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Immediacy in Communication: Definition & Concept

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  • 0:00 What Is Immediacy In…
  • 0:25 Types Of Immediacy Behaviors
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
An important component of communication is often signaling a positive desire and willingness to communicate. In this lesson, you'll learn about immediacy in communication and some related concepts.

What Is Immediacy in Communication?

Immediacy in communication is the way we signal closeness, willingness to communicate, and positive feelings to another person. According to Peter Anderson, in his article in the Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, 'immediacy behaviors are actions that simultaneously communicate warmth, involvement, psychological closeness, availability for communication, and positive affect.' These behaviors are both verbal and nonverbal.

Types of Immediacy Behaviors

Verbal Immediacy Behaviors

You exhibit verbal immediacy behaviors when you signal warmth and a willingness to connect to the receiver of the message and when you use language that expresses immediacy. Keep in mind that cultural differences may make some of these verbal signals inappropriate. This is a fairly abstract concept, so let's look at some examples of verbal behaviors of immediacy:

Pronouns - Using plural pronouns such as 'us' and 'we' instead of individual pronouns such as 'I' and 'you' demonstrates immediacy in communication. The use of plural pronouns brings people together, while individual pronouns tend to make people feel separated.

Manner of address - Using informal means of addressing one another also signals immediacy in communication. For example, you address the receiver of your message by her first name or nickname rather than use of a title, such as Ms., Dr., or Professor, along with the person's last name. Again, informality tends to bring the communicators closer together and makes communication easier. Keep in mind cultural differences here - informality may be viewed as disrespectful in some cultures.

Openness - Being open in communication and being willing to disclose information are also immediacy behaviors.

Compliments - You can gain a lot of traction through complimenting the other person because it will help encourage positive communication and signals immediacy in communication.

Nonverbal Immediacy Behaviors

Some researchers believe that nonverbal behaviors are actually more effective at communicating immediacy than verbal behaviors. Nonverbal immediacy is usually communicated through a set of interrelated nonverbal cues involving touch, eye contact, closer distances, smiling, and verbal tone. It often takes place unconsciously.

Sometimes, however, nonverbal cues can backfire and be counterproductive. Context and culture are relevant to the effectiveness of the cues. Being warm and friendly in a social environment may be acceptable and encouraged but may be considered completely inappropriate in some professional or non-intimate contexts, such as a meeting with a high-level member of management. Additionally, some cultures may be offended by some nonverbal cues. Let's take a look at some examples:

Touch - Just think about the politician who shakes your hand, hugs you, and kisses your baby.

Distance - According to communication theorists, the further you are away from the other person, the less immediate your behavior is, because distance signals unavailability. Face-to-face signals the highest degree of immediacy, while back-to-back signals the least. Addressing each other on the same relative vertical distance indicates immediacy in communication, but if you ever experienced a parent or boss hovering over you, you know that it doesn't create a positive communication environment.

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