Communication During the Development Stage of a Relationship Video

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  • 0:01 Relationship Escalation Model
  • 0:55 Initiation & Experimenting
  • 2:22 Intensifying & Integration
  • 3:27 Bonding
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

The developing stages of a relationship can be rather precarious. In order to help us out, this lesson explains the relationship escalation model. It also highlights some communication guidelines for each stage.

Relationship Escalation Model

Having been together for almost three decades, my husband and I often communicate without words; however, this has not always been the case. Like most, we went through an awkward phase of trying to impress one another, ask questions, and pretty much decide if we were in it for the long haul. Similar to most relationships, we went through many stages of communication.

Today we'll take a look at some of these stages as we discuss communication during the development stage of a relationship. In doing this, we'll explore the Relationship Escalation Model which states that developing relationships often go through five stages, with each stage having specific communication characteristics. Whether it's based on romance, friendship, or business, each relationship ascends the staircase of these five stages.


The first stage of the relationship escalation model is initiation. In the initiation stage, which can be as short as a few seconds, introductions are made. Phrases like 'how are you,' 'what's your name,' and 'nice to meet you' abound in the very short initiation stage.

The initiation stage is also when first impressions are gathered. Within this stage, the goal is to put your best foot forward. Verbal and non-verbal communication centers on presenting oneself as worthy of a relationship. The potential lover may puff up his chest or bat her eyelashes. The potential business partner may offer a firm handshake, while the potential friend may present a wide smile.


After initiation comes experimenting. During this stage, information is gathered to determine if a relationship is desirable. In other words, do you want in or do you want out? Almost like an interview, the experimenting stage usually includes questions. Like dogs sniffing one another, queries like 'do you like sports?' or 'what do you do?' are put forth.

This stage is also where judgments begin. It includes self-talk like 'ooh, I can't stand her laugh,' or 'good, he has a firm handshake.' Due to its propensity toward judgments, many relationships never make it past the experimenting stage.


If the experimenting stage is survived, a relationship steps up to the intensifying stage. At this level, communication revolves around self-disclosure. Small talk is supplanted by personal revelation. Rather than discussing the weather, things like past relationships or how one grew up are common topics.

During the intensifying stage, communication also becomes less formalized. Perhaps, nicknames are employed, stopping by the office just to say 'Hi' becomes commonplace, or inside-jokes are born.

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