Interpersonal Communication Ethics: The Relationship Matters

The book has talked a lot about various types of communication. The difference in interpersonal communication, as seen by the authors, is that interpersonal communications concentrates on the relationships between people.

This chapter connects the study of interpersonal ethics to communicative practices with attention to the following three metaphors of communication ethics praxis:

  • Interpersonal communication— works with the good of the relationship between and among a small number of people (two to four).
  • Distance— provides necessary space for each communicative partner to contribute to the relationship.
  • Interpersonal responsibility— begins with each person’s commitment to active care for the interpersonal relationship, owned by neither and nurtured with or without the support of the Other. Interpersonal responsibility adheres to the insight of Emmanuel Levinas, abandoning the expectation of reciprocity for attentiveness to a call to responsibility with or without the approval of the Other.

Arnett, Ronald C.; Fritz, Janie; Bell, Leeanne M. (2008-08-04). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (Kindle Locations 2512-2518). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

The authors work under three basic assumptions. First, that interpersonal communication is only one form of communication. Second, that interpersonal communication is to bond people together, not advance careers or politics. Third, there are multiple ways to study it.

On the matter of distance, the key is choosing the right amount of distance for the type of communication.

We often unknowingly make an unethical communicative move in demanding a particular form of communication in a setting that does not naturally, appropriately, or even pragmatically call forth such a form of communication. Note that the unethical lies with the demand, not with a mistake.

Arnett, Ronald C.; Fritz, Janie; Bell, Leeanne M. (2008-08-04). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (Kindle Locations 2571-2573). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Proper distance generates clarity. Clarity that leads to a better understanding of interpersonal responsibility. Being responsible for nurturing the relationship. One cannot demand nor impose a relationship from someone. And yet demand is also necessary. This is an interesting paradox the authors posee I’ll see if I can dig more of this out as the book goes on.

The key to interpersonal communication ethics is not “Who has the best communication skills?” or “Who communicates in the way I think best?” The key to interpersonal communication ethics lies in the answer to this question: “Do given persons work to honor a relationship, whatever the consequences?” If the relationship changes, one’s responsibility has to change. The guiding key is the relationship, which works as a beacon calling forth our responsibility to the Other. Interpersonal communication ethics rests not in our hopes or wishes, or those of another, but in something that we invite and can never create alone, a relationship that calls us to responsibility. Wanda and her good friend Stacy are about to leave a party. Wanda notices

Arnett, Ronald C.; Fritz, Janie; Bell, Leeanne M. (2008-08-04). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (Kindle Locations 2716-2722). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

And thus the chapter ends with the section from Les Miserables. The whole story Is an example of the changing demands and responsibilities of interpersonal and other relationships.

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