The Importance of Interpersonal Communication Skills in Your Fire Department

If you've been following my series of articles here on you will notice a certain pattern that seems to be focusing on building a department infrastructure to improve external and internal customer services. This month's article is another item from the "tool box" that you can use to analyze your departments operations and build stronger relationships between your employees, not to mention, your adoring public!

Communication comes in many forms such as; body language, written word, oral communication, and touch are all examples that we use everyday to get our messages across. How we use these techniques, and how others view their meaning, can greatly influence our workplace relationships with others. Perhaps the most important form of communication is that which establishes our credibility and trust with others, interpersonal communication.

Interpersonal communication is important for the quality of working relationships in any fire service organization. Those in management positions who are sensitive and responsive in their communications with employees encourage the development of trusting, loyal relationships. Everyone in your department benefits from secure working relationships.

Encouraging feedback and practicing reflective listening skills at work can open up communication channels in the work environment. Open communication benefits decision-making processes because managers are better-informed and more likely to base decisions on complete information. Open communication encourages the growth of non-defensive relationships.

Interpersonal Communication can be defined as: communication that occurs between two or more people in an organization. After all, communication itself is the evoking of a shared or common meaning in another person. Thus, these two components are essential functions as we learn to understand one another and for the basis of resolving problems amongst each other.

Elements of Interpersonal Communication:

1. Communicator

2. Receiver - The person interpreting and processing the information to determine if/what the response to the message should be.

3. Perceptual Screens - Body language, voice tone, language choice, and other message characteristics that are sent with the message used by the receiver in deciphering the information.

4. Message - The actual meaning of what you are trying to convey to another person.

As we examine these elements it is obvious how simple it is to lose the message in your receiver's interpretation of your perceptual screens. For that very reason we place emphasis on understanding how we communicate with each other and realize that it is vital in building and sustaining human relationships at work. Freewheeling interpersonal communication is the antidote to isolation at work and believing in, as well as practicing, those ideas are the first steps to improving the way interact with each other in our organizations.