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Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts

Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts

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Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts: Social Penetration Theory, Self-Disclosure, Uncertainty Reduction Theory, and Relational Dialectics Theory
Social Penetration Theory (SPT)
Key Points • • • SPT is a theory about the development of “relational closeness.” Relational closeness can progress from superficial to intimate. Closeness develops through self-disclosure.

Closeness varies according to the following factors: • • • • Rewards/benefits Costs/vulnerability Satisfaction Stabilit
Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts: Social Penetration Theory, Self-Disclosure, Uncertainty Reduction Theory, and Relational Dialectics Theory
Social Penetration Theory (SPT)
Key Points • • • SPT is a theory about the development of “relational closeness.” Relational closeness can progress from superficial to intimate. Closeness develops through self-disclosure.

Closeness varies according to the following factors: • • • • Rewards/benefits Costs/vulnerability Satisfaction Stabilit

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Published by: Mohamad Shuhmy Shuib on May 16, 2010
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Interpersonal Communication Theories andConcepts:
 
Social Penetration Theory, Self-Disclosure,Uncertainty
 
Reduction Theory, and RelationalDialectics Theory
 
Social Penetration Theory (SPT)
 
Key Points
 
SPT is a theory about the development of “relational closeness.
Relational closeness can progress from superficial to intimate.
Closeness develops through self-disclosure.
Closeness varies according to the following factors:
 
Rewards/benefits
Costs/vulnerability
Satisfaction
Stability and security
Self-Disclosure
 “Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying . . .What I'd like to be able to say . . .What for survival I need to say . . .But what I can't say." - UnknownSelf-disclosure is sharing with someone information which helps him or her understand you.Self-disclosure is most revealing when the sharing is in the present and least revealing whenthe sharing is about the past. -- D. Johnson, Reaching Out:Interpersonal Effectiveness andSelf-Actualization (Boston: Allyn and Bacon) 1997 ,p.33.
Self-Disclosure Characteristics
 
 The story always represents the storyteller (the person disclosing).
SD stimulates feedback. The quality of the feedback is related to the amount andrelevance of self-disclosure we receive and share with others.
Self-disclosure can be most revealing or least revealing.
Self-Disclosure Definitions
 ** S. Jourard (in The Transparent Self) defines self-disclosure as making ourselves"transparent" to others through our communication--i.e., when we tell others things aboutourselves which help them to see our uniqueness as a human being.
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** Culpert distinguishes between self-description vs. self-disclosure. Self-description involvescommunication that levels "public layers" whereas self-disclosure involves communicationthat reveals more private, sensitive, and confidential information.** Pearce & Sharp make an interesting distinction among three related terms: Self-discloure,confession, and revelation.
Self-disclosure -- voluntarily communication of information about one's self toanother.
Confession -- forced or coerced communication of information about one's self toanother.
Revelation -- unintentional or inadvertent communication of information about one'sself to another.
Findings of Self Disclosure Research
 
Disclosure increases with increased relational intimacy.
Disclosure increases with the need to reduce uncertainty in a relationship.
Disclosure tends to be reciprocal.
Disclosure tends to be incremental.
Disclosure tends to be symmetrical.
Liking is related to positive disclosure, but not to negative ones.
Positive disclosure does not necessarily increase with the intimacy of therelationship; but negative disclosure is directly related to the intimacy of therelationship.
Relational satisfaction and disclosure have a curvilinear relationship -- satisfaction ishighest with moderate levels of disclosure.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT)
 
Key Points
 
Presumes that “the beginning of personal relationships are fraught withuncertainities” (C. Berger).
Presumes that people want to reduce uncertainty in relationships through knowledgeand understanding.
Three ways we learn about others:
 
Passive strategies -- we observe the person, either in situations where the otherperson is likely to be self-monitoring (a reactivity search) as in a classroom, or wherethe other person is likely to act more naturally (a disinhibition search) as in thestands at a football game.
Active strategies -- we ask others about the person we're interested in or try to set upa situation where we can observe that person (e.g., taking the same class, sitting atable away at dinner). Once the situation is set up we sometime observe (a passivestrategy) or talk with the person (an interactive strategy).
Interactive strategies -- we communicate directly with the person.
Relational Dialectics Theory (RDT)
 
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Key Points
 
Relationships reflect tensions (conflicts, contradictions) that are played out incommunication interaction (dialectical tensions).
Relationships are “organized around the dynamic interplay of opposing tendencies”(L. Baxter & B. Montgomery)I
NTERNAL DIALECTICEXTERNAL DIALECTIC
Connectedness/Separateness Inclusion/SeclusionCertainty/UncertaintyConventionality/UniquenessOpenness/ClosednessRevelation/Concealment
RDT: Connectedness-Separateness
 
 The tension between connectedness and separateness is if one person wins therelationship as a whole loses.
No relationship can exist by definition unless the parties sacrifice some individualautonomy. However, too much connection paradoxically destroys the relationshipbecause individuals’ identities become lost. (Baxter & Montgomery)
RDT: Certainty and Uncertainty
 
Uncertainty reduction theory (Berger) proposes that people want predictability intheir relationships.
In RD theory, Baxter and Montgomery claim that people want a certain amount of mystery and spontaneity in relationships to "spice things up." Without variety, therelationship will become dull and too predictable, therefore, "emotionally dead."
RDT: Openness and Closedness
 
Social penetration theorist Altman asserts that self-disclosure and privacy operate ina cyclical fashion over time.
Baxter and Montgomery concur, claiming that relationships aren’t on a straight-linepath to intimacy, either.
 They argue that a person has an urge to "tell all" but at the same time, vies forsecrecy in a never-ending cycle that constantly changes.
A Self-Disclosure Test
 
Step One: Identify a relationship:
 StrangerCo-workerEmployer or SupervisorAcquaintanceFriendIntimate PartnerFamily member (sibling, parent, child)
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