Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interpersonal Communication

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Interpersonal Communication

What is interpersonal communication? In the text, Looking Out Looking In, Adler states, “Interpersonal communication can be defined contextually by the number of people involved or qualitatively by the nature of interaction between them. In a qualitative sense, interpersonal relationships are unique, irreplaceable, interdependent, and intrinsically rewarding” (p. 8).” This paper will discuss three interpersonal communication situations that I have recently been involved with. Each situation will include the nature, the issues involved, the types of interpersonal skills that were used and/or skills that should have been used for each situation.

Situation 1

After paying off the American Express credit card bill I received an additional bill with an outstanding balance of $8.15. I immediately called the credit card company to inquiry about the outstanding balance. Customer service representative Carl informed me that the outstanding balance was a finance charge that carried over from the previous month. I informed Carl that if the bill is paid in full by the due date I should not be charged a fee. In a gruff voice, Carl indicted that this is the policy and has always been the policy and there was nothing else he could do. Carl’s reaction immediately put me in a defensive mode. I then responded back indicating that if he does not remove the charge I will close my account. I then asked to speak with Carl’s supervisor. I was put on hold for a few minutes, which gave me the opportunity to gather my thoughts. When the supervisor came to the phone I was calmer and was able to use better interpersonal communication skills. Adler states, “Often the first flush of a strong feeling is not the best time to speak out (p. 154).” When supervisor Sarah came to the phone I explained in a very calm voice that I was a long time customer and did not believe I should be charged a finance charge because I paid the bill in full by the due date. Sarah informed me that the finance charge was for a previous month but she would waive the fee because of my excellent standing with the credit card company. Although feeling and expressing emotions can add to the quality of interpersonal relationships, not all feelings are beneficial. I found that becoming defensive and angry did little to help improve the relationship with Carl and resolve the problem.

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After returning home from a week long vacation I woke up on a Friday morning to find that the check engine light was coming on when I started my 000 Acura car. The car manual indicated that it should be checked out before driving otherwise you could be taking a chance of seriously damaging the engine. I immediately became frustrated because I had many errands to run that day before the weekend and I was now without a vehicle. I then called the (800) Acura roadside assistance number, which is a warranty on my car that provides a tow to the nearest Acura dealership. Amber at roadside assistance informed me that a tow driver should arrive at my house in approximately 45 minutes, which would make it 1045 a.m. I then informed Fred at Acura that my car should arrive at approximately 1100 a.m. Fred indicated that Acura service was extremely busy but as long as the car was there by 100 the mechanic would have time to look it that day. At 110 a.m. roadside assistance had not arrived. I called Amber to find out why and when I should expect the driver. Amber informed me that they needed a flat bed truck for my all-wheel drive vehicle and the only one they had was out on another call and it would another 45 minutes. In a snotty voice I asked Amber why she didn’t call and let me know the driver would be late and I tried to explain that my car needed to be at the dealership before noon. Amber then indicated that she could cancel the tow if I wanted. I immediately hung up the phone. After thinking about the situation, I called Amber back and apologized for hanging up. Amber informed me that she just heard from the driver and he was on his way and explained to me in more detail why the driver was late. The car made it to Acura by 100 p.m. and Acura was able to correct the problem before closing. What I learned in this situation is that in general, people want to feel that they have been treated fairly and feel that they have been understand and respected, regardless of what is being communicated. The ability to listen respectfully can be effective in many emotionally charged situations. I found out in a later conversation from Amber that the flat bed truck was needed for a major accident and it took a higher priority. Instead of becoming frustrated with Amber I could of done a better job of listening. I also could of ask some open-ended questions which would encourage the other person to give more extensive information that could help alter their or my position (p. 7).


Three months after I purchased a $00.00 fossil handbag from Macy’s the inside pocket ripped and could no longer be used. When I went to Macy’s to exchange the purse I was told by Irene that they did not carry my purse and because I did not have a receipt there was nothing she could do. I tried to explain to Irene that I purchased the purse in southern California when I was visiting my daughter and I used a gift card. Irene insisted there was nothing that could be done. Irene’s close-minded reaction and her non-willingness to work with me set off my emotions. I became irritated and frustrated because I had paid a lot of money for the purse because I was an excellent Macy cardholder I felt I was being treated unfairly. I expected a much different response from Irene. From my facial expression and tone of voice, Irene realized I was not going to let this go. Adler states, “The face and eyes are probably the most noticed parts of the body. Anger shows in the lower face, brows, forehead and the way a message is spoken can give the same words many meanings (p. 50.” Irene and I were obviously not getting anywhere, so, I decided to take a different approach to solve the problem. Adler states, “Aggression can have a severe impact on the target. Recipients can feel embarrassed, inadequate, or humiliated and can lead to decreased effectiveness in resolving the problem (p. 408).” I then decided to take another approach with Irene. Adler states, “A competent, successful communicator will choose the most effective style for a given situation (p. 414).”

I decided to ask an open-ended question to help Irene and I move beyond despair and anger and into a more active mode of problem solving. I asked Irene if there were any other alternatives to resolve this problem. I let her know that I really liked the purse and ask if there was any way that Macy’s could repair the purse. Irene informed me that I could take the purse to a repair store located in the mall and Macy’s would reimburse me for the repair cost.

The above suggestions on how to improve the communications on the situations described in this paper are possibilities you my want to choose to resolve the conflict. What I have learned overall in interpersonal communications is your voice, your ability to listen, and your body language are three vital communication tools. The effectiveness of your communication depends on how you sound than the words you use. You may have something important to say and have the right words and phrases to get your point across but if your voice doesn’t do it justice, your message won’t be heard. If you are open-minded about what you hear, problems that might otherwise escalate may be seen in better perspective. You can validate a person’s feelings without agreeing or disagreeing with the content of their concerns by acknowledgement i.e. Saying, “I See” or Eye contact as appropriate within the person’s cultural norms (p. 144). Asking closed-ended questions will give you a yes or no answer which are useful to gather some kinds of information, but, generally, they will not help people look at their underlying interests in a way that will help them assess their situation i.e., Are you all right? Or, do you understand what the policy is? Using silence may encourage the person to absorb the information and to provide you with more information. I’ve also learned to be most effective in your communications that there are things you may want to avoid such as, jumping to conclusions, rushing to judgments, giving unwanted advice, and moving prematurely to problem solving.


Adler, R.B., & Towne, N. (00). Looking Out Looking In (10th ed.). Belmont, CA


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