Interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication is the interaction between two or more people or groups. You will be using this form of communication all the time during your health work. This form of communication can be face-to-face, two-way, verbal or non-verbal interaction, and includes the sharing of information and feelings between individuals or groups.

A health worker talks to a mother at her home. Her small child sits on her lap.

Figure 9.1 Health workers get lots of opportunities to develop strong relationships using their interpersonal communication skills. (Photo UNICEF Ethiopia/Indrias Getachew)

The most important parts of personal communication are characterised by a strong feedback component, and it is always a two-way process. Interpersonal communication involves not only the words used, but also various elements of non-verbal communication. The purposes of interpersonal communication are to influence, help and discover — as well as to share and perhaps even play together.

The main benefits of interpersonal communication include the transfer of knowledge and assisting changes in attitudes and behaviour. It may also be used to teach new skills such as problem solving. The communication takes place in both directions from the source to the receiver and vice versa. There is a chance to raise questions and start a discussion so that the idea is understood by both parties. Since the communication is interactive there is a high chance of utilising more than two senses such as seeing, hearing and touching.

Adoption of a behaviour passes through several stages and interpersonal communication has importance at all of these stages. So if you want to help someone change their health behaviour you will certainly have to use interpersonal communication effectively. This is especially important when the topic is taboo or sensitive.

Why is study of interpersonal communication important?

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Interpersonal communication is important because of the functions it can achieve. Whenever you engage in communication with another person, you seek to gain information about them. That means you can better predict how they will think, feel and act if you know who they are. Remember that you also give off information about yourself through a wide variety of verbal and non-verbal cues.

Last modified: Monday, 23 June 2014, 10:38 PM