Now that we have see the elements that comprise the communication process and considered the nature of communication in our lives, we can turn to the principles that guide our communication communication has purpose, communication is continuous, communication messages vary in conscious encoding, communication is relational, communication is culturally bound, communication has ethical implications, and communication is learned.
Communication Has Purpose
When people communicate with one another, they have a purpose for doing so. Kathy Keller man (.1992), a leading researcher on inscription contexts, puts it, all communication is goal directed” whether or not the purpose is conscious . The purpose of a given transaction may be serious or trivial, but one way to valuate the success of the communication is to ask whether it achieved its purpose. When Beth calls Leah to ask whether she’d like to a project they are working on, her purpose may be to resolve a misunderstanding, to encourage Leah to work more closely with her, or simply to establish a cordial atmosphere. When Kareem shares statistics he has found with other .embers of student government to show the extent of drug abuse on campus, his purpose may be to contribute information to a group discussion or to plead a case for confronting the problem of drug abuse. Depending on the speaker’s purpose, even an apparently successful transaction may fail to achieve its goal. And, of course, different purposes call for different communication strategies.
Speakers may not always be aware of their purpose. For instance, when Jamal passes Tony on the street and says lightly. Tony, what’s happening? Jamal probably doesn’t consciously think, Tony’s an acquaintance and I want him to understand that I see him and consider him worth recognizing.In this case the social obligation to recognize Tony is met spontaneously with the first acceptable expression that comes to Jamal’s mind. Regardless of whether Jamal consciously thinks about the purpose, it still motivates his behavior. In this case Jamal will have achieved his goal if Tony responds with an equally casual greeting.
Communication Is Continuous
Because communication is nonverbal as well as verbal, we are always sending behavioral messages from which others draw inferences or meaning. Even silence or absence are communication behaviors if another person infers meaning from them. Why? Because your nonverbal behavior represents reactions to your environment and to the people around you. If you are cold, you shiver if you are hot or nervous, you perspire if you are bored, happy, or confused, your face or body language probably will show it. As skilled communicators, we need to be aware of the messages, whether explicit or implicit, we are contaminant sending to others.
Communication Messages Vary in Conscious Encoding
As we discussed earlier in this chapter, sharing meaning with another person involves encoding messages into verbal and nonverbal symbols. This encoding process may occur spontaneously, may be based on a script you have learned or rehearsed, or may be carefully considered based on your understanding of the situation in which you find yourself.
For each of us there are times when our communication reflects a spontaneous expression of emotion. When this happens, our messages are encoded without much conscious thought. For example, when you burn your finger, you may blurt out Ouch. When something goes right, you may break out in a broad smile.
At other times, however, our communication is scripted; that is, we use conversational phrases we have learned from our past encounters and judge to be appropriate to the present situation. To use scripted reactions effectively, we learn or practice [hem until they become automatic. Many of these scripts are learned in childhood.
Please pass the sugar, followed by Thank you when scorner complies. This conversational sequence rookies from your table man.If script, you may have had drilled into you at home. Scripts use messages that are appropriate to the situation and are likely to increase the effectiveness of our communication. One goal of this text is to acquaint you with general scripts (or skills) that can be adapted for use in your communication encounters across a variety of relationships, situations, and cultures.
Finally, messages also may be carefully constructed to meet the particular situation. Constructed messages are those that we encode at the moment to respond to the situation for which our known scripts are inadequate. These messages help us communicate both effectively and appropriately.
Creatively constructed responses are perhaps the ideal communication vehicle, especially in public-speaking settings. When you are able to both envision what you want to say and construct how to say it, you are likely to form messages where your intended meaning can be shared. Another goal of this text is to help you become so familiar with a variety of message forming skills that you can use them to construct effective and appropriate messages.
the past, if a person was not home, he or she had to go to a place where a telephone was housed. But now large numbers of people have their own telephone booths with them. They can make and receive telephone calls from wherever they happen to be in a car, on a bus, in a classroom, or on the street.
As we consider various communication skills, we will consider how they can be applied to electronic as well as in-person communication.
Communication Is Relational
Saying that communication is relational means that in any communication setting people not only share content meaning but also negotiate their relationship. For instance, in an interpersonal communication setting when Laura says to Jennie I’ve remembered to bring the map,” she is not only reporting information, but through the way she says it, she may also be communicating. You can always depend or I am superior to you if it weren’t for me, we’d be missing an important document for our trip.
Two aspects of relationships can be negotiated during an interaction. One aspect is the affect (love or hate) present in the relationship. For instance, when Jose says, Hal, good to see you,the nonverbal behavior that accompanies the words may show Hal whether Jose is genuinely happy to see him (positive affect) or not. For instance, if Jose smiles, has a sincere sound to his voice, looks Hal in the eye, and perhaps pats him on the back or shakes hands firmly, then Hal will recognize the signs of affection. If, however, Jose speaks quickly with no vocal inflection and with a deadpan facial expression, Hal will perceive the comment as solely meeting some social expectation.
Another aspect of the relational nature of communication seeks to define who is in control (Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson, 1967, p. 51). Thus, when Tom says to Sue, I know you’re concerned about the budget, but I’ll see to it that we have money to cover everything, he car through his words and the sound of his voice, be saying that he is in charge of finances, that he is in control. How Sue responds to Tom determines the true nature of the relationship. The control aspect of relationships can be viewed as complementary or symmetrical.
In a symmetrical relationship people do not agree about who is in control. As one person shows a need to take control, the other challenges the person’s right and asserts his or her own power. Or, as one person abdicates power the other refuses to assume it. For example, Tom may say, I think we need to cut back on credit card expenses for a couple of months, to which Sue may respond, No way. I need a new suit for work, the car needs new tires, and you promised we could replace the couch. Here both people are asserting control.
Control is not negotiated in a single exchange. Relational control is determined through many message exchanges over time. The interaction of communication messages, as shown through both language and nonverbal behavior, defines and clarifies the complementary or symmetrical nature of people’s relationships. In complementary relationships open conflict is less prevalent than in symmetrical ones, but in symmetrical relationships power is more likely to be evenly shared.
Communication Is Culturally Bound
What message is formed and how it is interpreted depends on the cultural background of the participants. Cultural diversity, variations between and among people affects even aspect of communication, Even though we both speak English, our cultural differences will influence the meanings we share.
Because we are a nation of immigrants, we are likely to differ in some message formation and interpretation skills. We often intercommunicate with one another because we unknowingly violate a cultural rule or preference of the person or misinterpret a message based on our own cultural rules or preferences. For example, Madison and Lee are newly acquainted freshman roommates. Madison is fourth-generation Swedish American from a small town in Iowa. Lee is first-generation Chinese American from San Francisco. Both women are excited about the opportunity to live with and learn from someone who has a different background. Over lunch with several other students, Madison suggests to Lee that they save money on books by haring the cost of the boo that is required for the Introduction to Psychology class they are both taking. Lee doesn’t want to do this. Because other people are present, Lee follows the Chinese cultural rule of avoiding embarrassing Madison in front of their friends. So she lowers her eyes and quietly says, That might be nice. Based on this conversation, Madison stops by the bookstore and purchases the book.
When she arrives back at the dorm room and presents the book to Lee, she is dumbfounded by Lee’s refusal to pay half the cost. Lee is equally surprised that Madison misinterpreted her face saving comment as actual agreement! Because the people who live in the United States come from a variety of cultures, opportunities for misunderstanding abound. Cultural diversity in the United States continues to grow. At the end of the twentieth century 30 percent of the population of the United States was comprised of people with Hispanic, Asian, or African roots. Within the next twenty years this figure is predicted to rise to more than 40 percent Chronicle of Higher Education, 1999, p. 7). Of course in your own corner of the country the ratios may differ.
Different regions of the United States vary in the proportion of residents with various cultural backgrounds. For instance, in 1996 of the 3.5 million residents of Los Angles, more than 1 million (29 percent) reported that they were Hispanic, whereas in neighboring San Francisco, a city of 750,000, more than 250,000 (39 percent) reported being from Asian backgrounds. In some Midwestern cities, such ‘as Cincinnati and St. Louis, more than 40 percent of the population is African American (Carpenter, 1996). In contrast, the residents of some western states are more than 90 percent European in background (Horner, 1998).
The most widely discussed aspects of cultural diversity are ethnicity and race, but cultural diversity in communication is also occasioned by gender, age, sexual orientation, class, education, and religious differences among people. Just as people of different ethnicity may have different rules that guide message construction and interpretation, so too do ‘people who differ in age or sex or who profess different religions. Many older people consider it rude to address someone by his or her first name unless invited by that person to d.. so. By many younger people refer to everyone. by first name with no disrespect intended.
Within each chapter of the book we will discuss ways in which various cultural groups are different and similar to each other in their communication practices.This addition the feature Diverse Voices, which is found in some of the chapters, will focus on the way cultural diversity in communication has affected one person. This will give you an opportunity to empathize with a variety of people who come from different cultural backgrounds.
Communication Has Ethical Implications
In any encounter we choose whether or not we will communicate ethically. Ethics is a set of moral principles that may be held by a society, a group, or an individual. Although what is considered ethical is a matter of personal judgment, various groups still expect members to uphold certain standards. These standards influence the personal decisions we make. When we choose to violate. the standards that are expected, we are viewed to be unethical.
When we communicate, we cannot avoid making ethical choices with ethical implications. To understand how our ethical standards influence our communication, we must recognize the ethical principles guiding our behavior. Five ethical standards influence our communication and guide our behavior.
1. Truthfulness and honesty are standards that compel us to refrain from lying, ~ cheating, stealing, or deception. An honest person is widely regarded as a moral person, and honesty is a central concept to ethics as the foundation for a moral life (Terkel & Du val, 1999, p. 122). Although most people . accept truthfulness and honesty as a standard, they still confess to lying on occasion. We are most likely to lie when we are caught in a moral dilemma, a choice involving an unsatisfactory alternative.
The operating moral rule is to tell the truth if you possibly can. The fundamental requirement of this rule is that we should not intentionally deceive, or try to deceive, others or even ourselves. Only when we are confronted with a true moral dilemma involving making a choice that we deem justified by the circumstances (not warning an enemy about a planned attack in order to save lives) or selecting the lesser of two evils (protecting confidentiality over lying) should we even consider lying.
2. Integrity means maintaining a consistency of belief and action (keeping promises). Tarkel and Du val (1999) say, A person who has integrity is someone who has strong moral principles and will successfully resist the temptation t? compromise those principles. Integrity then is the opposite of hypocrisy. A person who had promised to take a friend to the doctor would live p to this promise even if he or she had an opportunity to go out with a friend.
3, Fairness means achieving rue right balance of interests without regard one’s unfeeling and without showing favor to conflict. Fair all the relevant facts, consider only circumstances relevant to the decision at hand, and not be swayed by prejudice or irrelevancies, For example, if two of her children are fighting, a mom is exercise fairness if she allows both children to explain their side before she decides who is at fault.
4. Respect means showing regard or consideration for a person and for that person’s rights. Often we talk of respecting another as a fellow human being. For instance, someone’s affluence, job status, or ethnic background should not influence how we communicate with the person. We demonstrate respect through listening to and understanding others points of view, even when they are vastly different from our own.
5. Responsibility means being accountable for one’s actions. A responsibility is something that one is bound to do either through promise or obligation or because of one’s role in a group or community, A responsibility may indicate a duty to a moral law or to another human being. Some would argue that we have a responsibility not to harm or interfere with others. Others would argue that we have a responsibility not only not to harm others but to help others.
6. At various places in this text we will confront situations where these issues come into play, We often face ethical dilemmas where we must sort out what is more or less right or wrong. In making these choices we usually reveal what values. we hold most dear. So in this book, at the end of each remaining chapter, you will be asked to think about and discuss various ethical dilemmas that relate to the chapter content.