Understanding the Meaning of Interpersonal Relationships

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 30 September 2016

Understanding the Meaning of Interpersonal Relationships

Interpersonal relationship has been generally defined as an association between two or more individuals. The relationship becomes interpersonal depending on emotions such as liking or love, standard business associations, or any other kind of social loyalty. There are several scenarios where interpersonal relationships can occur for example friends, family, acquaintances, neighborhoods, family, churches and clubs. By and large, interpersonal relationships act as the driving force that directs our lives.

A number of people determine the quality of their lives based not only on the number of their interpersonal relationships, but their quality as well. Good interpersonal relationships are vital for the wellbeing of the individual because according to studies, those with high quality interpersonal relationships live longer and experience less physical and emotional disorders. In addition, they are satisfied with life. On the contrary, poor interpersonal relationships have been associated with acts such as suicide, psychological problems, social anxiety and instability of families.

It is through effective communication that a high quality of interpersonal relationships can be maintained. Communication is the crucial driving force for such a relationship as it determines how the words used affect the attitudes, perceptions and behaviors of the people involved (Nicotera, 1993, p. 3). How Words Affect Interpersonal Relationships The words used in interpersonal interaction accrue from the communication that takes place between the individuals or groups of people concerned. Communication is the process that people use to be able to create meaning out of both verbal and non verbal symbols.

Words are derived when communication is verbal or written in the course of interaction (Kelly & Watson, 1999). According to Nicotera (1993, p. 3), “communication is requisite for the maintenance of satisfying relationships and the absence of effective communication causes relational failure”. Therefore, the words used during interpersonal interactions determine the effectiveness or failure of the relationship. The ways in which persons communicate determine the development as well as the maintenance of the interpersonal relationship.

Communication passes the message that will ensure that there are no social problems encountered as a result of the words chosen. Changes often occur due to communication and the words used during communication. Communication is a static unpredictable event, meaning that it is not possible to plan the exact words that are going to be used in the communication process and be certain that the words used will produce specific results. This is attributed to the fact that communication is a process from which people use verbal and the non verbal communication symbols to create meaning out of them.

The interpretation of the words used in communication will determine how it affects the interpersonal relationship because the words represent ideas and things that are interpreted variously (Kelly & Watson, 1999). The interpretations then affect interpersonal interactions hence the relationships. The interpretations of the words are dependent on various factors such as the individuals’ experiences, beliefs and attitudes, the knowledge of the other individual and the situation at hand.

Therefore, the words used during interpersonal interactions determine the meaning that is created hence the effect of the interpersonal relationship. It is when the meaning of the words used are mutually interpreted by the communicating parties that the interpersonal relationship will not be threatened. On the other hand, misinterpretation of the words endangers the relationship because it involves the other person assigning a different meaning to the words used different from what the other individual intended it to be.

In most interpersonal relationships, factors such as experience, situation and others facilitate for correct interpretation of the words used hence ensuring that the relationship is not threatened during the process of communication (Kelly & Watson, 1999). How Perceptions, Emotions and Non Verbal Expression Affect Interpersonal Relationships Perceptions, emotions and nonverbal expression made during interpersonal interaction influence interpersonal relationships negatively or positively depending on the meaning of the expression.

Nonverbal expressions are symbolic interpretations of ideas or something hence they send meaning that is subject to interpretation by the other person. Nonverbal expressions like cloths, posture, and facial expression are exhibited in the process of interaction and are assigned varied meanings by the other people (Kelly & Watson, 1999). The progression of how communication is established maintains or eliminates interpersonal relationships owing to the fact that it influences the emotions and perceptions that are created by the words or nonverbal expressions.

In the initiation of an interpersonal relationship, emotions and the perceptions that an individual has towards the other person will determine the approach that will be made in order to initiate the relationship. It is the desirable approach that will be effectively interpreted by the other person that will establish the formation of the relationship. This is due to the reason that the perception and emotions of the other person will be based on the interpretation of the nonverbal and verbal expressions (Nicotera, 1993).

The maintenance of an interpersonal relationship depends on the interaction process that is involved and the perceptions and emotions that will accrue from the interaction. The perceived self concept triggers the formation of interpersonal relationship and its maintenance is based on the self esteem support and the intensity given to the relationship. This is such that reciprocal self esteem together with high intensity given to the relationship create positive perceptions and emotions that in turn lead to maintenance of the relationship.

On the other hand, lack of reciprocal self concept support will threaten the relationship. The interpersonal relationship will end if the perceptions and the emotions that are generated in the process of interaction are negative and they do not show reciprocal self concept support among the interacting parties and intense attention to the interpersonal relationship (Greene & Burleson, 2003). Interpersonal relationships are influenced by perceptions, emotions and nonverbal expressions because of the communication of the information procedure.

During communication, the use of words and nonverbal expressions are interpreted by the receptor of information and thus influence the perceptions and emotions that result from the interpretation. The tone of voice, facial expression, body movements, eye contact and posture influence how the communicator’s information is interpreted. The components of the message included in the interpersonal interaction are important in the comprehension of the information because they influence the behavior of the recipient of the information by influencing the resulting emotions and perceptions.

Generally, perceptions and emotions are determined by the interpretation of the communicator’s nonverbal expressions. The interpretation then determines the state of interpersonal relationship (Greene & Burleson, 2003). How Words Create and Affect Attitudes, Behavior and Perception The communication process whether verbal and non verbal is interpreted differently by different people hence changing the manner in which the persons interact. The words used in communicating change the other person because first, it changes the perception of that person.

Although a person may be thought of as possessing a certain character trait such as being witty, kind or interesting, continued communication influences the others person’s perception. The changes in perception may be drastic or may be subtle depending on the how the interaction affects the interpersonal relationship. Therefore, the words used in the process of communicating has the potential of changing the interpersonal relationship and the listening person may like or hate you more depending on how the words were used in the process of communication.

For instance, when a child has been made fun of by another student, soothing words from an adult or peer changes how the child perceives the teacher and the incident. In addition, the words used change the perception of the individual towards him or herself. For example, in a situation where an individual is referred to as being intelligent or attractive, the perception of that person towards him or herself changes and becomes positive (Kelly & Watson, 1999). Our attitudes and behaviors are also influenced by the words used during interpersonal interaction.

The words that are communicated to a person influence the feelings, attitudes, mood, values and beliefs on how the person views the people around him or her or the world in general. The words used by a person affect attitude because in one way or the other, they will influence the view of something or someone hence the attitude that will be exhibited when dealing with the object of interaction.

In the case where the object of reference is interpersonal relationship, the attitude towards that relationship will be influenced as well as the interaction process (Hybels, S. Weaver, 2007). Greene and Burleson (2003) point out that communication between human beings is a multifaceted enterprise that can cause problems during interaction because it not only creates attitudes, behaviors and perceptions, but it affects them as well. The verbal and nonverbal behavior exhibited in interpersonal interactions conveys attitudes and perceptions that explain the behavior of the person and they affect the attitudes and perceptions because it changes how the other person behaves.

For example, unwitting communication of words will convey attitudes and perceptions that were not supposed to be communicated because of the nonverbal behavior that may accompany the interaction. The recipient of the information may focus on the behavior and infer the intentions that were being made by the communicators thus influencing the perceptions, attitudes and the behavior of the information receptor. The influence may be negatively perceived because the communicator may have used different words and the nonverbal behaviors may give different interpretation.

Barriers to Effective Interpersonal Interactions The major barrier to effective interpersonal interactions is poor communication or ineffective communication. Failed communications causes both interpersonal and social difficulties because it affects the stability of the interpersonal relationship. When communication fails, it becomes difficult for the interpersonal interaction to continue because the process of communication will be disrupted or cut short.

For that reason, ineffective communication is the basic barrier to improvement of social problems and consequently interpersonal interactions and relationships (Nicotera, 1993). The style of interaction in the relationship is also another barrier to effective interpersonal interaction. Interpersonal interaction whereby there is no reciprocal support will result to interpretation that there is lack of interest hence leading to a collapse of the relationship.

Wrong interpretation of the content of the message also risks interpersonal interactions because the receptor may interpret the message wrongly owing to the fact that the language is different or the nonverbal expressions portray different messages. Wrong interpretation may also be due to the use of different language terms in a language for example slang in which different people make use of different words (Hybels, S. & Weaver, 2007). Physical disabilities and environment in which the interaction takes place may act as a barrier to interpersonal interactions.

Persons with visual and hearing disabilities experience difficulties in interpreting communication hence hindering effective interaction. Environments like noisy places and long distances between the communicator and the receptor of the message hinder effective interpersonal interaction. The noise or the distance will make it difficult for the receptor to understand or effectively interpret the information being communicated. Misunderstanding may also result during interpersonal interaction and consequently impede effective interaction.

The interpretations of nonverbal as well as verbal communications and humor differ among cultures hence will hinder effective interpersonal interaction. Prejudices, stereotypes, racism and other assumptions may lead to misunderstandings during interpersonal interaction. Different social contexts such as the manner of interpretation within a family may be different from that of family friends hence acting as a barrier to effective interpersonal interactions. Individual situations such as emotional needs of an individual may hinder interaction with colleagues or friends because of the difference in their emotions.

For other people, interpersonal interactions are hindered by time pressure as in the case of working parents who may be forced to work for long hours hence do not interact much with their family (Greene & Burleson, 2003). Conclusion Interpersonal relationship is a long term association that occurs between two or more people who either love or like each other, or are business colleagues and have certain social commitment. Interpersonal relationship is influenced by existing interpersonal interactions which are dependent on verbal and nonverbal communication.

Expression of messages is subject to interpretation by the receiver of the information and it is the interpretation that trigger emotions, attitudes and perceptions hence behavior that results. However, there are barriers to interpersonal interaction that may threaten the relationship such as poor communication, misunderstanding, wrong interpretation, physical interpretations, social context, time pressures among others. It is important that the barriers to interpersonal interactions are addressed to reduce threats caused to the relationship.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 30 September 2016

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