Theories of Relationship in Interpersonal Communication – Understanding, Concepts, and Criticis

Interpersonal communication is one form of communication that requires the perpetrators face to face. In establishing interpersonal communication, there is a theory that underlies this communication, namely the theory of relationship or relationship.

Understanding Linkage Theory

Relationship theory is a theory that observes the relationship that exists between actors in a communication. In an interpersonal communication, relationships are one of the most important things. This theory explains the causes of behavior in a person, tries to explain the causes of people behaving, and explains the relationship (attribution) the causes or reasons why people behave like that.

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Connectivity that is established in a personal communication will affect how the communication runs. With good relationships, interpersonal communication can also be much better.

Development of Relational Theory

In connection theory, people will continue to try to find out why they are doing something. In its development, the theory of linkage has 3 stages:

  1. Behavior must be considered / felt

Someone who will do something will usually need attention or feel something to motivate or cause it to act. He will not do that if he does not get the attention of his opponent’s communication.

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  1. Determine the behavior to be carried out

The second stage in linkage theory is the determination to execute or not. In interpersonal communication it takes a really mature consideration to take an action or action. The person must estimate whether the opposite person will communicate positively or not before taking action.

  1. Actions must be related to internal and external factors

The next stage that is examined in the theory of linkages in interpersonal communication is that the action to be taken must have an element of cause and effect. The action must be related to internal or external factors. Actions that do not have the relationship of interpersonal communication that is done will certainly be confusion or even misunderstanding in a communication.

The Concept of Relationship Theory

The main concept of the theory of linkages is the results obtained. Weiner explains that the important factors that influence the theory of linkages are ability, effort or effort, task difficulty, and luck. Linkage theory is grouped into three dimensions of causality, namely:

  • Locus of control– internal and external
  • Stability– whether the cause changes all the time or not
  • Controllability– cause someone can control skills and cause someone cannot control the actions of others and others

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These three dimensions together create eight scenarios that are used by each individual to explain their achievements and disappointments. The eight scenarios are (McDermott, 2009: 61):

  • Internal – stable – cannot be controlled, for example “I’m not too smart”.
  • Internal – stable – can be controlled, for example  “I always wait until the last minute”.
  • Internal – unstable – cannot be controlled, for example  “I feel sick”.
  • Internal – unstable – can be controlled, for example  “I forgot about that registration”.
  • External – stable – cannot be controlled, for example unrealistic lecturer expectations
  • External – stable – can be controlled, for example  “the teacher hates me”.
  • External – unstable – cannot be controlled, for example  “I was in a car that had an accident”.
  • External – unstable – can be controlled, for example  “the cat ate my food”.

Application of Relationship Theory in Interpersonal Communication

In interpersonal communication, the application of the theory of linkage will greatly affect the course of communication. In its application, linkage theory has been used to explain the difference in motivation between high and low achievers.

According to linkage theory, high achievers will approach rather than avoid tasks related to success because they believe success is due to their high ability and effort. Failure is considered because it is caused by bad luck or a bad test, which means failure is not their fault. Thus, failure does not affect their self-esteem but success builds pride and self-confidence.

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On the other hand, low achievers actually avoid tasks related to success because they tend to doubt their abilities or think success is related to luck or “who you know” or with other factors beyond their control. So, even when it works, it’s not beneficial for the low achiever because he doesn’t feel responsible, that is, it doesn’t increase his pride and confidence.

Criticism of Relation Theory

Linkage theory is the same as theory in general so it cannot be separated from criticism. The following are some of them:

  • Attribution theory is seen as too mechanical and reductionist because it assumes people are rational, logical, and systematic thinkers.
  • Attribution theory is seen as unsuccessful in overcoming cultural, social and historical factors that shape attributional causality

That is a brief explanation of the theory of linkages in interpersonal communication. Despite various criticisms, up to now the theory of linkages is still used by many people.


by Abdullah Sam
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