Your Competitive Edge: The Art of Interpersonal Communication

Article excerpt

In our professional lives in schools, hospitals, private practices, and universities, speech-language pathologists often pride ourselves on being communication experts--but are we? We may know how to diagnose and treat a wide range of communication disabilities, but can we effectively get our message across to our colleagues and families? Raymond H. Hull, PhD, a professor of communication sciences and disorders, audiology, and director of the Center for Research in Communicative Sciences and Disorders in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Wichita State University, has been concerned about this also. For some individuals it comes naturally, but for other persons, it must be formally taught in our university preparation programs. Unfortunately, it rarely is. Hull describes how important interpersonal communication is to persons who work with individuals who need not only education and health care but also to know what we are planning to provide and why. Interpersonal communication is the caring that enables our services to have the effect intended. Ray Hull describes how our universities could include this type of training, and how it might vastly improve our interventions with persons who have communication disorders.

Q: We pride ourselves on being communication experts--but are we really?

A: That is a very good question. I doubt if we are truly prepared to be communication experts. But, of course we are well prepared as specialists in the field of communication sciences and disorders, for example, speech-language pathology and audiology. However, how many of the professionals in our fields have been prepared in any manner in communication per se, perhaps as they were 50 years ago, when specialists in our field emerged (or evolved) out of departments of forensics, elocution, or public speaking? Here I am referring to such areas as public speaking, persuasive speaking, and interpersonal communication. In particular, interpersonal communication is a critically important aspect of our professional and personal lives, but it is often neglected in our preparation as specialists in communication disorders.

Without formal, or even informal, preparation, some professionals may not be as effective in interpersonal communication as they would desire because they are not skilled in attending to all of the unpredictable events that occur during such interactions. They may not be as adept at meeting the personal and coactive needs of individuals with whom the communication events are taking place; therefore, they may not be as successful in their interactions with persons with whom they must associate as they work to build their practices; provide services on behalf of their patients; or work in other clinical, academic, or administrative settings. Interpersonal communication bridges all fields, including medicine, dentistry, and other health services fields and banking, insurance sales, financial advising, and every other field in which interpersonal communication is a part of one's professional life!

I began my academic career as an undergraduate major in communications-forensics, public speaking, debate, persuasive speaking, and interpersonal communication with the intent of becoming a professional in the field of radio/television broadcasting and an actor. When I began my master's degree in radio and television broadcasting, I also found myself in several courses and seminars about interpersonal communication, which I found fascinating. Because the importance of mastering the art of interpersonal communication influences so much of what we do in our daily life, I found that area particularly interesting. It was not until I discovered the field of communication disorders that I began to drift from those "normal" aspects of communication in my academic preparation. However, I did not forget the principles of interpersonal communication because as a graduate student, when I began my clinical practicum experiences in speech-language pathology and audiology, those principles became an important part of the clinician-client relationship that is established rather quickly during those experiences. …