two employees may happen. Usually, leaders or mediators work with both parties and arrive at a solution that is agreeable to both. This ability requires listening to arguments from both parties and finding out the facts to resolve the matter and take necessary decisions.

  • Negotiation: Negotiation is useful when both you and your colleague or team member stand to lose much if neither of you agrees to a common solution. Consider your priorities and be prepared to let go of the ones that are less beneficial or not worth arguing about. However, successful negotiation depends on the eloquence of both you and your colleague, and how you reach an agreeable compromise.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

Types Of Interpersonal Communication

Some typical types of interpersonal communication are:

  • Verbal: In this type of communication, people use a different tone, pitch and volume to convey their emotions in a particular situation. It varies according to place, person and the level of understanding of the person talking to you. For example, in a typical workplace, a manager uses different speech patterns to talk to a subordinate to give instructions or converse with a client to close a deal.

  • Non-verbal: Non-verbal communication includes gestures, body language and eye contact. For example, you can express your acceptance by nodding or your resentment with stressed facial expressions and eye contact.

  • Written: In many offices, communication takes place through email clients and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams instead of hand-written letters. Typically, employees use formal language when writing emails, and informal language when using collaboration tools.

  • Visual: Visual communication includes infographics, presentations, videos, charts, road maps, reports and mind maps. In military organisations, communication often consists of symbols and diagrams. Social media, websites and advertisements are also examples of visual communication.

  • Interaction: Interactions take place naturally when you talk with your colleagues, superiors or subordinates. A typical interaction is a combination of speech, facial expressions, hand gestures and body movements. The way you carry your posture also determines the course of your conversation.

  • Digital: Digital communication is useful when physical interaction is not possible. Some time saving and seamless modes of communication include email, phone calls, videoconferencing, messaging, blog comments and message boards.

  • Action: To communicate with people having hearing or speech disabilities, a combination of mouth and hand movements are useful tools if you know sign language. However, in most cases they can use written and digital methods to converse, or use translator services.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

How To Improve Interpersonal Communication?

Apart from your qualifications, your job depends on how you interact in an interview. The way you give answers and discuss topics shows your level of communication skills. Your body language, posture, etiquette and voice all contribute to your communication. So, it is helpful to develop this skill as early as possible. Some typical ways to improve communication skills are:

  1. Join a personality development class: Personality development classes encourage you to enhance your personality and interpersonal communication through public speaking. Regular practice improves your vocabulary and confidence, which helps in reducing stutters and stammers.

  2. Focus on your shortcomings: Try to speak in front of a mirror or rehearse certain answers or statements to find out where you get stuck. You can also watch speeches from some influential personalities to observe how they modulate their pitch and tone when enunciating certain words.

  3. Control your emotions: During a conversation, your eyes, hands and posture reveal what you want to say. If you want to communicate positively with a calm demeanour, try to control your emotions and set boundaries. You can achieve a neutral state by practice by rehearsing conversations with your relatives or friends.

  4. Respect different opinions and views: Every individual is a unique entity and has a distinct personality, self-esteem, moods, opinions, faiths and beliefs. Learn to respect their views and keep proper boundaries to ensure ideal interpersonal relationships.

  5. Concentrate on the discussion: Distractions can cause a rapid collapse of a meaningful conversation. Paying attention to the other party helps promote mutual respect and prevents misunderstandings and unnecessary conflicts.

  6. Take guidance from an excellent orator: There is no harm or shame in asking genuine mentors for help. Most orators are happy to teach you their skills and observe your progress. As long as you learn sincerely and show progress, your mentors will continue to guide you till you achieve conversational fluency.

  7. Record your speeches: Recording your speeches helps you identify and remove your shortcomings in an organised manner. This process is effective if you need to rehearse a speech. If you are well-versed in your topic, you may not need to use this process at all, because your thought-to-speech process will be naturally streamlined.

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Which Professions Benefit Most From Interpersonal Communication?

While interpersonal communication is useful in daily situations in addition to your workplace, the following professions can benefit more from this skill:

  • Teaching: Teachers can communicate with students more effectively with interpersonal communication skills. For example, while delivering a lecture in front of sixty students they can apply communication skills effectively, such as knowing different student personas and adjusting their tone, voice and style of delivery.

  • Health care: As a health care worker, you can use empathy, patience and active listening to calm your patients and help them relieve stress. Interpersonal communication makes it easier to administer medicines and helps faster recovery.

  • Army: Army officers use different interpersonal communication techniques to cultivate a combination of dominating voice to give orders and motivational tones to rally the soldiers in a critical situation.

  • Manager: Managers act as a bridge between staff and senior or executive management. They have to change their communication patterns when talking with their superiors and staff. Therefore, they can benefit a lot by learning about interpersonal skills.


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  • 6 Interpersonal Skills Interview Questions For Professionals

  • Verbal Communication Examples in the Workplace (With Tips)

  • 12 Communication Benefits For The Workplace (Plus Tips)

  • Communication Skills In Leadership: Importance And Benefits

  • Top Communication Skills For A Resume (With Examples)

  • How To Show Leadership Communication Skills (With Example)

  • What Is Informal Communication In The Workplace? (And Types)

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