Why Human communication is Multidimensional? A third assumption is that human communication is multidimensional. When human communication takes place, it occurs on two levels. One level can be characterized as the dimension and the other as the relationship dimension.In human Communication, these two dimensions are inextricably bound together. The content dimension of communication refers to the words, language, and information in a message; the relationship dimension refers to the aspect of a message that defines how participants in an interaction are connected to each other. To illustrate the two dimensions, consider the following hypothetical statement made by a nurse to a patient: “Please take this medication.”
The content dimension of this message refers to taking medication, The relationship dimension of this message refers to how the nurse and the patient are affiliated—to the nurse’s authority in relation to the patient, the nurse’s attitude toward the patient, the patient’s attitude toward the nurse, and their feelings about one another. It is the relationship dimension that implicitly suggests how the content dimension should be interpreted, since the content alone can be interpreted in many ways. The exact meaning of the message emerges for the nurse and patient as are result Of their interaction.
If a caring relationship exists between the nurse and the patient, then the (“please take this medication”) will probably be interpreted by the patient as helpful suggestion from a nurse Who is concerned about the patient’s well-being. However, if the relationship between the nurse and the patient is distant or strained, the patient may interpret the content of the message as a rigid directive, delivered by a nurse who enjoys giving orders. These two interpretations illustrate how the meanings Of messages are not in words alone but in individuals’ interpretations Of the messages in light of their relationships.
The content and relationship dimensions of messages are illustrated further in the following example of professional-professional communication. A physician Says to a nurse, ‘Why didn’t Mr. Jones get the sleeping pill I prescribed last night?” The content dimension of the physician’s question could he interpreted in different ways depending on the nature of the nurse-physician relationship. If the physician and nurse have an effective, collegial relationship, the nurse could interpret the content of the question as a request for factual information about the patient.
If, however, a competitive relationship marked by repeated power struggles exists between the physician and the nurse, then the content Of the same question could be interpreted by the nurse as an attempt by the physician to challenge the nurse’s judgment Or as an attempt to exert control over the nurse. Although the content dimension of a message is often easier to identify than the relationship dimension, it is often the relationship dimension that is critical to the ultimate interpretation of the message.
It is important that health professionals recognize that the relation- ships they develop with clients and with other health professionals significantly influence the effectiveness of their interpersonal communication. The meaning in health transactions emerges from the interplay between the content and relationship dimensions of messages. Developing relationships is important because it influences how content will be interpreted. Given the multidimensional assumption Of human communication, effective Communication is more likely to be achieved when health professionals are equally attentive to both the content and the relationship dimensions of messages.