Immediacy is the creation of closeness, a sense of togetherness, of oneness, between speaker and listener. When you communicate immediacy you convey a sense of interest and attention, a liking for and an attraction to the other person. You communicate immediacy with both verbal and nonverbal messages.
And, not surprisingly, people respond to communication that is immediate more favorably than to communication that is not. People like people who communicate immediacy. You can increase your interpersonal attractiveness, the degree to which others like you and respond positively toward you, by using immediacy behaviors. In addition there is considerable evidence to show that immediacy behaviors are also effective in workplace communication, especially between supervisors and subordinates. For example, when a supervisors uses immediacy behaviors, he or she is seen by subordinates as interested and concerned; subordinates are therefore likely to communicate more freely and honestly about issues that can benefit the supervisor and the organization. Also, workers with supervisors who communicate immediacy behaviors have higher job satisfaction and motivation.
Not all cultures or all people respond in the same way to immediacy messages. For example, in the United States immediacy behaviors are generally seen as friendly and appropriate. In other cultures, however, the same immediacy behaviors may be viewed as overly familiar——as presuming that a relationship is close when only acquaintanceship exists. Similarly, recognize that some people may take your immediacy behaviors as indicating a desire for increased intimacy in the relationship. So although you may be trying merely to signal a friendly closeness, the other person may perceive a romantic invitation. Also, recognize that because immediacy behaviors prolong and encourage in-depth communication, they may not be responded to favorably by persons who are fearful about communication and/or who want to get the interaction over with as soon as possible.
Communicating Immediacy. Here are a few suggestions for communicating immediacy verbally and nonverbally (Richmond, V.P., McCroskey, J. C., & Hickson, M. L., Nonverbal Behavior in Interpersonal Relationships, 7th ed. Allyn & Bacon, 2012):
< Self-disclose; reveal something significant about yourself.
< Refer to the other person’s good qualities of, say, dependability, intelligence, or character——“you’re always so reliable.”
< Express your positive view of the other person and of your relationship——“I’m sure glad you’re my roommate; you know everyone.”
< Talk about commonalities, things you and the other person have done together or share.
< Demonstrate your responsiveness by giving feedback cues that indicate you want to listen more and that you’re interested——“And what else happened?”
< Express psychological closeness and openness by, for example, maintaining physical closeness and arranging your body to exclude third parties.
< Maintain appropriate eye contact and limit looking around at others.
< Smile and express your interest in the other person.
< Focus on the other person’s remarks. Make the speaker know that you heard and understood what was said, and give the speaker appropriate verbal and nonverbal feedback.
At the same time that you’ll want to demonstrate these immediacy messages, try also to avoid nonimmediacy messages such as speaking in a monotone, looking away from the person you’re talking to, frowning while talking, having a tense body posture, or avoiding gestures.