We reach the fifth and final part of our human dimensions landscape : the Interactional Dimensions. Each dimension is introduced, related to existing scientific disciplines and portrayed by potential questions it may entail to properly assess and address the situation at hand.
Interacting with other humans, or at the very least other living forms, is one of our primal needs. We can only hold for so long without a relaxing conversation, a heated debate, a good moment with a friend or a productive meeting with a workmate. On one hand, these exchanges come to fulfil that aforementioned essential need of our nature, but on the other, they are a source of constant enrichment and evolution. A witty argument, a game of card, a jam session never unfolds the same way twice, each time bringing a new experience of which we are the creator and that teaches us in return. Interaction is fulfilment, interaction is creation, but what it fulfils and what it creates is more than meets the naked eye.
Linguistic refers to the individual’s ability to understand, manipulate and express words. Words are the universal tools that the individual can use in everything they do, think and feel. They shape their inner and outer dialogues. They can be manipulated and played with, for they can have more than one single meaning, and in that sense, one word can simultaneously reflect different facets of the individual. Similarly, words can be used by one individual to simultaneously touch upon different facets of another individual. There are words that the individual favours, for the beauty of their shape, the beauty of their sound, or the strength of the meaning they can carry. There are words that the individual avoids, as they may be deemed disturbing or uncomfortable. There are words that the individual mindlessly uses, popping up regularly in conversations or in train of thoughts. These glorified, vilified, neglected words can tell a lot about the belonging of the individual. Beyond sharing a common basis, each cultural group has made theirs words which they feel are the most expressive of who they are. Spelling or grammar mistakes can become champions of renewed identities, just as more ancient terms and sentence forms can represent an attachment to centennial values and a certain upbringing. And those two sides can clash and combine, between groups, between individuals, or even within one individual. And in that sense, words, consistently, relentlessly, evolve. This perspective is best explored by Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology and Linguistics.
What does the individual’s choice of words and language say about who they are?
How does the use of certain words or turns of phrase influence how individuals perceive each other?
Is the individual aware that there are words they favour over others, words they never use, and words that they constantly use yet never notice?
Interpersonal refers to the interactions that the individual has with one or several persons. The individual may be involved in a heated debate, or a few steps of tango or a football match : in each case, they have to deal with vast quantities of information about themselves and those around them. Those interactions are underpinned by perceptions and beliefs, calculations and intentions from the individual, but also those of their partner(s). And all of these meet and mix in that giant feedback loop that is the interaction: everyone brings their inputs and get reactions from others, that they in turn try to understand and respond to, and so on. Some may think that the first impression of someone is the right one and they should stick to it, others that instincts are always wrong and rationality is the only way to truly judge and address a person correctly. Voices intonations, body movements and manner, proximity and distance, play as much of a role as words do. In that situation, it is not possible for the individual to compute everything simultaneously, and even if they could, there is no telling this computing would be done right. Interactions can go both way: more exchange can bring more understanding, or further confusion. This perspective is best explored by Anthropology, Sociology and Social Psychology.
When the individual forms a relationship, how does their perception of the other person evolve through time?
How do the individual’s perceptions influence their choice of words and actions towards a certain person? How do these, in turn, influence the perception of that certain person towards the individual?
When not all can be computed at once, what is the type of information that an individual favours in an interaction?
Groupal refers to the functioning of the individual within structured and unstructured groups. The individual is already quite busy with a multitude of views and thoughts inside of their own mind, but the individual is also always part of a bigger group on the outside. Each individual in a group fills a certain role, either self-assigned external ascribed. Like all other members, the individual places aspirations and expectations in the groups they are part of, and they try to make the best compromise out of their membership. But the group can deceive them just as much as it can support them. Every group is a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. It has characters in the foreground and characters in the background. Every character, every role matters: from expansive to reflexive, from supportive to challenging. The individual must find their place in that scenery, in that constellation of roles. When the individual becomes part of a group, the group becomes part of them: of their identity and their functioning. Rivalling groups can thus find a place to exchange or clash within the individual. Even after, the individual still carries heirlooms and vestiges of groups they have been part of in the past. This perspective is best explored by Social Psychology and Group Analysis.
What place does the individual like to take in a group? Have they changed roles from one group to another, or even in the same group?
Do some groups remind the individual of other groups? A corporate meeting feeling like a family reunion? A night out feeling like a theatre play? How does that impact the individual?
If the individual was to align all the groups they have been part of, would there be stark incongruity or perfect continuity? How are these groups telling of the individual’s lifestory?
And so we can see that just as much as our mind is a complex and busy place, so does that complexity apply to the mind of all those surrounding us. Those complexities tangle and intertwine together, giving the opportunity for much confusion, but also much creation. We can see in others a twisted reflection of ourselves, of our own facets, flaws and qualities. Yet, no matter how inaccurate that reflection is, it is still the best reflection we will ever get. So we should be both thankful and mindful for the many encounters and interactions we are part of, as these encounters and interactions will become part of us.
And thus finishes the presentation of the Human Dimensions model. It is by no means exhaustive nor practical, but it endeavours to go beyond the Clear Picture and expose some of the less considered complexities that are part of situations involving humans. The posts that will follow will thus address one or several of those dimensions and combine them together.