Every Day’s Interpersonal Communication:
A Conceptual and Personal Review
Introduction of interpersonal communication
Interpersonal communication has always been a part of our daily lives and it is important in many situations: we greet the security guard when we leave home for work; negotiate ideas with our group mates when working on projects; comfort our friends when they encounter difficult situation...Relationships are gradually developed as we are interacting with each other in a daily basis. According to Solomon and Theiss (2013), interpersonal communication is a specific type of communication which “communication” refers to the use of symbols including sounds, movement or images to represent ideas so to share meanings— for interpersonal communication, it specifically refers to communication between human beings and bonding is eventually established. Gruyter (2008) also added that it is a “continuous game” of interaction between a sender and a receiver while Brooks and Heath (1993) mentioned the process of interpersonal communication is facilitated by verbal and non-verbal means such as eye contact, facial expressions and body gestures. To summarize the above definition, interpersonal communication is an ongoing process that involves the use of symbols to convey ideas and messages verbally or non-verbally between at least one sender and receiver.
Conceptual review on social penetration theory
Social penetration theory proposed by Altman and Taylor (1973) provides a framework to describe interpersonal relationship. It proposes that interpersonal communication will move from relatively shallow and superficial level to a more intimate one as relationship develops. The theory is based on an idea that human beings are layered like onions which the private self is at the core protected by the “public” self on the outer layers. The theory can be categorized into 4 stages: at the beginning (orientation), individuals are often cautious when they interact with someone that is not familiar with and they usually engage is small and casual conversations. After spending some time in knowing each other’s basic profile, they start revealing something more personal since they feel more secure and comfortable with each other (exploratory affective exchange). Many barriers are then broken down and close relationships will start to establish by sharing private and personal matters (affective exchange); communication can even occur nonverbally at the later stage because they understand each other very well (stable exchange). To wrap up, the theory suggests a depth dimension in the growth of social bond and it indicates a cumulative quality of social penetration process (Altman et al. 1981) —self-disclosure is a predominant determinant of developing social relationships and it proposes a positive relationship between openness and closeness.
The theory is able to logically depict the process of development of social relationships and it is applicable to most of the daily live situations. For example, our good friends were once strangers to us; as we continue to meet each other, we reveal something private and personal to each other since mutual trust has been gradually built through previous interaction. This situation fits with the theory that the development of social relationship is a progressive process and more communication would help to strengthen the bonding between the two parties and achieve intimacy. Yet, the theory has its limitation that interpersonal relationship can exhibit a reversible, not always a unidirectional process and divorcement is one of the examples. The parent-child relationship is an inborn and intimate one that they used to share everything including ups and downs with each other when they gather at home. However, this relationship would be significantly weakened or even broken down when their parents chose to divorce and separate with each other. As a result, the chance for the whole family to...
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