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Chapter Outline

  1. Why we communicate—All humans have a need to communicate, as satisfying relationships can literally be a matter of life and death, and while not everyone needs the same amount of contact, personal communication is essential for physical well-being.

    1. Physical needs are affected by communication, as its presence or absence affects physical health.
    2. Identity needs are met through communication, which is the major way we learn who we are as humans, as we enter the world with little or no sense of identity and only gain one by the way others define us.
    3. Social needs are met through communication, as it is the principle way relationships are created.
    4. Practical needs are met through communication every day, as it serves important functions.

  2. The Communication Process—Human communication, using messages to generate meaning, is a complex process with many components.

    1. A model of communication was created in the 1950s to capture the communication process.

      1. The linear model was composed of a sender, message, and receiver.
      2. Later models began to incorporate feedback.
      3. Communication theorists develop sophisticated transactional communication models in an attempt to depict all the factors that affect human interaction.

    2. The communication model replaces the roles of sender and receiver (which can be impossible to distinguish) with the term "communicator."
      1. Meanings exist in and among peoples' messages, verbal or nonverbal; these messages do not have inherent meanings, because meanings reside in the people who express and interpret them.
      2. Feedback indicates a response to the previous message.
      3. Environment and noise affect communication.
        1. Environments are fields of experience that help people make sense of others' behavior.
        2. Noise is anything that interferes with the transmission and reception of a message.

          1. External noise includes different kinds of distractions that are outside the receiver that make it difficult to hear.
          2. Physiological noise involves biological factors that interfere with reception.
          3. Psychological noise refers to cognitive factors that lessen the effectiveness of communication.

      4. Channels make a difference, as channels are the medium through which messages are exchanged, and the selection of the channel depends in part on the kind of message that is being sent.

    3. Communication Principles—In addition to the insights of the communication model, there are other principles that guide understanding of communication.

      1. Communication is transactional; communication is a dynamic process that the participants create through their interaction with one another.
      2. Communication has a content and a relational dimension. The content dimension involves the information being explicitly discussed, while the relational dimension expresses how you feel about the other person.
      3. Communication can be intentional or unintentional, as all behavior has communicative value.
      4. Communication is irreversible; it is impossible to "unreceive" a message, as words and deeds, once said or done, are irretrievable.
      5. Communication is unrepeatable, because the same words and behavior are different each time they are spoken or performed.

    4. Communication misconceptions—Avoiding these common misconceptions can save you trouble in your personal life.

      1. Not all communication seeks understanding. It is a flawed assumption that the goal of all communication is to maximize understanding between communicators; instead, social rituals we enact every day attempt to influence others. Deliberate ambiguity and deception are examples of communication in which understanding is not the primary goal.
      2. More communication is not always better, as excessive communication is unproductive or even aggravates a problem; there are times when no interaction is the best course of action.
      3. Communication will not solve all problems, because even the best-timed and best-planned communication cannot fix all problems.
      4. Effective communication is not a natural ability, because most people operate at a level of effectiveness far below their potential.

  3. Interpersonal communication defined: Some types of communication are uniquely interpersonal.

    1. Quantitative and qualitative definitions of interpersonal communication have been defined in the following ways:

      1. Quantitative definitions of interpersonal communication are based on the number of participants (which is two—called a dyad) and the terms "dyadic communication" and "interpersonal communication" may be used interchangeably because they are both interaction between two people, which is different than group interaction.
      2. Qualitative definitions are based on the quality and nature of the interpersonal relationship, not the number of participants.

    2. Most relationships fall somewhere between personal and impersonal.

  4. Communication competence is defined as communication that is both effective and appropriate.

    1. There are several characteristics of communication competence.

      1. There is no single ideal or effective way to communicate. The definition of what communication is appropriate in a given situation varies considerably from one culture to another.
      2. Competence is situational, as communication competence is not absolute but exists in degrees or areas of competence.
      3. Competence can be learned; it is a set of skills that anyone can learn.

    2. There are several common characteristics that characterize effective communication in most contexts.

      1. A large repertoire of skills can help communicators achieve a variety of goals.
      2. In addition to having a large repertoire, one must be adaptable and able to choose the right one for the situation.
      3. Once you have chosen the appropriate way to communicate, you must practice to become skillful.
      4. Effective communication occurs when the people involved care about one another and about the topic at hand.
      5. Empathy/perspective taking is the ability to understand and influence others.
      6. Cognitive complexity is the ability to construct a variety of different frameworks for viewing an issue.
      7. Self-monitoring describes the process of paying close attention to one's own behavior and using these observations to shape the way one behaves; this generally increases one's effectiveness as a communicator.

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