Alli Snow (allisnow) wrote,
Alli Snow

Interpersonal Comm

Somehow got thinking about this earlier tonight. I took a class in Interpersonal Communication my first semester in college and I still have the book, and everyone once in a while I like taking it out and looking through it. There's some really interesting research about why people are attracted to each other, in the friendship way and in the more-than-friendship way. I pulled out some excerpts that I found particularly interesting, dealing with intimate relationships.

Physical Beauty

As filtering theory suggests, physical beauty is often the most important basis for attraction initially. In Chapter 3 we talked about physical appearance as a nonverbal code. We also noted that most cultures identify prototypes of male and female beauty, which influence our perceptions on physical attractiveness...


How many times have you heard it said that "birds of the feather flock together" or that two people are "kindred spirits"? Common sense tells us that people are attracted to each other because they have key similarities: they like the same food, the same politics, the same kind of people. They share many of the same personality traits, Most of the research that has tested the similarity hypothesis finds some measure of support for it. Even so, a clear understanding of the relationship between similarity and attraction has been elusive. For all the ways that two people can be similar, there are just as many, if not more, differences between them. In fact, recent research suggests that the most important similarities related to attraction might be outside our awareness altogether...

Reciprocal Liking

We are often attracted to another person for the simple reason that he or she has demonstrated reciprocal liking, or an interest or observable liking for us first. Several studies confirm that expressed liking will usually be reciprocated. If you think about it, it's only natural to like those who like us. After all, if someone is capable of recognizing what a wonderful person you are and enjoys your company, she must be a half-decent person herself. Likewise, the person whose face registers disgust when he sees you enter the room is likely to elicit the same response from you.

About the creation of intimate relationships...

Some researchers believe that intimate relationships develop because, like the Marines, people are constantly looking for a few good ones. The process is portrayed as resembling shopping for a good pair of shoes. You keep trying pairs on until you find one that fits. This approach assumes that people are highly cognizant of their own behavior and the implications of their interactions with others. Other social scientists point out that intimate relationships often seem to just happen and can't be predicted very well in advance. The conventional wisdom here is that you just never know when love is going to hit you. Furthermore, relationships develop slowly, almost imperceptibly, mizing elements of both the personal and impersonal. Both views are probably true at times, since communication patterns and their meanings are often seen more clearly in retrospect.

Conditions for Intimacy

Intimate relationships are not always planned; proposals are not always rehersed. There is not always a pursuer and a pursued. But neither does an intimate relationship spring itself on the parties in full-fledged form. The development of such a relationship is part of the communication process. But for one reason or another, the partners involved have not perceieved (or have ignored) the intimacy potential in the messages and activities that they have shared. Researchers point to a nymber of factors that may be combined and either gradually or suddenly make us aware of a relationship's potential for intimacy.

One of these factors, physical proximity, simply increases the liklihood that two people will communicate more frequently with each other. This factor alone seldom leads to intimacy, unless there are few other people available for interaction. More often, proximity sets the stage for other factors to interact. Perhaps one of the most common and often overlooked sources that lays the groundwork for possible intimacy is the frequency of shared episodes.

An episode is shared when two people engage in an activity that neither could do alone. This means, when two people work closely together, or go mountain climbing together, or engage in any shared activity repeatedly, they increase their interdependence. Their initial investment is simply an exchange of coordinated behaviors. Harriet Braiker and Harold Kelley point out that the normal pattern of development in close relationships is a movement from (1) behavioral interdependence to (2) the creation of rules and norms for joint action to (3) interdependence in personal attitudes and characteristics. This suggests that establishing behavioral synchrony, while it does not in any way guarantee intimacy, certainly paves the way for future development should it be desired or encouraged...

Other situational factors can influence movement towards intimacy. Times, places and dates can affect how we feel and create what Mark Knapp calls a "state of intimacy readiness". Valentine's Day, spring fever, and the senior year of high school or college all qualify as intimacy producers. Likewise, finding yourself in a situation that is normally defined as intimate may induce feelings of intimacy. You go to a dance with several friends and acquaintances; as the evening wears on, most of your friends drift off, leaving you alone in the company of the other other person in your party -- one who happens to make an attractive partner. Fate strikes again -- with consequences no one could have predicted. In these circumstances it doesn't matter so much who the partner is -- what matters is that there is a partner. The relationship may be off and running before you've even had a chance to assess it.

Romantic feelings are another situational factor that influences movement towards intimacy, perhaps the most common factor in our culture. Most of us require that "falling in love" feeling before we legitimize a relationship as intimate...

Interestingly, the absence of one component changes the nature of the feeling. Arousal and attraction without the event lead to romantic fantasies; the event and arousal without the attraction produce avoidance; the event and attraction but no arousal suggest friendship but not love; and so on. The most fascinating component, however, is the emotional response. A number of studies have demonstrated that any emotion, including love, consists of two things: physiological arousal and a cognitive label, such as love, hate, fear. The cognitive labels are produced by cultural and social definitions of the situation.

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