Author: Karen Berger

Ten Tips to Improve your Interpersonal Communication Skills

At Melbourne Playback, we specialise in working on our communication skills – in our workshops, presentations, performances and rehearsals. How to develop your communication with your colleagues, employees and supervisors is one of the main skills we can offer to you and your organisation. We believe that there are four main areas to focus on:

  • Awareness. Be present.
  • Listen. Empathise. Understand the story.
  • Be bold.
  • Be generous. Make your partner look good.


1. Start to observe your own behaviours.
How does your tone of voice affect those you are talking to? How does your body language affect them? How are you affected by other people’s tone of voice/body language/choice of language (not necessarily content – try and focus on the way information is being conveyed).

2. Develop an awareness of eye contact, your own and the people you’re communicating with.
How do you feel when someone avoids eye contact with you? Are there times when your level of eye contact may be making your interlocutor feel uncomfortable? Different cultural groups have different norms when it comes to eye contact. Try and be sensitive to what you perceive is appropriate for different individuals.

3. Breathe!
Awareness of your own breath is a very important tool. This can become particularly useful when the interaction is disturbing you – you feel intimidated or angry. Becoming aware of your breath and allowing yourself to breathe before responding in a challenging situation can give you both a chance to calm down and see more clearly. If you can explain your position in a centred way, it’s more likely that the other will be able to understand your perspective.


4. Practice really listening.
If this interaction is potentially important, try to allow your interlocutor to finish their train of thought before interrupting with your response. If you don’t understand something important fully, ask questions. Aim to understand!

5. Remember that there may be more than one ‘right’ way.
We are all different and different methods will work for different people. Try and see things from other people’s perspectives.

6. ‘Never take anything personally.’
Much easier said than done! But it’s important to remember that a person’s reaction to you will always be conditioned by their previous experiences – perhaps there’s something about you that reminds them of their mother, perhaps their dog was run over this morning. This doesn’t mean excusing bad behaviour, but it does mean leaving space to not jump to conclusions. If you are aware of how you are reacting in the time of the interaction, you are less likely to say or do something that you regret later.


7. Where appropriate, try and maintain open body language.
Closing off the front of your body – crossed arms, hunched in shoulders, turning your torso away from the other – can be perceived as an unwillingness to listen and a defensiveness about your own ideas.

8. Search for the appropriate balance between assertiveness and acquiescence.
(Again – easier said than done!) Especially, develop congruence of content of communication and manner of communication in this regard. Are you trying to stand up for yourself at the same time as looking down, maintaining a hunched posture, speaking softly and mumbling? You are definitely sending a mixed message and will probably not achieve the result you desire. However speaking too forcefully while requesting something tricky may also backfire.


9. Where appropriate acknowledge the other person’s abilities, input and strengths.
No matter how much your boss or employee might be annoying you in this instant, there must be something positive they bring to your organisation, or even something positive you know they do in their home life. Keeping a part of you aware of that will help to keep an interaction calmer and more constructive.

10. Be patient with yourself and others.
Don’t over-react if you realise you’ve made a mistake. Apologise calmly. Where appropriate, be ready to forgive others for inappropriate communication.

WORKSHOP: Master the language of communication

In May 2014, Melbourne Playback is offering an active workshop to bring new awareness and mastery to your verbal and nonverbal communication. With a focus on authenticity, the tools gained will help you; express your true self more confidently, increase your likelihood of getting what you want, avoid conflict and maintain good relationships.

Who should attend?
Business professionals, leaders and small teams wishing to develop strong working relationships by enhancing interpersonal communication skills.

Find out more information on our website.

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