Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Communications Between People--A
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack®
7.3 - Interpersonal Communication
In order to describe concisely a communication model between two persons or
persons within a small group, let’s identify again our working understanding
of “interpersonal communication”:
- Definition: Interpersonal communication is an exchange
of meanings between individuals and small groups through words, presence,
and action in order to affect desired understanding, action, and relationship.
- To communicate means “to make common” (Latin) our separate
knowledge and experience. Usually it also leads to common understanding and
- “Communication is meaning exchange, not word exchange.”
--Gangle & Canine, Communication and Conflict, p. 16.
- Interpersonal Communications
- is essential to effective interpersonal relations;
- focuses on dialogue and small groups;
- provides the context for social maturity and spiritual growth;
- may have its limitations in our “audience behavior”
society. --Gangle & Canine, p. 14.
- Communication: Process and Models
In her textbook, Mary Guffey describes the communication process in five steps:
- Idea formation--originates with the message sender.
- Transmission channels--physically carry the message to another
person or group.
- Message encoding--converting the idea into words and symbols that
- Message decoding--the receiver translates the message into meaning.
- Feedback--the receiver’s responses tell the sender the message
was received and understood (or not).
(Guffey, Business Communication, pp. 11-13)
But let’s expand this model as others have done, to describe how the
communication process actually takes place. As you reflect on one of your
major communication tasks, see if this model including ten components will
help you work on its various parts--and so improve your skill. As the model
shows below, the communication process goes on in a continuous cycle, interacting
between persons and other components.
Do you like a model or a checklist to guide you in your focus on learning
and applying communication to leadership tasks? I do. The very simplest
may look like this:
- Interpersonal Communication Model
During our study and experience with other ministers and leaders,
this model emerged for graphically displaying communication elements or components.
- Ten Communication Components
The components are portrayed in the model above and are now
briefly defined. You may want to use this for an information source and as
a personal assessment.
____ (1) Message sender - The messenger has a message to
send. The experience, ideas, feelings, understandings, and expectations of
the sender affect the message sent.
____ (2) Message - As sender, you should consider your message
and form it with clarity. The message you send verbally and nonverbally should
be essentially what you feel inside--you should “say what you mean.”
The skill with which the message is sent has a great deal to do with transmitting
____ (3) Context - Between two individuals, within a small
group, or in congregational life, there is always a context. Sharing significant
information and true feelings strengthens well-being--interpersonal as well
____ (4) Encoding - You should encode your messages with
words, gestures, presence, and behavior in a way that translates them for
____ (5) Channel - The communication medium or channel should
add to, not detract from, the message. Interpersonal communication should
be as personal, “close and up-front,” as possible.
____ (6) Noise - Communication noise or barriers are always
part of any message sending, such as: misinformation (rumors), disinformation
(deception), third-party reporting, incongruent behavior, technical problems,
time delay, cultural differences, etc.
____ (7) Message receiver - Message decoded by the receiver
interprets its meaning based on experience, knowledge, feelings, expectations,
etc. Active listening and responsive feedback are tools for effective decoding.
____ (8) Response - Response by the receiver, often referred
to as “feedback,” is determined not primarily by the intention
of the message sent, but by the receiver’s interpretation of the message.
Face-to-face communication allows for more immediate clarification and integration.
____ (9) Action - Interpersonal communication is completed
by action--either the desired action of the message sender or a “final”
responding behavior of the receiver.
____ (10) Interpersonal relations are built on a continuous
flow/cycle of such communication, exchanging not just words but personal meanings.
- For Reflection/Assessment/Application
Moving from information to application is a major contribution you want to
- Re-read carefully the previous 10 communication components; think about
them in terms of your leadership functions.
- After reading all 10 elements, you may want to rate yourself in effective
use: (seldom) 1 to 5 (often).
- Choose three or four areas for improvement or immediate benefits. Be
specific: “I am going to do this in that situation by Friday.”
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© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership