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All About Interpersonal Relationships

Updated on May 16, 2013

Interpersonal Relationships

You may have heard employers, parents, or teachers say that you need to have good interpersonal skills in life. And it's true: you're going to need to know how to treat a relationship and how to communicate effectively in them in order for them to survive.

The word "interpersonal" means relating to relationships or communication between people. That basically means any type of relationship you have with another person is considered interpersonal. This can be impersonal, professional, workplace, family, friend, intimate, or nontraditional.

Generally, "interpersonal" is referred to 2 people, whereas 3 people would be considered a small group.

According to William Shutz, there are three basic interpersonal needs that need to be met in a healthy relationship:

  • Control: Refers to feeling of competence. This helps with coping in the world. An example may be where a friend asks you to decide which movie to see.
  • Inclusion: Refers to feeling included and important. It is the need to matter so you feel like people care about you.
  • Affection: Refers to the feeling of being loved. Face it, everybody needs to be loved and love in return.

Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship

  1. Ethics: We must perceive others as humans, just like us, with common needs and we should not exploit each other or make each other feel uncomfortable on purpose. Think about how you want others to treat you.
  2. Reciprocity: This is a relationship with mutual exchange and interdependence. For example, if you paid for dinner last time with your friend, it may be expected that they pay for it next time. Things should be fair.
  3. Mutuality: Search for common ground and understanding with your friend. Sometimes it's difficult to find that common ground, especially if you two seem so different, but doing so will help you overcome conflict in the future.
  4. Nonjudgmentalism: You need to be open-minded about your friend and understand that you will observe different perspectives other than your own.
  5. Honesty: As they say, honesty is the best policy. Without honesty, there is no trust, and without trust, a healthy relationship will not survive.
  6. Respect: Respect is the act of giving and displaying attention to the value that you associate with someone. If you show respect to others, you will more than likely receive it in return.
  7. Trust: This is the ability to rely on the character or truth of someone. Before you disclose something to a friend, are you sure that you can trust them? You also want to be trustworthy yourself, or else relationships will be difficult to hold onto. If there's a lack of trust in a romantic relationship, you might want to consider breaking up.

Functions & Principles


  • Gain information
  • Create a context of understanding
  • Establish identity of others and yourself
  • Meet 3 basic interpersonal needs: control, inclusion, and affection


  • Relationships meet personal needs (take a look at the bullets above again)
  • Relationships are universal - everybody needs them
  • Relationships are confusing and contextual
  • Relationships are always changing - for some this can be an unfortunate truth, because as people change, so will the relationships that they affect

Skills for Starting Relationships

  • Gain information about that person to reduce uncertainty.
  • Provide information about yourself -- if you self-disclose, they most likely will too. (Remember reciprocity?)
  • Adapt to another perspective. Basically, understand that this person is different from you and has a different perspective to offer.
  • Observe and act on approachable cues. Take your chance to talk to them when you can, that way, the other person will see the effort that you're putting in.
  • Identify and use conversation starters. Yes, sometimes you have to break the ice.
  • Follow initiation norms. This is referring to what is seen as socially acceptable, also known as "norms".
  • Ask questions. The more questions you ask (not too much, now), the more interested you seem. Asking questions is also a technique in communication that shows the other person you're listening.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Don't expect more than you should from a person you don't know well enough yet.


  • "The Basics of Interpersonal Communication" by Scott McLean


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    • Jordanalexa28 profile image

      Jordan Sprogis 4 years ago

      Quoteslover - You're welcome and thank you for commenting :)

    • Quoteslover profile image

      Quotes Lover 4 years ago

      very inspiring post, thanks for sharing