Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

By Judith A. Hall; Frank J. Bernieri | Go to book overview

18
Paradoxes of Nonverbal
Detection, Expression,
and Responding:
Points to PONDER
Howard S. Friedman
University of California, Riverside

Ponder a number of puzzling paradoxes of interpersonal sensitivity. In various situations, it appears that a tremendous amount of important interpersonal knowledge is being rapidly communicated, mostly nonverbally. Yet it is usually not understood how this occurs. On the other hand, there is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding in face-to-face human relations. Here, too, it's often difficult to decipher precisely what is going wrong.

Many people can describe an experience in which one look (actually, probably a minute or two of interaction) can involve an exchange that is life-changing. It could be the example of rapture and transport, in which something in the way she moves, or something in the way he grooves provides sufficient romantic information to lead to a successful marriage. Is this simply a chance association, in which almost any partner would have been suitable? If not, then important, valid information is rapidly expressed and detected. Yet this intense, deep communication is attributed only to some vague clich'e like “love at first sight.”

Or consider a situation in which old friends meet at a reunion after being apart for 20 years. Could one glance communicate to one's former best friend that one had married the wrong person or chosen the wrong career? Could old feelings of love be immediately rekindled, or passions of jealousy be quickly rearoused? Could these exchanges involve deep understanding as well as simple

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