Whether it takes place in person, on the Internet or by telephone, interpersonal communication involves the exchange of information between at least two individuals. While the two-person dynamic is essential, interpersonal communication can take place among larger groups as well. The central elements of interpersonal communication include nonverbal, paraverbal and verbal factors. These elements work both individually and together to enhance the experience.
Nonverbal elements of interpersonal communication involve body language’s effect on the interpretation of verbal cues. Eye contact, where the speaker holds the gaze of the audience, is one essential component of nonverbal interpersonal communication. Body posture also affects the reception of the message, with slouching or facing away implying a lack of interest. The position of the arms, hands, legs and feet add additional elements, while certain gestures such as fidgeting or shielding of the body with crossed arms implies that the person is not open to the experience.
Paraverbal elements include factors such as voice pitch, tone and rate of speech. These work with the verbal elements of interpersonal communication to add emphasis to certain ideas being expressed. In addition, the way in which a speaker stresses certain syllables or words can affect the meaning of the message being conveyed. Volume also has an effect. Words spoken with more volume carry greater importance than those presented at a normal or lower volume.
Language style, grammar and word choice all play important verbal roles in interpersonal communication. These elements help control the message being presented, greatly affecting the quality and formation of the message. Word organization and choice can increase the clarity and effectiveness of the message through formal and informal cues contained within the language.
Combining the Factors
While each of the factors in interpersonal communication work independently to increase the effectiveness of the messages being related between two or more people, these elements must work together to ensure clarity and understanding. Constructing the message and delivering it in a clear and concise manner helps ensure against misinterpretation and confusion. By making sure the message is communicated clearly the first time, the speaker also promotes a more efficient level of communication where the message will not need to be further analyzed or repeated to ensure proper understanding.