What Are Characteristics of Interpersonal Communication?

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Interpersonal communication is close, face-to-face interaction with an individual or small group of people. It is characterized by exchanges of verbal communication, nonverbal gestures and listening. An effective interpersonal communicator understands the impact of these elements of the communication and manages them well.

The verbal element of interpersonal communication is the delivery of a message through words. Articulation, clarity, pace and volume are common traits of verbal interpersonal communication. Articulation and clarity refer to an ability to speak clearly so that words and sentences are easy to follow. Moving at a crisp, but reasonable pace, and speaking at a moderate volume allow a listener to process what is being said.

Nonverbal communication includes body language, gestures and facial expressions. These qualities of interpersonal communication strengthen or contradict what is said. Good interpersonal communicators use a positive facial expression, eye contact, good posture and natural gestures to add emphasis to certain points and to maintain the engagement of a listener.

The ability to listen well is also key in interpersonal communication. Listening traits include looking a speaker in the eyes, giving him full attention and paraphrasing a message to confirm understanding. Listening is important in interpersonal communication in many jobs. Salespeople must listen well in order to recommend the right solution to a prospect.