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Effective Interpersonal Skills

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to present the tutor training module "Effective Interpersonal Skills" to my fellow HCC tutors. The module is part of the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) training curriculum for tutors. Here, I'll share what we discussed at this training.
 
Training Module Objectives:
  • define interpersonal skills
  • identify essential behaviors for effective communication
  • practice using effective interpersonal skills
  • discuss how to modify behaviors if communication is ineffective
 
Formal Definition:
interpersonal skills n. - the abilities which enable effective communication and social interaction between people (Oxford English Dictionary)
 
As we begin to talk about effective interpersonal skills, think about those behaviors that have helped you successfully convey your message to others before. What behaviors seemed to work well when communicating with friends, parents, tutors, or instructors? Those behaviors are needed for effective interpersonal communication and can be summed up with the following list:
 
Nonverbal Behaviors:
Attending Behaviors - those behaviors one actively uses during a conversation
  • Eye contact - How long did you maintain eye contact?
  • Body Language - What was your physical proximity to the people you were communicating with? What gestures and facial expressions did you use to convey your message?
  • Silence - Were you quiet long enough for people to respond to you?
 
Observational Behaviors - observing the attending behaviors of the people with whom one communicates
 
Verbal Behaviors:
  • Maintain Topic - Did you maintain the topic of the people with whom you are communicating?
  • Voice Qualities - Was your voice tone, speech rate, and volume appropriate to the conversation?
  • Open Questions - Did you ask open-ended questions, such as those beginning with how, what, could, or would so that you could get clarification?
  • Summarizing - Did you paraphrase or summarize to ensure you understood what the other person was saying?
  • Did you observe the other person using these behaviors or verbally responding to your questions?
 
Now that you have an idea of what behaviors are necessary for effective communication, practice them actively. Using these behaviors will allow you to better communicate with those around you, particularly your tutors and instructors.
 
Next month, we'll discuss what to do when communication seems ineffective.
 
See you next month!