Meaningful Relationships

The Interpersonal Gap

Lesson 5 Module 1

  • About John Wallen

  • Links to Wallen's work

  • More Resources

John Wallen

The Interpersonal Gap is a model of communication developed by John L. Wallen (March 24, 1918 – July 31, 2001), an educator and a pioneer in the fields of emotional intelligence and interpersonal communication. 

Transcript - The Interpersonal Gap 

“It's often not the message that's sent that causes offence but the one that is received.”

― Stephen Asbury, Health & Safety, Environment and Quality Audits

The Interpersonal Gap Dr John L. Wallen 

The Interpersonal Gap and how misunderstands occur. 

So, what is the Interpersonal Gap?

The “Interpersonal gap" refers to the degree of congruence between one person's intentions and the effect or impact produced in the other. If the effect is what was intended, the gap has been bridged. If the effect is the opposite of what was intended, the gap has become greater. 

Private Intentions

The process starts with the speaker’s intentions. That is their wishes, wants, hopes, desires and fears. These are always private, known only to the person themselves.

Private intentions are like this:

  1. 1
    I want him to like me.
  2. 2
    I want her to know I like her but I don’t want to be embarrassed.
  3. 3
    I don’t want to talk with him.
  4. 4
    I wan’t him to obey me.
  5. 5
    I wish she would tell me what to do.

The speaker encodes their message and puts it into the public arena which includes words 7% - Tone 38% and body language 55%.

This is the outward public observable expression of the persons intention.

Effect or impact

The person receiving the message sees and/or hears the public behaviour and the message produces an effect or inside them.

(The effect is the other person’s response to what we have just said. We will talk more about that in another video.)  

The listener processors the message through their feelings, inferences, attitudes and thoughts and they encode their response and puts it into the public arena which includes words 7% - Tone 38% and body language 55%. 

If what the receiver infers is different to the speaker’s intention then we have a communication breakdown or an Interpersonal gap.

REDUCE misunderstandings

This is where the perceptive Listening Skills of behaviour description, direct expression of feelings, paraphrase and perception check are used to clarify the communication.  

The goal is to get you to become more open and direct in your communication.

This course will give you the tools to check out the messages you are receiving for accuracy. 

It is only when people give us feedback as to what they heard us say and what meaning they put on it can we begin to have confidence in our communication.

“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” 

― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

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