IntroductionInterpersonal communication can be referred as the process through which two or more people send and perceive messages amongst each other either verbally or non-verbally. It is through effective interpersonal communication that two or more people can co-exist in the same working environment or the society at large. Research points outs that interpersonal communication is affected by various factors. Therefore, this paper aims at discussing four factors that affect interpersonal communication which are; culture, age, gender and individual factors. Most of the information for this paper will come from observation of a social group within the campus I belong to, which volunteers in social works, such as environmental cleaning and enhancing awareness on HIV/Aids among many other tasks.
To explain the observations that will be made, previous literature on the same topic will be reviewed. Some of the organizational policies and practices that will be found to affect interpersonal communication among the group members will also be discussed. Finally, the paper will present some suggestions on how an organization, a group or an individual including I, can contribute towards effective interpersonal communication. Factors that affect Interpersonal CommunicationCultureAccording to Orbe and Spellers (2005, p.
173), culture can be defined as a specialized lifestyle of a group of people, which constitutes its values, beliefs, practices, and behavior; it is nurtured with time and passed on to the coming generations. It is argued that culture and communication are inseparable. For any culture to be transferred from generation to generation there should be a form of communication. On the other hand, the main feature that characterizes culture is communication. Different cultures have different forms of communications, language, and signs among others.
As Orbe and Spellers (2005, p. 178) explain, culture provide its people with ways of seeing, hearing and thinking which all determine how a person interprets both verbal and non-formal communication. This means that same words or signs can mean very different things to two people who do not share the same culture. According to DeVito (2001, p. 131), culture can affect communication in the workplace powerfully. I have observed various effects of culture in my social group. Some social topics cannot be openly discussed within the group because to some of the group members, they are taboo topics that they do not feel free to contribute in.
Topics, such as sexual relations are very sensitive to some of my colleagues in such a way that they shun away from listening leave alone contributing in. As DeVito (2001) explains, because of cultural diversity in today’s workplace, one has to be careful while communicating non-verbally. Different signs mean different things to different cultures and sometimes may be highly offensive. Daniel, one of my colleagues in the social group is used to saluting someone as a sign of recognizing his or her expertise.
One day, he was met by a rude shock after saluting Lucy, another group member. After explaining how a new communication device that had been donated to the group by an NGO works, Lucy was saluted by Daniel to appreciate her for the detailed explanation. Instead of appreciating as Daniel had expected, Lucy became very angry. When later I approached her and asked her why she reacted in such a manner, she said that a salute from a man in her culture is a taboo and highly offensive.