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Communication Skills Training: Immediacy

Updated on September 28, 2012

In communications skills training Immediacy is the process whereby cohesion between a speaker and a listener occurs. The two persons share a sense of togetherness due to an attraction (non-romantic) for one another signaled either verbally or nonverbally.

Immediacy is an important communications skills training tool because no one communicates with the intent of not being liked. We talk to others to achieve something. So it makes sense that the way we communicate is as effective as possible. That stated, immediacy is very simple to implement and even master, but it takes practice.


Which of the six immediacy skills covered do you most need help with?

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Verbal Immediacy

Here are ways you can create immediacy in your verbal conversation.

  • Use names. Say “Olivia, I need the report by 2:30” instead of “I need the report by 2:30.” You may even say, “Olivia, I’d appreciate the report by 2:30.” It’s not only the work context where immediacy can be employed. Instead of “Don’t play with your food,” say “Noah, don’t play with your food”—and this is helpful if there is more than one child at the table. Think about it: Your name is personal and acknowledgement is a deep psychological need within us. Use other’s names to create closeness.
  • Give Feedback. This means that you must listen to your interlocutor. Hear what they are saying then follow up with worthwhile responses—“Logan, are you suggesting that the bill would hinder efforts for improved infrastructure?” If you’re not listening and engaging, you risk destroying interest between yourself and your listener. So listen then clarify, elaborate, or ask questions.
  • Give Compliments and Use Self-References. Which means more: saying “Everyone liked your presentation” or “I think your presentation highlighted factors management really needs to hear”? Of course, the second response is better; the first could have possibly been insincere. Reinforce and reward personally and with purpose.

Get on kids' level
Get on kids' level | Source

Think On It:

Can you think of ways immediacy in an American context may not work as well in another country or culture?

Nonverbal Immediacy

We must remember that communication is largely nonverbal. So how we create interest with our body language is very import in understanding immediacy.

  • Eye Contact. Appropriate eye contact may be better. No one likes to feel as though they are being “arrested” by someone locking them in with their eyes! But eye contact is non-negotiable—without it conversation grows cold and distant. Maintain eye contact and avoid looking around. In communication skills training your listener is your subject.
  • Be Close. This means get physically close to your listener and do it in a way that limits others from entering the conversation or interrupting. Lean forward or turn your back to others. This is also important for adults interacting with children. Psychological closeness can be created when an adult stoops or gets on his knees to talk with children at their level.
  • Smile! And this means more than smile. It means express your enthusiasm, concern, and interest in the person and conversation. Although immediacy is a communications skill to be learned, it is achieved in the context of the person with whom we share. We must create the sense that they matter beyond anything they say.

Immediacy in the Workplace

Immediacy figures prominently in our daily lives and roles more than we think. In the workplace it greatly lends to morale and effectiveness. In certain types of workplaces, it becomes even more important, like in healthcare (doctor-patient interaction, nursing), education (teacher-student relations), church and clergy, real estate, financial consultation, and team sports. Parenting and daycare relies on immediacy as well. What other ways can you think of where a little immediacy goes a long way?


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