Civility: Intimacy vs. immediacy

Part One: Intimacy in communication can be an enhancement or distraction in creating closer relationships. I would like to share an e-mail that a friend wrote to share a frustrating experience that she had with some friends:

"I recently had lunch with friends. My disappointment was that my friend 'mentioned' at the last minute that someone else was coming with us to celebrate my birthday luncheon. I too, enjoy lunches and shopping trips with a group of women. It is most always a lot of fun. I felt that it was both rude and inconsiderate to dismiss our special outing together as an opportunity to bond and catch up on the personal parts of our lives, especially since it was my birthday lunch invitation. Casual invitations, last-minute changes and not following through with plans was uncomfortable for me. This lack of consideration lessens the reliability and trust we find in someone.

"My husband and I both have noticed a dramatic difference in communicating with people since the introduction of e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. People are communicating to an enormous number of friends and acquaintances, leaving little time for detail or intimacy. They sometimes forget who they have told what, and many times repeat themselves. Texting encourages messages with few words because of the cost, having to use a small keypad and trying to respond to as many friends as possible. This leaves no time for detail or intimate communication that share personal feelings that often define our ability to trust and love others. Though I find it to be quite fun, I am saddened by the loss of intimacy."

In the situation expressed above, it shows that relationships and intimacy are easier to create when there are fewer people involved. I think that women, more than men, need that intimacy in relationships. Perhaps, in our earlier history, women worked together in the home while men were out hunting.

Intimacy in relationships vs. team tasking situations occurred. Intimacy can occur only when emotions, commitment and mutuality are present in a relationship. In groups, people feel less free to communicate feelings, and the interaction becomes more distant. Having presence, which is a physical or psychological proximity through communication, increases intimacy.

Good communication is the cornerstone to successful relationships. Lack of intimacy in communication can breed shallow interpersonal relations. Generally, women need more intimacy in relationships with other women where thoughts, feelings and ideas are exchanged. For most women, relationships are important. Men, on the other hand, need less intimacy and enjoy discussing team sports, politics, or business.

DIANA OLSON, MA AICI CIP, is an etiquette & civility specialist/image stylist. She can be contacted through or (626) 584-9761.

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