148 | 30, pp. 145-163 | doxa.comunicación

January-June of 2020

Intersubjective communication: from classic approaches to the incorporation of body and emotions...

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

Some classic ideas are gathered in this text to distinguish interpersonal communication from intersubjective communication. However, the inclusion of “new” elements- especially the body and emotions, which are initially viewed as more closely connected to interpersonal rather than intersubjective communication. This distinction is not, at least in this text, so essential for arguing that intersubjective communication should be considered theoretically and empirically investigated. As it is a fertile sub-field of study that can generate reflections and data that help us to understand ourselves better.

Symbolic interactionism –a term coined by Herbert Blumer in 1938, Alfred Schütz’s proposal– The Phenomenological Sociology-and Communicative Action Theory- proposed by Jürgen Habermas-are three classic currents that share an interest in communication beyond face-to-face interactions, which every social subject is immersed in daily. Although these three views are not the only or most important ones, they are fundamental for defining intersubjective communication and distinguishing it from interpersonal communication.

Intersubjective communication highlights the social construction inherent in the communicative phenomenon. This can be seen in the approaches made to interpersonal communication to a lesser extent, which is usually understood as the concrete and empirically observable situation in which at least two people establish communicative contact, whatever its purpose. There is an important distinction: interpersonal communication is an event that occurs, a non-instrumental social phenomenon, which does not require any theorisation since when we want to think about it, it has already happened. Whereas speaking about intersubjective communication already implies a particular theoretical approach to the given communicative event or situation.

It is worth noting that some approaches to interpersonal communication emphasise its corporeality, as it is a situation of interaction between two or more bodies that share a space and a time as opposed to intersubjective communication. The following statement from Sodhi highlights this:

Every interpersonal relationship involves some form of communication, whether intentional or not. People, as soon as they are interacting with other people, are regularly communicating. Because of his/her corporeal inclination, he/she cannot stop communicating, since man is all body and the interpersonal encounter takes place in corporeality (Sodhi, 2008: 31).

As seen in the quote above, the body is essential in the reflections on the interpersonal dimension of communication. Therefore, without leaving the explanations that allow us to distinguish interpersonal communication from intersubjective communication aside, it is relevant to propose that incorporating the body and emotions in the reflections on communication can cancel out the difference. This allows us to approach it through what we understand as interpersonal communication and intersubjective communication.

In this way, a few years ago, it was argued that interpersonal communication, unlike intersubjective communication, had a more sensual-corporeal nature and was associated almost exclusively with experience and, to a much lesser extent, with the exchange of ideas and concepts or with the exchanged information itself. This paper is aimed at overcoming this distinction and at proposing that intersubjective communication can also be understood from sensory and bodily elements and not only rational ones.