Stages of Relational Interaction
Communication is at the heart of forming our interpersonal relationships. We reach the achievement of relating through the everyday conversations and otherwise trivial interactions that form the fabric of our relationships. It is through our communication that we adapt to the dynamic nature of our relational worlds, given that relational partners do not enter each encounter or relationship with compatible expectations. Communication allows us to test and be tested by our potential and current relational partners. It is also through communication that we respond when someone violates or fails to meet those expectations.Mark L. Knapp and Anita L. Vangelisti, Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships (Boston, MA: Pearson, 2009), 32–51.
There are ten established stages of interaction that can help us understand how relationships come together and come apart.Mark L. Knapp and Anita L. Vangelisti, Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships (Boston, MA: Pearson, 2009), 32–51. We will discuss each stage in more detail, but in Table 7.1 "Relationship Stages" you will find a list of the communication stages. We should keep the following things in mind about this model of relationship development: relational partners do not always go through the stages sequentially, some relationships do not experience all the stages, we do not always consciously move between stages, and coming together and coming apart are not inherently good or bad. As we have already discussed, relationships are always changing—they are dynamic. Although this model has been applied most often to romantic relationships, most relationships follow a similar pattern that may be adapted to a particular context.
Table 7.1 Relationship Stages
|Coming Together||Initiating||“My name’s Rich. It’s nice to meet you.”|
|Experimenting||“I like to cook and refinish furniture in my spare time. What about you?”|
|Intensifying||“I feel like we’ve gotten a lot closer over the past couple months.”|
|Integrating||(To friend) “We just opened a joint bank account.”|
|Bonding||“I can’t wait to tell my parents that we decided to get married!”|
|Coming Apart||Differentiating||“I’d really like to be able to hang out with my friends sometimes.”|
|Circumscribing||“Don’t worry about problems I’m having at work. I can deal with it.”|
|Stagnating||(To self) “I don’t know why I even asked him to go out to dinner. He never wants to go out and have a good time.”|
|Avoiding||“I have a lot going on right now, so I probably won’t be home as much.”|
|Terminating||“It’s important for us both to have some time apart. I know you’ll be fine.”|
Source: Adapted from Mark L. Knapp and Anita L. Vangelisti, Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships (Boston, MA: Pearson, 2009), 34.