Dimensions of Relational Communication and Control During Physician-Patient Interactions

Dan O'Hair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


This article advances the argument that health care systems could benefit from the direct application of relational communication theory. Relational communication is defined as the elements in interaction by which relational partners reciprocally define the nature of their relative position in the relationship (Rogers & Farace, 1975). Working from this framework, this article synthesizes the literature on relational communication and applies the relational communication dimension, control, to 11 naturally occurring physician-patient interactions in order to test the utility of relational control analysis for medical relationships. Results indicate that, although physicians attempted and gained control of the interaction to a large extent, patients demonstrated instances of attempted (and even successful) relational control maneuvers. Several transitory dyadic exchanges were also evidenced by physicians and patients. Implications from this study suggest that relational communication analysis is highly relevant for health care contexts in which dyadic exchanges are prominent and in which interpersonal relationships are salient. Implications for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-115
Number of pages19
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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