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Interpersonal Communications

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"So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself" (Sunzi & Huang, 1993, p. 53).

Sun Tzu may not have had interpersonal communications in mind with this quote but he understood evaluation of situations and people. In this quote, he focused on knowing. First knowing the target audience - in Tzu's context his enemy and for us the audience with whom we hope to communicate - and second knowing ourselves. Tzu was describing how to be an excellent leader in war but I believe the idea of knowing yourself and your hearer answers the question, "What makes an effective interpersonal relationship?"

The axiom "Interpersonal communication starts with self" (Griffin, 1987, p. 27), addresses our need for identity, self-esteem, and reflects upon methods of developing and expressing each. A good and honest identity is our "mind's-eye picture we have of ourselves" (1987, p. 31). A clear understanding of our identity lays the foundation for us to act in truth to our beliefs, in confidence relative to our fears, and in controlled execution of our strengths. In the first chapter of Tzu's writings, great time is spent on the character of the war leader. Leaders who adhere to the moral law gain the "...power to control success" (Sunzi & Huang, 1993, p. Kindle Location 755). Christians ask God for his wisdom in seeking an honest assessment in our search for identity. Consider Psalms 139:23-24 "Examine me, and probe my thoughts! Test me, and know my concerns! See if there is any idolatrous tendency in me, and lead me in the reliable ancient path" (New English Translation, 2003). The Christian's greatest strength is dependence on God for our identity (in Christ) and our following His leading in our interactions with those around us. The result of this internal identity with Christ is an outpouring of Christ like communication. We are warned to use caution in our communication if our identity is not based in truth, the content of our communication becomes our downfall "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a person" (Matthew 15:18). We become more confident communicators with a strong understanding of our identity in Christ.

Uncertainty reduction theory (Griffin, 2009, p. 125) uses eight axioms to describe other methods of knowing ourselves and others. Specifically, this theory describes the process by which we give and receive information in communication thereby reducing anxieties cause by uncertainty of meeting new people. Em Griffin aptly points out "no matter how close two people eventually become, they always begin as strangers" (2009, p. 125). If we can learn to mitigate our anxiety of the unknown in communication we learn to enjoy the process of interpersonal interaction. "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mystery" - Albert Einstein (As cited in Buscaglia, 1988, p. 115). Uncertainty can be as attractive as the comfort of normalcy if we release our fear of failure or rejection. "...we must be as welcoming of the new as we are comfortable with the old" (Buscaglia et al., 1988, p. 117).

The axiom of reciprocity seems the simplest in bridging distance in communication. If you reveal some information about yourself, others are willing to reveal information to you. A common adage supporting this is "give a little get a little" or in a legal sense "quid pro quo" (Latin meaning "something for something"). Understanding this communication practice helps better navigate the awkward first conversation with new people. As we self-disclose (Griffin, 2009, p. 127), we welcome the freedom of self-disclosure from our fellow communicators. Leo Buscaglia says this about communication, "Fully functioning persons are aware of the pitfalls of communication and therefore do not take it causally. They listen to the words they speak and those spoken to them" (1988, p. 113). As reciprocity requires proactive steps, so we as Christians must learn to be inviting to others by not "one-uping" others in conversation but being careful in the words we choose. Ephesians 4:29 states "You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear" (NET, 2003). Wholesome sharing invites wholesome responses. This willingness to initiate the practice of reciprocity strengthens me as an effective communicator. As we reciprocate in communication, we draw closer to the other communicator. When we navigate the reciprocal conversation, some subtleties allow us to discern what his healthy information and what is not. When we share with someone, the blank stare or mouth agape lets us know how that information was received. "You cannot not communicate" (Griffin, 1987, p. 114). Body language, tone of voice, or lack of reaction all relay messages of how information is being processed. Communicators must learn the correct use of body these indicators as well as proper translation of them when observed. Reading the other person is pivotal to effective communication. Communicators can give greater meaning to something shared by using the axiom from the interactional view, "Every communication has a content and relationship aspect such that the latter classifies the former and is therefore metacommunication". This axiom can be condensed to "Communication = Content + Relationship" (Griffin, 2009, p. 172). The content may be emphasized or minimized by the relationship (how the message is delivered). I could look at my wife from across the kitchen and in a monotone voice say "I love you". This would fail in comparison to me moving close and with eye to eye contact softly say "I love you". The content didn't change, but the relationship did. I would effectively communicate the depth of my love by simply changing the relationship of the message. In general communications, I am told I am intense; at times disproportionately to the content. I must learn to adjust my relationship in communication to be effectively received by my hearers.

In his eleventh chapter, Tzu discusses the nine situations. Basically, describing the optimum distance from which to confront the enemy in a given situation. In communications, we use expectancy violations theory (Griffin, 2009, p. 84) when considering the same idea; how close should I be when communicating. There is a two point perspective in this theory: First, what level of intimacy



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