Conversation and Mediated Communication

Cultural Variations in Effective Conversation

Through our this chapter, we have been considering  behavior  improve conversation for people in the United State a low context culture. Just as venous verbal and nonverbal rules vary in low- and high context  cultures, so do they differ in guidelines for conversation. Gudykunst and Masumoto (1996, pp. 30-32) explain differences in conversational patterns between people of low context and high context cultures.

First, in low-context culture conversations, we are likely to see differences in word choice, including greater use of such categorical words as certainly, absolutely, a~9 positively. In high-context culture conversations, we are likely to see greater use of qualifiers such as maybe, perhaps. and probably.

Second, low context cultures strictly adhere to the relevancy maxim by valuing relevant comments that are perceived by listeners to be directly to the point. In high context cultures, individuals’ responses are likely to be  more indirect, ambiguous, and apparently less relevant because listeners rely more on nonverbal cues to help them understand the speaker’s intentions and meaning.

Third, in low-context cultures, the quality maxim is ope rationalized in truth telling. People are expected to verbally communicate their actual feelings about things regardless of how this affects others. Conversationalists in high context cultures ope rationalize the quality maxim differently. They define quality as maintaining harmony, and. conversationalists may send messages that verbally mask their true feelings.

Finally, in low-context culture’s, periods of silence are considered uncomfortable because when no one is speaking little information is being shared. In high-context cultures, silence in conversation .is often meaningful. When three or four people sit together and no one talks,the silence may indicate truthfulness, disapproval, embarrassment, or disagreement, depending on context.

Summary Conversations

Conversations are informal interchanges of thoughts and feelings that usually occur in face to face settings. There are two types of conversations, social conversations and problem-consideration conversations, each of which has a general structure.

Conversations are guided by unwritten prescriptions that indicate what behavior is obligated, preferred, or prohibited. Four characteristics of conversational rules shape the behavior of the participants: rules allow for choice, are prescriptive, are contextual, and specify appropriate behavior.

Effective conversations are governed by the cooperative principle, which suggests that conversations work when participants join together to accomplish conversational goals and make the conversation pleasant for each participant. The cooperative principle is characterized by six maxims: quality, quantity, relevancy, manner, morality, and politeness.

Effective conversationalists demonstrate skills in honestly presenting information (including crediting their sources), balancing speaking and listening (through effective turn-taking behavior), maintaining conversational coherence, practicing politeness (through engaging in positive and negative face saving strategies), and engaging in ethical dialogue.

Cooperative Principle and Apply to Conversation , Effective Conversation & Conversational Coherence

Effective Conversations Follow the Cooperative Principle

Not only are conversations structured by the rules that participants follow, but they also depend on how well conversational partners cooperate. The cooperative principle states that conversations will be satisfying when the contributions made by conversationalists are in line with the purpose of the conversation (Grice, 1975, pp. 44-46). Based on this principle, H. Paul Grice describes the following four conversational maxims (requirements).

1. The quality maxim calls for us to provide information that is truthful. When we purposely lie, distort, or misrepresent, we are not acting cooperatively in the conversation. Being truthful means not only avoiding deliberate lies or.distortions but also taking care to avoid any kind of misrepresentation. Thus, if a classmate asks you what the prerequisites for are, you share them if you know them, but you don’t peculate or offer your opinion as though it is ;.fact. If you don’t know or if you have only a vague recollection, say so.

2. The quantity maxim calls for us to provide an amount of information that sufficient to satisfy others’ information needs and keep the conversation going, but not so lengthy and detailed that we undermine the informal give and take that is characteristic of good conversations. Thus, if Sam asks Randy how he liked his visit to St. Louis, Randy’s answering fine is too brill his answering with a twenty minute monologue on all the activities on strip is likely to be far too long.

3. The relevancy maxim calls for us to provide information that is related to the topic being discussed. Comments tangential to the subject, or outright subject changes when other conversational partners are still actively engaged with the current topic, are uncooperative. For example, imagine that Hal, Corey, and Li-sung are chatting about benefits that will accrue for the local homeless shelter from the upcoming 5K walk/run. If Corey asks whether either of them has taken Speech 101, he will be acting uncooperative. His comments don’t relate to the subject

4. The morality maxim call for us to speak in ways that meet moral/ethical guidelines. For example, in the Urinated States violations of the morality maxim would include repeating information that had been confidentially disclosed or persuading someone else to do something that the speaker knows is wrong or against the other’s personal interests.

5. The politeness maxim calls for us to be courteous to other participants. In our conversations, we should attempt to observe the social norms of politeness in the dominant culture and not purposefully embarrass ourselves or others during the interaction. In the following Diverse Voices feature, Gwendolyn Gong describes how politeness is enacted by her cultural community. In the next section, we will discuss means of practicing politeness.

Skills of Effective Face to Face Conversational lists

Regardless or how well we think we  converse, almost all of us can learn to  be more effective. In this section,  we discuss several skill that are basic effective conversation.

Have Quality Information to Present

The more you know about a range of subjects, the greater the chance that you will be an interesting conversationalist. Here are some suggestions for building a high quality information base.

Read a newspaper every day (not just the comics or the sports).

Read at least one weekly news or special-interest magazine

Watch television documentaries and news specials as well as  entertainment and sports programs. (Of course, sports and entertainment are favorite topics of conversation too but not with everyone.)

Attend the theater and concerts as well as going to movies.

Visit museums and historical sites.

Following these suggestions will provide you with a fountain of quality information you can share in social conversations.

As an Initiator, Ask Meaningful Questions

What happens in the first few minutes of a conversation will have a profound effect on how well a social conversation develops. Although asking questions comes easy to some, many people seem at a loss for what to do to get a conversation started. These four question lines will usually help to get a conversation started. Notice that none of them is a yes or no question-each calls for the person to share some specific information.

Refer to family: How is Susan getting along this year at college? How is your dad feeling?

Refer to the person’s work: What projects have you been working on lately?

Refer to a sporting activity: How was the fishing trip you went on last week? What is it about Tiger Woods that enables him to be near his best at major tournaments?

Refer to a current event: What do you think is driving people back to more conservative stocks? What do you think we can do to get kids more interested in reading?

Perhaps just looking at these four suggestions will bring other ideas to mind that you can use to start conversations with various acquaintances.

As a Responded, Provide Free Information

Effective conversationalists provide a means of enabling others to continue a conversation  with their responses. free information is extra information  during a message that can be used by the responded to continue the conversation.

Many  people have difficultly  building conversations because of a tendency to reply to questions with one-word responses. If, for instance, Paul asks jack, Do you like tennis? and jack answers Yes and then just looks at Paul, Paul has nowhere to go. To keep the conversation going (or to get it started), Paul has to think of a new line to pursue.

Suppose, however, that after jack answers Yes, he goes on to say I’ve only been playing for about a year, but I really enjoy it. Now, Paul has a direction to follow. He might turn the conversation to his own experience: I haven’t been playing long myself, but I’m starting to get more confidence, especially with my forehand. Or he might use the information to ask another question: Are you able to play very often?

As a respondent, it is important to give free information. As the initiator, it is important to listen for free information. The better the quality of the free information, the more likely it is that the conversation will grow and prove rewarding to both participants.

Credit Sources

Crediting sources means verbally footnoting the source from which you have drawn your information and ideas. In a term paper, you give credit to authors you have quoted or paraphrased by footnoting the sources. Similarly, when you use other people’s words or ideas in your oral communication, you can credit the source verbally.

By crediting you enable the other participants to evaluate the quality of the information you are sharing. Moreover, by crediting ideas from people who are acquaintances, you make people feel better about themselves and avoid hard feelings. For instance, if a friend presents a creative idea and verbally acknowledges you as the source, you probably feel flattered. If, however, the person acts as though the idea were his own, you are probably hurt or angry. So, when you repeat (that you have gotten from others, make sure you give proper credit.

Crediting is easy enough. To give credit where it is due and avoid possible hard feelings, just include the name of the person you got the idea from. For example, in a discussion about course offerings, You might say, I like the list of courses we have to choose from, but, you know, we should really have a course in attitude change. Laura was the one who put me on to the idea, and I can see why it’s a good idea.

Balance Speaking and Listening

Conversations are most satisfying when all participants feel that they have had their fair share of speaking time balance speaking and listening in a conversation by practicing turn-taking techniques.

1. Effective conversationalists speak an appropriate length of time on each turn People are likely to rune out or become annoyed with those conversational partners who make speeches, filibuster, or perform monologues rather than engaging in the ordinary give-and-take of conversation is difficult to carrion a conversation with someone who gives one or two word replies to questions that are designed to elicit meaningful information. Turns do, of course, vary in length depending on what is being said. If your average statements are much longer or shorter than those of your conversational partners, however, you need to adjust.

2. Effective conversationalists recognize and heed turn-exchanging cue). Patterns of vocal tone, such as a decrease of loudness or a lowering of pitch, and use of gestures that see to show obvious completion of a point are the most obvious turn taking (when you are trying to get into a conversation, look for them.

3.By the same token, be careful of giving inadvertent turn-exchanging cues. For instance, if you tend to lower your voice when you are not really done speaking or take long pauses for emphasis when you expect to continue, you are likely to be interrupted because these are cues that others are likely to act on. If you find yourself getting interrupted frequently, you might ask people whether you tend to give false cues. Moreover, if you come to recognize that another person has  habit of giving these kinds of cues inadvertently, try nor co interrupt when speaking with that person.

4.Effective conversationalists-use conversation-directing behavior and comply with the conversation-directing behavior of others.)In general, a person who relinquishes his or her turn define who speaks next. For instance, when Paul concludes his turn by saying, Susan, did you understand what he meant?” Susan has the right to the floor. Skillful turn takers use conversation directing behavior to balance turns between those who freely speak and those who may be more reluctant to speak. Similarly, effective turn takers  remain silent and listen politely when the conversation is directed to someone else.

Of course, if the person who has just finished speaking does not verbally or non verbally direct the conversation to a preferred next speaker, then the turn is up for grabs and goes to the first person to speak.

5. Effective conversationalists rarely interrupt Although interruptions are generally considered inappropriate, interrupting for clarification and agreement (confirming) are inter personally acceptable (Kennedy & Camden. 1983). For instance, interruptions that are include relevant questions or paraphrases intended to clarify, such as What do you mean by ‘presumptuous , or I get the sense that you think presumptuous behavior  is especially bad, and reinforcing statements such as Good point, Max or I see what you mean, Susie. The interruptions that are likely to be viewed as disruptive or incomplete include those that change the subject or that seem to minimize the contribution of the interrupted person.

Practice Politeness

Politeness, relating to others in ways that meet their need to be appreciated and protected, is universal to all cultures (Brown & Levinson, 1987). Although levels of politeness and ways of being polite vary, according to Brown and Levinson all people have positive face needs (the desire to be appreciated and approved, liked and honored) and negative face needs the desire to be free from imposition or intrusion).

To meet people’s positive face needs, we make statements that show concern, compliment, or use respectful forms of address. For example, it is polite to greet your instructor as Professor Reynolds (to use a respectful form of address) or to say Thanks for the tip on how to work that problem, it really helped (to compliment).

To meet people’s negative face needs, we make statements that recognize that we are imposing or intruding on the time of another. For instance, to recognize that you are imposing, you might say to your professor, I can see you’re busy, but I wonder whether you could take a minute to  or I know that you don’t have time to talk with me now, but I wanted to see whether there was a time that we could meet later today or tomorrow.

Although politeness is always important, it is especially so whenever we say something to a person that might cause the person to lose bee, statements that Brown and Levinson call face-threatening acts (FTAs). We are committing FTAs when our behavior fails to meet positive or negative face needs. The goal of politeness theory is not to avoid face threatening-it is normal. Rather, the goal is to lessen or eliminate potential conversational or relationship problems that could result from FTAs.

Suppose your professor returned a set of papers and you believe the grade you received was not reflective of the quality of the paper. You could, of course, say, “I don’t think you graded my paper fairly and I want you to reconsider the grade you gave me, a statement that is an ITA without consideration for politeness. Saying something like this that suggests that the professor may have been wrong or may have overlooked something might. well cause that professor to lose face. So, what might would be more. You have three choices.

1. My roommate said that you were fair and usually willing to. reconsider if there seemed to be a good reason. Although the request still contains a direct imposition on the professor, I would appreciate it” is much softer than I want you. Moreover, the effort to include a positive politeness statement that shows the professor has been kind enough to do favors when there might be a good reason is helpful as well.

2. You can make the FTA with negative politeness. “I’m sure you’re very busy and don’t have time to reread and remark every paper, but I’m hoping you’ll be willing to look at my paper again. To minimize the time it might take, I’ve marked the places that I’d like you to consider. I’ve also written comments to show why I phrased those sections as I did.” Although the request is still a direct imposition, it makes the statement that you recognize that you are imposing. It also suggests that you wouldn’t do it if there weren’t at least, potentially, good reasons. Moreover, you’ve taken time not only to limit how much the professor needs to look at but also to show why you thought the sections were in keeping with the assignment.

3. You can make the ITA indirectly or off the record. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I was surprised by a few of your comments.” By saying this in a casual way, y~u hope your professor might be curious enough to  ask what caused you to be surprised. With this opening, you can move to one of the more direct but face-saving approaches.

So, the question is, how do we choose whether to be polite and, if so, which of the three strategies do we Jose? Brown and Levinson (1987) believe this decision is affected by a combination of three factors.

1. How well people know each other and their relative status. The less familiar we are with someone and the higher that person’s social status, the more effort we will put into being polite.

2. The power the hearer has over the speaker. Most of us will work harder to be polite to those who are powerful than to those who are powerless.

3. The risk of hurting the other person. Most of us do not like to intentionally hurt others.

To show how you might apply this theory, let’s consider two examples. First, suppose you want to impose on your roommate to take a look at your paper before you turn it in to your professor. Your roommate is your friend, and you get along quite well. The imposition is relatively minor and only mildly threatening past, both of you have looked at work the other has done. Moreover, your roommate has no special power over you. In light .of these considerations, you might not put much effort into trying to be polite. You might make t is request without much regard to your roommate’s face needs and say, Danny, take a look at this paper. I need to hand it in tomorrow.

Second: suppose you wish to ask your professor to reread this paper before you submit it for a grade. Because your professor is not your friend (you are socially more distant) and because your professor has considerable power over you (he controls your grade), you will probably want to approach your professor more politely than you did your friend. As a result, you are likely to make a statement that includes a form of positive politeness or a statement that includes a form of negative politeness.

As you come to better understand face needs, you will become better able to accurately diagnose situations in which you should take particular care to engage in polite behavior. In addition, each of us can make the world a bit more humane by working at being polite regardless of situation imperatives.

Skills of Effective Electronically Mediated Conversationalists

Although  all of what we have discussed in this chapter is relevant to electronically  mediated (EM) communication, communicating online culls for some addition considerations. Whether you art conversing via email, in news groups, or in chat rooms, ) you will want to consider these issues.

Conversing via Email

Recall that email is electronic correspondence conducted between two or more users on a network. Although email would seem to be more like letter writing than conversation, email messages can be responded to shortly after they are sent so they start to approach a kind of conversation. Let’s consider ways that you can improve your email conversations.

1. Take advantage of delayed feedback. Many people treat email as conversation. As a result, we have a tendency to respond with the first thought that comes to mind and to pay little attention to how we are phrasing that thought. So a first step in improving your email use is to remember that you can and should edit what you write. Never send an email before you have reread what you have written and analyzed it in terms of both what you’ve said and how you’ve said it. Don’t just correct typos.

2. Include the wording that you are responding to in your email. Even though email exchanges may occur on the same day and even within minutes of each other, the originator may not remember exactly what he or she wrote to you originally. When you respond to specific points people made in their messages, it is to your advantage to repeat or paraphrase what they said before you respond.

3. Take into account the absence of nonverbal cues to meaning. Whether you are writing a message or responding to a message, keep in mind that the person cannot hear the. sound of your voice or see the look on your face or your use of gestures. Nonverbal communication may provide as much 66 percent of the social anteing of a message, so you must determine what you can do in writing will fill in the gaps of meaning.

Most specialists advise that you choose your words carefully and add more adjectives when appropriate. This advice will often fill in for the absence of nonverbal. For instance, instead of writing, What you said really bugged me,you might write, What you said had some merit; I was rather curt with my comments, but the way you said it really hurt my feelings. Now the reader will have a much better idea of your feelings about the response.

4. Use common abbreviations sparingly, if at all. Commonly used abbreviations may make your messages shorter, but they do not necessarily make them more meaningful. Although some frequent email users can easily decode these cryptic notations, many who receive these shorthand citations are at a loss to make sense of them. Some common email abbreviations include BTW (by the way), FWIW (for what it’s worth), and IMHO (in my humble opinion). We don’t sprinkle our conversation with such abbreviations, so why should we sprinkle our email messages with them? Moreover,  some receivers might be offended because you are not willing to really say what you mean but instead drop abbreviations.

An especially dangerous shortcut is the use of capital letters to show emphasis. Rather than making a statement sound important, too often all capital letter messages are perceived as threatening. All capitals in email messages are the equivalent of shouting in face to face conversation.

5. Keep in mind that email messages are not secure. Because email is so easy to use, we may write email messages that include very confidential material information, that we would ordinarily guard carefully. Keep in mind that a message you write is copied and stored (at least temporarily) on many computers been yours and the recipient’s. In some ways, email messages are like postcards. Anyone ‘carrying’ the message can read it, even if most would never do so (Churlish, 1997, p. 132). If you have something to say that is confidential, could be used against you  some way, or clued be totally misinterpret, It is better to convey  message in a written letter or a private phone call.

Conversing via Newsgroups and Internet Chat

Recall that a newsgroup is an electronic gathering place for people with similar interests and that Internet chat is online interactive message exchange between two or more people. In newsgroups you post articles and people post responses, and in a chat room typed responses appear instantly on participants’ computer screens. Thus Internet chat approximates face to face conversation in that feedback is relatively instantaneous.

Several of the recommendations for entail conversations are equally important in newsgroups and chat rooms. Still, both news groups and chat rooms are significantly different from email. For instance, once you have subscribed to a newsgroup, you can spend your time listening, posting articles, and responding to articles.

Listening, called lurking, gives you a kind of pseudo interaction with others. For instance, suppose you join a sports newsgroup that is formed to discuss. golfing. You will find that various people will have posted newsgroup articles on issues related to golf. These may range’ from articles discussing a favorite golfer (such as Tiger Woods, Robert Duvall, Julie Stinker, or Sri Pak) to those talking about ways to improve their game (driving, putting, chipping), to those about golf issues (etiquette, rules), and so forth. Then you can lurk by reading an article and the various responses generated by the article but not respond yourself. In this way, you get to learn a little about the personalities of posters and replies.

Posting-gives you a chance to see whether people want to reply to your particular thoughts. You may post an article and generate little if any response. But what you say may touch a nerve, and you may receive many replies, some of which may take the form of flaming, a hostile or negative response to what you have written. Some of these are for the specific purpose of getting you engaged in a flame war. Although you may enjoy such anonymous face to face verbal combat, more often than not you are wise to avoid taking the bait. In other words, you can just ignore any flaming message that you see.

Most important, posting leaves the door open for responses that are designed to get you engaged in interaction. That is a number of people respond, you may respond to a responded and thus begin a kind of relationship.

This leads us to the third way to spend time, and that is to respond. As mentioned, a thoughtful, favorable response may well motivate the poster to respond to your response.

In addition to the advice given for newsgroups, for chat rooms you will want to consider these two items as well. In most chat rooms, the conversation is focused on subject areas. Look for a chat room that is discussing the kinds of things you want to discuss (Snell, 1998, p. 258). Moreover, in a chat room everything that is typed appears on the screen. Most people try to preserve their anonymity by using nicknames rather than their real names. You can be whoever you want-so can everyone else. As a result, you really have no idea whether a person you are talking with is male or female, young or old, rich or poor.

Conversations, Problem Consideration Conversation & Conversational Rules


As Claude got into the car he casually asked Phyllis How’d thing go today?

Oh Phyllis said, as she shrugged her shoulder, Mindy lost her ball, but Ken found it.

That was nice of him.

Well, I guess saying Ken found it isn’t quite accurate actually his foot found it. Luckily the fall didn’t hurt him too badly.

What do you mean, the fail didn’t hurt him too badly? Claude asked totally confused.

Well Dr. Scott says a break like that is often less troublesome than a sprain.

Ken broke a bone and you say he’s not hurt too badly? Claude replied incredulously.

In comparison to the picture window Phyllis said indignant. The lamp went through it.

What does this have to do with Ken falling?

Everything When Ken fell he landed on Buddy who then leaped out of a sound sleep and bumped into the lamp.

Which fell through the picture window,  Claude finished.  is that all

Yes, unless Eleanor decides to sue.

our baby sister?  Sue about what?  Claude shouted.

Clam down, Claude. I just knew you’d get all excited about this. See, when the lamp crashed through the window, Eleanor jumped up to see what had happened and re injured here back. But I doubt she’ll sue. I offered to pay for her operation. But enough about this.

Claude How’d your day go.

Conversations are the medium of interpersonal communication and the building blocks of good interpersonal relationships. In fact, as Steven Duck, a leading  researcher on relationships, pointed out. If you were to sit and list the things that you do with friends, one of the  top items on the list would surely have to be talking. When conversations go well, they are informative, stimulating, and often just good fun. Yet like Claude and Phyllis’s, some conversations can be quite frustrating. By understanding how a conversation works and by taking advantage of its dynamics, we all can become more skillful in the everyday talks we have with others.

In this chapter, we define conversation and discuss its primary characteristics, discuss the types and structure of conversation, consider the rules that conversations follow, look at the cooperative principle that helps to explain how conversation works, and consider the skills of effective conversation. Finally, offer a competence test of conversation and supply a sample conversation and analysis for your consideration.

Characteristics of Conversation

Conversation is a locally managed interactive, informal, extemporaneous, and sequential interchange of thoughts and feelings between two or more people. This definition highlights several key features mentioned by Jan Genevieve (1999) that distinguish conversations from other forms of communication. First conversations are locally managed. This means only those involved in the conversation determine the order of specking, (be length each will speak are interactive; that is, they involve at least two people speaking and listening. Third, conversations are extemporaneous, which means the participants have not prepared or memorized what they will be saying. Fourth, conversations are sequentially organized; that is, they have openings, middles, and closings. Within each part of the conversation, what one participant says usually relates to what was said by previous speakers, unless the utterance is designed to change the topic on which the participants are conversing.

When people find a conversation satisfying, they tend to seek out the others for additional conversations. If, for instance, Dan meets Carl at a party and both of them found the talk they had about politics stimulating, they are likely to look forward to later conversations.

If results of a conversation are unsatisfactory, people will tend to avoid each other and not invest time or energy in further attempts to develop a relationship.

Types and Structures of Conversation

In this section, we will consider two common kinds of conversational situations that are structured differently: casual social conversation and pragmatic problem consideration conversation. Casual social conversations are marked by discussion . of topics that arise spontaneously, The discussion of these topics enables participants to share informational, and opinions and to hear the ideas and opinions of others. Casual social conversations help us to meet our interpersonal needs and to build and maintain our relationships. Pragmatic problem consideration  conversations are marked by participants’ agreeing to discuss and to resolve specific problems or to plot potential,courses of action.

The Structure of Casual Social Conversations

In a casual social conversation..a topic will be introduced and will be accepted or rejected. If others accept it, it will be discussed until such time as someone introduces another topic that others begin to discuss. A topic is rejected when others choose not to respond and when someone else introduces a different  topic that then becomes the focus. This topic change process occurs throughout the conversation.

Suppose Donna and Juanita attend a play together. As they find their seats about fifteen minutes before the play is set ,for begin, conversation may proceed as follows.

As they look around, Donna says, They really did an Art Deco thing with this place, didn’t they?

Yeah.  Hey, Juanita says: she surveys the audience, it looks as if this is going to be a sellout.

Certainly does I see people in the last row  of the balcony.

I thought this would be a popular show. It was a hit when it toured Louisville and I hear the attendance has been good all week.

Agreeing with Juanita, Donna adds, Lot’s of people I’ve talked with were trying to get tickets.

Well it’s good for the downtown.

Yeah, Donna says, as she glances at the notes on the cast. After a few seconds, she exclaims, I didn’t know Gloria Van Dell was from Cincinnati.

Notice what happened. Donna introduced the topic of decorative style. Juanita acknowledges the point, but chooses not to discuss it. Instead, she chooses a different topic. Donna accepts the topic with a parallel comment. Juanita introduces information about what had happened in Louisville. The conversation lasts for two more turns. Then Donna introduces a new topic.

For the remainder of the time before the show starts, Juanita and Donna could converse on one or more topics, sit and read their programs, or engage in some combination of conversing and reading.

The Structure of Pragmatic Problem Consideration Conversation

In pragmatic problem consideration conversation, the topic initiated requires the participants to deliberate and reach a conclusion. These conversations may be more orderly than social conversations and may have as many as five parts.

1 Greeting and small talk. Problem-consideration conversations usually open  with some kind of greeting followed by a very brief conversation on social topics, just to establish rapport.

2. Topic introduction and statement of need for discussion. In the second stage, one participant introduces the problem or issue that is the real purpose for the conversation. How this topic is presented or framed affects how the discussion will proceed.

3. Information exchange and processing. The conversation then progresses to a series of speaking turns, and participants share information and opinions, generate alternative solutions, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different options, and so on. Although each of these issues is likely to be addressed-the conversation will probably not be organized like a textbook problem-solving session. The conversationalists may move from subtopic to subtopic and circle back again.

4. Formal closing. Once the conversationalists have discussed the issue and clarified the next steps that will be taken, they are ready to end the problem consideration conversation. Endings enable -the conversationalists to either move to a social conversation, begin a new problem consideration, or simply disengage from one another. The formal closing often includes showing appreciation for the conversation.

Although such problem-consideration conversations will vary in length, depending on the nature of the topic and its complexity, the five steps can be seen in this brief dialogue.

April: Hi, Yolanda. How are you doing?

Yolanda: Oh, can’t complain too much.

April: I’m glad I ran into you I need to check something out with you.

Yolanda: Can we do this quickly? I’ve really got to get cracking on the speech I’m doing for class.

April: Oh, this will just take a minute. If I remember right, you said that you’d been to the Dells for dinner with Scot; I’d like to take Rob there to celebrate his birthday, but I wanted to know whether we’d really feel comfortable there.

Yolanda: Sure. It’s pretty elegant, but the prices aren’t bad and the atmosphere is really nice.

April: So you think we ran really the  dinner on fifty or sixty dollars?

Yolanda: Oh, yeah. We had a salad, dinner, and a dessert and our bill was under sixty even with the tip.

April: Thanks, Yolanda. 1 wanted to ask you ’cause I know you like to eat out when you can.

Yolanda: No problem. Gatta run. Talk with you later-and let me know how Rob liked it.

Rules of Conversation

Although our conversations seems to be random .activities with little form or structure, they are actually based on rules, unwritten prescriptions that indicate what behavior is obligated, preferred, or prohibited in certain contexts (Shiman off, 1980, p. 57). These unwritten rules give us clues as to what kinds of messages and behavior are proper in a given physical or social context or with a particular person or group of people, and they also provide with a fancywork in which to interpret the behavior of other.

Characteristics of Rules 

Let’s begin our discussion by considering what makes a rule a rule and how rules are phrased, As we do this, we will use a common conversation rule as an example. If one person is talking, another person should not interrupt.

1. Rules must allow for choice. This means that rules must give you a choice to follow them or not. When a person is speaking, you can hear the person out, or you can break the rule and interrupt the person-you have a choice.

2. Rules are prescriptive. A rule tells you what to do to be successful or effective. If you choose to break the rule, you risk being criticized or punished. If you choose to interrupt, you will be viewed as rude and the speaker might glare at you or verbally upbraid you .

3. Rules are contextual. This means that rules apply in some situations but may not apply under different conditions. So most of the time we don’t interrupt, but if there is an emergency-like a fire-it is all right to interrupt. When we communicate with people of a different race, sex, nationality, religion, political affiliation, class, organization, or group, however, effective communication is likely to be more difficult than when we communicate with people from our own culture because their communication rules may well be different from those with which we are familiar.

4. Rules specify appropriate human behavior. That means that rules focus on what to do or not do.

Phrasing Rules

Although we phrase rules·.in many ways, Shimanoff (1980) suggests that we are best able to understand a communication rule if it is stated in an if then format. She goes on to.state that a rule should begin with if to introduce the clause that specifies in whit context the rule is operable; the if clause should be followed by then, which introduces the clause that specifies the nature of the prescription and the behavior that is prescribed. So If X is the situation or context, then Y is obligated (preferred or prohibited).

Here are some conversational rules that are common to Western cultures. Notice that in some cases the word then has been omitted, but it is still implied.

If your mouth is full of food, then you must not talk.

If you are spoken to, you must reply.

If another does not hear a ask, then you must repeat it.

If you are being spoken to, you should direct your gaze to the speaker.

If more than two people are conversing, you should ensure each has equal time to speak.

If your conversational partners art significantly older then you, then you should refrain from using profanities and obscenities.

If you can’t say something nice, then you don’t say anything at all.

If you are going to say something that you don’t want overheard, then drop the volume of your voice.