Interpersonal communication is defined as an interaction between involving two or more participants, providing immediate feedback to each other. It serves a purpose especially in building relationships. Interpersonal communication is a transactional process. It is not a one way activity like a monologue. Rather, it is interactive, and ongoing. In watching the sitcom, Scrubs, communication doesn’t commence when the characters start talking. It starts the moment viewers and actors come face to face in the boob tube. The actors do not convey messages solely through words, but through actions and facial expressions too.
For instance, the scrunching face of one actor may already be interpreted by the audience as an expression of disgust or dislike. Interpersonal communication is also ambiguous. The significance of the words articulated is interpreted distinctively by each receiver. The particular line “well good news is, I don’t have to eat my wife’s cooking anymore, right? ” uttered by the patient was understood differently by the pair of doctors standing in his bedside. The female physician laughed so hard because she found it funny, but the male physician furrowed his brows.
The understanding of a person may be affected by various factors. His culture, personality, upbringing, gender and even intelligence are just some of the reasons for the disparity in interpretation. The ambiguity of interpersonal communication is also a cause of dispute. In a lover’s feud for example, the female might be fuming mad when his partner chides about her weight. She might take it as a sign that he is not attracted to him anymore. Whereas, the bewildered boyfriend’s initial goal was perhaps to make her less conscious of her body by joking about it.
In addition, interpersonal communications have a content and relationship dimension. The meaning of a line or phrase is dependent on the context and the circumstance involved. Just like in the sitcom line mentioned above, where the man commented about his wife’s cooking, the connotation will change if the man is not ill and in bed. For me, what he said was meant to make the hospital mood lighter. But, if he were talking to an attractive woman at a cafe, it might be interpreted as flirting. Interpersonal communication may be viewed as symmetrical or complementary.
Symmetry suggests that the behaviour of one person is mirrored by another, while the term complementary refers to contrasting reactions. Both were evident in the sitcom Scrubs. The patient-doctor relationship is usually symmetrical in the show. The physician wants to cure the patient’s sickness, and the patient wants to be treated. Complementarity arises due to the different power positions. The physician, who is an expert on medical care instructs his patient. The patient oftentimes, becomes a passive receiver of information. When the relationship is complementary, there is a chance that the two parties would intensify each other.
For instance, when the patient told his doctor that he wanted to get out of bed to see the talent show, the doctor of course declined. The patient looked downcast and ready to protest, but it turned out that the doctor was only kidding him initially. Interpersonal communication is a series of punctuated events. After each statement or idea, there is a reaction. A person does not respond only after a lengthy narrative is finished, but on each word, sentence or paragraph mentioned. In a sitcom for example, viewers do not watch the whole episode and laugh only when it ends. But, they chuckle on each line that they find funny.
In addition, the series of reactions, on when to laugh is arbitrarily set by the viewer. I do not find other dialogues ticklish, and thus I do not giggle a bit, even if others do. However, live sitcoms like Scrubs exploit this aspect by adapting to and adopting the viewer’s point of view. Since communication is a transactional process, it is easy to catch the audience’s empathy and adjust to their mood. A laughing spiel is often followed by serious dialogue. Interpersonal communication is inevitable. In a situation where interaction is possible, one cannot not communicate.
It is hard not to respond to someone who is conveying a message to you. But, I personally find this point rather contentious. As a television viewer, I sometimes watch simply to absorb information. In watching the weather news, I feel no empathy for what I am hearing. I am simply a passive funnel of ideas. In this sense, the news reporter has given me weather data, but has not elicited any reaction from me. Interpersonal communication is irreversible. Something that has been said cannot be taken back. The meaning of the words that has been transmitted and digested by the other party cannot be reversed.
In sitcoms for instance, if viewers are offended by a racial joke, it is hard to appease them. The only way to do it is through a public apology. Interpersonal communication is unrepeatable. The exact line containing exactly the same words can of course be uttered twice, but the underlying situation is constantly changing and there is no certainty that it can be reconstructed. Due to the unrepeatable aspect of interpersonal communication, one has to be aware of himself. At such, one has to be conscious of using strong words, like “hate” and giving commitments.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 30 September 2016
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