The phenomenon of interpersonal communication is a process of exchanging information, knowledge, experience, emotions, and beliefs between people. In other words, interpersonal communication happens when two people talk or use non-verbal means to exchange data. According to Lane (2016), interpersonal communication is influenced by the perception of the world, self-concept, and emotions. In such communication, ethical choices are very important since communicators choose words and communicative behavior or style according to the situation or the other side (DeVito, 2019). People continuously make choices of communicative devices, principles, words, types of non-verbal communication to achieve communicative goals.
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An example of an interpersonal situation that occurred around an ethical issue might be the one observed on social media. A Muslim girl wearing a hijab was asked by a school principal to take it off because the accessories were not allowed in the school. This situation is ethical because the contradiction between the girl’s personal religious beliefs and school rules makes people react differently. It is important to address religious issues ethically in all kinds of communication, including interpersonal and group communication (Aryani, 2018). In this situation, the principal honestly stated that it was not his personal belief, but it was dictated by the school’s rules. The girl, in response, honestly stated that she wore a hijab not as an accessory but as a cultural and religious element that has significant meaning for her. Both communicators used the ethical principles of honest communication so that they could maintain relationships. However, the communication was ineffective, which is why the girl was forced not to wear a hijab to school.
When analyzing this situation, one might state that the communicators did not effectively address the ethical issue. From the point of view of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the principal is motivated by the safety needs, and the girl is motivated by the self-actualization needs. In other words, the principal wants to pursue his instrumental needs, and the student wants to pursue her identity needs (“Communication principles,” n. d.; Frey & Loker, 2020). Therefore, since their needs differ, it is important for them to use communication as a tool to reach an agreement. One of the principles that might have been applied is the principle of a dual perspective. The principal might have looked at the issue from the point of view of the student whose religion as a manifestation of personal beliefs was important for her identity and did not violate the rules about accessories.
Aryani, N. L. (2018). Implementation of communication ethics in building social harmony. International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 2(1), 147-156.
Communication principles. (n. d.). 2020, Web.
DeVito, J. A. (2019). The interpersonal communication book (15th ed.). Pearson.
Frey, L. R., & Loker, E. (2020). Confronting students’ personal and interpersonal communication anxieties and needs through constitutive, experiential communication pedagogy. Journal of Communication Pedagogy, 3(1), 20-26.
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Lane, S. D. (2016). Interpersonal communication: Competence and contexts. Routledge.