1. Interpersonal communication skills are an important facet of the process of communication and as such are extremely relevant for achieving personal as well as professional success. Interpersonal communication refers to face-to-face or person-to-person communication. It is often direct and interactive.
The message is orally communicated with the help of words as well as through non-verbal communication, encompassing body language, spacing, facial expressions, tone, gestures, and action. Interpersonal communication involves the effective use of verbal messages plus body language.
2. Interpersonal communication has come to acquire particular significance in all people-oriented situations. Large organizations which employ people at various levels lay particular emphasis on building interpersonal or people-related communication skills.
Effective interpersonal communication calls for good insight into human behaviour and a clear understanding of how people are likely to react under different situations. Interpersonal skills are relevant in dealing with people, both within and without, in any service sector organization.
They are particularly relevant in dealing with customer grievances and complaints redressal. Good interpersonal skills of the counter staff or the floor supervisor help diffuse heated arguments or flaring up during customer interaction, and, thereby contain the damage to the business.
3. Interpersonal skills have also come to acquire relevance as part of the HRD efforts of large and small organizations. People with good interpersonal communication skills are considered an asset to any organization. Training programs of service-oriented organizations like banks include sessions on development of interpersonal skills.
As one goes up the hierarchical ladder in an organization, one’s span of control, or the number of people reporting to him/her also often gets enlarged. Effective interpersonal skills are a must in dealing with people at various levels.
4. At a higher level, by interpersonal skills, we refer to certain specialized skills in dealing with people under complex situations. In any business organization where a large number of people are working, both pleasant and unpleasant situations might develop.
A supervisor or manager might have to convey not only appreciation or praise, but also punishment and unpalatable developments. The job may involve criticism and reprimand of juniors. Under such circumstances, not only what the supervisor says, but also the way in which it is said and what is done through actions assume meaning.
5. Good leaders consciously develop all these verbal and non-verbal skills and use them successfully in dealing with a variety of people and situations. They use their interpersonal communication skills to create the desired impression, both positive and negative as the case may be.
The words they choose, the way in which they express them, the tone, the gestures and the action in totality are all impact creating, in any relationship building exercise, consciously or otherwise. The customer makes an impression on the counter staff as he/she walks in.
The counter staff, likewise, makes an impression on the customer. In any business, the first impression carries considerable value. If it is right, it results in a positive relationship.
Hence, the right skills would cover the way we say hello, the smile, the attentiveness, the firm handshake, the impression we make as we enter and any such act which the party notices and, more importantly, interprets.
6. Some other essential skills relevant for effective interpersonal communication are the ability to win trust, build rapport, ask the right questions and elicit full details. Effective interpersonal communication involves creating the right impression and communicating the intended message convincingly.
This calls for sincerity in approach and bringing in transparency in communication. It means asking the appropriate questions in an appropriate manner and making the other party communicate. It means making the other person confide in you.
It means breaking a person’s reluctance. When we think of counselling, negotiation, hearing of appeals and personal interviews, extra communication skills would be involved. They have to be developed with conscious efforts.
7. People in the service industry, as we have noted earlier, should necessarily have one basic skill, the ability to get along with other people. They should develop interpersonal skills such as the ability to communicate effectively and also work as a member of the team.
While job-oriented skills and knowledge are important, what is equally relevant, if not more, is the right attitude. The customer may accept a certain lack of knowledge, but will never accept rudeness or indifference.
That is why training programs in service organizations covering marketing and customer relations lay particular emphasis on building the right attitude or mindset.
8. People come to work not only with their hands and heads, but also their hearts. They come not only with knowledge, wisdom and intelligence, but also with feelings and emotions.
Dealing with other people involves control over moods. Any work situation has its mix of positive and negative, and good and bad strokes. Good interpersonal skills require underplaying the negative strokes and not letting them spoil one’s temperament.
A service provider should learn to rise above bad feelings coming from any quarter and not let those show up or hinder dealings with the customers.
The following quote from Roberta Cava brings out beautifully the strength of rational response in dealing with difficult situations: ‘Two forces—logic and emotion—are at work throughout our lives. Often they push and pull in opposite directions.
The one that prevails at any particular time will determine how we get along with others, and may affect our level of achievement. It is easy to respond to situations with emotions rather than logic, but responding logically helps us deal constructively with difficult situations.’
Harmonious relations with colleagues in the workplace and customers at the counter and at the field level are the secrets of business development. Both are of equal importance and complement each other.
Harmonious interpersonal relationships among employees result in well-knit teams that can respond effectively to the customers and the customer sees o.ie happy family at work. No wonder John Rockfeller said, ‘I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than for any other ability under the sun.’