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Interpretative and Interaction Theory of Interpersonal Communication


Human society is a continuing process as they try to negotiate the formation and implications. These interactions between the humans result in the existence of the society and its certainty. Interpretative and interaction theories state that how people express their social situation and how these effects bring about a change in their lives.

Interpretative and Interaction theory

Source: Africa Studio/Adobe Stock

In communication interaction often signals a counterpoint to what is still perceived as a dominant way of transmission and interpretative and interaction method includes a number of theories.

For example we can consider symbolic interaction theory developed by George Herbert Mead and Charles Horton Cooley.

Interpretative and Interaction Approach

Paul Watzlawick’s study on interaction elucidates how communication is stimulated during an interpersonal communication. In this context he classifies five axioms which are widely recognised as interactional view.

For an effective communication between individuals these five axioms are required. Each person has different viewpoints and unique way of interpreting them. So the character and behavior of an individual are affected by his interactions with other people.

These are the axioms which describe how misinterpretation can occur in a communication process.

1. One cannot not communicate

Human behavior can vary according to the situation. Sometimes people can involve in long conversations and in some cases a non-verbal gesture or even silence can be regarded as communication.

This implies that whether you are communicating verbally or non-verbally the receiver will consider it as a communication.

2. Communication = Content relationship

In a communication the speaker will use different ways of communication for different people. Relationships play a vital role in a communication process.

A person’s communication varies according to difference in relationships. The content in this context is the idea that is communicated and it can alter according to the relationship a communicator has with his receiver.

3. The nature of the relationship depends on the punctuation of communication sequence

In a communication process, the sender and the receiver interpret the message differently according to their behaviour. This axiom conveys about these varied interpretations among the people.

For Example – In a relationship, if one feel uncomfortable with the other and tries to avoid a conversation and the other person interpret in such a way that the person must be upset of some other reason.

4. Digital and Analogic

The nonverbal communication and other gestures which are interpreted as messages similar to the first axiom and also the digital content used in the communication process are being described in this axiom.

For Example – The emails, SMS etc.

5. All communication is symmetrical or complementary

Relational interaction among the components such as symmetrical interchange and complementary interchange can be seen in this axiom.

Symmetrical interaction between communicators is grounded on equal power and complementary interaction between communicators is grounded on differences in power.

These interactions can be used in three different ways.

  • When the communicator efforts to dominate the conversation.
  • When the communicator tries to surrender control of the communication process.
  • When they try to neutralize the interaction.
{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Eli Walgrave September 13, 2023, 12:35 pm

    I just want to point out a mistake in Watzlawick’s 4th Axiom.
    Analog and Digital refer to the type of information within the communicative action, not to digital technologies.
    While the current post is correct with Analog being non-verbal information, Digital information refers specifically to the choice of words used in the communicative action.

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