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Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal Communication

-Interpersonal communication is a special form of unmediated human communication that occurs when we interact simultaneously with another person and attempt to mutually influence each other, usually for the purpose of managing relationships.


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Nikita Sidana

Nikita Sidana

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Coming apart

Although in bonding the people intend to keep the relationship going forever, sometimes this does not happen. In fact the divorce rate in a number of countries is higher than ever.

At first, and with the pressures of living, the closely bonded joint relationship starts to pull apart as the people have demands of different jobs, different friends and different interests.

Romantically, after a couple of years, people are no longer floating on a cloud and start to see themselves and the other person as individuals rather than a tight couple.

In business, other customers, suppliers and work pressure start to reduce the chance to meet. Individuals may also be looking to advancing their career.

As the people pull apart, the focus moves towards setting boundaries and delimiting differences. People have their own individual space, their own possessions, their own friends and so on.

This can cause conflict, for example where both claim the same resource as their own. Such argument only serves to push them apart faster. Knowing this, they may avoid argument, but the differences still exist and work on the individual psyches.

In business, there may be issues of quality and whether what is being delivered is that which is really needed. Conflict may cause recourse to contract details.

A stagnant relationship has reached the stage where separation is complete in many ways, yet the relationship persists, perhaps through apathy, convenience or other lack of need to completely separate.

In families, couples may stay together for the children even though their relationship has reached rock bottom. If tensions continue, it can be a difficult question as to whether separation is best or worst for the children.

In business, a stagnant relationship can lead to one or both parties receiving significantly less value than they once got from the relationship.

At some point the people see each other less and less, often deliberately avoiding contact. If they live together, one may go out whilst the other is in. If they work together, they may move jobs or otherwise ignore each other.

In avoiding one another, one of the first things to go is eye contact (which may have faded long ago anyway). Even when in the same room, they will try not to look at one another.

Avoidance also happens in business, where people see sorting out of a troublesome relationship or supplier as not in their current remit and so focus first on the issues that affect their key performance indicators.

Finally the people pull apart and go their separate ways. If there is joint ownership of houses, children and so on then this can be an acrimonious and difficult stage.

In business, this includes terminating suppliers, sacking employees and otherwise permanently breaking the relationship with the other person.

Article: Knapp's Relational Develo...
Source: Knapp's Relational Develo...

his is a model of stages through which a relationship goes, within the two make-and-break stages of coming together and coming apart (Knapp, 1984).
Coming together

The first overall phase is of the development of the relationship to its (hopefully long-term) peak.

In the initial contact early impressions are made. Although these may be inaccurate, they may well significantly influence whether the individuals want to progress the relationship to a further stage.

For romantic relationships physical impressions of appearance, dress, smell and so on are often important (for women too). General pleasantness is also important for social and business relationships.

If the parties show initial interested, they may next start exploring, looking for common interests, common acquaintances and other ground on which they can meet and share.

In business relationships, there will also be investigation into what each person brings to the table that will add value to the business of the other person.

With enough in common, the people now start sharing more private information and checking for reciprocal sharing by the other person that signals their interest in deepening the relationship.

This stage may also include spending more time together, gift-giving and declarations of affection. Advances may be made for further intimacy to test for the desire take things further.

In business, this may include negotiation and contracting activity that will lead up to value creation and exchange.

The two people now start seeing each other more often as they integrate a number of parts of their lives. Romantically, this may include sexual relationship and deep disclosure of shameful secrets.

In business, this is where they start working together with each getting value from the arrangement, often directly financial or that will lead to financial benefit.

Finally, the two people are fully integrated in the bonding stage. Here they make their unitary status known and may formalize it, for example through marriage.

Other symbols of unending commitment may also include such as joint bank accounts and having children.

In business, this includes partnership and trusting relations that reduce transaction costs and add longer-term value.

Article: Knapp's Relational Develo...
Source: Knapp's Relational Develo...

Altman and Taylor's Social Penetration Theory
You will first need to understand what Social Penetration Theory is. Altman and Taylor came up with this theory that looks at changes in self-discure that correspond with relational development.

Taking into consideration these five important areas of self-disclosure-
1)Breadth- refers to the number of categories of topics discussed
2Depth- refers to how personal or deep the communication is- which layer is penetrated
3)Valence- refers to the positive or negative character/"charge" of the self-disclosure
4)Frequency- refers to how ofter self-disclosure occurs
5)Duration- refers to how long two people spend disclosing in a single conversation, rather than how often they disclose

Altman and Taylor proposed an onion metaphor, the closer you get into the onion the deeper you have to go, and the more self-disclosure is being done.

Social Penetration theory is based around self-disclosure, the catalyst for relationship development.

Article: Social Penetration Theory...
Source: Social Penetration Theory...

There are four specific perspectives from which to study interpersonal communication:

Relational (Qualitative)
Communication in which the roles of sender and receiver are shared
by two people simultaneously in order to create meaning.

Situational (Contextual)
Communication that occurs between two people in a specific context.

Dyadic interactions, including impersonal communication.

Functional (Strategic)
Communication for the purpose of achieving interpersonal goals.

Article: Interpersonal Communicati...
Source: Interpersonal Communicati...

Interpersonal communication can be used to:

Give and collect information.
Influence the attitudes and behaviour of others.
Form contacts and maintain relationships.
Make sense of the world and our experiences in it.
Express personal needs and understand the needs of others.
Give and receive emotional support.
Make decisions and solve problems.
Anticipate and predict behaviour.
Regulate power.

Article: Interpersonal Communicati...
Source: Com

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: Welin-Goos, 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.)

Article: Four Principles of Interp...
Source: Four Principles of Interp...
Nikita Sidana

Nikita Sidana

30 Knowledge Cards 

The receiver of the information has to use the same skill set as the sender. Communication skills, attitudes, knowledge level, social positions, culture, and feedback are all important. Furthermore, the receiver has an additional variable: credibility of the speaker. If the receiver perceives the sender as credible, objective, and having expertise in the topic being discussed, then the receiver is more likely to accept the message being sent. Therefore, the sender must have the expertise or find someone with the topical expertise to communicate the message. 


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 psycho-social "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.

Article: Four Principles of Interp...
Source: Four Principles of Interp...

Components of Interpersonal Communication. Key elements of in- terpersonal communication include the source, receiver, message, channel, noise, feedback, and context. Figure 1.1 is one way to illustrate the interpersonal communication process.
■ Source. The source is the person who has a thought or a feeling and wants to express this idea and feeling to another person. Thinking about the best way to express oneself is referred to as encoding, which is the process of putting your thoughts and feelings into words and nonverbal cues. Encoding is an intentional act of thinking about your goals and the best way to meet your goals through your communication. When you ask yourself, “How can I say this without the other person taking it the wrong way?” you’re engaged in the encoding process.
■ Receiver. The person listening to the message is the receiver. The receiver is responsible for decoding messages, which is a process of interpreting and evaluating the other person’s messages. When you make sense out of other people’s messages, you’re decoding.
■ Messages. We communicate with others using both verbal and non- verbal messages. By verbal messages, we mean language. Nonverbal messages refer to any messages other than verbal, meaning that they’re non-language-based.

■ Channel. Verbal and nonverbal messages are transmitted from source to receiver through the channel, which is the pathway that messages travel and usually include our senses: visual/sight, auditory/hearing, tactile/touch, and olfactory/smell.
■ Noise. Anything that distorts or interferes with the communication process is con- sidered noise. From the physical noise of someone’s cell phone vibrating in a back- pack to the psychological noise of daydreaming or worrying about the amount of work that must be completed before you go home for the day, noise can disrupt the interpersonal communication process.
■ Feedback. Your verbal and nonverbal responses to another person’s message is re- ferred to as feedback. Without feedback, communication is less likely to be effec- tive. Feedback can seek additional information or simply confirm that the message has been interpreted.
■ Context. The physical, historical, and psychological communication environ- ment is referred to as context. All communication takes place in some context, and the context affects how people communicate. For example, suppose you are telling another person about a problem you’re having with a colleague at work. The language choices you make and the nonverbal gestures you decide to use depend on where you’re physically located (e.g., workplace, café, bedroom), on how long you’ve known the other person (historical), and the psychological contexts or the two personalities that two people bring to the conversation. For example, someone with very low self-esteem might interpret your messages in a defensive manner, and someone who is assertive will not be afraid to speak up and defend himself or herself.

Article:   Interperonal Foundations
Source:  Offline Book/Journal
Nikita Sidana

Nikita Sidana

30 Knowledge Cards 

The sender or source has to be aware of six variables when communicating with another person.

Sender’s Communication Skills

Sender’s Attitudes

Sender’s Knowledge Level

Sender’s Social Position

Sender’s Culture

Feedback Received by Sender 


An important part of interpersonal skill then, is to provide reasons for others to trust you, and to accurately and effectively insure that you can trust others. The reliability of a person’s previous work is, of course, the best and most straightforward indicator, but when that is not available we call on a host of verbal and non-verbal methods to gauge the trustworthiness of our colleagues.

Consistency: trust is created by acting in more or less the same way all the time. An “even” temper, a “steady” work pace, a “predictable” response or a “uniform” style of dress are all signals that the same behavior will keep on occurring in the future.
Communication: trust is easier to maintain when interruptions, failures or changes are communicated to others before they are surprised by them. Change is inevitable, but when communication is used to provide a warning, the change need not create unpredictability as well.
Commonality: since we always tend to trust those who are like those we’ve already learned to trust, a person can earn trust by displaying those commonalities. Rather than dwell on your degree from a different university or the ethnic diversity of the staff, focus on finding the things you all have in common.
Cooperation: Understand that however good your own intentions might be, a trial period is necessary. Good natured cooperation with those who want to keep an eye on your work will create trust in two ways: you allow others to verify the quality of your work and you acknowledge the interdependence that is the basis for a trusting relationship in the future.

Article: Interpersonal Communicati...
Source: Uni

Regular methods for taking turns at talk, for constructing sequences, for repairing difficulties in talk are described by conversation analysts. Drawing on these resources, the overall structure of conversation is laid out. Each aspect of the structure of conversation is important because variations in the regularities have implications for the relationships that exist between people...

Article: Interpersonal Communicati...
Source: Encyclopedia of Communica...

Levels of Communication
Scholars categorize different levels and types of
communication. These distinctions are somewhat
artificial, since types of communication more realistically fit on a continuum rather than in separate
categories. Nevertheless, to understand the various typ
es of communication, it is helpful to consider
various factors. The distinguishing characteristics include the following:
Number of communicators (one through many).
Physical proximity of the communicators in relation to each other (close or distant).
Immediacy of the exchange, whether it is taking pla
ce either (1) live or in apparently real time or
(2) on a delayed basis.
Number of sensory channels (including
visual, auditory, tactile and so on).
The context of the communication (w
hether face-to-face or mediated).
Note that each level of communication may be formal or informal, personal or impersonal. Note
also that the purposes of communication may vary
and overlap, giving a communicator a potentially
wide list of choices for communication channels.
Broadly speaking, the levels of communication
can be categorized in a four-fold pattern as
intrapersonal, direct interpersonal, mediated interpersonal, and mass.

Article: Microsoft Word -
Source: Microsoft Word -

Interpersonal communication can be defined broadly as "communicating between persons." As Arthur Bochner (1989, p. 336) points out, though, that definition can be made more specific:

The anchor points [for a narrower and more rigorous conceptualization] are: 1) at least two communicators; intentionally orienting toward each other; 2) as both subject and object; 3) whose actions embody each other's perspectives both toward self and toward other. In an interpersonal episode, then, each communicator is both a knower and an object of knowledge, a tactician and a target of another's tactics, an attributer and an object of attribution, a codifier and a code to be deciphered.

Article: Interpersonal Communicati...
Source: Encyclopedia of Communica...
Nikita Sidana

Nikita Sidana

30 Knowledge Cards 

Interpersonal communication is important because of the functions it can achieve. Whenever you engage in communication with another person, you seek to gain information about them. That means you can better predict how they will think, feel and act if you know who they are. Remember that you also give off information about yourself through a wide variety of verbal and non-verbal cues.