What is communication? Did you know that we spend all hours of our days sending messages? We communicate verbally and nonverbally with everything that we do. How well do you communicate with others? Communication is the process of acting on information (Beebe, et al., 2017 p.3). Interpersonal communication is vital to developing and improving relationships with family, friends, or colleagues while contributing to our physical and emotional well-being. Interpersonal communication touches every aspect of our lives by creating meaning in all communication contexts. Being other-oriented requires awareness of the thoughts, needs, experiences, personality, emotions, natives, desires, culture, and goals of your communication partners while still maintaining your own integrity (Beebe, et al., 2017 p.2). Becoming other-oriented can be extremely difficult as society teaches to be less empathetic and less other-oriented or sensitive to understanding others. When we are not other-oriented, it can create diversity in our relationships. Diversity creates the potential for misunderstanding or conflict that stems from the different ways we make sense of the world and share that sense with others around us (Beebe, et al., 2017 p.84).
I encounter many situations daily that requires me to be other-oriented. I am an instructor in the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence and I receive new students’ multiple times a month from all over the world. Finding a common medium for empathy and understanding for each individual student can be overwhelming and frustrating. This is an area that I can continue to work on getting better and broaden my knowledge of interpersonal communication along with interpersonal relationships. It is important for a person to understand who they are “self” and their “self-concept”, so they can continue to grow and build on their overall communication skills. Self is “the central inner force, common to all human beings and yet unique in each”, as defined by Psychologist Karen Horney (Beebe, et al., 2017 p.31). After you understand who you are, you can then turn to your self-concept of who you think you are which is driven by your own perceptions. Knowing who you are, and the labels used to describe yourself can help you adjust in situations and grow with experiences in life that will allow you to change the associated labels you use to describe yourself to others. Once you can identify your self-labels, the next best tool you can use to enhance your level of self-awareness is reflection. What is self-awareness? A self-aware person can look in the mirror and be brutally honest about how they are internally and externally. How you appear to other externally is not the same as how you perceive yourself internally or externally. Self-awareness is a person’s conscious understanding of who he or she is. In addition, thinking about who you are, asking others for information about yourself and then listening to what they tell you can enhance your self-awareness. (Beebe, et al., 2017 p.52). Being able to recognize certain characteristics about myself will enable me to take advantage of those positive characteristics and work on changing my negative ones.
Being an instructor for new soldiers in the Army aviation community is challenging because it is a profession that is always changing and involves constant teaching and learning of new rules, regulations, or practices. Most of the time, messages are sent to us asynchronously and we relay those messages to the soldiers synchronously. At times, it seems that there is a slight delay in the processing of these messages by the soldiers due to social presence. Social presence is the feeling we have when we act and think as if we’re involved in an unmediated, face-to-face conversation (Beebe, et al., 2017 p.18). As subject matter experts in our field, we incorporate our knowledge and personal experiences into our lesson plans, so we can reach the audiences. It is imperative that we understand the level of knowledge of our audiences, so we are mindful of what we are doing, teaching, receiving, and thinking while instructing. I utilize direct perception checking in a form of asking questions to my soldiers about what I am instructing based on their body language and tones. I also take into consideration the fact that they are often in a state of culture shock because this is a new environment and setting for them from the civilian lifestyle, they had a few months prior. The structure and discipline they must always maintain are extremely different from the setting in high school, as most of them are fresh out high school.
There are many ways in which I can address the short-comings of my communication. I strive each day constantly to improve in one way or another. Intercultural communication competence is important to us instructors as we have cultures from all over the world and must be cognizant of our verbiage, behaviors, and actions. I keep myself and my soldiers motivated by teaching them the skills needed to be successful and letting them apply those skills learned. Everyone learns differently and sometimes the cultural differences play a role in that, so I constantly seek out new information about specific communication that will help enhance my skills and my communication competence. This leads into my self-awareness development. Each class I teach, I introduce myself, my experience, and qualifications that allow me to instruct that specific course. After I am done with each lesson, I seek feedback from my soldiers and fellow instructors on what I can improve and sustain. I use this feedback and criticism to incorporate empathy into my life. I find myself not being a very empathetic person, but I am working on it. Having empathy and emotional intelligence is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and sense how they feel and how others react as well.
Communication is translated in many ways and received in even more ways. Interpersonal communication can take place face-to-face, using smartphones, or the internet. Understanding how to communicate properly in relationships whether personal, professional, and socially, has a major impact on you, the people around you, and the perception people have of you. Through interpersonal communication, we learn how to initiate, develop, and maintain interpersonal relationships. Conflicts will occur no matter what. We must learn how to handle these conflicts whether they are personal, professional or conflicts from outside sources. Learning to be self-aware, empathetic, having emotional intelligence, and understanding your own personal labels is important when developing skills and communication competence. Being other-oriented, you can effectively achieve the overall goal of managing conflict and putting it into perspective. This means you will understand why the conflict has occurred and can develop the skills to prevent such conflict in the future. After much trial and error, I have been able to connect many of the theories above into my own life experiences, my job, and my personal relationship, to improve my interpersonal communication, professional and personal relationships.
- Beebe, Stephen A., et al., Interpersonal Communication Relating to Others., 8th Edition. Pearson, 2017.