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Chapter 8 Interpersonal Communication
Interpersonal Communication • Interpersonal communication is “an interactional process in which one person sends a message to another.” • It involves at least two people. • It is a process involving a series of actions. • It is not “one-way”, but bi-directional.
Interpersonal Communication, continued • Components of the communication process • The sender – “person who initiates the message”. • The receiver – “person to whom the message is targeted”. • The message – “the information or meaning that is transmitted from the sender to the receiver”.
Interpersonal Communication, continued • Components, continued • The channel – “refers to the sensory channel through which the message reaches the receiver”. • The noise – “any stimulus that interferes with accurately expressing or understanding a message”. • The context – “environment in which communication takes place”.
Technology and Interpersonal Communication • Electronically mediated communication “is interpersonal communication that takes places via technology”. • Although technology offers convenience, there are some disadvantages: • Overlap between work and home. • Intrusion of private conversations into public spaces. • Absence of non-verbal cues that convey meaning in face-to-face interactions.
Communication and Adjustment • Effective communication is essential for many important aspects of life. • Good communication enhances satisfaction in relationships. • Poor communication is a major cause of relationship break-ups.
Nonverbal Communication, continued • Nonverbal communication – “is the transmission of meaning from one person to another through means or symbols other than words”. • A great deal of information is conveyed in this manner, so it is important to recognize the general principles of nonverbal communication.
Nonverbal Communication, continued • General principles of nonverbal communication • It conveys emotions: facial expressions and body posture can convey how we feel without words. • It is multichanneled: we use facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, vocal tone, and body language. • It is ambiguous: body language can be difficult to interpret.
Nonverbal Communication, continued General principles, continued • It may contradict verbal messages: we may say one thing, but our body conveys something different. • It is culture-bound: nonverbal signals vary from one culture to another.
Elements of Nonverbal Communication • Personal space • Proxemics - “the study of personal space”. • Personal space – “a zone of space surrounding a person that is felt to ‘belong’ to that person”. • Preference for amount of personal space depends on • Culture (see Figure 8.4). • Status of the individuals involved. • How well you know the person.
Figure 8.4. Interpersonal distance zones. According to Edward Hall (1996), people like to keep a certain amount of distance between themselves and others. The distance that makes one feel comfortable depends on with whom one is interacting and the nature of the situation.
Elements, continued • Facial expression • Facial expressions convey basic emotions, recognized by people around the world. • However, there are culture-specific norms, called display rules, that govern the expression of emotion. • There are also gender differences in expression of emotion, with most males showing less expression than do females.
Elements, continued • Eye contact • Duration of eye contact is the most meaningful aspect of this channel of nonverbal communication. • Among European Americans, high levels of eye contact are associated with effective social skills and credibility. • However, eye contact is judged as offensive by other cultures (e.g., Native American tribes).
Elements, continued Eye contact, continued • Eye contact also conveys intensity of feelings. • In a positive context (e.g., romantic partners), long gazes signal loving feelings, but • In a negative context (e.g., road rage), long gazes are interpreted as stares, and they make people uncomfortable. • Finally, eye contact is affected by status and gender (see Figure 8.6).
Figure 8.6. Visual dominance, status, and gender. Women typically show low visual dominance (see control condition) because they are usually accorded lower status than men (Dovidio, et al. 1988). However, when researchers placed women in a high-power position and measured their visual behavior, women showed the high visual dominance pattern, and men showed the low visual dominance pattern. When men were placed in the high-power position, the visual dominance patterns reversed. Thus, visual dominance seems to be more a function of status than of gender.
Elements, continued • Body language • Kinesics – “the study of communication through body movements”. • An “open” posture (e.g., arms uncrossed and down at sides) conveys a relaxed state. • A “closed” posture (arms crossed) conveys defensiveness or tension. • Finally, hand gestures emphasize the words we speak.
Elements, continued • Touch • Where and whom we touch conveys a variety of meanings, especially status and power. • There are strong norms that govern where we touch friends. • Female-female pairs touch more often than do male-male pairs. • Cross-gender touch is interpreted as support by females, but as power or sexual interest by males.
Elements, continued • Paralanguage • Paralanguage – “includes all vocal cues other than the content of the verbal message itself”. • Variations in vocal emphasis can give different meanings to the same words. • Variations in speech also convey emotions (e.g., rapid speech indicates anxiety or excitement).
Elements, continued Detecting deception • Nonverbal cues that actually indicate deception are often different from those most people believe indicate deception (see Figure 8.9). • For example: • Liars often say less, not more. • Liars are not necessarily good “storytellers” and include less unusual content in stories. • Liars are more tense and make a more negative impression on the listener.
Figure 8.9. Detecting deception from nonverbal behaviors. This chart summarizes evidence on which nonverbal cues are actually associated with deception and which are believed to be a sign of deception, based on a research review by DePaulo, Stone, and Lassiter (1985).
The Significance of Nonverbal Communication • Nonverbal sensitivity – “the ability to accurately encode (express) and decode (understand) nonverbal cues”. • Woman tend to be better encoders and decoders. • However, this may stem from higher motivation. • Thus, anyone can improve their nonverbal skills.
More Effective Communication, continued • Conversation skills: five steps for making successful “small talk” • Indicate you are open to conversation by commenting on your surroundings. • Introduce yourself. • Select a topic others can relate to. • Keep the conversation ball rolling. • Make a smooth exit.
More Effective Communication, continued • Self-disclosure – “the act of sharing information about yourself with another person” is important to adjustment for several reasons. • Sharing problems with others plays a key role in mental health. • Emotional self-disclosures lead to feelings of closeness. • Self-disclosure in romantic relationships is associated with relationship satisfaction.
More Effective Communication, continued Self-disclosure, continued • Reducing the risks of self disclosure • Disclose information to others gradually. • Don’t disclose more than the other is willing to disclose. • Watch for nonverbal “stop” cues from others. • Be aware of risks associated with electronic disclosures.
More Effective Communication, continued Self-disclosure, continued • Self-disclosure and relationship development • Self-disclosure varies over the course of relationships. • At the beginning, there are high levels of mutual self-disclosure, which taper off as the relationship becomes established. • In established relationships, disclosures are not necessarily reciprocated.
More Effective Communication, continued Relationship development, continued • Movement away from reciprocal self-disclosures in established relationships occurs for two reasons: • There is more of a need for support than a reciprocal disclosure from the other person. • The need for privacy outweighs the need for mutual self-disclosure.
More Effective Communication, continued Self-disclosure, continued • Culture, gender, and self-disclosure • Personal self-disclosures occur more in individualistic cultures, whereas disclosures about one’s group membership are the norm in collectivist cultures. • Females tend to disclose more than do males, and this trend is strongest within same-gender friendships.
More Effective Communication, continued • Tips for effective listening • Signal your interest in the speaker by using nonverbal cues • Face the speaker squarely. • Lean toward him or her. • Try not to cross arms and legs. • Maintain eye contact.
More Effective Communication, continued Tips for effective listening, continued • Hear the other person out before you respond. • Engage in “active listening” by • Asking for clarification if information is ambiguous. • Paraphrasing what the person said by restating the speaker’s main points to ensure you have interpreted correctly. • Pay attention to the other’s nonverbal cues.
Communication Problems • LEARNING OBJECTIVES • Discuss some common responses to communication apprehension. • Identify five barriers to effective communication.
Communication Problems, continued • Communication apprehension – “or anxiety caused by having to talk with others” is usually followed by one of four responses: • Avoidance – choosing not to participate. • Withdrawal – “clamming up” in conversation you cannot escape. • Disruption – the inability to make fluent statements. • Overcommunication – (e.g., nervous speech).
Communication Problems, continued • Barriers to effective communication • Defensiveness– “excessive concern with protecting oneself from being hurt”. • Ambushing – listening carefully only to then verbally attack the speaker. • Motivational distortion – hearing what you want to hear. • Self-preoccupation – being so self-absorbed the other person cannot equally participate.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued • Beliefs about conflict • Most people believe any kind of conflict is bad. • However, avoiding conflict is usually counterproductive and leads to a self-perpetuating cycle (see Figure 8.12). • It is better to confront conflicts constructively so that issues can be aired and resolved.
Figure 8.12. The conflict avoidance cycle. Avoiding conflict can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle: (1) people think of conflict as bad, (2) they get nervous about a conflict they are experiencing, (3) they avoid the conflict as long as possible, (4) the conflict gets out of control and must be confronted, and (5) they handle the confrontation badly. In turn, this negative experience sets the stage for avoiding conflict the next time—usually with the same negative outcome. (Adapted from Lulofs, 1994)
Interpersonal Conflict, continued • Five types of conflict • Pseudoconflict– false conflict from game playing. • Fact-based conflict – disagreement about factual issues. • Policy conflict – disagreement about how to handle a situation. • Value-based conflict – disagreement that occurs when people hold opposing values. • Ego-based conflict – emphasis on winning over resolving the conflict.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued • Styles of managing conflict • Two dimensions (concern for self and concern for others) underlie five distinct patterns of managing conflict (see Figure 8.14). • Avoiding/withdrawing (low concern for self and others). • Accommodating (low concern for self, high concern for others). • Competing/forcing (high concern for self, low concern for others).
Figure 8.14. Five styles of handling interpersonal conflict. In dealing with discord, individuals typically prefer one of five styles. The two dimensions of concern for self and concern for others underlie each of the five styles.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued Styles of managing conflict, continued: • Compromising (moderate concern for self and others). • Collaborating (high concern for self and others). • While compromising simply involves “splitting the difference”, collaborating involves finding a solution that is maximally satisfying to both parties.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued • Dealing constructively with conflict • Make communication honest and open. • Use specific behavior to describe another person’s annoying habits rather than general statements about their personality. • Avoid “loaded” words. • Use a positive approach and help the other person “save face”.
Interpersonal Conflict, continued Dealing constructively with conflict, continued • Limit complaints to recent behavior and to the current situation. • Assume responsibility for your own feelings and preferences. • Try to use an assertive communication style.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued • The nature of assertiveness • Assertiveness – “involves acting in your own best interests by expressing your thoughts and feelings directly and honestly”. • In contrast, submissive communication involves “giving in” to others. • Individuals who use this style report feeling bad about being “pushovers”.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued The nature of assertiveness, continued • Aggressive communication is different from assertiveness and “focuses on saying and getting what you want at the expense of others”. • Assertive communication is more adaptive than either submissive or aggressive communication, and is a skill that can be learned through assertiveness training.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued • Steps in assertiveness training: • Understand what assertive communication is. • Don’t forget about nonverbal cues. • Monitor your assertive communication. • Identify when you are not assertive, find out who intimidates you, on what topics, and in which situations.
Developing an Assertive Style, continued Steps in assertiveness training, continued • Observe a model’s assertive communication. • Practice assertive communication by using • Covert rehearsal – imagine using assertiveness in a situation that requires it. • Role playing – ask a friend to play the role of an antagonist so you can practice. • Adopt an assertive attitude.