Communicating in Relationships

Communicating in Relationships 

Janeen, you’re spending a lot of time with Angie. Whet is Liam going to think about that?

“Come on, Mom, I know you’re just teasing me. Yeah, Liam is my boyfriend, and we get along really wen, but there a things I just can’t talk about with him.And you can with Angie?

Right. I can tell her what’s going on with my writing, for example, and she really understands. And I do the sane for her. We enjoy a lot of the same activities, so Angie is good company for me

Janeen is lucky because she has two close relation~hips. Interpersonal skills are instrumental in starting, building, and maintaining relationships, and in this chapter we discuss relationships and their dynamics. A good relationship is comprised of mutually satisfying interactions with another person .

In this chapter, we begin by identifying three types of relationships, explain the stages or cycle that typical relationships flow through, look at online relationships, and examine two theories of why relationships develop. Then we examine conflict and explain how to use the conflict process to strengthen relationships.

Types of Relationships

We behave differently depending on whether our relationships are personal or impersonal (La Fullerton,, 1996, p. 4). Moving on a continuum from impersonal to personal, we generally classify the people with whom we have relationships as acquaintances, friends, and close friends or intimates.


Acquaintances are people we know by name and talk with when the opportunity arises but with whom our interactions are largely impersonal. We become acquainted with those who live near us, are part of our religious community, or perform services for us. Many acquaintance relationships grow out of a particular context. Thus Jim, an accountant, has been preparing Sung Lee’s taxes for three


Friends are people with whom we have negotiated more personal relationships v voluntarily (Patterson, Betting, & Tussaud, 1993, p. 145). In the early stages of friendships, people move toward interactions that are less role bound. That is, Jim and Sung Lee may decide to get together for lunch. If they find that they enjoy each other’s company, they may eventually become friends.

What we look for in our friends

As we seek out people as friends, we are drawn toward people we find attractive, who have good social skills, who are responsive to us, and who have similar interests, attitudes, values, and personalities

Relationships may also develop when there are dissimilarities ill personality. The saying “opposites attract” is as accurate as “birds of a feather flock together. Stated theoretically, relationships depend on mutual need fulfillment, so people can be attract to those who are different from them but who fulfill

their needs, Thus, opposites attract when the differences between the people are seen as complementary

What we expect from our friends

Although people may be drawn to each other for many reasons, a variety of research shows that maintaining a real friendship is marked by a high degree of positiveness, assurance, openness, networking, and task sharing Guerrero & Andersen, Stafford & Canary,

Positiveness. Friends spend time with each other because they reap positive benefits in doing so. They enjoy each other’s company, they
enjoy talking with each other, and they enjoy sharing experiences.

Assurance Friends trust “each other. They risk putting their well-being in the hands of another because they trust the other not to intentionally harm their interests

Openness. Friends share personal feelings with each other.

Networking. Friends show a high level of commitment not only to each other but to each other’s friends and family. They are likely to sacrifice their time and energy to engage in activities with family and friends of friends

Close Friends or Intimates

Close friends or intimates are those with whom we share our deepest feelings. People may have countless acquaintances and many friends, but they are likely to have only a few truly intimate friends.

Close friends or intimates differ from regular friends mostly in degree of commitment, trust, disclosure, and enjoyment in their relationship. For instance, although friends engage in some self disclosure, they are not likely to share the secrets of their lives intimate friends often gain knowledge of the innermost being of their partner

Communication in the Stages of Relationships

Even though no two relationships develop in exactly the same manner, most relationships move through identifiable stages following a life cycle” that includes starting or building, stability, and deterioration Whether a relationship moves to the next stage depends on how partners interact.

Starting or Building Relationships
Fun dam: to scatting or building a relationship IS uncertainty reduction. the for informational We get information about others passively by observing their behavior, actively by asking ether for information, and interactively by conversing with them directly. The three communication activities we engage in to start and build relationships are striking up conversation, keeping conversation going, and moving toward intimacy.

Striking up a Conversation

What happens in the first few minutes of a conversation will have a profound effect on the nature of the relationship that develops. As the old saying goes, you seldom get a second chance to create a first impression: Although thinking up “getting to know you” lines is easy for some, many people become nearly tongue-tied when they want to meet someone and, as a result, make a bad first impression. There are several approaches to starting conversations. Most involve asking questions. A cheerful answer to you question suggest in continuing. Refusal to answer or a curt

reply may mean that the person is not really interested in talking with you at this time.

1. Formally or informally introduce yourself. “Hi, my name is Gordon. What’s yours?”

2. Refer to the physical context. This is awful weather for a game, isn’t it? “I wonder how they are able to keep such a beautiful garden in this r climate?

3. Refer to your thoughts or feelings. “I really like parries, don’t you?” I live on this floor too-do these steps bother you as much as they do me? and Doesn’t it seem stuffy in Here?

4. Refer to tire other person. Marge seems to be an excellent hostess-have you known her long?” “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you before-do you work in marketing?

Keeping the: conversation going

Once two people have begun an interaction, they are likely to engage in “small talk” such as information exchange and gossip, conversation that meets social needs with relatively low amounts of risk . .In idea-exchange communication, people share information that contains facts, opinions, and beliefs that occasionally reflect values. At the office, Dan may ask Walt about last night’s sports scores. Or, on a more serious level, Bonita may talk with Ken about the upcoming election. Although the discussions of elections are “d~per” than conversations about sports, both sets of conversations represent idea-exchanges. This type of communication is important in the early stages of a relationship because through it you learn what the ‘other person is thinking, reassess your attraction level, and decide whether or .not you want the relationship to grow.

Gossip, relating information whose accuracy may be unknown about copier you both know, is one of the most common forms of interpersonal communication. Egging and observe, “Every day a considerable amount of time for millions of people is consumed Lv gossip and as such it is a powerful socializing

On one hand, got provides an easy way to talk with people without sharing much information about yourself. Statements such as “Do you know Bill? I hear he has a really great job” and “Would you believe that Mary Simmons and Tom Johnson are going together? They never seemed to hit it off too well in the past” are examples of gossip. Most gossip is largely benign because it is virtually public knowledge. People do break up, lose their jobs, get in accidents, win prizes, and so forth. In these circumstances, there is nothing secret, and if the person were there, he or she would likely tell you about what happened.

This kind of small talk occurs during all phases of a relationship but is most common in the early phase because it is considered safe. You can gossip for a long time with another person without really saying anything about yourself or learning anything about the other person. Gossip may be a pleasant way to pass

Relationship Disintegration

Regardless of how much one party would like a relationship to remain stable or become more intense, there are times when a relationship is destined to dieresis

grate. We may discover that we just do not have enough in common to make a go of it. Sometimes when a relationship ends, we are sad-at other times, it is a relief. Regardless of our feelings, it is helpful to end a relationship in an inter personally competent manner. Even the effects of a wrenching breakup can be somewhat improved with the conscious effort to use good interpersonal com I communication skills.

Unfortunately, when people decide to end a relationship, they sometimes purposely use strategies that are hurtful. Even when relationships have fallen apart, people ‘should still try to use the constructive skills of describing feelings, owning feelings, and disclosing to make parting as amicable as possible