Communication can be difficult.  It is especially difficult when one or both people in an interaction aren’t adept at communicating.  Few of us are taught how to communicate effectively with co-workers, customers, family, or people we happen to meet daily.

Arthur Bochner and Clifford Kelly sought to determine what makes an individual a competent communicator.  Through their research in 1974, they identified five competencies.  Ask yourself, are you competent in these areas?

1.    Empathy.  An emotional connection with another person, without feeling sorry for them.

  • Genuine empathy includes what Aristotle referred to as logic, emotion, and goodwill.
  • It is not just putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  • It means I know I disagree with you, but I can understand where you are coming from.
  • Reciprocity is not expected.

2.    Appropriate Self-Disclosure.  Sharing personal information with others.

  • Self-disclosure belongs to no one but ourselves.
  • It is a person’s right and responsibility to self-disclose.
  • No one has the right to make you self-disclose – it is a voluntary act.
  • There is a relationship between the length of the relationship and the depth of disclosure.

3.    I own my feelings and thoughts.  It is one’s job to speak for oneself.

  • Using “I” allows us to communicate the things we want, feel, and believe.
  • It is “I” language vs. “You” language.  “I am unable to help when I am being yelled at” versus “If you yell at me again you will make me hang up the phone”.
  • It is not blaming.

4.    I have descriptiveness. How I give and receive feedback.

  • Includes empathy, appropriate self-disclosure, and owning one’s thoughts and feelings..
  • Carrying my end of a conversation.
  • Using specific, concrete, and descriptive statements versus vague, abstract, and evaluative messages.  If you say, “You have a ‘bad attitude’” – ask yourself what does ‘bad attitude’ means.

5.    Behavior Flexibility/Adaptability. Adapting to the context a person is in.

  • Diagnosis– ability to understand our own interpersonal context and the other person’s.
  • Effectuation– capacity to act on the understanding of the context.

Source: Bochner, A.P. & Kelly, C.W. (1974). Interpersonal competence rationale, philosophy, and implementation of a conceptual framework.