Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Intimacy Process Model

In psychology, one of the important theories is what is referred to as the "intimacy process model". Intimacy is a sense of closeness, familiarity, and affect toward another person. Intimacy plays a major role in interpersonal relationships as it is the basis of friendship and love. In this post we will look at the intimacy process model to have a better understanding of how intimacy is cultivated in interpersonal relationships.

To help put things in perspective, let's look at a diagram that sums up what this model suggests:

In this diagram, 'A' is someone who is disclosing information about him/herself to 'B' (I'll use the male pronoun for 'A' from this point on). Any kind of information that a person counts as significant about themselves counts. 'A' could be talking about a book they read, a movie they watched, an experience they had. 'A' could be talking about their feelings towards 'B' or someone else. Or he might be discussing some of their hopes, dreams, fears, ...etc.

Once 'A' shared some personal information, he is going to observe 'B''s reaction. 'A' is looking for confirmation from 'B'. The idea is that the feelings of intimacy that 'A' experiences towards 'B' will grow, insofar that 'A' feels understood, validated, and cared for. 'A' will be asking himself questions like: Does this person get me? Can he/she relate to what I am talking about? Does this person like me more or less now that I shared this information? Does this person's reaction show them to have interest in me?

'B''s reaction depends on two things, his/her interpretation of the information being revealed, and his/her own set of motives, needs, goals, and fears. 'B''s interpretation will depend on many factors, including -among others-: Past experiences, prejudices and biases, goals and dreams, fears, cultural background, sometimes even state of mind (eg. angry, excited, aroused).

Once 'B' has responded to 'A', now the same process of interpretation is going to happen. 'A' will interpret 'B''s reaction, and depending on how much his interpretation of 'B''s reaction is perceived as a sign of understanding, validation, and caring intimacy will grow. And of course, the cycle continues as long as 'A' keeps revealing information about themselves during the course of the relationship.

Needless to say, intimacy needs some balance. In other words, sharing and revealing of information should be a two way road. Both persons need to disclose something about themselves during conversations that take place in the course of the relationship. Lack of disclosure about personal information is usually perceived as lack of interest.

This process is significant throughout all the interactions between people, right from the moment you first meet a person, and all through the later stages of the relationship. It is important to be aware of how intimacy works, and how it is affecting your relationships with others.


Aseel said...

Nice!! tho reminded me of consumer behavior and organization behavior courses LOL!

I guess bottom line you can say that communication and transparency are essential in any relationship of any kind. otherwise, the lack of these two will be interpreted as lack of interest :)

All in all, loved the post.. keep up

Devil's Mind said...

Thank you... Agreed, the bottom line is that communication is essential. However, understanding this model can help make communication more effective.