Knapp’s Model

August 27, 2008 at 3:48 AM (Personal Reference) ()

Writing about my friends made me recall a conversation I was having with one of them where I was explaining Knapp’s Model, which I practically worship as a Communications major.  It explains the several possible stages of a relationship – romantic, professional, platonic, whatever.  I figured it would be nice to post it somewhere where I can quickly reference it:

——————-5. Bonding——-6. Differentiating
————-4. Integrating—————-7. Circumscribing
———3. Intensifying————————-8. Stagnating
—-2. Experimental———————————–9. Avoiding
-1. Introductory——————————————10. Terminating

1. Introductory.  This stage is incredibly short.  It is literally the introductions that take place between two people (“Hi, nice to meet you,” or “Hi, how are you today?”).  Introductions take place between all people with whom you interact, be it a new class mate, the cashier at the grocery store, a job interviewer, and so on.

2. Experimental.  After the introductory stage, two people decide whether they want to pursue a relationship.  They exchange high-postive, low-intimacy information (the general stuff: where you’re from, common interests . . . classic trend with college orientations: “Hi, what’s your name?  Where are you from?  What’s your major?”) with each other to learn more about each other.  The information shared is pretty non-committal: you likely won’t share deeply personal information within ten minutes of meeting a person.

3. Intensifying.  At this point in a relationship, two people begin to share more involved information with each other.  Trust has been established between the two people, and they begin to share more confidential information with one another.  People become more comfortable with each other, becoming familiar not only with each other’s positive qualities, but their negatives, as well (bad habits or histories, for example).  People provide each other with more context of themselves – previous relationships, future goals, and so on.  Other people begin to associate the two people with one another.

4. Integrating.  Think “best friends.”  The two people go out of their way to be together.  For students, it may be scheduling classes together.  In business, it may be that they are always on the same projects.  In a romantic relationship, the two people may move in together.  If receiving an invitation, the two people will receive one invitation, rather than one addressed to “Joe Smith and Guest.”  With most lasting relationships, this is the highest stage a relationship will reach.

5. Bonding.  Arguably the highest, strongest stage of a relationship, when it is formally recognized.  Think marriage (in a few ways: the bride and groom, the recognition of the best man or maid of honour), blood brothers, business partners co-opening a business.  As a side note, whenever your friend is telling you a story and says, “It was a bonding experience,” it probably wasn’t.  Chances are it was an intensifying or integrating moment.

6. Differentiating.  A tricky one: either stronger than bonding (incredibly rare), or the beginning of the deteriorating stages (fairly typical). At least one member of the relationship begins to break away in order to recreate an individual identity, e.g., taking dance classes without one’s spouse.  This can strengthen a relationship by renewing both parties’ individualities, as long as it as recognised as such.  More often, though, one or both parties tries to avoid being totally consumed by the relationship.  Example: Joe and Jess have been married for five years.  They share EVERYTHING, including a phone number and E-mail address.  Eventually, Jess begins to feel suffocated by the “oneness” of the relationship and starts taking a knitting class . . . by herself.  Joe finds out and rather than getting the hint and embracing the idea, enrolls in the same knitting class with Jess.

7. Circumscribing.  Opposite of integrating (4).  The relationship deteriorates here, with one person completely cutting the other out, and keeping things separate from him/her.  Examples may include moving out of a lover’s apartment, purposely taking different class sections than a fellow pupil, accepting projects without the fellow coworker, no longer inviting one’s mother to the biweekly manicure date.  In the above example, Jess switches to a different knitting class that meets when Joe usually has work and cannot attend.

8. Stagnating.  Opposite of intensifying (3).  Intimacy and/or amount of disclosure within the relationship decreases.  There is no effort to grow the relationship.  An example would be staying in a relationship that’s not going anywhere because it’s “easier,” parents staying together only for the sake of the children, etcetera.  The relationship is in a rut that is going nowhere.

9. Avoiding.  Opposite of experimenting (2).  Fairly explanatory: one goes out of his/her way to not communicate with the other person.  What communication does occur is minimal, and the degree of avoidance which occurs normally begins fairly small, then snowballs.

10. Termination.  Although self-explanatory, not always clear.  Some people just avoid into termination, which makes interpretation tricky, since nothing’s official (however, with romantic relationship’s it’s a bit easier with applications such as Facebook, which can make things VERY clear).

Notes on How the Model Works

– ALL relationships must go through the introduction and termination stage.  If nothing else, when one person dies, the relationship is over.  You may still care and think about the person, but you cannot communicate with him or her.

You cannot force someone up the model.  Whenever there is a differentiation in views as to what stage the relationship stands, whoever feels that it is lowest and/or furthest to the right, is correct.  For example, if one of you thinks that you’re intensifying the relationship, but the other is avoiding you, you are in the avoiding stage.

– You can go up or down the same side.  It’s not a one-way trip.  You may be in the intensifying stage, then decide that perhaps it’s wiser to keep experimenting for a while.

– You don’t skip stages going up.  That’s a really bad idea: “Hi, I’m John.  Let’s get married.”  It’s sort of a one-way ticket to go right back down.

– You can skip stages going down (e.g.,from differentiating to avoiding).

– You can cut across and down (e.g., from integrating to stagnating).

– You can not cut across and up (e.g., from experimenting to circumscribing).

– Once you have terminated, you cannot go back up.  If the relationship was not terminated due to mortality, you can start over again, though.

– Don’t try to cut back to the left and up (e.g., from stagnating to integrating).

Questions/comments accepted (and will be addressed).

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