We communicate in the context of relationship.
We relate in the context of story.
Relating & communicating begin as intrapersonal processes & continue as both intrapersonal & interpersonal experiences. Let’s break that down into how we relate, the process of communication as we relate with others, & how to quantify interpersonal relationships.
Three Parts of Relating
Each person has a unique lens in which they view the world around them, and accompanying expectations of the people in it. You are always engaged in 3 aspects of relating that happen so quickly, you are unlikely to think about them.
First, you are always perceiving. Perception is what you notice, what you see. One person may notice condensation on their glass, while another is focused on the flavor of the liquid inside. Perception is subjective.
Next, you are always processing what you are perceiving. Perhaps the first person is curious about how condensation works, while the second associates the iced coffee as a reason to smile. Processing your perception leads to an interpretation of your world, and is always impacted by our own story.
Finally, there is a presentation, a response to those around us based on our interpretations. We present an image of ourselves to the world.
Each one of us is perceiving, processing & presenting, but in different ways. These steps happen quickly & mostly, instinctively, Thus, we each relate uniquely.
The Process of Communication
Communicating is one aspect of relating, & the process of communication explains the way we exchange messages.
The process involves a sender (or communicator) & and a responder. It also includes the message & the method (or channel) through which it is conveyed. The sender encodes the verbal, choosing the words to say, but the message also includes nonverbal communication.
Let’s say you were up late & yawn, your boss perceives & interprets your yawn as boredom. He then says, “I need your full attention in this meeting.” You now have an opportunity to consider his message & respond. For example, you might clarify that although you are tired, you are fully engaged.
As you speak, you are continuing the communicative process. The responder decodes or listens to the message, & then in turn encodes a respond.
An important element of interpersonal relating is explained well by Lumen learning: “Interpersonal communication is a process of exchange where there is desire and motivation on the part of those involved to get to know each other as individuals.”
For this reason, interpersonal interactions become increasingly complex as the number of people involved increases, exponentially so! Let’s take a closer look…
How to Count Interpersonal Relationships
In most communication situations, there are at least two or more people interacting. Each person has a distinct relationship with each of the others (even if that relationship is defined as “stranger”).
Having a conversation with either your sister or your spouse has unique dynamics. If both of them are present, the result is not simply a combination of each relationship individually because they also have a relationship with each other. No wonder navigating interpersonal relationships can be so complex!
Here’s a visual illustration in 4 scenarios:
You & your sister equal 2 people & 1 relationship.
You & your spouse equal 2 people & 1 relationship.
If both your sister & spouse are present, there are now 3 people & 3 relationships.
As soon as your sister’s spouse enters the room, the number of relationships is suddenly greater than the number of individuals involved… there are now 4 people & 6 relationships!
- you–sister’s spouse
- sister-sister’s spouse
- your spouse–sister’s spouse
If you keep going, you can brush up on your multiplication facts!
The content of this post is attributed to three sources: Pastor Steve (who explained the Three Parts of Relating & the connection to story), Lumen Learning (for their insight on the Process of Interpersonal Communication) & my sister, Katlyn (BA in Communication, for her illustration of How to Count Interpersonal Relationships).