Throughout our lives, we interact with a lot of people. So, it’s pretty important to know what we’re doing. Explore the idea of competence in interpersonal communication, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.
Say, you look like a communicative-competent individual. Why, yes, that is a compliment.Competence is the ability to do something well.
Communication, specifically, interpersonal communication, is the personal exchange of information between two or more people. So, when I talk about communication competence, I’m talking about the ability to communicate in the most appropriate and effective way for a given situation.This is an important thing to do.
Do you talk the same way to your friends as to your teachers? Would you try and communicate with Japanese businessmen in the same way you would with Argentinian artists? Throughout your entire life, you will find yourself in diverse situations, but your ability to communicate with competence will always be important.
Three Parts of Competence
So, you want to be competent at interpersonal communication. That’s great, but what does that really mean? A person who is highly competent is able to determine appropriate communication patterns for a wide number of scenarios and adjust his or her actions accordingly.According to American professors Brian Spitzberg and William Cupach, who together developed the model for communication competence in the 1980s, competence has three parts. First is motivation, or the desire and reasons for approaching communication.
Highly-competent people tend to actively seek conversations and social situations in which to communicate. They also have clear goals with respect to their communication and are often confident in those goals.The second part of communication competence is knowledge, or understanding how to act. Even if you want to communicate, you can’t unless you understand cultural guidelines for communication. Some cultures are formal; some are informal. Some shake hands, some bow, and some put a lot of emphasis on using hand gestures to communicate. Understanding how to interact is an important part of communication competency.
The third part of competent communication is skill, which means the ability to perform appropriate behavior. So, you once you know how to act, you can put that into practice, provided you have the skills.Now obviously, these three parts of communication competence are important if you’re trying to interact with people from a different language or culture. But, even within your daily life, people expect to interact in different ways. Police officers will communicate with you differently than street performers and if you don’t know how to interact with each according to your own society’s expectations, well, things could get messy.
Traits of Competent People
So, those are the three parts of communication competency. However, highly-competent people also tend to have certain personality traits that make this process more effective.First is adaptability, or the ability to change behaviors and goals to meet the needs of each situation. The next trait is empathy, or the ability to show other people in a conversation that you understand their needs.
Is the other person looking for a friend, for advice, for support? That brings us to trait number three, which is appropriateness, the ability to uphold others’ expectations of you. Are people looking to you as a leader, a listener, a comedian? All of these traits indicate an ability to understand your role in communication as it relates to everyone else.There are a few other traits of highly-competent people as well, starting with conversational involvement, or the ability to become actively involved in conversation. Do you sit quietly and not voice your opinion, or do you make yourself heard? This leads to conversation management, which is the ability to regulate the direction of a conversation. Sometimes, you may be quiet to let other people talk, showing your empathy, but other times, you may need to interrupt to keep the conversation on track.
All of this relates to the last trait, effectiveness, or the ability to achieve the goals of the communication. If you set out to make friends, did you? Or were you trying to impress a superior, present an idea to investors, or talk your way out of a ticket?People with these traits tend to be competent communicators, but this isn’t just a matter of DNA. Yes, some people seem to be born good at communication, but all of these traits are simply skills that can be practiced and refined over time. Almost all of us are going to be good at least one of them, so rely on that strength to guide communication as you improve upon other areas that still need work. After all, competence is just a conversation away.
Communication competence is the ability to communicate in the most appropriate and effective way for a given situation. We encounter a lot of different situations in our lives, all of them requiring communication, so this is a great skill to have.Communication competence itself can be generally described as having three parts: motivation, knowledge, and skill; or the desire to communicate, awareness of communication practices, and ability to put them into effect.There are also several personality traits that help increase communication competence.
The first three – adaptability, empathy, and appropriateness – deal with your ability to establish personal connections and define your role in communication. The other three – conversation involvement, conversation management, and effectiveness – deal with your ability to set and achieve goals in communication. By practicing and refining each of these, we can all improve our ability to interact with the people around us.