Unit 4


Interpersonal Communication

I. Revising the theory

Exercise 1. For many scholars, the defining characteristic of interpersonal communication is that it occurs between two people. Are all dyads interpersonal? Give your reasons.

People build dyads to: give and collect information, influence the attitudes and behaviour of others, form contacts and maintain relationships, make sense of the world and our experiences in it ...

II. Practicing

Exercise 1. Read the text and explain how we can overcome the difficulties described in it.

Interpersonal Communication Is Complicated

By D. King

No form of communication is simple. Because of the number of variables involved, even simple requests are extremely complex. Theorists note that whenever we communicate there are really at least six “people” involved:
1) who you think you are;
2) who you think the other person is;
3) who you think the other person thinks you are;
4) who the other person thinks he/she is;
5) who the other person thinks you are;
6) who the other person thinks you think he/she is.
We don’t actually swap ideas, we swap symbols that stand for ideas. This also complicates communication. Words (symbols) do not have inherent meaning; we simply use them in certain ways, and no two people use the same word exactly alike. Osmo Wiio gives us some communication maxims similar to Murphy’s law.

  • If communication can fail, it will.
  • If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm.
  • There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message.
  • The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed.

These tongue-in-cheek maxims are not real principles; they simply humorously remind us of the difficulty of accurate communication.

Abridged from: http://www.pstcc.edu/facstaff/dking/interpr.htm

Exercise 3. What dialectical tensions are described in the following situations? What are the possible ways to resolve these tensions?

According to the relational dialectic model, there are three core tensions (opposing values) in any relationship.

  • Privacy vs. transparency (also called “openness and closeness”). By the sharing of information, a relationship can grow closer and stronger. However, this need for self-disclosure conflicts with the need for privacy felt by each individual in the relationship. When these needs are at odds with one another, a relational tension is created over how much disclosure is desirable.
  • Novelty vs. predictability (also called “certainty vs. uncertainty”). For a relationship to be maintainable, there is a need for stability. Individuals desire a sense of assurance and predictability in the interpersonal relationships they are part of. At the same time, a relationship in which nothing extraordinary takes place cannot be dynamic, thus relationships which become bland and monotonous are not desirable. The struggle to avoid monotony while maintaining order is the basis for this tension.
  • Autonomy vs. connectedness (also called “separateness vs. connectedness”). All humans have a need for autonomy and independence. However, it is also assumed that people wish to attach themselves to others through relationships. Tension arises when attachment to someone else encroaches on the individual’s need for self-government.

Exercise 2. Read the following extract and explain the difference between the three sets of interpersonal tensions.

Situation 1
Jill and Josh are very close and Josh insists on spending all their free time together. Jill enjoys Josh’s company very much, but sometimes she feels like she needs her own space and personal space. She tries to help Josh understand they can still be very close without being together every second of the day.

Situation 2
Jill and Josh also need a little more excitement in their relationship. Their activities with each other have become somewhat redundant, and they desire some spice in their relationship. They rarely go out anymore and when they do, they always participate in the same activities with the same people.

Situation 3
Jill has a very high level of self-disclosure with Josh which helps maintain a sense of openness in their relationship. Josh has progressively gotten less and less open with Jill about stories from his past, how his day was, and his feelings toward Jill. This change confuses Jill and makes her feel less comfortable opening up.

  • Pat: Do it now. Chris: I’ll do it when I’m good and ready; otherwise, do it yourself.
  • Pat: What do you want for dinner? Chris: Whatever you’d like is fine with me.
  • Pat: Jackie needs new shoes.Chris: And a new jacket.
  • Pat: Here, honey, do it this way. Chris: Oh, that’s great; you’re so clever.
  • Submissive symmetry – each person communicates submission; both messages are one-down (messages that indicate submission to what the other person wants).
  • Complementarity – one person communicates the desire to control (one-up) and the other person communicates submission (one-down).
  • Competitive symmetry – each person tries to exert control over the other, each communicates one-up messages (messages that attempt to control the behaviors of the other person).
  • Neutralized symmetry – each person communicates similarly but neither competitively, one-up, nor submissively, one-down.

Adapted from: http://studylib.net/doc/8409222/symmetrical-and-

Exercise 5. Match each exchange with its corresponding disconfirming label.

  • Pete: So I think this means that if we have Sami’s part finished we can submit our portfolio! Sami, where are you at with your part? Sami: Carla, do you hear something? Huh. Weird. Are we done here?
  • Pete: So I think this means that if we have Sami’s part finished... Sami: Guys I’m starving. Anyone want to move this meeting over to Einstein’s?
  • Pete: So I think this means that if we have Sami’s part finished we can submit our portfolio! Sami, where are you at with your part? Sami: That is an excellent question, and the answer is heavily rooted in your understanding of existentialism and the new Call of Duty: Ghosts.
  • Pete: So I think this means that if we have Sami’s part finished we can submit our portfolio! Sami, where are you at with your part? Sami: I’m actually kind of struggling on my part and could use a little help, but more importantly, what should we be wearing to the event Sunday? I was thinking blue polos?
  • Pete: So I think this means that if we have Sami’s part finished we can submit our portfolio! Sami, where are you at with your part? Sami: Did I show you guys the pics of my new dog? He’s adorable! I think he should be our team mascot!
  • Impervious
  • Irrelevant
  • Incoherent
  • Interrupting
  • Tangential

Exercise 6. Read the texts and consider the tasks below.


Paradox can prove to be very revealing about human nature and the way that we speak. If someone says to you “I’m a compulsive liar”, do you believe them or not? That statement in itself is a paradox, because it is self-contradictory, which is precisely what a paradox is.

At the most basic level, a paradox is a statement that is self-contradictory because it often contains two statements that are both true, but in general, cannot both be true at the same time. In the aforementioned example, can someone be both a compulsive liar yet telling the truth at the same time?

Paradox Concept: Starts with Shrimp

One of the most well-known examples that teachers frequently use to introduce the idea of a paradox is a “jumbo shrimp”. Certainly, “jumbo” and “shrimp” are contradictory statements. However, that is merely an introductory example, since a shrimp can certainly be jumbo sized in comparison to other smaller shrimp. Still, it is an appropriate starting point for students who are new to the concept of paradox.

Here are some more examples of paradox in simple forms:

Your enemy’s friend is your enemy.

I am nobody.

“What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young” (George Bernard Shaw).

Wise fool.

Truth is honey which is bitter.

“I can resist anything but temptation” (Oscar Wilde).

“Men work together whether they work together or apart” (Robert Frost).

Be cruel to be kind.

The beginning of the end.

Drowning in the fountain of eternal life.

Deep down, you're really shallow.

Paradox in Literature

Have a better idea of what a paradox is now? Let’s continue on to some larger examples of paradox that appear in works of literature. In doing so, examining their purpose will become an important part of the process.

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the words “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” are part of the cardinal rules. Clearly this statement does not make logical sense. However, the point of a paradox is to point out a truth, even if the statements contradict each other.

Orwell is trying to make some sort of political statement here. Perhaps it is that the government claims that everyone is equal when that is clearly false, or perhaps it is that individuals have skewed perceptions of what it means to be equal. The interpretation is up to the reader to decide.

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the title character states “I must be cruel to be kind”. On the surface, once again, this statement does not seem to make much sense. Can an individual convey kindness through evil?

However, Hamlet is speaking about his mother, and how he plans to ultimately slay Claudius in order to avenge his father's death. His mother is now married to Claudius, so of course this will be a tragedy for her. However, he does not want his mother to be the lover of his father’s murderer (unbeknownst to her) any longer, and so he believes the murder will be for her own good.

Purpose of Paradoxe

After examining the examples from works of literature, one will see that a paradox is not just a witty or amusing statement. Paradoxes have serious implications in the world of literature, because they make statements that often sum up the main ideas of the work.

What is the purpose of using such a statement then, instead of just forthrightly stating the work’s intent?

One reason is that to do so would be boring. It is much more interesting for a reader to carve out the meaning, than to have it fed to them on a silver platter.

Furthermore, summing up the totality of the work in one statement is more memorable. “I must be cruel to be kind” is a famous statement that has transcended history, whether or not people know where the words originally came from.

From: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-

1. What are the reasons of using paradoxes in everyday life/literary works?

2. Relying on your own experience, books or films, provide at least five additional examples of paradox.

Exercise 7. What phenomenon is described in the following situation? Provide at least two examples of your own.

A young man who had fairly well recovered from a schizophrenic episode was visited in the hospital by his mother. He was glad to see her and impulsively put his arm around her shoulders, whereupon she stiffened. He withdrew his arm and she asked “Don’t you love me anymore?” He then blushed, and she said, “Dear, you must not be so easily embarrassed and afraid of your feelings”.

From: http://www.goertzel.org/dynapsyc/1998/KoopmansPaper.html

Exercise 8. What phenomenon is described in the following situation? Provide at least two similar examples of your own. What can be done to avoid such situations?

Lisa : Will you try to remember to do dishes tomorrow morning before you go to work?

Paul : You know I get really sick of your nagging all the damn time!

Lisa : If you were a little more reliable and a little less defensive, we might not need to have these same discussion over and over again.

Paul : You’re hardly the one to lecture me about memory or defensiveness. If you remembered half the things you’ve promised to do, we would have fewer arguments. It’s your defensiveness, not mine, that causes all of our problems…

From: https://commsciencegroup.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/interpersonal-communication-

Exercise 9. Identify the relational stage(s) that the following examples illustrate (initiating, experimenting, intensifying, integrating, bonding, differentiating, circumscribing, avoiding, stagnating, terminating). Prove your point of view.

Example : Two friends are discussing the effects of divorce in their families.

This type of self-disclosure would most likely occur in an intensifying stage of a relationship, where the friends have gone beyond the small talk of experimenting and are beginning to develop more trust, more depth rather than breadth of self-disclosure, and where secrets are told and favors given.

1. Two friends are telling one another about using/refusing drugs.

2. Two classmates are comparing the results of their first exam.

3. Two people seated next to each other on an overseas flight begin telling one another about their past romantic involvements.

4. Two long-term friends are discussing their worries and feelings of responsibility regarding their parents’ advancing age.

5. Cousins who practically lived at each other’s homes as teenagers five years ago, now seem to have nothing to talk about.

6. A divorced couple meets briefly to discuss education and vacation plans for their children.

7. A man and a woman who dated for six months during college ten years ago now find themselves working for the same company.

8. A manager and employee have agreed to sit down and talk about the problems they are experiencing with each other.

Exercise 10. At what stage of relationship development/dissolution are people most likely to exchange the following phrases? Match the answers as appropriate.

Coming Together

  • Initiating
  • Experimenting
  • Intensifying
  • Integrating
  • Bonding
  • “Oh, so you like to ski... so do I.”
    “You do?! Great! Where do you go?”
  • “I feel so much a part of you.”
    “Yeah, we are like one person. What happens to you happens to me.”
  • “Hello, how are you doing?”
    “Fine, what about you?”
  • “I want to be with you always”.
    “Let’s get married.”
  • “I... I think I love you.”
    “I love you too.”

Coming Apart

  • Differentiating
  • Circumscribing
  • Stagnating
  • Avoiding
  • Terminating
  • “Did you have a good time on your trip?”
    “What time will dinner be ready?”
  • “What’s there to talk about?”
    “Right, I know what you’re going to say and you know what I'm going to say.”
  • “I’m so busy, I don’t know if I’ll be able to see you.”
    “If I’m not around when you try, you'll understand.”
  • “I’m leaving you... and don’t bother calling me.”
    “Don’t worry.”
  • “I just don’t like big social gatherings.”
    “Sometimes I just don't understand you. This is one area where I am not like you at all.”

Exercise 11. Read the text. Dwell on the ways people deal with a dissolving relationship.

By R. Gross

People sometimes think about and plan their break-up, or maybe about how to prevent it: it doesn’t always come at people ‘out of the blue’. Recent research has begun to look more closely at the specific characteristics of those relationships that do break apart. For example, do troubled couples have particular ways of communicating and relating? Researchers have also begun to look at the break-up of friendships, and the actions, strategies and persuasive techniques people deliberately take to cause break-up.

Duck’s model comprises four phases, each of which is initiated when a threshold is broken. The ending of a romantic relationship indicates that the two people are now legitimately available as partners for other relationships. This requires them to create a story for the end of the relationship that leaves them in a favorable light as potential partners. Romantic relationships are, therefore, typically ended publicly in a way that announces the ex-partners’ freedom from the expectations of exclusive commitment.

A sketch of the main phases of dissolving personal relationships (based on Duck, 1982, from Duck, 1988):

Breakdown – dissatisfaction with relationshipbr
Threshold: ‘I can’t stand this anymore’


Personal focus on partner’s behavior

  • Assess adequacy of partner’s role performance
  • Depict and evaluate negative aspects of being in the relationship
  • Consider costs of withdrawal
  • Assess positive aspects of alternative relationships
  • Face ‘express/repress dilemma’

Threshold: ‘I’d be justified in withdrawing’


  • Face ‘confrontation/avoidance dilemma’
  • Confront partner
  • Negotiate in ‘our relationship talks’
  • Attempt repair and reconciliation?
  • Assess joint costs of withdrawal or reduced intimacy

Threshold: ‘I mean it’


  • Negotiate post-dissolution state with partner
  • Initiate gossip/discussion in social network
  • Create publicly negotiable face-saving/blame-placing stories and accounts
  • Consider and face up to implied social network effect, if any
  • Call in intervention team

Threshold: ‘It’s now inevitable’


  • ‘Getting over’ activity
  • Retrospective; reformative post-mortem attribution
  • Public distribution of own version of break-up story

‘Dressing the grave’ involves ‘erecting a tablet’ that provides a credible, socially acceptable account of the life and death of the relationship. While helping to save face, it also serves to keep alive some memories and to ‘justify’ the original commitment to the ex-partner. As Duck (1988) puts it: ‘Such stories are an integral and important part of the psychology of ending relationships… By helping the person to get over the break-up they are immensely significant in preparing the person for future relationships as well as helping them out of old ones.’

Duck (2001) identifies a number of classic formats for a break-up story (such as ‘X suddenly changed and I had to get out’; ‘X betrayed me’; ‘We grew apart’). The crucial ingredients of such stories are those that show the speaker is:

  • open to relationships but doesn’t enter them thoughtlessly
  • aware of others’ deficiencies but isn’t overly critical
  • willing to work to improve a relationship or take decisive action when partners turn nasty or break the rules of relating
  • rational and sensible, and brings closure to relationships only after trauma, hard work or on reasonable grounds after real effort to make things work.

Rollie and Duck’s (2005) modification of the 1982 model emphasizes the complexity and uncertainty of the dissolution process, including the psychological need to prepare oneself for the next step rather than to be preoccupied with what’s going on now (Duck, 2005).

R. Gross. Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behavior

Exercise 12. According to Duck’s Filtering Model, people use a series of filters to judge how close to others they want to be. Identify what kind of cues/filters are used for elimination in each situation.

Situation 1

Mark and Susan are in the same school but different classes. They see each other every day but never got a chance to talk or interact. Mark found her attractive and wanted to talk to her. For that he asked his friends about her and they told him that Susan is a good girl and a cool person to spend time with. He also got the information that the girls hanging around with Susan had a bad reputation and this led Mark to avoid others and meet Susan.

Situation 2

May always liked to go to museums and art galleries to hang out. But she never told her boyfriend Stan about that and he took her to movies and theme parks for their dates. Once she told him how she adored going to museums and art galleries and to her surprise Stan too was fond of art and history. They shared many common characteristics and likes and this took their relationship to a different level.

Situation 3

Stacy and Tom go to the same gym. They see each other every day. William also goes to the same gym but in different timings. William is a practical and sensible guy and Stacy might have liked him but they never got a chance to meet.

Situation 4

Connor and Anne were dating for more than three months and only could judge each other positively. So they decided to continue dating seriously so that they could evaluate themselves and reach a conclusion.

From: http://communicationtheory.org/ducks-relationship-filtering-model/

III. Applying the model

Exercise 1. In a film or book of your choice find examples of the following two patterns of interaction.

1. Symmetrical relationships are established when the pattern of interaction is defined by two people responding to one another in the same way (e.g. two persons struggle for power).

2. Complementary relationships are established when the pattern of interaction is defined by two people responding to one another in opposing ways (e.g. one person is argumentative while the other is quiet).

Exercise 2. In the cases under consideration in Ex. 1, which pattern turned out to be a more successful one?

Exercise 3. Think about relationship patterns regarding your own interactions (with friends, loved ones, family, groupmates) and answer the questions

1. How rigid or flexible are these patterns? For example, do you and your friends or groupmates share control and submission or does one of you exercise control and the other respond with submission?

2. Can you identify a relationship you have that makes use of one major pattern? What part do you play? Are you comfortable with this pattern?

3. Can you identify a general pattern that you use in many or most of your interpersonal relationships? How satisfied are you with your customary patterns of expression?

4. Can you identify relationships you have that began with one pattern of communication and over the years have shifted to another pattern? What happened?

Exercise 4. In a book or film of your choice find examples of disconfirming responses (impervious, interrupting, irrelevant, tangential, impersonal, incoherent, incongruous). Were those disconfirmations used intentionally or unintentionally?

Exercise 5. Analyze a relationship from a book of your choice applying Mark Knapp’s Model.

Exercise 6. Analyze a relationship you have (or had in the past) using Duck’s Filtering Theory.

Exercise 7. Analyze the relationship between the main characters in the film Gone Girl (2014) or another film of your choice. Pay special attention to the stages of relationship development/dissolution.