Principles of Effective Interpersonal Communication


The Principles of Effective Interpersonal Communication have emerged from the practice of mediation, and in particular, Community Mediation, which focuses on the nature and quality of relationships and how to resolve day to day issues of importance those living in community with each other.

These Principles have relevance to the practice of effective communication in areas such as healthcare and nursing, businesses and their workplaces, management, within marriages, family relationships, neighbour and community relationships and many others.

"As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

By identifying common ways in which we interact that prove to be more effective than others we can create some general principles of effective communication, and this page and the links to the Principles listed below will help you to become conscious of them.


With an awareness and understanding of the Principles you can continue to improve the quality of interpersonal communication you have with:


    This article is written by Alan Sharland, Director of CAOS Conflict Management, London, UK
  • your partners,
  • your parents,
  • your children,
  • your work colleagues,
  • your students
....and in more formal settings such as:
  • work meetings,
  • board meetings,
  • public meetings etc.


Effective Interpersonal Communication can be achieved through conscious awareness of the following Principles:

Click on the links below to read more about each Principle...

1. That we treat each other with respect

So how does that help? It means we can put the energy we spend 'demonising' others and complaining about them to better use, like enjoying ourselves and being present for loved ones instead of continuously distracted by our difficulties with others.


2. That we do not interrupt one another

So how does that help? It means we find out that, by not interrupting others and focusing our attention on what they say, we become listened to ourselves a lot more! Our conversations become more interesting, useful, worthwhile and sometimes even joyful, instead of difficult, tiring, boring or anxious.


3. That we have the right to pass

So how does that help? It means that we can choose not to do something instead of feel we have to or that we 'should' when we don't want to. It means acknowledging that trying to change others is not only not very loving, but is also impossible. It means acknowledging that when others try to change us, it can feel very uncomfortable.

It means taking responsibility for our choices and actions - because no-one else can.


Alan was recently invited by ASTD - American Society for Training and Development to provide a webinar for its members on Conflict Management Skills and Practices for a More Engaged Workforce, and some of the Principles described on this page were referred to within that......



4. That we do not volunteer others

So how does that help? It means recognising the importance of valuing others' right to choose and not to use our language in a way that assumes we can choose for them.

5. That we speak only for ourselves (We speak in the 'I'
- often called using 'I' statements)

So how does that help? It means making more accurate statements with our communication - instead of assuming we can speak for others, we only speak for ourselves. This saves a lot of unnecessary resentment and resistance towards us.


Would you like to train to be a Mediator with CAOS Conflict Management, the organisation run by the author of this website? Are you based in London or South East of England? .......

The music on this video is:'Waking the Spirits' by Bob Holroyd, from his album Stages.


6. That we speak but not too often or for too long

So how does that help? It means acknowledging that filling up 'air time' in a conversation prevents us from connecting with others through our communication. It means we gain the opportunity to learn and be creative through hearing others' views about what we say.


7. That we challenge the behaviour and not the person

So how does that help? It means that difficult situations can be 'de-personalised' and therefore become an opportunity for learning and creativity rather than a personal 'battle'. It means using a more effective approach to communicating, removing the unnecessary personal labels and destructive comments. It means keeping a focus on the issue, allowing for a more creative response to any difficult situation.


8. That we respect confidentiality

So how does that help? It means generating a feeling of trust, safety and in some situations, intimacy through valuing that which is important to another, and acknowledging and respecting their vulnerability in relation to an issue.


9. That it is ok to make mistakes

So how does that help? It means acknowledging the fact that we are not robots and that mistakes are opportunities for learning, connection and insight rather than opportunities to condemn another - as if we are ourselves 'perfect'. It means adopting a no-blame approach to difficult situations.


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The Principles of Effective Interpersonal Communication are based on the Underlying Philosophies of Mediation that you can read about on the Conflict Resolution page.

You may also be interested in the effective interpersonal communication skills used in conflict resolution practice which are,'simply':

Listening, Summarising, Questioning


Listening, Summarising and Questioning - The Simple, Effective Skills of Conflict Resolution.

An e-booklet of the webpages describing all 3 skills with some additional comments and clarifications for just $3!

Purchase it now for easy reference.

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Or Click here to find out more.

Would you like to attend:
Mediation Training
or
Conflict Coaching Training
based on the Principles and approaches described on this site?

Alan Sharland, author of this website runs CAOS Conflict Management in the UK and regularly holds training courses in these areas as well as offering mediation, conflict coaching and other conflict management support.

CAOTICA the CAOS Conflict Management Blog

Go from Effective Interpersonal Communication to Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution Home Page

Go from Effective Interpersonal Communication to purchase The Guide to the Principles of Effective Communication pdf

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Are you experiencing difficulties communicating with someone? Perhaps at work with your boss, or your colleagues, or at home with your partner, children or other family members? Is there an unresolved conflict that you are struggling with?

Guide to Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution
Buy The Guide to The Principles of Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution for just $7, and learn the insights gained from the practices of Mediation and Conflict Coaching that can help you communicate better and create new ways to resolve your conflict.

There's also a FREE COPY of the e-booklet Listening, Summarising and Questioning - The Simple, Effective Skills of Conflict Resolution with every purchase of The Guide.

Some recent feedback on The Guide:

Dear Alan - I recently purchased The Guide which I think is excellent and highly useful in a personal and professional context. I am a teacher with the Skills Institute in Tasmania and I'm about to roll out communication training in Tasmania's only youth detention facility. I have an enormous amount of material regarding communication but none as succinct or as user-friendly as what you have developed.

Clare Thompson
Teacher-Human Services Skills Institute - Tasmania


Alan Sharland, author of the Communication and Conflict website is Director of CAOS Conflict Management, where he has a blog called CAOTICA, please visit by clicking this banner and if you like what you see please subscribe to CAOTICA.
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Some more comments about this site.....

Hi Alan

It is refreshing to find reading material that informs and inspires and can provide a good resource for small organisations such as ours.

Anne Johnston - The Shropshire Housing Alliance Mediation Service



I did a 1 hour workshop where I presented your Facts and Feelings Listening Exercise. We learned so much about how we listen and the consequences of not listening well that I was asked to purchase your book and have another Listening Meeting.

My team just launched a project that could have whipped the team members and executives into a tremendous conflict. I required everyone to follow your rules for listening and it has been the best implementation we have had in 10years.

Thank you for your generous and comprehensive communications and conflict resolution information.

Angela - Information Technology & Systems VP


'What is a Bully?' Comment on article by Alan which was published on the Mediate.com website

Thank you SO MUCH for this article! It brings forward some very key points about the phenomenon of "bullying" which I have been pondering for some while. Among others, asking to what extent can/should the person on the receiving end of the bullying/perceived to be bullying take responsibility/initiate steps to shift the paradigm? How can this happen without implying that the recipient is somehow responsible for the bullying behavior?

To a certain extent the steps you suggest point to the strategies of NonViolent Communication: Observe and simply describe the behavior, understand and honor your own feelings and needs in the situation, and take responsibility for meeting them by making requests to change the situation.

There has been a significant upsurge of email traffic about bullying in the last year among the members of the Int'l. Ombudsman's Association (principally the academic sector). Much of the exchange, in my view, has tended to favor the stance of "recipient of the behavior as victim," without agency to change the situation, thereby perpetuating the problem and doing a disservice to all. I will be forwarding this article to my colleagues to spice up the conversation!

Laurie McCann, Campus Ombuds, Univ Calif Santa Cruz