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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are the life skills we use every day to communicate and interact with other people, individually and in groups. Interpersonal skills include not only how we communicate with others, but also our confidence, and our ability to listen and understand. Problem solving, decision making and personal stress management are also considered interpersonal skills. People with strong interpersonal skills are usually more successful in both their professional and personal lives. They are perceived as more calm, confident and charismatic, qualities that are often endearing or appealing to others. Being more aware of your interpersonal skills can help you improve and develop them. We provide an extensive library of articles to help you learn about and improve your interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are also sometimes referred to as soft skills or people skills. A list of Interpersonal Skills could include:

Listening Skills Communication Skills Stress Management Verbal Communication Assertiveness Decision Making Problem Solving Non-Verbal Communication

Listening Skills Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear, whereas listening requires more than that: it requires focus. Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages. Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to

which you perceive and understand these messages. Principles of listening: A good listener will listen not only to what is being said, but also to what is left unsaid or only partially said. Listening involves observing body language and noticing inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages. For example, if someone tells you that they are happy with their life but through gritted teeth or with tears filling their eyes, you should consider that the verbal and non-verbal messages are in conflict. Listening requires you to concentrate and use your other senses in addition to simply hearing the words spoken. 1. Stop Talking We have two ears but only one mouth. Don't talk, although you may need to clarify when the other person has finished speaking. 2. Prepare Yourself to Listen Focus on the speaker. Put other things out of mind.

3. Put the Speaker at Ease Help the speaker to feel free to speak. Remember their needs and concerns. Nod or use other gestures or words to encourage them to continue. 4. Remove Distractions Focus on what is being said: dont doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, or similar. Avoid unnecessary interruptions. 5. Empathise Try to understand the other persons point of view. Look at issues from their perspective. Let go of preconceived ideas. 6. Be Patient A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished. Never finish a sentence for someone. 7. Avoid Personal Prejudice Try to be impartial. Dont become irritated and dont let the persons habits or manner distract you from what they are really saying.

8. Listen to the Tone Volume and tone both add to what someone is saying. 9. Listen for Ideas Not Just Words You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces. 10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication Gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements can all be important. What is Interpersonal Communication?

Interpersonal communication is the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal andnon-verbal messages: it is face-to-face communication. Interpersonal communication is not just about what is actually

said - the language used - but how it is said and the non-verbal messages sent through tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and body language. When two or more people are in the same place and are aware of each other's presence, then communication is taking place, no matter how subtle or unintentional. Without speech, an observer may be using cues of posture, facial expression, and dress to form an impression of the other's role, emotional state, personality and/or intentions. Although no communication may be intended, people receive messages through such forms of non-verbal behaviour. Elements of Interpersonal Communication See also: Listening Skills Much research has been done to try to break down interpersonal communication into a number of elements in order that it can be more easily understood. Commonly these elements include: The Communicators For any communication to occur there must be at least two people involved. It is easy to think about communication involving a sender and a receiver of a message. However, the problem with this way of seeing a relationship is that it presents

communication as a one-way process where one person sends the message and the other receives it. In fact communications are almost always complex, two-way processes, with people sending and receiving messages to and from each other. In other words, communication is an interactive process. The Message Message not only means the speech used or information conveyed, but also the nonverbal messages exchanged such asfacial expressions, tone of voice, gestures and body language. Non-verbal behaviour can convey additional information about the message spoken. In particular, it can reveal more about emotional attitudes which may underlie the content of speech. Noise Noise has a special meaning in communication theory. It refers to anything that distorts the message, so that what is received is different from what is intended by the speaker. Whilst physical 'noise' (for example, background sounds or a lowflying jet plane) can interfere with communication, other factors are considered to be noise. The use of complicated jargon,inappropriate body

language, inattention, disinterest, and cultural differences can be considered 'noise' in the context of interpersonal communication. In other words, any distortions or inconsistencies that occur during an attempt to communicate can be seen as noise. Feedback Feedback consists of messages the receiver returns, which allows the sender to know how accurately the message has been received, as well as the receiver's reaction. The receiver may also respond to the unintentional message as well as the intentional message. Types of feedback range from direct verbal statements, for example "Say that again, I don't understand", to subtle facial expressions or changes in posture that might indicate to the sender that the receiver feels uncomfortable with the message. Feedback allows the sender to regulate, adapt or repeat the message in order to improve communication. Context All communication is influenced by the context in which it takes place. However, apart from looking at the situational context of where the interaction takes place, for example in a room, office, or perhaps outdoors, the social context also needs to be considered, for example the roles,

responsibilities and relative status of the participants. The emotional climate and participants' expectations of the interaction will also affect the communication. Channel The channel refers to the physical means by which the message is transferred from one person to another. In face-to-face context the channels which are used are speech and vision, however during a telephone conversation the channel is limited to speech alone.

Tension and anxiety are very common problems in society today, and many people will suffer from symptoms of stress at some time in their lives.

You may encounter stress from a number of sources including: Personal Stress which may be caused by the nature of your work, changes in your life or personal problems. Stress in family or friends, which in turn may affect you. Stress in your colleagues, which again may affect you. As the effects of stress can be, at the very least, unpleasant this article sets out to give an overview of stress, together with its causes and consequences, and the means by which it can be avoided, confronted and reduced. What is Stress? Stress is a response to an inappropriate level of pressure. Stress can be described as the distress that is caused as a result of demands placed on physical or mental energy. Stress can arise as the result of: Anxiety Anxiety is caused when life events are felt to be threatening to individual physical, social or mental

well-being. The amount of anxiety experienced by an individual depends on: How threatening these life events are perceived to be. Individual coping strategies. How many stressful events occur in a short period of time.

Tension Tension is a natural reaction to anxiety. It is part of a primitive survival instinct where physiological changes prepare the individual for fight or flight. This sympathetic response, as it is known, results in a chemical Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) being released in the body and causes muscles to tense ready for action. Blood vessels near the skin constrict to slow bleeding if injury is sustained and to increase the blood supply to the muscles, heart, lungs and brain. Digestion is inhibited, the bladder relaxes, and sweating, the heart rate and breathing increase. The person affected becomes more alert, their eyes dilate and a surge of adrenaline gives rise to an increase in energy. These responses are extremely useful in situations of physical danger but, unlike for primitive humans, many of the anxieties of modern life are

not ones that can be solved by a fight or flight reaction or by any physical response. Modern day stressful situations tend to continue for much longer periods of time and an immediate response does not relieve the anxiety-provoking situation. Therefore, prolonged states of anxiety can lead to symptoms of stress which prevent the individual from returning to his or her normal, relaxed state. Physical Signs of Stress In addition to feeling uneasy, tense and worried, physical sensations of continued stress can include:

Palpitations Dizziness Indigestion or heartburn Tension headaches Aching muscles Trembling or eye twitches Diarrhoea Frequent urination Insomnia Tiredness Impotence

People are often unaware that they are suffering from stress and visit the doctor with symptoms of

indigestion, muscle pain, headaches, etc. Severe stress can lead to panic attacks, chest pains, phobias and fears of being seriously ill. Continued stress can lead to feelings of lethargy and tiredness, migraine, severe stomach upset and sleeplessness. As with all such symptoms, medical help should be sought. However, once symptoms are recognised as being caused by stress it is possible to control and reduce stress levels. This can be done through learning a number of stress reduction techniques. Stress-Inducing Events and Situations While individuals have a range of events or situations that are particularly stressful to them, most people would agree that major events such as losing a job, divorce or money problems would be stressful for anyone. The following list is compiled from the answers given by a large number of people as to how hard it is to readjust to different life changing events. A high score shows that people find it hard to readjust to that event, which in turn indicates a high stress factor.

Event: Death of a spouse or partner Divorce Marital separation Death of a close family member Personal injury or illness Marriage Loss of a job Marital reconciliation Retirement Change in health of a family member Pregnancy Sexual problems Addition of a new family member Death of a close friend Change to a different kind of work Taking on a large mortgage

Score out of 100 100 73 65 63 53 50 47 45 45 44 40 39 39 37 36 31

Change of responsibilities at work Son or daughter leaving home Spouse starts/stops work Starting or leaving school Trouble with the boss Change in residence Taking on a loan or H.P. debt Change in eating habits Vacation Christmas Minor violations of the law

29 29 26 26 23 20 17 15 13 12 11

Life changes can have a direct effect on health, either good or bad. Of people who have a life change score of 200-300, half exhibit health problems in the following year. Of those with a score over 300, 79% become ill in the following year. The most stressful change is the death of a spouse. Widowers have a 40% higher death rate than normal and have high rates of illness and depression.

It is not only unpleasant events that can be stressful. It seems that almost any change involves stress in readjusting and, if possible, it would seem wise to not have too many changes in life at the same time if this is at all possible. In addition to stress being caused by events, certain situations can lead to an individual feeling stressed; although as mentioned before the degree of stress will depend, amongst other things, on that individuals coping strategies. The environment can also serve to make us stressed: for example, noise, crowds, poor lighting, pollution or other external factors over which we have no control can cause us to feel anxious and irritable. Adjusting to modern-day life can also be a source of stress. We now communicate with people in many different ways, e.g. through the Internet, mobile phones, and various broadcast media, and the expectation of a quick response has increased. We also have many more commodities available to us and some people feel an expectation to maintain a certain lifestyle and level of consumerism. In addition, for many women it is now the norm to manage a full- or part-time job and to be the primary carer nurturing a family.

All of these changes mean that stress is now unfortunately commonplace in both our personal and professional lives. Indeed we could argue that a programme of stress management, focussed on stress prevention as much as relief, is an essential part of modern living.

Verbal Communication Opening Communication In many encounters, the first few minutes are extremely important as first impressions have a significant impact on the success of further communication. Everyone has expectations and norms as to how initial meetings should proceed and tends to behave according to these expectations. If interpersonal expectation is mismatched, communication will not be effective nor run smoothly, and negotiation will be needed






At a first meeting, formalities and appropriate greetings are usually expected: such formalities could include a handshake, an introduction to yourself, eye contact and discussion around a neutral subject such as the weather or your journey may be useful. A friendly disposition and smiling face are much more likely to encourage communication than a blank face, inattention or disinterested reception. Reinforcement The use of encouraging words alongside nonverbal gestures such as head nods, a warm facial expression and maintaining eye contact, are more likely to reinforce openness in others. The use of encouragement and positive reinforcement can: Encourage others to participate in discussion (particularly in group work) Signify interest in what other people have to say Pave the way for development and/or maintenance of a relationship Allay fears and give reassurance





Effective Listening Active listening is a very important listening skill and yet, as communicators, people tend to spend far more energy considering what they are going to say rather than listening to what the other person is trying to say. The following points are essential for effective and active listening: Arrange a comfortable environment conducive to the purpose of the communication, for example a warm and light room with minimal background noise. Be prepared to listen. Keep an open mind and concentrate on the main direction of the speaker's message. Avoid distractions if at all possible. Delay judgment until you have heard everything. Be objective. Do not be trying to think of your next question while the other person is giving information. Do not dwell on one or two points at the expense of others.

The speaker should not be stereotyped. Try not to let prejudices associated with, for example, gender, ethnicity, social class, appearance or dress interfere with what is being said. See also our section on Listening Skills.


Assertiveness is a skill often referred to in social and communication skills training. Often wrongly confused with aggression, assertive individuals aim to be neither passive nor aggressive in their interactions with other people. Although everyone acts in passive and aggressive ways from time to time, such ways of responding often result from a lack of self confidence and, therefore, are inappropriate expressions of what such people really need to say. Non-assertiveness may be seen as the use of inefficient communication skills, whereas assertiveness is considered a balanced response, being neither passive nor aggressive. This article looks at the rights and responsibilities of assertive behaviour and aims to show how assertiveness can benefit the individual. What is Assertiveness? The Concise Oxford assertiveness as: Dictionary defines

Forthright, positive, insistence on the recognition of one's rights In other words: Assertiveness means standing up for your personal rights - expressing thoughts, feelings and

beliefs in direct, honest and appropriate ways." It is important to note also that "By being assertive we should always respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people Assertiveness concerns being able to express feelings, wishes, wants and desires appropriately and is an important interpersonal skill. In all your interactions with other people, whether at home or at work with employers, customers or colleagues, assertiveness can help you to express yourself in a clear, open and reasonable way, without undermining the rights of yourself or others. Assertiveness enables an individual to act in their own best interests, to stand up for themselves without undue anxiety, to express honest feelings comfortably and to express personal rights without denying the rights of others. Passive, Aggresive and Assertive See also: Negotiation Being Passive Responding in a passive or non-assertive way tends to mean compliance with the wishes of others and undermines individual rights and selfconfidence. Many people adopt a passive response because they have a strong need to be liked by

others. Such people do not regard themselves as equals because they place greater weight on the rights, wishes and feelings of others. Being passive results in failure to communicate thoughts or feelings and results in people doing things they really do not want to do in the hope that they might please others. This also means that they allow others to take responsibility, to lead and make decisions for them. A classic passive response is offered by those who say 'yes' to requests when they actually want to say 'no'. For example,Do you think you can find the time to clean out these cupboards today? A typical passive reply might be Yes, I'll do it after I've done the shopping for Mrs. Smith, made an important telephone call, finished the filing, cleaned the windows and made lunch for grandma! A far more appropriate response would have been No, I'm unable to do it today as I've got several things I need to do. It is obvious that the person responding passively really does not have the time, but their answer does not convey this message. The second response is assertive in that the person has considered the implication of the request in the light of the other tasks they have to do.

By responding passively, individuals are more inclined to portray themselves in a negative light or put themselves down and, as a result, may actually come to feel inferior to others. Passive responding can encourage treatment that reinforces a passive role. While the underlying causes of passive responding are often poor self-confidence and self-esteem, passive responding itself can serve to yet further reduce feelings of self-worth. You may find that you respond passively, aggressively or assertively when you are communicating in different situations. It is important to remember that any interaction is always a two-way process and therefore your reactions may differ, depending upon your relationship with the other person in the communication. Being Aggressive By responding in an aggressive way, the rights and self-esteem of the other person are undermined. Aggressive responses can include a wide range of behaviours, like rushing someone unnecessarily, telling rather than asking, ignoring someone, or not considering another's feelings.

Good interpersonal skills mean you need to be aware of the different ways of communicating and the different response each approach might provoke. The use of either passive or aggressive behaviour in interpersonal relationships can have undesirable consequences for those you are communicating with and it may well hinder positive moves forward. Aggressive behaviour fails to consider other individuals' views or feelings. Rarely will praise or appreciation of others be shown and an aggressive response tends to put others down. Aggressive responses encourage the other person to respond in a non-assertive way, either aggressively or passively. It can be a frightening or distressing experience to be spoken to aggressively and the receiver can be left wondering what instigated such behaviour or what he or she has done to deserve the aggression. If thoughts and feelings are not stated clearly, this can lead to individuals manipulating others into meeting their wishes and desires. Manipulation can be seen as a covert form of aggression whilst humour can also be used aggressively.

Being Assertive Being assertive involves taking into consideration both your own rights, wishes, wants, needs and desires, as well as those of the other person. Assertiveness means encouraging others to be open and honest about their views, wishes and feelings, in order that both parties act appropriately. Assertive behaviour includes: Being open in expressing wishes, thoughts and feelings and encouraging others to do likewise. Listening to the views of others and responding appropriately, whether in agreement with these views or not. Accepting responsibilities and being able to delegate to others. Regularly expressing appreciation of others for what they have done or are doing. Being able to admit to mistakes and apologise. Maintaining self-control. Behaving as an equal to others.

Decision making Introduction / Outline People often find it hard to make decisions. We can't decide if this is an introduction or outline! Some people put off making decisions by endlessly searching for more information or getting other people to offer their recommendations. Others resort to decision making by taking a vote, sticking a pin in a list or tossing a coin. Regardless of the effort that is put into making a decision, it has to be accepted that some decisions will not be the best possible choice. This article looks at one technique that can be used in decision mak ing thatshould help you to make effective decisions in the future. Although the following technique is designed for an organisational or group structure, it can be adapted to an individual level. What is Decision Making? In its simplest sense, decision making is the act of choosing between two or more courses of action. However, it must always be remembered that there may not always be a 'correct' decision among the

available choices. There may have been a better choice that had not been considered, or the right information may not have been available at the time. Because of this, it is important to keep a record of all decisions and the reasons why decisions were made, so that improvements can be made in the future. This also provides justification for any decision taken when something goes wrong. Hindsight might not be able to correct past mistakes, but it will aid improved decision making in the future. Effective Decision Making Although decisions can be made using either intuition or reasoning, a combination of both approaches is often used. Whatever approach is used, it is usually helpful to structure decision making in order to: Reduce more complicated decisions down to simpler steps. See how any decisions are arrived at. Plan decision making to meet deadlines.

Stages of Decision Making Many different techniques of decision making have been developed, ranging from simple rules of thumb, to extremely complex procedures. The

method used depends on the nature of the decision to be made and how complex it is. The method described in this article follows a number of stages. These are: Stage One: Listing all possible solutions/options. Stage Two: Setting a time scale and deciding who is responsible for the decision. Stage Three: Information gathering. Stage Four: Weighing up the risks involved. Stage Five: Deciding on values, or in other words what is important. Stage Six: Weighing up the pros and cons of each course of action. Stage Seven: Making the decision. Framework for Decision Making

Listing Possible Solutions/Options Generally, the possible solutions will have been thought up during the earlier problem solving process, either through brainstorming or some other 'idea generating' process (see our article on: Problem Solving). In addition, a decision will have to be made from a selection of fixed choices. Always remember to consider the possibility of not making a decision or doing nothing and be

aware that both options are actually decisions in themselves. Setting a Time Scale and Deciding Who is Responsible for the Decision In deciding how much time to make available for the decision making process, it helps to consider the following: How much time is available to spend on this decision? Is there a deadline for making a decision and what are the consequences of missing this deadline? Is there an advantage in making a quick decision? How important is it to make a decision? How important is it that the decision is right? Will spending more time improve the quality of the decision?

Responsibility for the Decision: Before making a decision, it needs to be clear who is going to take responsibility for the decision. Remember that it is not always those making the decision who have to assume responsibility for it. Is it an individual, a group or an organisation? This is a key question because the degree to which responsibility for a

decision is shared can greatly influence how much risk people are willing to take. If the decison making is for work then it is helpful to consider the structure of the organisation that you are in. Is the individual responsible for the decisions he or she makes or does the organisation hold ultimate responsibility? Who has to carry out the course of action decided? Who will it affect if something goes wrong? Are you willing to take responsibility for a mistake? Finally, who can take the decision? When helping a friend, colleague or client to reach a decision, in most circumstances the final decision and responsibility will be taken by them. Whenever possible, and if it is not obvious, it is better to make a formal decision as to who is responsible for a decision. This idea of responsibility also highlights the need to keep a record of how any decision was made, what information it was based on and who was involved. Enough information needs to be kept to justify that decision in the future so that, if something does go wrong, it is possible to show that your decision was reasonable in the circumstance and given the knowledge you held at the time.

Non Verbal communication Interpersonal communication not only involves the explicit meaning of words, that is the information or message conveyed, but also refers to implicit messages, whether intentional or not, which may be expressed through nonverbal behaviours. Non-verbal communications include facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, gestures displayed through body language (kinesics) and the physical distance between communicators (proxemics). These non-verbal signals can give clues and additional infomation and meaning over and above spoken language. Non-verbal messages allow individuals to: Reinforce or modify what is said in words. For example, people may nod their heads vigorously when saying "Yes" to emphasise that they agree with the other person, but a shrug of the shoulders and sad expression when saying "I'm fine thanks, may imply that things are not really fine at all! Convey information about their emotional state.

Define or reinforce the relationship between people. Provide feedback to the other person. Regulate the flow of communication, for example by signalling to others that they have finished speaking or wish to say something.

Many popular books on non-verbal communication present the topic as if it were a language that can be learned, the implication being that if the meaning of every nod, eye movement, and gesture were known, the real feelings and intentions of a person would be understood. Unfortunately interpreting non-verbal communication is not that simple. As covered in Interpersonal Communication, the way communication is influenced by the context in which it occurs. For example, a nod of the head between colleagues in a committee meeting may mean something very different to when the same action is used to acknowledge someone across a crowded room. Interpersonal communication is further complicated in that it is usually not possible to interpret a gesture or expression accurately on its own. Non-verbal communication consists of a

complete package of expressions, hand and eye movements, postures, and gestures which should be interpreted along with speech (verbal communication). The forms of interpersonal communication that are not expressed verbally are called non-verbal communications. These include: Body Movements (Kinesics) Posture Eye Contact Paralanguage Closeness or Personal Space (Proxemics) Facial Expressions Physiological Change

Interpersonal communication From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Interpersonal communication is usually defined by communication scholars in numerous ways, usually describing participants who are dependent upon one another. It can involve one on oneconversations or individuals interacting with many people within a society. It helps us understand how and why people behave and communicate in different ways to construct and negotiate a social reality. While interpersonal communication can be defined as its own area of study, it also occurs within other contexts like groups and organizations.Interpersonal communication is the process that we use to communicate our ideas, thoughts, and feelings to another person. Our interpersonal communication skills are learned behaviors that can be improved through knowledge, practice, feedback, and reflection. Interpersonal communication includes message sending and message reception between two or more individuals. This can include all aspects of communication such as listening,

persuading, asserting, nonverbal communication, and more. A primary concept of interpersonal communication looks at communicative acts when there are few individuals involved unlike areas of communication such as group interaction, where there may be a large number of individuals involved in a communicative act. Individuals also communicate on different interpersonal levels depending on who they are engaging in communication with. For example, if an individual is communicating with a family member, that communication will more than likely differ from the type of communication used when engaged in a communicative act with a friend or significant other. Overall, interpersonal communication can be conducted using both direct and indirect mediums of communication such as face-to-face interaction, as well as computer-mediated-communication. Successful interpersonal communication assumes that both the message senders and the message receivers will interpret and understand the messages being sent on a level of understood meanings and implications.

Four Principles of Interpersonal Communication These principles underlie the workings in real life of interpersonal communication. They are basic to communication. We can't ignore them Interpersonal communication is inescapable We can't not communicate. The very attempt not to communicate communicates something. Through not only words, but through tone of voice and through gesture, posture, facial expression, etc., we constantly communicate to those around us. Through these channels, we constantly receive communication from others. Even when you sleep, you communicate. Remember a basic principle of communication in general: people are not mind readers. Another way to put this is: people judge you by your behavior, not your intent. Interpersonal communication is irreversible You can't really take back something once it has been said. The effect must inevitably remain. Despite the instructions from a judge to a jury to "disregard that last statement the witness made,"

the lawyer knows that it can't help but make an impression on the jury. A Russian proverb says, "Once a word goes out of your mouth, you can never swallow it again." Interpersonal communication is complicated No form of communication is simple. Because of the number of variables involved, even simple requests are extremely complex. Theorists note that whenever we communicate there are really at least six "people" involved: 1) who you think you are; 2) who you think the other person is; 30 who you think the other person thinks you are; 4) who the other person thinks /she is; 5) who the other person thinks you are; and 6) who the other person thinks you think s/he is. We don't actually swap ideas, we swap symbols that stand for ideas. This also complicates communication. Words (symbols) do not have inherent meaning; we simply use them in certain ways, and no two people use the same word exactly alike. Osmo Wiio gives us some communication maxims similar to Murphy's law (Osmo Wiio, Wiio's

Laws--and Some Others (Espoo, Finland: WelinGoos, 1978):

If communication can fail, it will. If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm. There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message. The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed.

These tongue-in-cheek maxims are not real principles; they simply humorously remind us of the difficulty of accurate communication. (See also A commentary of Wiio's laws by Jukka Korpela.) Interpersonal communication is contextual In other words, communication does not happen in isolation. There is:

Psychological context, which is who you are and what you bring to the interaction. Your needs, desires, values, personality, etc., all form the psychological context. ("You" here refers to both participants in the interaction.)

Relational context, which concerns your reactions to the other person--the "mix." Situational context deals with the psychosocial "where" you are communicating. An interaction that takes place in a classroom will be very different from one that takes place in a bar. Environmental context deals with the physical "where" you are communicating. Furniture, location, noise level, temperature, season, time of day, all are examples of factors in the environmental context. Cultural context includes all the learned behaviors and rules that affect the interaction. If you come from a culture (foreign or within your own country) where it is considered rude to make long, direct eye contact, you will out of politeness avoid eye contact. If the other person comes from a culture where long, direct eye contact signals trustworthiness, then we have in the cultural context a basis for misunderstanding.