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Introduction edit

Welcome! This lesson is a guide for "generating ideas" for instructional tasks about interpersonal behaviors. It provides useful information about the interpersonal domain, but can also be used as a resource whenever you are assigned an interpersonal task.

Included in the lesson is:

  • this introduction
  • a definition of terms
  • a starter activity
  • a table of data linking topics with keywords
  • a case study
  • a learning activity

“Generating ideas? Why would I need a guide to come up with ideas?” – you might ask. “What’s so special about interpersonal tasks? They tell you the subject, you get the information, and you train the people, right?”

Creating instruction for the interpersonal domain can be very different than other domains. To demonstrate how, let’s compare two tasks:

  • procedural training, such as how to ride a bicycle (psychomotor domain) and
  • interpersonal training for effective communications for a sales team.

If you’re training people on how to ride a bicycle, the task is pretty straightforward. True, you’ll want to know about the learners and their experiences with bicycles, or if they have any physical limitations. But the procedure as a task is stated: the trainer will teach the learners how to ride bicycles.

With an interpersonal task, you might be assigned something quite broad, like "provide a communications workshop for the sales team". Usually, there is a reason, a lack, an issue or problem that need, issue or problem that a client or company needs to address. The client may not even know the exact problem; even though they know something needs to become better. Chances are, they didn’t just choose to hold a training about interpersonal issues because it’s a “nice thing to do”. They believe that a trainer and/or a workshop can improve the situation.

Let's take the sales communication workshop in our example. Is it communications between sales reps and customers? Between sales reps and each other? Is it about correctly communicating specific orders to avoid mistakes? Is it to get the sales staff to stop bickering about commissions?

It’s up to you, as the course designer and/or trainer, to find out. It's up to you to ensure that the training you provide addresses the underlying issue. And once you ask the right questions (of learners, managers, experts or clients, through your analysis)'ll be able to refocus or refine the topic, and generate ideas from that new information.

What You Will be Doing in this Lesson edit

This lesson includes various parts.

  • In the first part of the lesson, you will review definitions of some key terms that are important to know for generating ideas for your work within the interpersonal domain.
  • Once you have covered this material, you will do a “starter” activity, to help get you thinking in terms of interpersonal issues.
  • Next, you will be following a case study about Tanya the Trainer. You will read about Tanya's task, her analysis, how she refocuses the task, and what decisions she makes.
  • Then you will review how keywords or key terms can be linked with interpersonal topics. You'll follow Tanya's search and see how she used a table and keyword search to generate an idea for her task.
  • When you have finished seeing what Tanya did, it will be your turn, and you will move on to the Activity part of the lesson where you will select an authentic task, and do research to help you generate ideas.

Learning Objectives edit

Given an authentic instructional task, information about your learners, and data about Interpersonal Domain Topics, you will be able to generate ideas to help meet your specific instructional objective.

Additionally, you will be able to:

  • Select topic and subtopic information from the data that is most relevant to your authentic instructional task.
  • Consider how this relevant information applies to your task, problem and learners' needs.
  • Break down your instructional task into components using data about topics and subtopics within the interpersonal domain.

The Task: Generating Ideas edit

Defining Terms edit

To generate ideas about an interpersonal task, it’s important to define some key terms. Read the definitions below. Then proceed to the Starter Activity where you will have a chance to apply what you just learned.

Interpersonal Definitions of Terms
Term Definition Examples
Interpersonal Issues Subject of concern or difficulty; debate, conflict or question that needs to be settled between at least two people Unfriendly co-workers. Rude customer service staff. Unclear supervisor.
Interpersonal Relationship A relationship, connection, association, between two or more people. Parent, child. Boss, co-worker. Siblings. Teacher,student.
Interpersonal Interaction A communication/event or action that takes place between two or more people. A student and teacher argue.
Interpersonal Skill A skill that can be exhibited or demonstrated through an interaction or relationship with at least one other person. Demonstrating empathy for a person with a problem.
Interpersonal Topic A subject of conversation, writing or discussion about interpersonal domain Leadership. Communications. Social Behavior. Negotations. Conflict Resolution.

If people were perfectly happy all the time in interpersonal relations, and everyone got along with everyone, always got the results they wanted from every interaction, then there wouldn’t be any “interpersonal issues”. The idea of “issues” is that there is at least one person being affected by something of concern, in question, something needing resolution, clarification, improvement or to be settled.

Why is the area of interpersonal issues and topics so broad? This is because it represents every subject or issue that could possibly come up when any two or more people interact or relate.

Many times a problem you are asked to address as part of an interpersonal task is not neatly tied to one interpersonal topic or issue. Sometimes the everyday situations presented to you as the trainer, comprise parts of different overlapping interpersonal issues and topics. Later in this lesson, we’ll take a look at different interpersonal issues, and how they relate to everyday situations and relationships.

Starter Activity edit

Before you proceed with the lesson, do this starter activity to get your mind thinking about interpersonal relationships and issues.

  • Select how you will note your ideas: either a new Word document or a pen/pencil and paper will do.
  • Consider some of the relationships you have or have had. Don’t stress on this. Perhaps you have a sibling, a parent or parents, co-workers, an old boss, a teacher, a friend. Then write down 2 of the relationships you thought of.
  • Now think about an incident or issue that needed resolving, clarification, or something being settled between you and that person. Consider what it was about. Did this issue get triggered by a specific interpersonal interaction? If yes, what was the issue and what was the interaction that triggered it? Write that down.
  • Next, think about how it could have been resolved. What skills did each person bring to improve the situation? What skills would have been useful? Did the outcome involve negotiating or compromise? See if you can identify the general issue.
  • Then move on to the next relationship. Try to remember or recall the issue. Repeat the steps above. When you are done consider what kind of workshop or training could have been of benefit to you or the other person at the time. This is just an exercise to get you thinking about the types of problems you may address as a workshop designer in this domain.

A Case Study edit

The following is a case study based on a real situation. Read through the study and follow what happened to Tanya the Trainer.

The owner of a crossword magazine publishing company asked Tanya to do a workshop for the editorial team. The owner told Tanya there have been conflicts and tension since the new manager came on board a few months ago. The owner said tension has grown; production time has increased; which has added indirectly to his costs. He also added that spirits are low; and that it doesn't feel like the team he used to know. He asked Tanya to create a communicatons workshop to reduce conflict and create a happier and more productive department. Since she’s the professional, he thinks she’ll know how to do the job.

The Analysis edit

What happened when Tanya separately interviewed the team members and manager as part of her learner and context analysis?

  • According to individual team members: the manager first tells them to do something one way, but then seems to change what he wants after they're done with a project. He gets angry and tells them they didn't do it as he directed. He asks them to start over, re-explaining what he wants. The team members now feel nervous about their jobs as they feel he isn't satisfied with their work.
  • According to the new manager: The team members don’t listen well. He explains what he wants done, but the team never seems to hear it. They go back and do things it seems however they want. The results are unacceptable. He has to ask them to do it over again. He knows they have the skills, but he doesn't understand why they aren't connecting. Why can't they do it right the first time? It takes too long, and he fears it reflects badly on his department.

The Discovery edit

After Tanya conducted her interviews, she discovered that the manager explained things in a way that the team members didn't understand. He used different words than the team members used for certain processes and tool names. He skipped steps that he assumed everyone would do, and took that part of it for granted. He was accustomed to doing things another way that the team was unfamiliar with. When he attempted to explain what he meant, his vocabulary was different than theirs. Yet when he had to explain things a second time, he often gestured which gave the team clues about what he wanted them to do.

Based on this discovery, think about what you would do if you were Tanya and you had this assignment. After some reflection, write down your responses to the two questions posed below. This is an exercise for you, to develop your skills in generating ideas. Imagining that you were Tanya, answer the following questions:

  • What would the new subject of your workshop be?
  • What ideas would you generate about what to be sure to include in your workshop to address the issue?

What Tanya Did Next edit

Tanya decided to narrow her focus, to emphasize how miscommunications and misunderstandings happen, and to provide a solution to the misunderstandings that had previously happened. She decided it was important to create a workshop where nobody was blamed; but where the issue of clarification was addressed.

Next, Tanya decided to do research by looking at data using the Internet and the library. As she had just started working in interpersonal tasks, she also started a table, for linking broad interpersonal topics with related key words. Using the Internet and library, she selected relevant keywords and did research to generate ideas.

How to Brainstorm to Find Data and Generate Ideas edit

Brainstorming for keywords and key terms is an effective way to find data for generating ideas. Two ways you can brainstorm are:

  • create an Interpersonal Topics table to use and add to.
  • freely associate key words or key terms on paper.

The next section provides an example of a brainstorming table you can use as a model. To create a brainstorming table:

  • List some of the broader interpersonal topics, one per row. For each topic, create a column for keywords or key terms; you might also want columns for issues, activities, links and situations.
  • Fill in the table with issues or key words that you think are really relevant to the specifics of your task. Don't go for things that are just remotely related. Fill in what you can.
  • When you have your list of key terms/words and issues, use the library search tool at to find books.
  • To find links to data and other research, use a good search engine like Google, entering key terms or key phrases.
  • You will probably know quickly which things are irrelevant. But when you find a relevant link, you can save it as a favorite, or make a list until you have a set of data you can review to generate ideas.

To freely associate key words or key terms:

  • Focus on the specifics of the assigned interpersonal task and pertinent information you know about it.
  • Write down key words or key terms in a list, without stopping to do a search on each word or phrase you think of. Remember that if you do think of a phrase, such as "interpersonal issues", to put this search in quotes, when doing a Google search.

Tanya linked her task with the topic of communications. Then she searched for keywords and related topics, and used data on “mixed messages”, “communications”, and “miscommunications” to generate her own ideas for her specific workshop.

An Idea Tanya Generated edit

Using a table, Tanya searched using keywords after looking for data under “communications, mixed messages, miscommunications, common terms, definitions.” Through her exploration, she came upon the following website with definitions of common words and phrases, somewhat unrelated to her task. (

But from that site, she generated an idea. She decided to create a similar looking form with common words and phrases used by the magazine editorial staff. She then decided to use the form for her workshop, to both ensure everyone agreed on the definitions and uses; and to create a game or exercise the editorial team members could play as a way to reduce tension.

The table below connects broad interpersonal topics and related keywords/key terms. Review the information to see examples of how you could link keywords to your assigned tasks. For your own use, you can also start a table and continually add to it to help you generate idea from data resources.

Important Things to Remember in your Search:

  • In a Google search, make sure to put keywords that go together in quotes, such as "common terms".
  • As you search through data, notice how certain search terms yield results that are much more relevant than others.
  • If you don't find links to relevant information this way, keep refining your search terms based on how close you seem to be getting to the relevant topic or subtopic.
  • Keep track of links and jot down any ideas that spark your imagination, so that you can later go back to generate ideas from various sources.

Table of Topics and Keywords edit

Interpersonal Topics and Keywords
Topic Keywords Situation Example
Communications Misunderstandings, miscommunications, understanding, mixed messages, listening, common terms, definitions, clarification, presentations, direct expression, sales, cross-cultural issues, interpretation, misinterpretation, context, out of context, explain, non-verbal, writing, communication styles, employee relations, communication techniques, effective speech, speech and language, building trust Providing tactful feedback to a co-worker.
Negotiations Compromise, conflict, collaborate, conflict resolution, contract, dispute, dispute resolution, mediation, negotiated agreements, labor management, unions, change management Trying to agree on a contract between union employees and management.
Social Behavior Group dynamics, getting along with others, social skills, team building, personality, social networks, marketing, consumer behavior, child development, personality development, group interaction, loneliness, parenting, interpersonal relationships, marriage, discrimination Anger management skills training.
Conflict Resolution Fighting, arguing, anger management, compromise, collaboration, disputes, disagreements, negotiations, disagreeing, balance of power, uneven balance of power, unwilling to negotiate, mediation, parties involved, perceived threat, fighting fair, arbitration, marriage counseling, building trust, childhood conflict, concensus, decision making, problem solving, talk it out, interpersonal dynamics Disputes among co-workers.
Leadership Power issues, delegating, inspiring others, effective leading, leadership traits, management skills, speech, self-confidence, ethics, facilitation, respect from others, effective communications, building trust, control, dynamic presentation skills Manager attends workshop on giving up control by delegating tasks to team members.
Building and Supporting Teams and Groups Empathizing, counseling, comforting, providing constructive feedback, building trust, one to one relationship, unifying, reflecting, listening, collaboration, group dynamics, valuing diversity, team building Learning to provide constructive feedback to others without offending anyone.

Learning Activity edit

Now that you have followed Tanya’s process, it’s your turn. For the final activity, either think of an authentic interpersonal task you have been asked to do; or invent a task that you imagine could be assigned to you.

  • Write down the title of the task and what information you initially received (or could receive) as presented to you.
  • Write down the types of questions you would then need to ask your subject matter experts, clients, or learners in order to clarify, refine or focus to understand the issue or needs.
  • Assuming you asked these questions (real or imagined), and received answers, now write the new topic focus or refined task based on this feedback.
  • With your new focus or refined topic, either use the table provided in this lesson; or generate your own lists of keywords that you feel are directly related to the task.
  • Then, using data found on the Internet or in the library, search until you find links to relevant data that spark your interest. From those links, review the relevant data for relevant information. Then think of your task and write down one idea that you generated from your research.

Resources and References edit

Cahn, D.D. (1994). Conflict in Personal Relationships. Mahwah, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Caroselli, Marlene (2003). Interpersonal Skills. Mason, Ohio. South-Western
Heinich, R., Molenda, M., Russell, J.D. (1989). Instructional Media and the New Technologies of Instruction. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.
Reigeluth, C. M. (Ed). Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol II). Mahwah, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Triandis, H.C. (1977). Interpersonal Behavior. Monterey, Calif, Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.
Zaleznik, A., Moment D., (1964) Dynamics of Interpersonal Behavior. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

What's next? edit

Move to the next lesson

Delivery Methods and Delivery Considerations for Instruction within the Interpersonal Behaviors

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