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Interpersonal Communication and Health


Hannawa A. F.

Docente titolare del corso

Rizzieri M. F.



For a more holistic understanding of interpersonal interactions in our everyday lives and the effects they can have on our health and well-being, we need to attend to both the “bright” and “dark” sides of communication. Surely, each of us has experienced the enabling and disabling effects of interpersonal interactions, the latter of which might include deception, hurtful events, harassment, irresolvable conflicts, and rejection. Furthermore, we inevitably make mistakes that, at times, can inadvertently harm others and even ourselves. This course illuminates this “dark side” of interpersonal communication across various contexts, to complement the far more common “bright side” notions of interpersonal interactions. By doing so, it provides a well-rounded orientation for students to comprehend the complexity of human relations and their effects on our health and well-being. Exemplary case analyses and expert discussions will make this class an unforgettable experience for students, as it will empower them to enable the “bright side” and confront the “dark side” potential of their own interpersonal interactions with the insights they will have gained from this course.


In this course, students will…

  • develop an understanding of how interpersonal communication influences our health and well-being.
  • learn how communication is central to health, illness, injury, and disability.
  • recognize how health experiences shape interpersonal communication and relationship dynamics.
  • understand the "bright side" and "dark side" metaphors of interpersonal communication in the context of their own life stories and experiences.
  • learn and apply the concept of "interpersonal communication competence" in the context of dark side interactions. 
  • comprehend the opportunities and dangers of communication (in)competence for relationships, personal resilience, health, and so forth.
  • expand their repertoire for enabling "bright side" and confronting "dark side" communication patterns for improved health outcomes in their own lives.
  • demonstrate their understanding of health-promoting interpersonal communication by analyzing communication events in class discussions and in their own written work.

Modalità di insegnamento

In presenza

Impostazione pedagogico-didattica

Main topics:

The “Bright Side” and “Dark Side” of interpersonal communication • Why do we need the “Dark Side” perspective? • Healing and harming functions of interpersonal communication • The interpersonal sense-making process • Myths and truths about interpersonal communication • Defining “communication success” • Communication competence in the context of difficult conversations • “Dark” competence • Conflict, aggression and violence • Transgressions • Human error • Communication and safety • Emotion Labor • Disclosure, forgiveness, and relational repair • The power of nonverbal messages • The healing potential of interpersonal communication.

Assigned Reading: 

Students will receive a customized reading package for this course on icorsi.

Modalità d’esame

Class participation (25% of final grade), Service learning project (75% of final grade)

The success of this course greatly depends on student participation. Therefore, this course requires in-person attendance. Only students who have attended at least 80% of the classroom sessions will be admitted to the final project/exam. Additional missed classes (>20%) are only excused for severe, officially attested reasons (e.g., a medical certificate testifying that a student was unable to come to class).

Offerta formativa