Professor Mark L. Knapp of the University of Texas identified 10 interaction stages of interpersonal relationships. The first five stages cover relational development, the process by which relationships grow:

1. Initiating is stage 1, the short beginning period of an interaction. This stages involves first impressions, the sizing up of the other person, and attempting to find commonality. An example would be "scouting" at a party, where you might break off the initiating stage when you don't find what you are seeking in the person you have just met. If this first stage goes well, you might move to stage 2 in a first meeting.

2. Experimenting occurs when the two people have clearly decided to find out more about each other, to quit scouting, and to start getting serious about each other. This stage includes sharing personal information at a safe level.

3. Intensifying involves active participation, mutual concern, and an awareness that the relationship is developing because neither party has broken it off and both people are encouraging its development. The information exchanges get more personal and more intimate. Both are comfortable with each other, use private jokes and language, and express commitment.

4. Integrating means the two start mirroring each other's behavior in manner, dress, and language. They merge their social circles, designate common property, and share interests and values. They know more about each other than does anyone else, except long-term best friends, and others see them as a pair.

5. Bonding is the final stage in relational development -- the people in the relationship commit to each other. They may exchange personal items as a symbol of commitment; they may participate in a public ritual that bonds them; or they may vow to be friends for life and demonstrate that commitment by always being present at important points in each other's life. Living together, marrying, having children, buying a home, or moving in together are examples of bonding.

See also: Relational deterioration

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