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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 to those living or working 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, team-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 aware of them.

Click Here for an e-book that explains the Principles in more detail and provides activities to support you in becoming more aware of them and and more able to put them to use for your own, and others' benefit.

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.

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    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.

    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

    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


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    Books written by Alan Sharland available on Amazon: 

    How to Resolve Bullying in the Workplace. Stepping out of the Circle of Blame to Create an Effective Outcome for All.

    "Alan Sharland has written a vital book on bullying. His approach is the way forward. Instead of focusing on 'proving it', which takes us in the direction of investigations and hearings that go no where and only serve to exacerbate an already sensitive situation, he shows the way forward through direct communication and a focus on the behavior that is of concern." John Ford - Editor of Mediate.com and Director of HR Mediation Academy

    A Guide to Effective Communication for Conflict Resolution

    A Guide to Effective Communication for Conflict Resolution introduces the 9 Principles that are also described on this site to help the reader develop a 'mindfulness' in relation to their communication in a way that supports the resolution of conflict. In this book

    Alan shares his observations and learnings from working as a Mediator and Conflict Coach with regard to the ways that people become stuck in unresolved conflict but also how they go on to create more effective ways forward in their difficult situations. 

    "I think you put together so well all the essential components of
    conflict transformation in a way which people can relate to and
    understand. A brilliant book and I will recommend it to everyone." Jo Berry  www.buildingbridgesforpeace.org

    Visit our

    Podcast Page CAOS

    on iTunes

    CAOTICA Podcast about communication, conflict resolution, mediation.

    Join our new 

    ONLINE Introduction to Conflict Coaching Skills 

    (6 x 2 hour sessions on Zoom)

    Learn about the CAOS Model of Conflict Coaching, the first to be developed in the UK in 2008 and one that does not have to be connected to ongoing mediation but can be simply a 'stand alone' support service for individuals. 

    Open to non-UK attendees - visit the link above for more details and to register your interest.

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