What are instrumental communication ruts?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Instrumental communication is a form of interpersonal communication.  Instrumental communication is predicated upon relaying day to day aspects of living.  Most relationships exist in the realm of instrumental communication:  "Instrumental communication is the exchange of factual information that enables individuals to fulfill common family functions."  "Can you pick up the kids," "I have the dry- cleaning," and "You need to walk the dog," are all examples of instrumental communication. They might not necessarily reflect the idealized vision of a relationship, but they are necessary aspects of communication in that relationship. Instrumental communication is where most relationships exist because daily life consists of needing to communicate aspects of the mundane.  There is a structure and organization to instrumental organization because of its focus.  The contrast to instrumental communication is affective communication.  Affective communication "is the way individual family members share their emotions with one another."  Affective communication is how feelings are shared with one another.  These elements revolve around the validation of individual voice.  The experience of learning and growing from an emotional point of view is rooted in affective communication.  While this form of communication is important, the essence of daily life is seen in instrumental communication.  Love and abstract emotions and being able to communicate about the daily needs of existence are mutual complements to any successful relationship.

Ruts in instrumental communication occur when all the communication is instrumental communication.  For example, if a relationship is entirely predicated upon instrumental communication, the realm of the affective is ignored.  It is here in which a rut becomes evident. The sum total of life cannot be solely the mundane. A rut in instrumental communication happens when a relationship is predicated entirely upon instrumental aspects of communication.  It is a rut because a couple or a relationship has lost its presence of affective communication.  As with all communication, realities are fluid and dynamic.  However, instrumental communication ruts happen when there is a lack of balance within communication elements. Such poor communications reflect challenges in relationships and require the need to change what is into what can be with regards to communication realities.

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