Communication Competence Model: A Foundation for Students
The communication competence model is one of our discipline's unique contributions to understanding and improving human behavior. A premise of this book is that communication competence, whether in the arena of interpersonal relations, small-group work, public speaking, or communication technology, is critical to student success and achievement. The five components of the model—knowledge, skill, sensitivity, commitment, and ethics—for achieving communication effectiveness and appropriateness underscore the complexity of the communication process and provide direction and guidance for students. The model is integrated throughout the text, not merely discussed in the first chapter and then dropped entirely or mentioned only briefly in later chapters. Communication competence icons appear in margins throughout the text to highlight the pervasive influence of this model on material presented in every chapter. Most topics and issues in the text, including perception of self and others, intercultural and gender communication, language use, listening, transacting power, managing conflict, and using communication technologies, are analyzed from the model's perspective. In addition, "Developing Communication Competence" boxes are included in each chapter to help students improve their communication.
Cooperation: A Recurring Theme
Cooperation is a recurring theme of this book. One of the great potential contributions of the communication discipline is that not only can we discuss cooperation theoretically, but we can also provide specific, concrete advice on how to structure human transactions so cooperation can become a reality. Many textbooks in several disciplines pay lip service to the need for human cooperation, but they are noticeably devoid of informed, research supported suggestions regarding how to make it happen. This does little more than frustrate students who are looking for practical guidance on working collaboratively. In the Company of Others thoroughly addresses the issue of cooperation in a variety of communication contexts. This book is based on the assumption that cooperation should be embraced, nurtured, and cultivated.
Integration of Gender and Culture
Gender and culture are important themes because we live in a world of increasing diversity. In the Company of Others treats gender and culture as integral parts of the overall discussion of communication. Gender receives special attention early in the text, and culture and gender are the main subjects of Chapter 3. This material is thoroughly integrated in subsequent chapters. Topics related to gender and culture include cultural differences in perception and nonverbal meanings, the role of gender and culture in powerful/powerless language, cross-cultural friendships and romantic relationships, gender and cultural bias in the workplace, the effects of communication technologies on cultural transactions, leadership and the glass ceiling in groups, and many others.
A Fresh Look at Communication Technologies
No one can doubt the enormous impact communication technologies are having on our lives. How we cope with these technologies and the huge changes they bring is a vital issue. Technological changes and advances are addressed in substantial detail throughout the text, but particular emphasis is given to the influence of technologies on social relationships (see especially Chapter 8). In the Company of Others provides the most extensive coverage of technology and its impact on our communication of any textbook on the market. Subjects include social online networks, cyberlove and cyberdating, e-dumping, text messaging and language, electronic technology and information overload, cyberaddiction, cyberconflicts, virtual groups, cell phone and online etiquette, Wikipedia, and Internet research and misinformation, among others.
Emphasis on Power
Power is inherent in every human transaction. It is perplexing that many textbooks give so little attention to the integral role power plays in all human relationships. The communication discipline has many valuable insights to offer on this important subject that require more than perfunctory, obligatory mention. Chapter 7 gives special focus and detailed analysis to the subject of power in relationships, and later chapters include additional discussions and applications. Such topics as the effects of power imbalances in relationships, sexual harassment in the workplace, sources of personal power, strategies for transacting power competently and cooperatively, and ways to empower ourselves and others are addressed.
Focus on Critical Thinking
Asking students to think critically and to determine which ideas and conclusions make sense may strike some students as promoting closed-mindedness. "Shouldn't all ideas be given an equal hearing?" Chapter 6 explores skepticism and the probability model like no other textbook, discussing the issue of open- and closed-mindedness in the process. Open-mindedness is explained as following where the evidence and reasoning lead, while closed-mindedness is accepting or rejecting an idea or conclusion despite what the evidence and reasoning suggest. Chapters 12, 13, 14, and 15 offer further coverage of critical thinking, with a focus on using sound reasoning and concrete evidence to build both informative and persuasive speeches. The "Focus on Controversy" boxes in every chapter also encourage critical thinking from student readers about current issues.
"Focus on Controversy" Boxes
Communication theory separated from the realities of a complex and not always pleasant world can seem sadly irrelevant to students faced with vexing problems. "Getting real" means to me that embracing a discussion of the tough realities of our challenging social relationships in a frenetic, hypercompetitive world has direct relevance to students' lives. Addressing important controversies directly can provide significant opportunities for student learning. The aim is to show students how to weigh evidence and draw conclusions supported by research. Examples of topics include the ethics of hypercompetitiveness, the issue of absolute honesty in relationships, excessive self-esteem, gender and relationship violence, verbal obscenity, texting as language, and plagiarism of public speeches. Every controversy receives a balanced treatment. Conclusions are drawn and thought-provoking questions are posed. Treatment of relevant controversies will certainly spark interesting discussion in the classroom and, more importantly, trigger critical thinking from students.
Extensive Treatment of Speech Anxiety and Attention Strategies
In the Company of Others provides the most extensive treatment of speech anxiety of any human-communication textbook. Speech anxiety is the most important concern on most students' minds when they are told that giving speeches will be a required activity in class. Also, no hybrid textbook on communication covers attention strategies as thoroughly as In the Company of Others. Let's face facts: no one wants to listen to boring speeches and no one wants to present a speech that puts the audience in a stupor. Attention strategies are a vital part of an effective speech.
Carefully Composed Model Speeches
A major concern I had with general communication textbooks before I wrote In the Company of Others was the discrepancy between text descriptions and actual models of informative and persuasive speeches. Often the model speech even contradicted advice provided in the main text. Model informative and persuasive speeches have been carefully composed to illustrate the advice offered in the text.
Samuel Johnson's comment, "What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure," guided the writing of this textbook. Readability is a vital concern to me. Textbooks should not induce a coma, although it is understandable why some might cause eyelids to slam shut. Textbooks are not meant to read like the latest Stephen King novel, but they don't need to be a horror by reading like an instruction manual for installing and setting up your new flat-screen TV. Similarly, an overly dense, theoretical text written in technical language can impede clarity and understanding for students and create the kind of frustration many people experience when reading manuals for the latest computer software. Consequently, I searched in obvious and not-so-obvious places for the precise example, the amusing illustration, the poignant event, and the dramatic instance to engage readers, enhance enjoyment, and improve clarity. Colorful language and lively metaphors are sprinkled throughout the text to provide vividness. Humor is plentiful.