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Partner Responsiveness

The extent to which relationship-partners actively attend and convey interest (Miller and Berg 1984), understanding (Reis and Shaver 1988), and empathy for the other's perspective is partner responsiveness. In Harry Reis and Philip Shaver's (1988) model of intimate interactions, intimacy is a process that begins when one person communicates personally relevant and revealing information to A couple's intimate interaction is captured as they sit in a park. Sharing vulnerable aspects of oneself—opinions, beliefs, and emotions—is just as much a part of intimacy as physical affection. PETER TURNLEY/CORBIS another person, and the second person responds to the speaker in a sensitive manner. According to Reis and Shaver, an interaction is intimate if a discloser perceives that his/her listener conveyed understanding, acceptance, validation, and caring towards the discloser and her/his communication.

Research supports the notion that responsiveness contributes to daily experiences of intimacy in couple relationships, over and above the effects of self-disclosure. In one study of college students, Jean-Paul Laurenceau, Lisa Barret, and Paula R. Pietromonaco (1998) found that self-disclosure was not as intimate when partners were insensitive or unresponsive to that disclosure.

Responsive behavior is both nonverbal and verbal. Intimate nonverbal behaviors are sometimes called involvement behaviors, and they include smiling and maintaining a forward lean, eye contact, and close physical proximity during an interaction. Behaviors such as mutual gaze and forward lean have been associated with positive affect during an interaction and are more visible when partners are romantically involved. Involvement behaviors are critical to people's perceptions of intimacy during interactions (Burgoon et al. 1984).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsIntimacy - Conceptions Of Intimacy, Intimate Interactions, Openness And Self-disclosure , Partner Responsiveness , Communication Of Positive Regard