Competence in Interpersonal Communication Video

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  • 0:00 Communication Competence
  • 0:57 Three Parts of Competence
  • 2:54 Traits of Competent People
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Throughout our lives, we interact with a lot of people. So it's pretty important to know what we're doing. Explore the idea of competence in interpersonal communication, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Communication Competence

Say, you look like a communicative-competent individual. Why, yes, that is a compliment.

Competence is the ability to do something well. Communication, specifically, interpersonal communication, is the personal exchange of information between two or more people. So when I talk about communication competence, I'm talking about the ability to communicate in the most appropriate and effective way for a given situation.

This is an important thing to do. Do you talk the same way to your friends as to your teachers? Would you try and communicate with Japanese businessmen in the same way you would with Argentinian artists? Throughout your entire life, you will find yourself in diverse situations, but your ability to communicate with competence will always be important.

Three Parts of Competence

So you want to be competent at interpersonal communication. That's great, but what does that really mean? A person who is highly competent is able to determine appropriate communication patterns for a wide number of scenarios and adjust his or her actions accordingly.

According to American professors Brian Spitzberg and William Cupach, who together developed the model for communication competence in the 1980s, competence has three parts. First is motivation, or the desire and reasons for approaching communication. Highly-competent people tend to actively seek conversations and social situations in which to communicate. They also have clear goals with respect to their communication and are often confident in those goals.

The second part of communication competence is knowledge, or understanding how to act. Even if you want to communicate, you can't unless you understand cultural guidelines for communication. Some cultures are formal; some are informal. Some shake hands, some bow, and some put a lot of emphasis on using hand gestures to communicate. Understanding how to interact is an important part of communication competency.

The third part of competent communication is skill, which means the ability to perform appropriate behavior. So you once you know how to act, you can put that into practice, provided you have the skills.

Now obviously, these three parts of communication competence are important if you're trying to interact with people from a different language or culture. But, even within your daily life, people expect to interact in different ways. Police officers will communicate with you differently than street performers and if you don't know how to interact with each according to your own society's expectations, well, things could get messy.

Traits of Competent People

So those are the three parts of communication competency. However, highly-competent people also tend to have certain personality traits that make this process more effective.

First is adaptability, or the ability to change behaviors and goals to meet the needs of each situation. The next trait is empathy, or the ability to show other people in a conversation that you understand their needs. Is the other person looking for a friend, for advice, for support? That brings us to trait number three, which is appropriateness, the ability to uphold others' expectations of you. Are people looking to you as a leader, a listener, a comedian? All of these traits indicate an ability to understand your role in communication as it relates to everyone else.

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