INTRODUCTION . NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION . KINESICS . DISTANCE AND ARRANGEMENT . SPEECH ACTS . RELATIONSHIPS . KNOWING OTHERS . SELF-DISCLOSURE . PUNCTUATION . COORDINATED MANAGEMENT OF MEANING .
As scholars study the many ways in which individuals interact within society, they have discovered that some kinds of interactions are frequently repeated. These continuous patterns of interaction are called relationships, and many interesting questions about them can be asked -- for example:
Human relationships include such as friend-to-friend, enemy-to-enemy, parent-to-child, sibling-to-sibling, employer-to-employee, and many more. Each of these has its own unique pattern of interactions, and so scholars might wonder how many different types of relationship there could be, and how they might be categorized?
The mother/child relationship begins at (or perhaps before) birth. The employer/employee relationship begins with (or perhaps before) an offer of employment. Scholars wonder how each of the various kinds of relationships get started, and seek to find general patterns that might be present at the beginning of all relationships.
The ending of a relationship involves a change in the quality and amount of the communication between the participants. Sometimes this occurs suddenly, as when a parent dies, and sometimes it occurs over a period of years, as when two friends "drift apart." Scholars wonder how interaction patterns change as relationships dissolve. They also study the kinds of relationships that, instead of ending, change from one type to another - as, for example, when "friends" become "lovers."
Some relationships continue, and some don't. Many, if not most, relationships change over time, some becoming "closer and more intimate;" some "more distant." Scholars attempt to define terms such as "close" and "distant", and they investigate the role that communication plays in maintaining relationships.
Because humans spend their entire lives engaged in ongoing relationships of many kinds, the study of relationships is important to understanding day-to-day life in any society. Much more has been written on this subject than could ever be introduced in this tutorial - so, the theories and models that are discussed next were chosen to illustrate a variety of approaches to the study of communication in relationships. If you find this subject interesting, a wealth of books, articles, films, disks and tapes awaits you in the library and on the internet.
Because one person can never directly know the contents of another person's mind, one can ever be exactly sure how others are interpreting his or her messages. Another way of saying this is to point out that humans cannot be absolutely sure of the context in which others are decoding their messages.
The study of speech acts shows the importance of context in human communication. If two people are to understand one another, not only must they speak the same language, but they must make the same assumptions with regard to what is not said. This can lead to situations in which both participants assume that they understand what is being said when in fact they do not. Consider the following example.
"Yes," Mike replies. "It's a date."
They meet again on Saturday at lunch time in the cafeteria. "Where were you?!" says Mike. "Me!?" Karen replies, "I was there. You're the one who didn't show up."
What's the problem here? Clearly Karen and Mike understood what they said to one another on Friday. How did they come to be so confused by Saturday?
The answer of course is not in the content of their speech but rather in its context -- in what was not said. Each participant took the phrase "the party" to refer to a party that they knew was to be happening that evening, and each knew of a different party. Thus, even though their statements were true and communicated the proper intentions, the final result was unexpected.
Because humans cannot communicate all of the details that relate to all of their messages all of the time, speakers often depend on the listener's knowledge of context to be the same as theirs. The next four sections of this tutorial illustrate some of the ways in which people deal with context as their relationships form, continue and disperse. 4023
One way to view the nature of human relationships, is to see interpersonal communication not as two people throwing messages at one another, but as two people engaged in dancing. In communicating, as in dancing, the partners move in reaction to, but also in anticipation of, one another's steps. If one or the other steps off in an unexpected direction, the other becomes confused and may not be able to follow. In communication, as in dance, it makes little sense to speak of what each partner does on his or her own -- it is their mutual interaction that constitutes the process.
Scholars who observe human relationships find that certain patterns of behavior occur over and over again, and that these can be identified in terms of rules. Human beings find themselves constrained by many rules, some of which we never notice. For example, we find ourselves unable to jump up and hang suspended in the air. This is a constraint that is imposed on all who reside on large chunks of matter such as planets, and we are so accustomed to it, that we seldom think about it. Similarly, at an early age most of us learn the constraint that we cannot breath water, and as with the "gravity" rule, we simply follow it without further thought.
The constraints imposed by social rules can be just as invisible, but a significant difference between natural and social rules is that social rules are amenable to change. For example, for many decades in American society, if a man and a woman arrived at a door simultaneously, the woman was constrained to wait for the man to act, either by passing through the door, or by offering to pass her through first. That pattern of behavior has changed, and today the "women must wait" rule no longer applies. [Note]
The "rules" approach to the study of human relationships argues that relationships develop within the constraints of social rules as people engage in communication with one another. The rules-based theory that is presented next focuses on the developmental aspect of social rules. This theory, which was created by Gerald Miller and Mark Steinberg argues that people work within the constraints of three different kinds of rules while they develop increasingly accurate information about those who they meet.
These rules constrain behavior in an increasingly narrow focus. Cultural rules are followed by everyone, sociological rules by the members of particular sub-groups, and psychological rules by two individuals. Miller and Steinberg argue that relationships develop as the participants become constrained by progressively tighter sets of rules. That is, complete strangers are likely to follow cultural rules in their interaction. Members of a group shift to sociological rules. And, people who know one another well will develop and follow psychological rules.
The Miller-Steinberg Model: Rules
Rules are the rules of broadest scope -- they constrain everyone in the
whole society. In U.S. society, for example, it is a cultural rule that
everyone should wear clothing at all times in public.
Rules pertain to the subgroups that a person belongs to within the larger
society. "White collar" workers, for example, wear suits to work, while
"airline" workers wear uniforms. Not all subgroups follow the same rules. For
example, at many colleges, the students wear relaxed, informal clothing to
class. At other colleges, however, students wear suits, and at some, they wear
Rules are the rules that two individuals create between themselves as they
get to know one another. For example, as part of a couple going "out" to
dinner, a husband might wear a fancy shirt that his wife had given him to
signal that he hopes this will be an especially romantic evening. Or, two
close friends might wear jewelry that they have given each other to communicate
their dedication to one another.
As the rules become more tightly focused, the participants become better able to predict each others' behavior. In terms of information, the tighter the rules become, the more uncertainty they eliminate. Thus, psychological rules are more informative than sociological rules, which are more informative than cultural rules.
In the same way that relationships progress through levels of rules as they develop, poeple's knowledge of their partners in the relationship changes. As the participants in a relationship become more and more able to predict each other's behavior, they feel as if they "know" one another better and better. Miller and Steinberg use three kinds of "knowing" to describe the development of relationships:
The Miller-Steinberg Model: Ways of Knowing
Knowing allows us to recognize an individual by means of his or her unique
set of identifying characteristics. For example, my friend, Mark, is short
with dark hair, has long arms, and so forth. He has a particular way of
standing and walking, and when I see him, even at a distance, I know
that it is him.
Knowing allows us to anticipate a person's behavior. For example, I
know that when I hit a tennis ball to my friend Carol's backhand, that
she will usually try to return it straight ahead into the back corner of the
Knowing allows us to have insight into the reasons why others act as they
do. For example, I am one of the few people who knows that Brenda
avoids James Bond movies because she and her former husband, who she misses
terribly, went to see Diamonds Are Forever on their first date.
As with the three levels of rules, the levels of knowing become increasingly personal. The Miller-Steinberg model says that as relationships develop, the participants gradually move towards explanatory knowing and psychological rules as they gain more and more information about one another. In other words, as a relationship grows stronger, it grows increasingly personal.
The Miller-Steinberg model is called a structural model because it predicts that all relationship patterns will have a certain shape, or structure, as they develop over time. Notice, however, that while the model predicts that as relationships become stronger they will become more personal, it has little to say about how the sharing of personal information actually comes about. The next section introduces a model that investigates precisely that. 4007 4008 4009 4012 4013 4014 4016 4020 4026