Interpersonal Communications Skills

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Interpersonal Communications Skills

One, apparently large, obstacle for many new Explorers is communication and public
speaking skills. As you will find, public speaking skills will make a huge difference in the
perception your Department and the public has regarding your Post can mean the difference
between first and last place in Explorer competitions.

From this section the Explorer should develop effective interpersonal communication skills

The basic models and principles of communications:

A failure to communicate could result in dire consequences.
Communication is the transfer of meaning.
For communication to be successful, the meaning must not only be sent, but also comprehended.

A Linear Communication Model
Mental images - Nonverbal feelings, intentions, or mental pictures
Method of communication (nonverbal, verbal, or written)
The actual transmission
Action process of changing the message back into feelings, intentions or mental pictures
Recipient of the message

Linear communication is not a complete representation of the type of communication we want the Explorer to
master, the Explorer needs to be using the interpersonal variety.

In order for the sender to know if the message was received, the sender must obtain feedback.

Interactive Communication
Feedback is achieved by the receiver using the same methods previously used by the sender. This type of
communication is called "Interactive communication."

The model of interactive communication suggests that after a period of time the mental images of both sender and
receiver ought to match. If this happens then successful communication has occurred. This often does not occur.
The meaning of your message is mistaken.

Your constructive suggestion is taken as criticism.

Your carefully phrased question is misunderstood.

Your friendly joke is taken as an insult.
Why does this occur? There are obstacles that must be overcome before effective communication can occur.

Environmental Communication
A person's environment influences how that person decodes the message that was sent. The term environment refers
to a person's history or background. Each individual has different experiences to relate to for a certain situation.

Different types of environments
External, Physiological and Psychological Noise
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Noise can be external, physiological, or psychological.
External Noise - physical noises in the environment, e.g., heavy equipment, sirens, people talking, etc.
Physiological Noise - involves biological factors such as a hearing loss, illness and so on.
Psychological Noise - refers to forces within a communicator that interfere with the ability to express or understand
a message accurately.

Transactional Communication
Not simply a sender then receiver, sender then receiver type of communication, but rather both individuals sending
and receiving at the same time. One person may be talking, i.e., sending communication, while receiving
communications from another party that may be nonverbal.

Some principles of communication
Communication can be both intentional and unintentional.

It is impossible not to communicate through body language, dress and distance.

Communication is based on:
7% to 10% content
33% to 40% tone
60% to + nonverbal

Barriers to effective communication

Filtering - Intentionally manipulating information

Selective perception - Selectively seeing and hearing based on one's needs, motivation, experience,
background, and other personal characteristics.

Emotions- How the receiver feels at the time.

Words - Words mean different things to different people (age, education, and cultural background).

Information overload -Too much information into the brain at one time (Crime scenes-cannot remember
what happened).

Nonverbal signs- When nonverbal cues are inconsistent with the oral message, i.e., conflicting signals.

Time pressures- Trying to communicate in a short amount of time that results in messages that are
abbreviated and the meaning of the message is not fully sent.

formulated by our needs, our past experiences, and our personal theory of personality. (Newil, p. 10)

means to assess or to make an assumption as to why a certain act/behavior occurred in an interpersonal
environment (Neil, p. 12) Being able to give accurate feedback is an essential skill.

Discuss examples of problems arising from faulty perceptions or inferences.


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Helping Techniques
(Also see Helping Techniques Handout at the end of this section)
Non-Verbal Techniques

Eye contact

Body posture




Verbal Techniques

Active listening



Allowing Silence

Stating the Obvious

Personalized Statements


Sharing Feelings

Employing tactical communications appropriate to the situation:


Distancing far enough to be safe, close enough to see and hear.

Facing squarely the person, persons, or situation.

Looking directly at persons and situation; making eye contact.


Standing erect to show strength and confidence.

Eliminating distracting behaviors, e.g., biting nails, foot tapping, etc.

Inclining forward to show that you are focused, interested, and concerned.


Looking carefully at behavior appearance, and environment.

Drawing inferences (initial conclusions subject to change as information becomes available) about feelings,
relationships, energy levels, and values.

Determining if things are normal or abnormal.

Deciding whether it's a "trouble" or "no trouble" situation.


Suspend judgment temporarily so you can hear what's being said.

Pick out key words and phrases.

Determine the intensity considering both volume and emotion. High intensity with an offender is a sign of

Reflect on the mood as positive, negative, or neutral, and whether this mood is normal or abnormal.


Responding to content
o Reflecting on what was seen and heard
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o Use respond format: "You're saying _____."

Responding to feeling
o Reflect on feeling and intensity
o Respond to feeling: "You feel ____."

Responding to feeling and meaning
o Reflect on feeling and reason
o Respond to feeling and meaning: "You feel ____ because ____."

Asking questions

Using the 5WH method (where, who, what, when, why, how)

Thinking about what was said or not said in answering your question

Responding to the answer by reflecting back content, feeling, and meaning.

Information in this section taken from Interpersonal Communications in the Correctional Setting: Instructor's
Guide. National Institute of Corrections, May 1983.

Demonstrate effective positive controlling behavior appropriate to the situation.

Handling requests

Check things out to determine if they are reasonable

Give response and reason

Making requests

Check things out using your sizing up and responding skills

Taking action by selecting best way to make your request

Start with politeness, getting stronger where necessary.

Reinforcing behavior

Reinforcing positively and negatively

Using verbal and non-verbal techniques

Define passive, assertive, and aggressive behavior/communications.

Definition and characteristics of passive, assertive, and aggressive behavior:

Communications and behavior can be seen as existing along a continuum that ranges from passive or non-assertive
on one end to aggressive at the other extreme. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is assertive behavior.
Behavior near the extremes does not usually achieve the legitimate goals of professional policing. Aggressive
behavior may become necessary in an arrest situation when use of force becomes necessary. Passive behavior may
become necessary to retain one's composure when dealing with verbally hostile individuals.

The Advisor may want to encourage discussion, giving examples of each behavior.


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This section will describe certain techniques that have been found useful in crisis intervention.
These consist of verbal and non-verbal communication techniques that experienced officers may
recognize as behaviors they have used intuitively for some time. Naming and describing them
will, it is believed, help both the veteran and the recruit to use them more effectively. Not all
techniques will work for all people; nor is this list presented as a complete catalogue of all the
things one might do to help victims.


It is common knowledge that the non-verbal aspects of communication are often more important
than the verbal. That is, what is said is less important than how it is said. The reason for this is that
the non-verbal techniques indicate exactly what interpretation should be put on the words that are
uttered. However, we rarely examine exactly what factors in our non-verbal communication are
most important. The following list examines some of the most important features of non-verbal
communication and indicates how they may be used to help victims.

1. Eye Contact: This behavior is important for communicating that one is listening and is
concerned. Victims will often avoid eye contact, but the officer who keeps looking directly
at the victim's eyes will eventually establish contact. The result is usually an improvement
in the victim's response to the officer, for eye contact usually communicates
encouragement and support. On the other hand, the officer who is looking at a notebook or
somewhere else may inadvertently communicate disinterest or impatience. Looking up to
make eye contact after writing a statement and while asking the next question will often
help establish better communication between the officer and the victim.

2. Body Posture: When we are sympathetically listening or even attentive, we tend to incline
our heads (and sometimes the whole upper part of our bodies) toward the speaker.
Standing or sitting with the head in an exactly upright position usually indicates that we are
being impersonal. Leaning back from the speaker frequently indicates disbelief or
skepticism. When interviewing victims, it is a good idea to monitor one's body posture to
determine what is being communicated. This is less important when the officer is speaking,
for the words will compensate somewhat for any body messages, but it is very important
when the victim is speaking and can gauge the officer's responses and attitude only from
the non-verbal messages.

3. Distance: There is usually an optimal distance to maintain when talking to other people. If
one stands too close or too far away, the conversation is likely to be uncomfortable.
However, there is a catch in the fact that the distance varies from person to person and
across situations. Generally, the closer one stands the more one expresses intimacy. The
greater the distance, the greater the feeling of formality. A police officer must learn to
judge by the victim's responses whether the distance is too great or too small. If a victim
starts to edge away, the officer should back up a half step; if the victim moves forward, the
officer should stand fast until the victim has reached a comfortable place.
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4. Touching: People generally feel more comforted when someone gives them a supporting
hand or arm. However, some victims may be threatened if an officer reaches out to them.
This is particularly true of victims of sexual assaults. One way out of this dilemma is for
the officer to make it possible for the victim to initiate touching and to accept such an
initiation if it occurs. (It can be devastating for a rape victim to touch an officer's hand and
have it jerked away). One can facilitate such initiation by putting one's hand on a table
between oneself and the victim or by standing close enough to allow touching.
Alternatively, an officer might make a gesture of offering a hand and allowing the victim
to take it or not.

5. Vocalization: This term refers to the volume, speed and pacing of speech. It is generally a
good idea to speak to victims in a soft and slow voice, while allowing a few seconds to
lapse between questions. People who are upset tend to speak loudly and quickly. The
officer's soft, slow voice will lead them to speak in a similar fashion. People who hear
themselves speaking in this manner are likely to be better able to control their own
emotions than people who hear themselves talking loudly and quickly. Pacing questions
slowly gives an impression of patience and concern. The quick firing of questions leads to
an impression of impatience and adds a note of interrogation that can lead the victim to feel


The importance of non-verbal behaviors must not be taken to mean that what is said is
unimportant. There are some particular kinds of statements and inquiries that greatly aid the victim
in coping with crisis.
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1. Active Listening: When another person is talking, we may simply be present or we may
communicate that we are interested in hearing what is being said. The latter process is
called "active listening". Some of the main features of active listening are listed below.

a. Clarification. We clarify when we interrupt the speaker to ask a question about what
was just said. This indicates that we have been listening and that the details are
important to us. It is best to clarify when the person has finished a segment of the story
and not to interrupt repeatedly to ask about details. For example, when a burglary
victim has finished telling about finding the door open and is ready to begin describing
what has been stolen, one might clarify by asking, "I didn't get about what time this

b. Summarization. When a person has completed a statement, one can show interest by
summarizing what has been said so far. The summary need not be long. Its purpose
is to demonstrate to the victim that one has been following what was said. For
example, an officer might say to the hypothetical burglary victim just mentioned.
"Let me see if I have this straight...You came home from work about five and found
the glass broken on the window and evidence that someone had entered the house. Is
that the heart of it"?

c. Allowing Silence. Paradoxically, allowing silence to last is a way of showing that
one is listening. Victims often are confused and need time to collect their thoughts.
The officer who lets a silence last after a question is asked demonstrates to the
victim an awareness of this fact. The tendency is to rephrase a question if it is not
immediately answered, and this can often be confusing to a victim, especially if he
or she is somewhat anxious that the police are going to be impatient.

2. Stating the Obvious. Victims are usually confused and thinking slowly. In many
respects, their emotional level has reverted to that of children in that things are not clear
to them. Therefore, the police officer does well to make obvious statements to reassure
the victim. Stating, "I am here to help you", "You are safe now", or "I can see that this
has been an upsetting experience to you", may seem condescending but really is
important for the victim to hear.

3. Personalized Statements. Officers do not differ from other people in large organizations in
their tendency to make impersonal statements on the order of, "It's probably a good idea for
you to see a doctor". When dealing with victims, it is more effective to personalize
statements by prefacing them with, "I feel", or "I think". "I think it's a good idea for you to
see a doctor" conveys personal concern and involvement.

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4. "Mind-Reading” Officers often recognize similarities between victims that let them know
what to anticipate. Expressing this to the victim can often help the victim by identifying a
response or feeling as common and not a cause for alarm. For example, and officer might
say, "I know burglary victims often wonder whether there is something special about their
house that led the burglars to pick on them...I can tell you that burglars simply go where
they think valuables are and where it looks like they can get in". Mind-reading often helps
anticipate fears that the victim can't voice and lets the officer initiate reassurance without
the victim asking for it. For example, an officer might say, "I wouldn't worry about them
coming back to harm you...victims often worry about that, but most burglars get what there
is to get and then vanish".

Sharing Feelings. Officers are rightfully taught to be impartial. Unfortunately, as noted
earlier, they often translate "impartial" into "impersonal". When dealing with victims, a personal
expression of concern, such as, "I'm sorry this happened", can be very comforting to the victim.
Some situations, especially sex crimes, cause discomfort in the officer. Rather than try to conceal
the emotions, the officer does well to let the victim know that they are present. Non-verbal
behaviors will betray that the officer is uncomfortable and, rather than have the discomfort
misinterpreted by the victim, the officer should acknowledge them. The officer who is
uncomfortable is asking a rape victim about the crime might say, "I'm going to have to ask you a
few questions about exactly what will probably be a little uncomfortable when I
get to them, and so will I...but there aren't very many, and I'm not going to be asking a lot of
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Deciding if someone is not being completely honest

Dishonesty - Verbal Clues
1. Repeating the question
2. Mumbling or speeding up
3. Nervous or false laughter
4. Hesitations or mental blocks
5. Fragmented or incomplete sentences
6. Voice changes or throat clearing
7. Inconsistencies of statements

Nonverbal Clues
1. Supportive gestures
2. Increasing manipulators
3. Averting eyes or darting glances
4. Shifting body position
5. Micro or squelched expressions
6. Asymmetrical facial expressions

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The Advisor may try using this checklist when evaluation an Explorer’s
communication skills during a roll-play situation.

Non-Verbal Techniques
Appropriate use of the following techniques.

Eye Contact:

Body Posture:




Verbal Techniques
use of the following techniques.

Active Listening:



Allowing Silence:

Stating the Obvious:

Personalized Statements:


Sharing Feelings:

Overall Reactions: (Was the communication effective? Was it honest and ethical?)

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