Chapter 1: Introduction to Interpersonal

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Chapter 1: Introduction to Interpersonal


Chapter Goals

• Explain three prevailing models of human communication.

• Describe the impersonal-interpersonal communication continuum.

• Define and interpret interpersonal communication

• Understand the principles of interpersonal communication.

• Demystify stereotypes associated with interpersonal communication.

• Explain how ethical awareness relates to interpersonal encounters.


I. Communication apprehension

A. Legitimate life experience that usually negatively affects our communication with others. (See communication assessment test).

B. This book is about improving your ability to interact with other people.

II. We engage in interpersonal communication daily.

A. Scholars have identified six kinds of situations in which human communication exists.

III. Models of Communication—visual, simplified representations of complex relationships in the communication process.

A. Linear model of communication (Shannon & Weaver, 1949), see figure 1.1.

B. Four types of noise can interrupt a message:

C. The linear view suggests that communication takes place in a context, which is multidimensional, or the environment in which a message is sent.

A. Although the linear model was highly regarded when it was first conceptualized, the linear approach has been criticized because it presumes that communication has a definable beginning and ending.

D. Feedback and the Interaction Model (see figure 1.2).

E. Like the linear model, the interactional model has been criticized for its view of senders and receivers.

F. Shared meaning and the Transactional Model (see figure 1.3).

A. Many interpersonal communication scholars embrace the transactional process in their research; such as, Julia Wood (1998, p. 6) who believes that human communication "is always tied to what came before and always anticipates what may come later.”

I. Our notion of communication models is continually evolving.

IV. The Nature of Interpersonal Communication

A. The interpersonal communication continuum.

B. There are three important issues when determining the extent to which an encounter is impersonal, interpersonal, or in between: relational history, relational rules, and relational uniqueness.

C. Defining Interpersonal Communication is the process of message transaction between people to create and sustain shared meaning.

V. The Value of Interpersonal Communication

A. A variety of sources report that interpersonal skills top the list of skills employers are looking for in new hires.

A. A number of recent conclusions by both academic and medical communities show the value of communication and relationships and how they affect our lives physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

VI. Principles of Interpersonal Communication

A. Interpersonal communication is unavoidable (Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson).

B. Interpersonal communication is irreversible.

C. Interpersonal communication involves symbol exchange.

D. Interpersonal communication is rule-governed.

E. Interpersonal communication is learned.

F. Interpersonal communication has both content and relationship information.

VII. Myths of Interpersonal Communication

A. Interpersonal communication solves all problems.

B. Interpersonal communication is always a good thing.

C. Interpersonal communication is common sense.

D. Interpersonal communication is synonymous with interpersonal relationships.

E. Interpersonal communication is always face-to-face.

VIII. Interpersonal Communication Ethics

A. Five ethical systems of communication are categorical imperative, utilitarianism, the golden mean, ethic of care, and significant choice.

B. Understanding ethics and our own values.

Terms for Review

Categorical imperative


Historical context

Interactional Model of Communication

Internal feedback


Psychological noise


Relational history

Relational rules

Relational uniqueness

Relationship information


Semantic noise


Significant choice

Student Activities

1. Directions: Read each passage and identify which principle of Interpersonal Communication is best illustrated.

Now that Brian has graduated from college, his friend Tom's parents keep telling him he

should use their first names. This is awkward for Brian because his parents always told him to address adults using their last names and a title.

Interpersonal Communication

Danielle asked her roommate, Jane, if she borrowed her new pink sweater because it

smelled like Jane's perfume. Jane didn't say anything and continued reading her book, refusing to look at Danielle. Danielle knew Jane heard her and she got her answer even though Jane never said anything.

Interpersonal Communication

When Chris came home, Terry said in an accusing tone of voice, "I thought you were

going to take out the garbage this morning. That's the third week in a row you forgot."

Interpersonal Communication

In Renee's family they were not allowed to sing at the dinner table and always took turns

telling about their day while they had dinner.

Interpersonal Communication

E. Javier and Maria always teased each other, so when Javier told Maria he loved her she

misunderstood his feelings and thought he was joking.

Interpersonal Communication

Answers: A. learned, B. unavoidable, C. content and relationship dimensions, D. rule-governed, E. symbol of exchange

2. Directions: Look at ten different want ads for jobs in the newspaper or online. How many of them list communication or interpersonal skills as part of the job description? Compare your results with another student.

2. Directions: Review the communication models discussed in the chapter. What would you include in your own model of communication? Is there anything you would omit? Draw and label your own model below. Share and compare your model with another student.

4. Directions: Write down 4 or 5 adjectives that you think describe the following based on stereotypes. Do you believe these are accurate? Why or why not? Athlete___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Cheerleader____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Secretary__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Doctor____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Muslim___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Christian__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Jew______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Interactive Activities

1.1 Interactive Models of Communication —yatesdan/model.html

Check out Seton Hall University professor Daniel Yates’ active view of the linear, interactive, and transactional models of communication. (Click on the "Next" link to move from model to model.) Notice the development of the models from the early linear model to the more advanced transactional model.

1. What elements are consistent? What elements are changed or added?

1. Can you think of a communication experience in your own life where the interaction was similar to that shown in the linear model? In this interaction, you may have been the sender or receiver with little or no feedback. However, most communication situations are better represented with the transactional model, in which the participants are engaged in real dialogue.

1.2 Communication in Emergency Situations

The communication roles illustrated by communication models vary depending on the situation. Brown University student Jessica Galante's research indicates a changing model of communication for environmental science and in the case of emergencies. For example, in an emergency, there may be time only for a very brief message with little feedback.

1. Read Galante's web page "Communication in Emergencies."

2. After reading this page, click on the link "Emergencies" at left. Think back to a time when you were experiencing great emotional stress or in an emergency situation. How did you communicate during that situation? How did the various elements in the communication model change?

3. At the bottom of this page, click on "How does communication work in emergencies in time of urgency and direction?" What happened to the transactional model of communication? In this case, does the linear model seem most appropriate? Why or why not?

1.3 Technical versus Interpersonal Skills

Read the article "Which Is More Valuable: Technical or Interpersonal Skills?" as it relates to evaluating job applicants' technical versus interpersonal skills. With a partner or small group, discuss the following:

1. Do you think one skill, technical or interpersonal, is more important than the other?

2. What skills would you look for if you were hiring someone for a position?

2. How do you feel about the solutions the author of the article suggests to develop a new hire's interpersonal skills?

3. Do you foresee any problems with these solutions?

4. What solutions can you offer to improve someone's interpersonal skills for this job?

1.4 Communication Skills Test

One of the first steps in improving your communication skills is to assess and monitor your own interpersonal skills and actions. When you honestly evaluate your skills, you will begin to better understand interactions you have with others. Assess your interpersonal skills by taking 's ten-question communication skills test. It's quick and it gives you a nice snapshot of your communication skills. For the most informative results, remember to be honest about your communication strengths and weaknesses.

InfoTrac College Edition Activities

1.1 Received as Meant to be Sent?

"Where Is the `Message' in Communication Models?" by Raymond Gozzi, Jr. ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, April 2004

This article examines the complexity associated with the term "message" in the communication model. In the author's example of the conversation between the mother, son, and daughter, perspective and the relationship between the sender and the receiver affect how the receiver interprets the message. Think back to an interaction you had recently with a friend or a relative.

1. Diagram the interaction, applying the elements and roles of the communication models.

Who was the sender and the receiver? What was the channel of communication and the message?

Was the communication linear or transactional?

4. Was the message received as the sender intended? Or did the relationship between the sender and the receiver, or expectations of the receiver, alter the message received?

1.2 The Communication Model at Work

"Avoiding Breakdowns in the Communication Process" by Wally Adamchik National Driller, February 2003

To take a look at a real-life application of the communication model, this article applies our model to today's business environment. The author stresses that in order for business interactions to be successful, we must apply and evaluate the model of communication, especially when there is a breakdown in communication.

1. The article states that almost half of people surveyed identified that being an effective communicator was the most important quality of a business executive. Write out 8 to 10 other qualities you feel are important for an executive to have. Now go back over your list and circle those that are communication-related.

2. Can you think of a work-related situation in which there was a breakdown in communication? Now that you are familiar with the elements of the communication model, can you identify where the breakdown occurred? Do you think that if you or the participants would have been knowledgeable of the communication process, it would have eliminated the breakdown or made a difference?

1.3 Interpersonal Communication and Health

"Nuances of Interpersonal Relationships Influence Blood Pressure" Heart Disease Weekly, August 17, 2003

Did you know that interpersonal communication can affect your health? This article discusses how stress and blood pressure increase when we communicate with people we have conflicted feelings about.

1. Have you ever heard of anyone who had health problems because of his or her communication with others? What about because of a lack of communication or companionship? Have you heard of an elderly person losing a life companion? What often happens to the person left behind?

2. Think of a loved one or a close friend you enjoy spending time with. Write down how your interactions with that person makes you feel. Now think of someone you interact with whom you don't enjoy being around or whose behavior irritates you. Write down how you feel about your interactions with that person.

2. We can't go through life avoiding others, but we can control our feelings and reactions to those with whom we communicate. What strategies can you implement to respond positively to negative influences?

Your Turn Journal Activity

There are similarities and differences in the way we communicate with our neighbors, family, friends, and coworkers. Write about these and use examples of the types of conversations you have with each. What conclusions can you draw about how interpersonal communication varies based on particular sets of people with whom you interact? Are there times you wish communication were reversible?


True or False

1. Interpersonal communication is a simple process. (p. 6)

True or False

2. When you debate with yourself, you are engaging in intrapersonal communication. (p. 6)

True or False

3. There is some overlap among different types of communication. (p. 7)

True or False

4. Communication models are visual, simplified representations of complex relationships in the communication process. (p. 7)

True or False

5. Shannon and Weaver view communication as a transactional process. (p. 7)

True or False

6. Four types of noise may disrupt a message. (p. 8)

True or False

7. Physical noise is also called external noise. (p. 8)

True or False

8. The physical context is everything but the tangible environment in which communication occurs. (p. 9)

True or False

9. Our notion of communication models is static. (p. 13)

True or False

10. Most employers discount the importance of interpersonal communication skills. (p.17)

True or False

Multiple Choice Questions

1. Which of the following four components are included in the linear model of communication? (p. 10)

A. sender, receiver, encoder, and decoder

B. physical noise, semantic noise, physiological noise, and psychological noise

C. sender, Context, Channel, and receiver

D. sender, receiver, message, and channel.

2. The transactional model of communication underscores the fact that giving and receiving messages is: (p. 13)

A. dynamic

B. reciprocal

C. deniable

D. retrievable

3. A unique feature of the transactional model is its recognition that messages: (p. 13)

A. have nonverbal elements

B. are interdependent

C. are intradependent

D. build upon each other

4. Which of the following is NOT a principle of interpersonal communication? (p. 21)

A. Interpersonal communication is unavoidable.

B. Interpersonal communication is irreversible.

C. Interpersonal communication involves noise.

D. Interpersonal communication involves symbol exchange.

5.Interpersonal communication has: (p. 24)

A. both content and relationship information.

B. both contextual and relationship information

C. both content and relative information.

D. both concrete and relative information.

6. Which of the following statements about interpersonal communication is a myth? (p. 22)

A. Interpersonal communication is rule-governed.

B. Interpersonal communication is always face-to-face.

C. Interpersonal communication is learned.

D. Interpersonal communication is unavoidable.

7. Every communication experience is: (p. 21)

A. unique

B. unrepeatable

C. irreversible

D. all of the above

8. When you turn away from someone, you are: (p. 21)

A. communicating

B. having some effect

C. communicating

D. not having any effect

E. both a and b

9. The golden mean is an ethical system that proposes: (p. 29)

A. we should be kind to one another.

B. we should always try to compromise.

C. we should aim for harmony and balance in our lives.

D. we should try to make many friends.

10. Nilsen argued that communication is ethical to the extent that: (p. 30)

A. it maximizes people's ability to exercise free choice.

B. it maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain.

C. it maximizes people's ability to say what they feel.

D. it maximizes rules and guidelines.

11. At the core of communication are two behaviors. They are: (p. 33)

A. Collaboration and commitment.

B. Competency and civility

C. Civility and chivalry

D. Coordination and compensation

12. Varying backgrounds can affect how a: (p. 33)

A. message is sent and received.

B. message is received but not sent.

C. message is sent but not received.

D. neither sent nor received.

13. We learn how to communicate from our: (p. 23)

A. teachers

B. parents

C. friends

D. all of the above

14. Semiotics refers to: (p. 21)

A. syntax and grammar of a language.

B. how frequently silence is used in communication.

C. signs and symbols that make up a language.

D. the fixed ideas within a language system.

15. Which of the following is NOT a myth about communication? (p. 25)

A. Interpersonal communication solves all problems.

B. Interpersonal communication is unrepeatable.

C. Interpersonal communication is always a good thing.

D. Interpersonal communication is synonymous with interpersonal relationships.

Essay Questions

1. List and explain three principles of interpersonal communication. Be sure to give examples.

2. Explain in a short essay why the concept of process is important in understanding how communication works.

3. Discuss how studying interpersonal communication can help you succeed in your professional career.

4. Choose one of the five ethical systems explained in your text and discuss how it applies to your own life.

5. Choose one of the five ethical systems discussed in your text and explain why you disagree with it and give an example that supports your answer.

Answers to Quiz

True or False

1. False

2. True

3. True

4. True

5. False

6. True

7. False

8. False

9. False

10. False

Multiple Choice Questions

1. D

2. B

3. D

4. C

5. A

6. B

7. D

8. E

9. C

10. A

11. B

12. A

13. D

14. C

15. B


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