Interpersonal Relationship Meaning

Interpersonal relationship refers to the relationships that exist among individuals. Interpersonal relationships are built through connections, social associations, or affiliations between two or more individuals. Such relationships may be either overt, covert, or even can be virtual. At times, it could be dialogue or body language.

Interpersonal Relationship Definition

Interpersonal relationships often mix the direct and assumed interaction methods, which may be focused or unfocused. People in marketing try to develop focused interpersonal relationships with clients. Administration and accounts people try to remain unfocused in their interpersonal relationships with employees of other branches because of the confidentiality involved in their work. Through interpersonal relationships, one makes self-disclosure, provides feedback, exerts power, and shows respect. Culture and language define the degree of interpersonal relationships.

Also, interpersonal relationships vary concerning intimacy and sharing. They may or may not centre on things shared in common. Behavioural scientists recommend the use of Transactional Analysis (TA) and Johari Window to understand interpersonal relations in the organisation.

Interpersonal Relationships

Factors Influencing Interpersonal Relationship

Factors influencing interpersonal relationships are as follows:

1) Self Concept: The self-concept is one’s concept about oneself or a thorough description of oneself. It has three components:

i) Beliefs: The belief components represent the content of one’s self.

ii) Feelings: The feeling component about one’s self is reflected in the feeling of self-worth or in general as I’m O.K.’ or ‘I’m not O.K.’

iii) Behaviours: The behavioural component is the tendency to act toward one’s self in a self-deprecating or self-enhancing manner.

The mechanisms used to stabilise and make congruent interpersonal interactions are as follows:

i) Misperception: When the actual expectations of others are not congruent with one’s self-concept or behaviour, one may simply misperceive how others see oneself.

ii) Selective Evaluation of Others: One maximises congruency by favourably evaluating those who behave congruently towards one’s self and evaluates those who do not.

iii) Selective Evaluation of Self: One maximises congruence by altering the values placed on various aspects of one’s self-concept so that the various aspects that are in agreement with the perception of one’s behaviour and those of others are most highly evaluated.

iv) Selective Interaction: One may choose to interact with those persons with whom one can most readily establish congruent relationships.

v) Response Evocation: One may intentionally or unintentionally, behave in a way that results in others behaving towards oneself in a congruent fashion. A person in interaction controls the ones provided to others to ensure that he or she will be categorised in certain ways and not in an unexpected way.

2) Interpersonal Attraction: The greater the importance of an “object” for two individuals, the greater between the individuals. An “object” may be a physical object, symbol, the other person’s self-concept or one’s self-concept.

3) Interpersonal Needs: Interpersonal needs are important for the initiation, development and sustenance of dyadic relationships which has a lot of relevance for the achievement of organisation objectives. Schutz has identified the following three interpersonal needs: Need for Affection: The need for love and affection.

i) Need for Control: The need for control and power.

ii) Need for Inclusion: The need for interaction and association as a member of a group.

4) Interpersonal Orientation: Depending upon the orientation of individuals, three interpersonal styles have been identified and these are:

i) Tough battler,

ii) Friendly helper, and 

iii) Objective thinker.

Each style reflects behaviour that, in varying degrees, is effective in some situations and ineffective in others.

5) Miscellaneous Factors: The miscellaneous factors influencing dyadic relationships include communication, reciprocity, basic dimensions (i.e., “Dominance-Rejection” or “Acceptance-Rejection”) rewards, norms and rules, etc.

Understanding Self and Others 

Understanding oneself and others is the key to sound communication. Understanding oneself and others will help individuals to develop the insight and strength of character that energises leadership and will increase the chances that strategy implementation efforts will succeed. 

Understanding self and others involve two elements:

1) Self-concept,

2) Self-awareness.

Self is the core of one’s conscious existence. Awareness of self is directed to one’s self-concept. Self-concept is how you know and understand yourself. It is the mental and conceptual understanding that you hold for your presence. Self-definition is a set of features used to describe oneself.

Self can also refer to the individual’s experience of himself or herself (the person as an object of introspection), in a general sense (a sense of self) as well as in a specified sense (e.g., one perceived self, ones remembered self). These concepts refer to the individual’s mental representations of himself or herself. A person can have different self-concepts in different situations and roles, e.g., as a father, as a husband, as an employee at work, etc.

The evaluative aspect of one’s self-concept(s) is usually referred to as self-esteem, e.g., how does one value oneself as a sportsman, positive or negative? Self is also used in combination with organisation, denoting the organisation (or structuring) of self. In the “Concise Oxford Dictionary” self is defined as:

1) The person’s own essence or individuality, and 

2) The person as an object of introspection or reflective action.

Aspects of Self-Concept

Two related aspects of self-concept are as follows:

1) Self-Esteem: Self-esteem is the extent to which a person believes that he or she is a worthwhile and deserving individual. In other words, people develop, hold, and sometimes modify opinions of their behaviours, abilities, appearance and worth.

These general assessments reflect responses to individuals and situations, failures and success, and the opinions of others. Such evaluations are well precise and stable to be widely regarded as a basic personality trait or dimension. In terms of the Big Five personality factors, self-esteem most likely would be part of the emotional stability factor.

2) Self-Efficiency: Self-efficiency or self-efficacy is commonly defined as the belief in one’s capabilities to achieve a goal or an outcome. Individuals with a strong sense of efficiency are more likely to challenge themselves with difficult tasks and be intrinsically motivated. These individuals will put forth a high degree of effort to meet their commitments, and attribute failure to things that are in their control, rather than blaming external factors.

Self-efficacious people also recover quickly from setbacks and ultimately are likely to achieve their personal goals. People with low self-efficiency, on the other hand, believe they cannot be successful and thus are less likely to make a concerted, extended effort and may consider challenging tasks as threats that are to be avoided.

Thus, people with poor self-efficiency have low aspirations which may result in disappointing academic performances becoming part of a self-fulfilling feedback cycle.


Self-awareness consists of identifying the personality of a person, his strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes values, inspirations and feelings. Self-awareness also helps a person in gaining others’ points of view.

According to Daniel Goleman, “Self-awareness is the fundamental emotional competence”.

According to Hall, “Self-awareness is a measure of the person’s ability to be truly conscious of the components of the self and to observe it accurately and objectively”.

According to Townsend, “Self-awareness allows an individual to interact with others comfortably, to accept the difference in others and to observe each person’s right to respect and dignity”.

Aspects of Self-Awareness 

Various important aspects of self-awareness are as follows:

1) Learning Style: Every individual observes and learns from his experiences differently. Learning style refers to a constant pattern of behaviour that is affected by the changes occurring in an individual.

People use their learning styles; however, they make adjustments according to the nature of the task and the style of teaching being adopted. It is important to determine the wide variety of human behaviours that result in learning. Various types of learning styles are as follows:

i) Cognitive Style: A cognitive learner is a person who learns through observing thoughts and mental activities. Such people are quick learners and they make use of controlled thinking and logic.

Reasoning, logic and other thinking skills are essential for this type of learning. The research on the left versus right brain working states that people who are left-brain dominant have a cognitive orientation.

ii) Affective Style: These people analyse their feelings and emotions and learn from them. These people focus on personal communication and desire to learn about people, through their emotions or feelings Such learners are highly people-oriented.

A manager who has a strong people orientation would probably prefer social interaction, instead of focusing completely on the duties associated with the job.

According to right-brain research, affective learners are said to have strong instincts, are natural, and are flexible. Their actions and decisions are based on feelings instead of reasoning. 

iii) Psychomotor Style: It consists of sensory perception (visual, hearing, taste, and smell); environmental features (degree of noise, light, temperature, and space arrangement); and the need for food. Such people are optimum learners.

iv) Attitude towards Change: An individual should be conscious of his orientation towards change if he wants to utilise the benefits of cognitive style. Self-awareness refers to the capability of an individual to recognise his feelings, behaviour and emotions.

An individual must always be conscious to identify what leads to negative feelings. This kind of knowledge helps in adjusting the attitude accordingly. If a person can recognise that his internal belief requires changes only then he can modify his actions. 

2) Emotional Intelligence: Emotional self-awareness refers to analysing one’s feelings, the reasons behind those feelings, and their influence on one’s thinking and activities. An emotionally self-aware person controls his feelings and emotions in a better way.

3) Core Self-Evaluation: People are unique in the context of their likes and dislikes and what they perceive about themselves. This perspective related to self is the foundation of core self-evaluation.

People with positive core self-evaluations treat themselves as capable and efficient and can control themselves while people with negative core self-evaluation do not believe in their skills and abilities and feel powerless.

According to Judge et al., “Core self-evaluation is defined as the basic assessment one makes about his/her abilities, competencies, and overall value and is a higher-order trait comprised of self-esteem, locus of control, neuroticism, and self-efficacy”.

4) Values: Every person must know their values. These values are the basis of behaviour and play a vital role in standardising personality. If a person concentrates on his values he will be able to understand what is important for him and what is not. Thus, values are the source of an individual’s opinions, behaviours and attitudes.

Developing Interpersonal Relationships

Developing good and enduring relations with others requires patience, time and effort. Hence, the development of successful relationships takes time. Developing interpersonal relationships involves four stages:

1) Forming First Impression: The first impressions, though inaccurate, are lasting impressions. Initial impressions do not guarantee long-term relationships but they are essential for entering into enduring relationships with others.

First impressions are lasting because they influence how people see subsequent data about the perceived object or person. So, whether or not first impressions are correct, we need to make favourable impressions of other people. This is especially important in the case of job interviews.

2) Developing Mutual Expectation: When people are mutually impressed, they are more likely to enter into a long-term relationship. When this happens, they develop certain expectations about each other. In work organisations, managers may expect new employees to be competent, productive, reliable and loyal and to conform to organisational norms.

New employees, on the other hand, expect their superiors to be fair, supportive and considerate of their needs. Unless both the parties develop realistic expectations, the relationship becomes superficial and less meaningful. The process of working out mutual expectations involves a series of exchanges and adjustments to each other’s expectations.

A set of mutual expectations that are worked out and understood by the parties is called a psychological contract. An effective interpersonal relationship cannot develop and be maintained unless the participants are willing to honour their psychological contracts.

3) Honouring Psychological Contract: Each party expects the other to be faithful in the relationship, not to take arbitrary actions and to be honest with him/her. There will, of course, be times when some of these expectations cannot be fully satisfied. But, when this happens, each party must reassure that the other is acting in good faith.

4) Developing Trusts and Influence: The result of meeting the psychological contract is an increased level of trust and influence. When the parties to the contract try to fulfil each other’s expectations, the relationship produces mutual trust and favourable sentiments.

The more satisfactory the association becomes, the greater the influence the parties have on each other. Since the relationship is fulfilling, the parties will continue to rely on it to satisfy their needs. This dependency permits them to exert influence on each other.

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