Interpersonal time

Most nonverbal communication textbooks talk about time under three main headings:
  • psychological time, referring to one’s orientation to past, present, or future
  • biological time, referring to one’s body rhythms as well as preferences for early or late in the day activities
  • cultural time, referring largely to the differences in the ways different cultures treat time, whether, for example, members do one thing at a time (monochronic cultures) or a variety of things (polychronic cultures) and the social clock, the time one’s culture considers appropriate for certain rites and rituals, for example, completing college, getting married, or moving out of your parents’ house
     To these three, I’d like to propose a fourth type of time. Since all of these dimensions refer to interpersonal interactions, interpersonal time seems an appropriate name. As with all aspects of interpersonal communication, interpersonal time will be influenced by our psychology, our biology, and our culture.

The stimulus for this actually comes from the brief discussion of Burgoon, Guerrero, and Floyd (2010) in which they identify punctuality, wait time, lead time, duration, and simultaneity and Andersen and Bowman (1999) who consider  waiting-time, talk-time, and work-time in their discussion of time and its relationship to power. To these we add relationship time, synchronicity-asynchronicity and response time, the last two of which have taken on added importance due to the frequency with which we communicate via some kind of computer connection.   This post, then, is designed to re-balance the little space given to these topics in our textbooks, to add a few more dimensions, to fill in examples and implications, and to propose this general heading of Interpersonal Time for concepts we recognize as crucial in all our interpersonal communication encounters.


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