How do communication behavior affect interpersonal relationships?

Face-to-face communication occurs on many channels using many different codes and languages. This "interpersonal" communication can lead to the formation, maintenance and dissolution of a wide variety of interpersonal relationships.

We need someone to speak. People who are sane do not roam the woods and talk at random, addressed to no one, just to themselves. Even to talk to yourself, you have to pretend to be two (Ong, Walter J.)

Our senses provide us with data from the environment. Under this data we discover patterns that evoke concepts and ideas in our consciousness, which we give meanings partly on the basis of our personal experiences and partly as a result of social conventions.

It is true that people express their inner selves through communication, but it is also true that people are only able to express themselves in the context of the society in which they live. And similarly here: It is true that it is the social context that gives meaning to the thoughts, feelings and ideas of the individual members of society, but it is also true that human communication is the process by which human societies are formed and defined .



Whatever. Scientists who try to advance in one or the other of the two directions - in the direction of the self or in the direction of society - cannot do so. At least they can't and continue to limit their research to communication only. If the focus of the research is sharpened and only lies on what is internal, individual or private, then the research will at a certain point exceed the limits of communication and lead into the field of psychology, epistemology, biology, etc. But something that is essential for human communication, namely "always being part of a group", is lost. Conversely: If the focus is only on what is external, available and related to society, the research will extend to the field of sociology, political science, economics, etc. This loses the aspect of communication, according to which communication is defined as an activity whose origin can be found in the thoughts and actions of the individual.

In the following section we intend to take a look at this interactive aspect of human communication. We would like to understand how these interactions occur and how interpersonal relationships are formed and dispersed. But already at the beginning of our investigation we are faced with a difficult problem. Although a recipient may share one or more codes, and although the recipient may be very close to the sender or even be a close confidante, he has no way of knowing the sender's ego directly.

No matter how hard one tries to understand the other's message, the message can only be received as an encoded signal and the recipients can only know how to decode the sign and interpret it in terms of meaning.


It is the same with a sender who wants to convey what only he knows to others. No matter how hard the sender tries and tries to share their experiences with others, there is no direct way - messages have to be coded as signals before they are sent.

Thus, even if people spend a lot of time with others, they can never directly share their experiences with one another, and they can never know one another fully. This situation - no matter how intense communication it may be - never leads to one knowing everything about the other - causes many surprises in life and is also the reason why studying interpersonal relationships is so interesting.

Since human communication takes place over many channels at the same time and involves constant feedback, it is also impossible to define one person as the sender and the other as the recipient. (You may recall that the Shannon / Weaver model failed to explain this type of interactive communication because of the complexity involved.)

The consequence of these two facts - that humans cannot directly know what is going on in the other's head, and that the exchange of signals in human communication is a very complex process - is that interpersonal communication is not so much a sending of clear, clear signals is more of a continuous interpretation of an ongoing flow of data in which the meanings of the messages are constantly renegotiated by those who are communicating with one another. One anthropologist puts it this way:

When we talk about communication, we are not talking about a situation in which, in a simple, continuous sequence, John acts and Mary reacts to John's actions and, conversely, John reacts to Mary's actions. In essence, when communicating, we are discussing a complex, sustainable system through which different members of society relate to one another with more or less efficiency and ease. According to communication theory, John does not communicate with Mary and Mary does not communicate with John, but John and Mary participate in communication (Birdwhistell, Ray, p. 12)


The word Participation is important here because it implies that communication is not just something that is an individual other but something that people do together to do. Individuals use communication to explore, control, and enjoy their environment, but it is equally true that communication "uses" them as members of society.

This observation implies that in the presence of others everything that people say or do (including nothing) is noticed by others and has meaning to them. Hence, any situation in which people are together involves communication. To illustrate, let's look at a certain form of communication that people have every day in their lives, but that they rarely think about.