Interpersonal Communication/Relationships

I.      Features of Personal Relationships

A.    Uniqueness

1.                      Most of our relationships are social, not personal. In personal relationships, the particular people and   what they create between them define the connection.

2.                      Many people are committed to not so much to marriage in the abstract as to living their lives with a particular person.

3.                      Friendships also involve unique bonds with specific people.

4.                      Unlike social relationships, personal ones are unique, and partners are irreplaceable.

B.    Commitment

1.                      As exciting as passion, it isn’t the basis of enduring relationships.

2.                      Commitment is the decision to remain with a relationship. Or the intention to share the future.

3.                      Unlike passion, commitment is a decision to stay together despite trouble, disappointments, sporadic restlessness, and lulls in emotional depth.

4.                      Commitment grows out of investment: what we put into a relationship that we could not retrieve if the relationship were to end.

5.                      When we care about a person, we invest time, energy, thought, and feelings in interaction. The more we invest in a relationship, the more difficult it is to end it.


II.  Relationship Stages

Interdependency: In a relationship the actions of one person have an impact on the other; one person’s actions have consequences for the other person.

A.    Contact: First you see what the person looks like, you hear what they sound like, you may even smell them; this gives you their physical picture.

B.    Involvement: A connection develops between the two parties. This stage is about experimenting and getting to know the other person.

C.    Intimacy: Is a feeling that you can be honest and open when talking about yourself, that you can express thoughts and feelings you wouldn’t reveal in other relationships. You establish a relationship where the other person becomes your best friend.

1.                        Affiliative Cues: Showing signs that you love the other person

2.                      Duchenne Smiles: Smiles that are beyond voluntary control and that signal genuine joy.

D.   Deterioration

1.                      Relationship deterioration: The stage that sees the weakening of bonds between the parties and that represents the downside of the relationship progression.

E.    Repair

1.                      Relationship repair: Analyzing what went wrong and considering ways of solving your relational difficulties.

F.     Dissolution: The cutting of bonds that tie you together

III.           Relationship Theories

A.    Attraction theory: Holds that people form relationships on the basis of attraction.

1.                      Similarity Principle: if you could construct your mate it’s likely that your mate would look, act, and think very much alike. Sometimes people are attracted to their opposites, in a pattern called complementarity.

2.                      Proximity: The people you find attractive are likely to be the ones you live and work close to you. Proximity is most important in the early stages of interaction. 

3.                      ReinforcementYou are attracted to people who give rewards or reinforcements, which can range from compliments to expensive gifts.

4.                      Physical Attractiveness and Personality: People are more likely to feel a sense of familiarity with a physically attractive person than with a less attractive person.

B.    Relationship Rules Theory: Relationships are held together by adherence to certain rules. When the rules are broken the relationship deteriorates and can dissolve.

1.                      All relationships have rules that guide how partners communicate and interpret each other’s communication.

2.                      Typically, relationship rules are unspoken understandings between partners.

3.                      Although friends and romantic partners may never explicitly discuss rules, they learn how important rules are if they violate one.

4.                      Two kinds of rules guide our communication.

a.    Constitutive rules define how to interpret communication. They are worked out over time between either friends or romantic partners so people in personal relationships can learn what things mean to each other and what each of them needs and wants.

b.    Regulative Rules govern interaction by specifying when and with whom to engage in various kinds of communication. Many children are taught that it’s impolite to interrupt others, particularly elders. Some romantic partners limit physical displays of affection to private settings.

5. Equally important are “shall not” rules which define what each other will and will not tolerate.

C.    Relationship Dialectics Theory: People in a relationship experience dynamic tensions between pairs of opposing motives or desires. These are opposing and continuous tensions that are normal in all close relationships. There are 3 identified relationship dialectics.

1.                      The autonomy/connection dialectic involves the desires to be separate, on the one hand, and to be connected, on the other, the opposition of which creates tension.

a.    Because we want to be deeply linked to others, we cherish spending time with our intimates, sharing experiences, and feeling connected.

b.    At the same time each of us needs an independent identity.

c.     Both autonomy and closeness are natural human needs.

d.     The challenge is to nurture both individually and intimacy.

2.                      The dialectic novelty/ predictability is the opposition on the desire for familiar routines and the desire for novelty.

3.                      The third dialectic, openness/closedness, involves the desire for openness in tension with the desire for privacy.

a.    Although intimate relationships sometimes are idealized as totally open and honest; complete openness would be intolerable.

b.    All of us need some privacy, and intimates need to respect that in each other.

c.     Families often share deep feelings and thoughts but don’t discuss sexual activities and attitudes. Friends and romantic partners, on the other hand, may talk about sex and other personal topics but may not share family secrets.

d.     Wanting some privacy doesn’t mean that people don’t enjoy togetherness, nor does it signal that a relationship is in trouble. It means only that we need both openness and closedness in our lives.

4.                      There are four ways in which friends and romantic partners deal with dialectical tensions.

a.    Neutralization is the first response. It negotiates a balance between the opposing dialectical forces.

b.    Separation is the second which addresses one need in dialectic and ignores the other.

c.     The third is a way to manage dialectics which is segmentation where partners assign each pole to certain spheres, issues, activities, or times.

d.    The final method of managing dialectics is reframing. This is a complex strategy that redefines apparently contradictory needs as not really in opposition.


D.   Social Penetration theory: is a theory of what happens when relationships develop. It describes relationships in terms of the number of topics that people talk about and their degree of “personalness”

1.                      Breadth: The number of topics you and your partner talk about.

2.                      Depth: The degree to which you penetrate the inner personality of the other individual.

3.                      Depenetration: The breadth and depth reverse when a relationship deteriorates.

E.    Social Exchange Theory: You develop relationships that will enable you to maximize your profits. When you enter a relationship, you have in mind a comparison level- a general idea of the kinds of rewards and profits that you ought to get out of such a relationship.

F.     Equity Theory: You develop and maintain relationships in which the ratio of your rewards relative to your costs is approximately equal to your partner’s.

IV.            The Conversation Process

A.    Conversation in Five Stages

1.                      Opening- The opening to a conversation is usually in the form of a greeting; which is then reciprocated.

2.                      Feed-forward- The feed-forward gives the other person an idea of what the topic of conversation will be.

3.                      Business- The business is the substance of the conversation.

4.                      Feedback- The feedback is the speaker’s signal that the business of the conversation is over.

5.                      Closing- The closing signals the end of accessibility.

B.    Maintaining conversations

1.                      Speaker Cues

a.           Turn-Maintaining Cues- These are designed to enable a person to maintain the role of speaker.

b.           Turn-Yielding Cues- These are designed to tell the listener the speaker is finished and wishes to exchange rolls.

2.                       Listener Cues

a.           Turn-Requesting Cues-Lets the speaker know you would like to reverse rolls and say something.

b.           Turn-Denying Cues-Tells the speaker you do not wish to assume a speaking roll.

c.           Back-channeling Cues- Using nonverbal communication to communicate with the speaker.

C.    Conversational Problems: Two Strategies

1.                   The Disclaimer- a statement made to ensure the message does not reflect negatively on the speaker.

2.                The Excuse –Used to justify poor performance.

a.           Some Motives for Excuse Making-Maintain self esteem, and project a positive image.

b.          Good and Bad Excuses-Good excuses get you out of problems while bad excuses make things worse.

V.    Conversational Skills

A.    Dialogue- Each person is a speaker and listener.

1.                   Increasing Dialogue-By demonstrating respect, avoiding negative criticism, keeping the channels of communication open, and avoiding manipulation.

B.     Mindfulness-Being conscious of reasons for thoughts and behavior.

1.                   Increasing Mindfulness- By creating and recreating categories, being open to new information and points of view, and not relying too heavily on first impressions. 

C.    Flexibility- Theability to adjust communication strategies for any situation.

1.                   Increasing Flexibility- By realizing that no two situations are exactly alike, communication always takes place in context, that everything is a state of mind, and that every situation offers different options.

D.   Cultural Sensitivity- An attitude and way of behaving in which you’re aware of cultural differences.

1.                   Increasing Cultural Sensitivity-By preparing, recognizing and facing fears,and becoming conscious of cultural rules and customs.

E.    Metacommunication-Communication about Communication.

1.                   Increasing Metacommunication- By explaining feelings, giving clear feedforward, paraphrasing, and using metacommunication to talk about communication.

F.     Openness- Willingness to listen openly, and disclose information openly.

1.                   Increasing Openness- By self disclosing when appropriate, responding to those you interact with, and owning feelings and thoughts.

G.   Empathy- The ability to feel what the other person’s feeling.

1.                   Increasing Empathy- By avoiding criticism, focusing your concentration, reflecting back to the speaker, and using self disclosures.

H.   Positiveness- Using positive messages.

1.                   Increasing Positiveness- By looking for and   complimenting the positive, expressing satisfaction, and recognizing cultural differences.

I.      Immediacy- Creates a bond between speaker and listener.

1.          Increasing Immediacy- By expressing closeness and openness, using the other person’s name, focusing on the other person’s remarks, and being culturally sensitive when expressing immediacy.

J.      Interaction Management- Skills used to regulate and carry on an interpersonal interaction.

1.          Increasing Management- By maintain conversational turns, keeping conversation fluent, and communication with consistent verbal and non-verbal messages.

K.    Expressiveness- The skill of communicating genuine involvement.

1.                Increasing Expressiveness- By using appropriate variations and gestures, being culturally aware, and giving verbal and non-verbal feedback. 

L.     Other-Orientation- the ability to adapt messages to another person.

1.                Increasing Other-Orientation- By showing consideration and respect, acknowledging the other person’s feelings as legitimate, acknowledging the presence and importance of the other person, and focusing the messages on the other person.

VI.            The nature of communication in interpersonal relationships

Interpersonal communication is the process of using messages to generate meaning between people that allows mutual opportunities for speaking and listening.


VII.         Foundations of interpersonal communication

Self disclosure-revealing personal information about one’s self that others are unlikely to find out by themselves Ex. Hopes and dreams

A.     Self disclosure and personal growth

1.     Open area-information casual acquaintances usually know about us.

2.     Blind area- information others know about us, but we don’t know about ourselves.

3.     Hidden area-information we know about ourselves but choose not to reveal to others.

4.     Unknown area- information about ourselves neither we nor others know.

        B.     Self disclosure and closeness

1.     Self disclosure should take place gradually and with   appropriate caution. The need to reciprocate disclosures recedes in importance once trust is established.

VIII.     Communication to Build supportive Climates

Interpersonal climates exist on a continuum from confirming to disconfirming.

A.    Levels of confirmation and disconfirmation

1.         Recognition that another person exists.

2.         Nonverbal or verbal communication

3.         Acknowledgement of what others feel, think, or say.

4.        Endorsement- final level of confirmation; involves accepting another’s feelings or thoughts as valid.

IX.            Defensive and Supportive Climates

A.    Evaluation versus Description

1.                   We tend to become defensive when we feel we are being evaluated.

2.                   Descriptive language however, describes behaviors without passing judgment.

B.    Certainty versus provisional’s

1.                Language characterized by certainty is absolute and often dogmatic. It suggests there is only one right answer.

2.                Communication laced with certainty proclaims absolutely correct positions; it fosters a climate that is not conducive to collaboration.

3.                Ethnocentrism: attitude based on the assumption that our culture and its norms are the only right ones.

4.                Provisionalism: expresses tentativeness about our own ideas and openness to other points of view. Speaking provisionally indicates that we have a pint of view, yet our minds aren’t closed.

C.    Strategy versus Spontaneity

1.                Strategic communication-manipulating people to do what you want.People usually get defensive

2.                Spontaneity- counterpoint to strategy. May be thought out, yet is open, honest, and uncontrived.

D.   Control versus Problem Orientation

1.             Controlling communication tends to trigger defensiveness.

a.    Overtly attempts to dominate others or force them to defer.

b.    Relationship meaning is that person exerting control thinks she or he has greater power, rights or ideas than others.

2.             Problem-orientated communication is the solution

a.    Cooperatively focuses on finding answers that satisfy everyone.

b.    Goal is to come up with a solution that all parties find acceptable.

E.    Neutrality versus empathy

1.             Neutral communication implies a lack of regard and caring for others.

a.    People tend to become defensive when they feel others are acting in a neutral, detached manner.

2.             Empathy confirms the worth of others and our concern for their thoughts and feelings.

a.    Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean agreement; instead it acknowledges others and their perspectives and demonstrates that we want to understand them.

b.    Superiority versus equality

                                                                                                                                                 i.      People feel on guard when talking to people who act like they’re better than them.  

                                                                                                                                              ii.      We’re more relaxed communicating with people who treat us as equals.

                                                                                                                                            iii.      At the relational level of meaning, expressed equality communicates respect and equivalent status between people. This promotes and open climate and allows everyone to be involved without fear of being judged inadequate.


X.    Guidelines for creating and sustaining healthy climates

A.    Actively use communication to shape climates

1.                Use communication to foster effective, supportive climates.

2.                First, recognize and acknowledge others and to endorse them when we honestly can.

3.                Second, we should use communication that fosters confirming, supportive climates because they make it more likely that conflicts will be overt and constructive.

4.                Third, use communication skills to shape climates effectively

5.                Forth, actively shaping climates involves accepting and growing from the tension generated by conflicting needs and desires in relationships.

B.    Accept and confirm others

1.                Being honest with others is important because it enhances trust between people.

2.                Communicate in ways that express respect for others, even if we disagree with them on some issues.

C.    Accept and confirm yourself

1.                Aggression- putting your needs before others.

2.                Assertion- doesn’t subordinate your needs to those of others; matter of clearly and non-judgmentally stating what your feel, need, or want.

D.   Self-disclosure when appropriate

1.                Important communication skill in early stages of relationships

2.             Appropriate self-disclosure tends to increase trust and feelings of closeness.

3.             Self- Disclosure also enhances self- esteem and security in relationships because we feel that others accept our most private selves.

4.             It is also an important way to learn about ourselves.

E.    Respect diversity in relationships

1.             People find different things comfortable, affirming, and satisfying in interaction

2.             Closeness in dialogue- relying on talking to create closeness

3.             Closeness in the doing- see doing things with and for people as primary means of creating closeness.