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Blog » Immediacy as a relationship skill

21 Aug 2015

Immediacy means letting someone know your perceptions and feelings in the moment

Immediacy in relationship involves using the present situation to let the other person know how you are experiencing things in the here-and-now.  Since it involves being open about your immediate reactions and feelings, it is very closely connected to the notion of authenticity.

Being immediate, being able to respond in the moment, is often a sign of feeling comfortable and close in relationship, and is valuable in helping to identify feelings, both in ourselves and in others.   Using immediacy sensitively, where it stays within an appropriate level of intimate for the relationship, and the authenticity that goes with it, can help develop a sense of a "real" relationship in the other person. 

So immediacy involves a certain amount of risk – the risk of being wrong, the risk of saying something in the moment which is unhelpful or damaging to the relationship, and this is why it's thought of as a skill  - something that you become more adept at using through practice and experience.

Immediacy is often related to challenging – the bringing into focus of your perceptions of discrepancies or contradictions in the other person’s feelings, thinking or behaviour that they are tending to overlook or ignore.  As a way of developing positive interpersonal relationships, this is best done to legitimately help you achieve a positive goal for yourself (or avoid a negative outcome), or for the benefit of the other person with whom you are developing a relationship. It's not helpful in the long-term as a way of letting off steam (however good that might feel in the moment).

As with challenging, when we are being immediate with someone about perceptions or feelings that they are likely to feel positive about, it carries less risk. But where there's a potential for our comments or feedback to be experienced as painful or hurtful, it's important to have the self-awareness to be able to respond with sensitivity and an understanding of how our behaviour is experienced by others. This is also closely related to the notion of empathy.

For relationships that are important to you, a key consideration in using immediacy in a challenging way is the strength of the relationship. This will help determine how tentative or direct you can be in usefully feeding back your immediate reactions and feelings.  A relationship in which a strong sense of trust and respect has developed is likely to provide more scope for the use of immediacy.

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