Communication: Chapter 5

•      Communication is crucial in close relationships.

•      Researchers who use the “talk table”method (pre-rating your intentions and the receivers perceptions) have shown that unhappy partners miscommunicate more often than happy partners do.

•      An interpersonal gap occurs when a sender’s intentions differ from the effect it has on the receiver.

A Model of Interpersonal Communication

•      Sender’s Intentions (private)ΰEncoding (influenced by sender’s social skills, mood, distractions in environment, and inner distractions)ΰSender’s Actions (public and observable)ΰReceptionΰInfluenced by Listener’s style of Decoding, mood, distractions etc.ΰ Effect on the Listener (private)


•      Can carry much information.

•      Functions of nonverbal communication according to Patterson:

–    providing information

–    regulating interaction

–    expressing intimacy 

–    social  control

–    presentational function

–    affect management

–    service-task function

Universal Emotions

•      You open the door and the Prize Patrol is outside.  You have just won the $20 million dollar Publisher's Clearinghouse Award.  You are HAPPY!

•      You go to the cafeteria for lunch and are about to bite into your salad when you see a huge hard-backed cockroach crawling in the lettuce…..antennae waving.  You are DISGUSTED!

•      You find out that your pet cat of 19 years was run over by a Mack truck.  You are SAD!


Universal Emotions

•      You find out that your girlfriend/boyfriend is sleeping with your best friend.  You are ANGRY!

•      You are walking across campus at 2 A.M.  You hear footsteps and heavy breathing right behind you.  You are AFRAID!

•      You find out that you and your instructor are long lost cousins.  You are SURPRISED! (Hopefully not disgusted or saddened!).




1. Facial Expressions

•      Ekman’s Studies found:

•      Fear

•      Anger

•      Disgust

•      Surprise

•      Joy (Happiness)

•      Sadness

•      These emotions were recognized cross-culturally

Ways people change their emotional expressions:

•      Display rules can sometimes get in the way of expressing certain emotions:

•      Intensify their expressions (exaggerating them)

•      minimize their expressions (less emotional)

•      neutralize their expressions (withholding)

•      mask their expressions (replacing another emotional expression)

•      Trying to disguise our emotions is not easy.

•      Micro-emotions can give our true emotions away.

2. Gazing Behavior

•      Gazing helps define relationships.

•      Direction and amount of eye contact can also provide information about someone’s emotional state.

•      Lots of gazing takes place between intimate partners, conveying affection, but can also convey dominance.

•      High-status people have a higher VDR than low-status people do. 60/40 as opposed to 40/60.


3. Body Language

•      Body movements often accompany spoken words and can sometimes replace verbal language. More difficult to control than vl.

•      Gestures vary a great deal from culture to culture. Ex. OK in middle east.

•      Body postures can also convey information such as sexual orientation and status.

4. Touch

•      Touch can signal affection and intimacy, but also signal dominance.

•      Men and women react differently to touch.

•      Whitcher & Fisher (1979) found that women who were touched gently by a nurse the night before surgery reacted calmly and experienced lower blood pressure.

•      Men reacted anxiously and experienced elevated blood pressure.

•      In general, men touch women more than women touch men.


5.Interpersonal Distance &Zones

•      The physical distance between two people is known as interpersonal distance.

•      The intimate zone is the distance that extends about a foot-and-a-half from people’s chests and is usually seen in close relationships (or hostile confrontations).

•      The personal zone is the distance that extends about 2 to 4 feet from someone’s chest and is usually involved in conversation among friends.


More about Zones

•      The social zone is involved in businesslike conversations and extends about 4 to 12 feet from someone.

•      The public zone extends beyond 12 feet and is seen during public interactions.

•      Different cultures, genders, and social status people exhibit different preferences for interpersonal distance.

6. Paralanguage

•      Variations in a person’s voice such as pitch, rhythm and loudness are known as paralanguage.

•      “Baby talk” is used when speaking to infants, pets and sometimes lovers.

•      Women tend to use more submissive paralanguage when speaking to mix-sex groups than men do.

•      Nonverbal communication cues us as to how intimate a relationship is.


Nonverbal Sensitivity

•      Nonverbal accuracy has been shown to predict relationship satisfaction.

•      Noller (1980) found that husbands in unhappy marriages had more deficits in encoding and decoding messages than happy husbands did. She did not find those differences with the wives.

•      Nonverbal skills may determine relationship satisfaction.  Or

•      Relationship satisfaction my determine motivation to work at communicating well.


•      People’s communication problems may be caused by skill deficits, when someone does not know how to communicate clearly, or performance deficits, when someone knows how to communicate clearly but does not do so with a certain partner.

•      Ex. Skill deficits – Rapists misread negative feelings like distaste & displeasure when expressed by women.

•      Abusive mothers have difficulty identifying distress in their infants, sometimes seeing negative emotions as positive.


Sex-Differences in Nonverbal Communication

•      While individual sex differences are not very significant overall, sex differences in nonverbal communication are remarkable.

•      Women tend to behave more like low-status people than men do, smile more, lower VDR’s and lower status postures.

•      While the reasons for this are not clear, it is evident that sex differences in how they behave nonverbally influences how others view them.


•      Verbal communication is an important part of close relationships and is very much involved in the development of intimacy.

•      Self-Disclosure

–    the process of revealing personal information to someone.

•      Most relationships start out with exchanges in superficial information and gradually move to exchanges in more intimate information.

Are You a High " Opener?"

•      (1)Strongly disagree

•      (2)Disagree

•      (3)Neither agree nor disagree

•      (4)Agree

•      (5)Strongly agree


•      People frequently tell me about themselves.

•      I've been told that I'm a very good listener.

•      I'm very accepting of others.

•      People trust me with their secrets.

•      I easily get people to "open up."



•      6.  People feel relaxed around me.

•      7.  I enjoy listening to people.

•      8.  I'm sympathetic to people's problems.

•      9.  I encourage people to tell me how they are feeling.

•      10. I can keep people talking about            themselves.




•      Scores:

•      Women mean score is 31, Men’s is 28.

•      Mean + 5 you are a high opener

•      Mean –5  score is rather low

•      Generally women are better openers than men.

•      People who elicit self-disclosure from others tend to be more attentive and express interest verbally and non-verbally, and enjoy conversations.

The Social Penetration Theory (Altman & Taylor)

•      States that development of a relationship is closely linked to systematic changes in communication.

•      In breadth and depth.

•      According to the theory, a relationship starts out with a few topics being discussed and only superficial information being exchanged.

•      As the relationship progresses, more topics are discussed and more personal information is exchanged. But Breadth usually advances faster than Depth.

Is It Gradual?

•      Reciprocity in self-disclosure is often seen in the beginning of a relationship.  How much varies from relationship to relationship.

•      As relationships become more intimate, partners want less reciprocity and more responsiveness. (understanding, caring, support, acceptance)

•      Although some people caution against early self-disclosure, in general, it seems best to decide for oneself how much and when to self-disclose, taking the context and one’s partner into account.

Taboo Topics

•      Sensitive matters that may threaten the quality of the relationship.

•      Most common taboo subject – the relationship itself!! 68% acknowledge this

•      People often don’t ask about status and future of their relationships, but devise

•      Secret Tests!! of fidelity and devotion.

Self-Disclosure and Relationship Satisfaction

•      Self-disclosure tends to lead to liking and happiness within a relationship.

•      We reveal more about ourselves to those we like

•      We like others more because we self-disclose

•      We like to be trusted by others who self-disclose to us.

•      Happily married people self-disclose more than non happy spouses.

•      Happy spouses use idioms or specialized words and pet phrases when speaking to each other.

Gender Differences in Verbal Communication

•      Men and women do have some differences in verbal communication.

•      Women tend to talk more about feelings and people while men talk more about impersonal things.

•      Women speak less often and with less forcefulness than men do, while men are more profane than women.






•      Women tend to self-disclose more in intimate relationships than men do, but not in casual relationships.

•      Men tend to self-disclose little to other men (even among close friends).

•      This finding is probably due to culture norms since it does not hold true in other countries.

Instrumentality Versus Expressivity

•      Intimate self-disclosure is related to expressivity.

•      While women often think that if their spouse does not complain, everything is fine, men think that when women do not express their love it means something is wrong.


•      Miscommunication is evident in unhappy relationships and conversations are often filled with discontent making matters worse.

•      Unhappy couples have difficulties in saying what they mean.

•      They are prone to kitchen-sinking meaning they complain about many things at once.


•      This often leads their conversations to drift off-beam, wandering from topic to topic and never resolving any one problem.

•      Distressed couples do not hear each other well.

•      They jump to conclusions and they engage in mindreading or assuming they know how the other person feels and thinks without asking.

More Miscommunication

•      Unhappy couples interrupt each other in negative ways and engage in cross-complaining when they fail to acknowledge others’ concerns.

•      Negative affect is often seen in unhappy partners who engage in criticism, display contempt, respond defensively and sometimes resort to stonewalling.

•      Researchers are able to predict (with 83% accuracy) which couples will be divorced six years later by simply listening to a couple’s argument for a few minutes.


Saying What We Mean

•      Skillful senders concentrate on specific, concrete actions when they are complaining about something.

•      Paraphrasing a sender’s message is a good way to listen effectively.


Being Polite and Staying Cool

•      While all couples engage in negative affect reciprocity at times, happy couples break out of that cycle more quickly than unhappy couples do.

•      Adaptive mental scripts and slow breathing can help to neutralize conflicts.

The Power of Respect and Validation

•      Partners should strive to validate each other by communicating respect and acknowledging the other’s point of view.