A core skill for improving interpersonal awareness is communication skills. Communication skills form the basis for obtaining accurate information about others. They serve as a window into another person’s world. Communication includes speaking, listening, reading, and writing. It also involves both verbal and nonverbal messages.

Communication is the cornerstone of developing interpersonal awareness. It is the process of changing a thought into words, signs, symbols, or gestures that can be understood. When two human beings come in contact with each other, they send messages that form the most basic of interpersonal relationships. 

In order to teach your students interpersonal awareness, they must develop communication skills. In this post, we will look at:

  1. The two levels of communication
  2. Causes of failure in communication
  3. Factors that can improve communication
  4. Focus
  5. Be assertive

The two levels of communication

It is only through communication that one can develop complete interpersonal awareness.  Communication between two people requires someone to send a message and someone else to receive that message. The message should be relevant and important to both the sender and the receiver. Both must put energy into the interaction to make it work. The sender wants to be heard and recognized while the receiver wants to hear the message accurately.

When people communicate, they do it on two levels: the content level and the relational level. The content level sends messages that are usually verbal in nature. These messages convey some thought or content. The relational level is the more powerful of the two forms of messages. These messages are usually non verbal in nature. They show how a person views a situation. The relational level signals how the relationship is going to progress. At the content level, it is what is said that is important; and at the relational level, it is how the message is conveyed that is important.

Causes of Failure in Communication

Dr. Paul Swets identified the causes of communication breakdown. Here are the causes of failure in communication to teach your students:

  • Fear is to be afraid of something. For fear of being misunderstood, people sometimes avoid saying anything. This is a lack of communication and can result in misunderstandings in interpersonal relationships.
  • Assumptions are acts of making sense of what we see and hear. Many assumptions are correct; however, many are false. When you listen to someone talk, you are constantly making assumptions about what is being said.
  • Insensitivity is a lack of feeling. True communication requires a desire to learn about the feelings of others. In order to understand someone, you must be able to understand the feelings of the other person.
  • Labeling is the process of attaching a descriptive word or identifying phrase to something. Labels can limit your ability to see things as they really are.
  • Uncertainty is doubt. Uncertainty is the result of the fear of making a wrong decision. In social situations, an uncertain person can be nervous, quiet, or babble compulsively. When this occurs, effective communication is severely limited.
  • Resentment is an expression of angry displeasure at something regarded as basically wrong or insulting. Communication can be seriously restricted by resentment, especially if it is not put into words so that the other person can respond to it.
  • Egotism is the process of thinking and talking about oneself too much. Egotistical persons show no interest in anything but themselves. No one else seems important to them. People tend to avoid communication with such person, because they feel the other person is not interested in them.

Factors that can improve communication

Here are factors to teach your students that will improve communication:

  • Self-awareness or being aware of yourself. You cannot become aware of other people’s feelings until you are aware of your own feelings.

  • Understanding is knowledge and the ability to apply good judgement. When communicating with others, understanding can come only when you respect what you have heard and ask questions to clarify what you think you have heard.

  • Caring for others or putting interest and energy into trying to understand and help others. When people sense caring, they tend to open themselves up more. When there is a lack of caring, people tend to avoid communication.

  • Control of emotions or being able to inhibit the over expression of intense feelings, such as love, joy, anger or despair. Sometimes people tend to avoid conversations with people who display a lack of control over their emotions.

  • Esteem of one’s self or a proper feeling of your own worth. A good sense of self is essential in communication. Positive self-esteem encourages an openness to communicate.

  • Self-confidence or confidence in yourself. This is essential in interpersonal communication for one simple reason—with confidence, you can calmly approach others to begin the process of communication. Self-confidence allows you to take risks, to be open to the viewpoints of others and to be more able to speak comfortably with people.

  • Sharing of one’s self or the ability to let other people know your true feelings. Sharing yourself allows others to see how comfortable you are with opening yourself up to them and letting them see your true feelings. As a result, others will be more comfortable in sharing their true feelings with you.


To help your students focus during communication, teach them to:

  • Stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience
  • Remove both physical and mental distractions
  • Make eye contact with the person
  • Actively listen to what the person is really saying

people working together

Be assertive

Being assertive means expressing our thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not winning an argument. So to improve assertion, teach your students to:

  • Value yourself and your opinions. They are as important as the opinions of anyone else.
  • Know your needs and wants. Learn to express what you need and want without infringing on the rights of others.
  • Express negative thoughts in a positive way. It is okay to be angry but you must be respectful as well.
  • Receive feedback positively. Accept compliments graciously, learn from your mistakes, and ask for help when needed.
  • Learn to say no. Know your limits and don’t let others take advantage of you. Look for alternatives so that everyone feels good about the outcome.

Thanks for tuning into our series on teaching interpersonal awareness to your students. If you want to learn more about developing or teaching soft skills, sign up for a free soft skills webinar here.