Jul 14, 2020 in Management

Interpersonal Communication


Communication in any form is one of the most important factors of building effective relationships between individuals of any status, gender, and nationality. Among all types of communication, the paper concentrates on interpersonal communication defining the term and determining its main elements including “interpersonal contacts”, “interpersonal interaction”, “interpersonal relationships”. Additionally, the paper mentions the most significant functions of interpersonal communication as well as the domains of this type of communication. The paper also presents a short overview of levels of communication and familiarizes with the main concepts of communication process.

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Interpersonal communication is the interaction between several people, carried out by means of verbal and non verbal influence, resulting in psychological contact and a certain type of relationships between the parties that communicate. The researchers of interpersonal communication are particularly interested in interpersonal behavior (or "transaction"), which is characterized with the new specific quality, compared to the individual actions of each member out of a situation of interaction. The main problems of interpersonal communication requiring further research include the analysis of the conditions in which human interaction is possible and necessary, the semantic description of the processes occurring in the interpersonal interaction, and tools that enable people to achieve a certain level of reciprocity or those that prevent it.

The semantics of the term "communication" helps to determine the domain of interpersonal communication. Studies show that usually this term is associated with three groups of values:

  • Union, the creation of community, integrity ("good company, friends");
  • Messaging, exchange of information ("to speak, to talk");
  • Interaction, interpenetration that is often hidden or intimate ("deeply understand each other").

The fixation of the selected values in specific terms (such as "interpersonal contacts", "interpersonal communication", "interpersonal interaction", "interpersonal relationships”) specifies the basic concepts of the theory of interpersonal communication. Thus, the term "interpersonal contact" (from the Latin. Contactus - board) is one of the tools of research issues of conditions of communication, because it means that people are within the reach for the perception of each other, and they directed (physically and psychologically) on each other. Due to this fact, they do not only recognize the existence of each other but also interact, creating the conditions for the transfer of information through communication channels. According to the type of contact (business, friendly), the relations between people appear.

The concept of "interpersonal communication" is focused on the analysis of tools that help to transfer the messages between partners, their reception, and processing.

The term "interpersonal interaction" emphasizes the activity of those who communicate, allowing more detailed investigation of forms and types of individual actions that lead to mutual change of behavior, activities, and attitudes of communication participants. 

The term "interpersonal relations" focuses on the emotional and sensory aspect of the interaction between people and introduces the time factor in the analysis of communication because only in case of permanent interpersonal communication by continuous exchange of information occurs the personal intimate dependence of people from each other and mutual responsibility for preservation relations that have been established.

It is easy to notice that each of the selected concepts appears a relatively independent problem field, reflecting the diversity of objectives and tasks faced by people in the process of communication. Therefore, there exist different ways of communication that help to organize a variety of useful classifications.

One of the possible classification is based on interpersonal communication depending on different motives and goals of its members. If the purpose of communication involves the psychological contact, psychological relationship between interlocutors, then one speaks about the motives of communication that lie within the same communication, or modal communication. During such communication, people get pleasure from the process of communicating or communicate to solve specific problems. If the purpose of communication is different – exchange of information, declination of partner to certain activities, the desire to change his/her views, to find emotional support - in these cases, one speaks about communication motives that lie beyond. This is typical for so-called dictative communication, communication associated with one or another subject interaction.

The nature of interaction purpose and the psychological distance between partners that occurs as a result can provide various levels of communication, including:

  • Ritual or social-role level. The purpose of communication at this level is the performance of the expected from man role, demonstrating knowledge of the rules of the social environment. Communication usually bears anonymous character, regardless of whether it occurs between strangers, acquaintances or relatives;
  • Business or manipulative level. The purpose of this communication is to organize joint activities, search for means that enhance cooperation. Partners are evaluated not as unique personalities but in terms of how well they can perform the tasks assigned to them (their functional capacity gets evaluated). Accordingly, the communication is psychologically detached.
  • Intimate personal level. The purpose of this level is to meet the need for understanding, compassion, and empathy. The communication on this level is characterized by typical psychological closeness, empathy, and trust.

According to the target, one can determine the function of interpersonal communication. The paper will provide one of the most complete classification of communication functions allocated by the criterion of objective.

  1. Contact function - establish contact as joint state of participants’ readiness to receive and send messages, maintain a relationship in a form of constant mutual orientation;
  2. Informative function – exchange of messages, ideas, designs, solutions;
  3. Motivational function - stimulate activity of the partner to guide him/her to perform certain actions;
  4. Coordinating function - mutual orientation and coordination of actions in the organization of joint activities;
  5. The function of understanding - an adequate perception and interpretation of the content of the message, understanding intentions, attitudes, emotions, states;
  6. Emotional function – awaken in the partner preferred emotional experience, expression and change of it with the help of emotions;
  7. Establishment of relations function - awareness and fixing one’s place in the role, status, business, interpersonal relationships and other community which the individual participates;
  8. Function to influence - change the status, behavior, personal and semantic entities of the partner.

According to the analytical model that focuses on the functional specification of the variety of processes that occur in the interaction, the structure of any act of communication includes perceptive, communicative, and interactive side.

The perceptive side is the process of partners’ perception of each other, their mutual knowledge as a basis for mutual understanding. Perceptive skills are displayed in the ability to determine the context of the meeting, to understand the mood of the partner in his/her verbal and nonverbal behavior, consider the "psychological effects" of perception when analyzing the communicative situation.

Communicative side is the utilization of communication means, which are divided into verbal and nonverbal. The successful communicator is a person who has a significant repertoire of communication techniques used at different levels of communication.

The interactive aspect implies the human interaction, which suggests the existence of some form of joint activity (consent, adaptation or competition, conflict). Among the possible positions occupied by a partner in the organization and implementation of communication, the paper will mention "extension" to partner from the "top", "equals", "bottom" or aloof attitude. None of them is absolutely successful or not. The performance of the extension can only be judged in the context of the particular situation. Thus, the "extension from below" is appropriate in some cases (for example, the need to apologize to the partner) and can be transformed into servility insincere; the detached position of non-interference may be an extreme manifestation of one’s exclusion. The ability of individual to use the whole range of possible positions in communication is one of the indicators of psychological maturity of the individual.

The quantification of interpersonal communication was developed in the concept of "social circle." The latter means the number of people with whom the communication is carried out on a particular level. Most people know from their personal experience that they can deeply understand and feel at best two or three people while they can more or less successfully navigate the behavior of about ten; in relation to the others become effective standards and stereotypes. 

The domain of interpersonal communication include:

  • Mental processes and conditions that ensure transaction (interpersonal perception, needs and motivations, emotions and feelings, self-esteem, psychological protection, etc.);
  • Communicative practices that define the interaction between people (speech, nonverbal communication);
  • Rules and regulations, often unconscious, which make possible the joint activities produced within a particular socio-cultural group.

The actual process of communication is a functional unit of all these elements. 


To conclude, the interaction between people can be defined as interpersonal if they meet the following criteria:

  • it involves a small number of people (most often a group of 2-3 people);
  • it is a direct interaction, that is, its members are in spatial proximity, are able to see, hear, touch each other, and easily give the feedback;
  • it is a personal contact, the members of which recognize the irreplaceable uniqueness of the partner, take into account the peculiarities of his/her emotional state, self-esteem, and personal characteristics.

These criteria help to distinguish interpersonal communication as a special kind of inter-group from mass communication and help to determine the boundaries that separate person-oriented communication from socially-oriented. The less the perception of other people is stereotyped, the higher is the level of mutual self-revelation between the partners, the more diverse and unique are the events filled with the history of their relations, the more there are reason to call such communication interpersonal. The basic structural unit of analysis of interpersonal communication is not the individual but the relationship, the interaction of people, who started communication. This means that each participant of communication significantly affects the behavior of the other as between their statements and actions arise causal dependence. Exchanging messages, the partners are oriented to the specific situation of communication. Therefore, the content information received is largely recycled and restructured depending on the assessment of oneself, one another, and the surrounding environment.



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