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  • Interpersonal Communication – Encoding The Response

  • Interpersonal Communication is a method of conveying a message from one person to at least one other person. This type of oral communication comprises three components: body language, tone of voice and the words themselves. The following percentages can be debated, but some studies indicate that body language accounts for about 55% of any message, tone of voice is 35% of the message, while the words represent only the remaining 10%.

    In all written communications, like this article for example, you can’t see me and, therefore, body language is totally eliminated from the dynamic – cut 55%! Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to convey tone of voice. So at best, a written communication represents 10% of the potential of an interpersonal communication. Keep this in mind when considering e-mail communication.

    Let’s explore this profile of interpersonal communication.

    The area in which I live has an extensive ravine path system that is frequented by many. In order to discover how one might influence the outcome of an interpersonal communication, I conducted a highly unscientific experiment while walking the path.

    The objective was to see if I could increase the response rate of others saying “hello” to me. In Step One, I approached people without saying “hello” to them and kept my eyes averted from them. About 5% of the people offered me a “hello”.

    In Step Two, I again approached people without saying “hello” to them, but did make eye contact with them. In this instance, about 10% of the people offered me a “hello”.

    In Step Three, as I approached people, I made eye contact with them and said “hello”. Over 60% responded with a “hello”.

    In the final step of the experiment, as I approached people, I made eye contact with them, smiled and modulated my “hello”. This generated a response rate of over 90%.

    I have run this experiment many times, with consistent results. The lesson here is that we have enormous influence in generating a desired response, by initiating the interpersonal communication in a deliberate manner.

    When one holds a baby, we smile at the baby, look the baby in the eyes and make re-assuring noises. Our goal is to elicit a return smile from the baby. We do this encoding quite unconsciously.

    To enhance the quality of your interpersonal communication, consider the following:

    • What is your objective of the interaction?
    • What is the desired result?
    • What might be the barriers in the process?
    • How might you initiate the interpersonal communication in such a way that it encourages or encodes the desired response?

    Most of our interpersonal communication is conducted haphazardly on-the-fly, without pre-planning. Run a little experiment yourself — plan out an interpersonal communication, taking the above into account. Try matching the way in which you initiate the interpersonal communication with the desired response.

    This approach will take a little longer, especially when you first start practicing it. As you observe the improvement in the quality of your conversations, though, you will conclude that it’s well worth the investment.

    Bill Fields is President of Diamond Management Institute.  They develop high-performance organizations through strategic alignment, leadership and team development, business process improvement, and customer satisfaction.