Table of Contents
The book Interpersonal Communication: The Whole Story offers the reader an easy to understand information structurally divided into sections. The information is supported by numerous facts and data on communication presented in background theory, situations, quotations, statistics, speaking visuals, challenging questions, tests, and articles. In addition, the book has a division highlighted with a specific color signaling the beginning and the end of a certain part of the information. The author also presents key ideas with respect to the modern state of communication, raising issues of the modern world. The structure of the book allows learning the information in a few-step consistency, as every chapter is divided into smaller topics that, in their turn, summarize significant points with Learn It, Try It, and Reflect on It. The current paper provides a brief summary of six chapters of Interpersonal Communication: The Whole Story.
Chapter 1: About Communication
The chapter starts with a story to make it easier for the reader to follow the basics of the issue. The author asks four questions in every part of the book, and he starts with “why?” First, people communicate on a physical level and communicating is a human physical need because, this way, individuals maintain their health. The supplementary idea here is the relation between biology and communication. Second, by means of communication, individuals can maintain relationships with people they care. The next reason is identity needs that, with the help of socializing, reveal the attitude toward individuals and enable people’s identification by others. Then, communication as a spiritual need allows a person to present one’s religious beliefs and essential values. Finally, communication is an instrument that organizes people’s life, ranging from ordering a drink to earning a promotion.
The following aspect of the background is the nature of communication. Scientists define three models of communication: an action, an interaction, and a transaction. As the information presented in this part bears scientific meaning, the reader may have a close look at schematic visuals and check the meaning of some terms on the margins, making understanding even easier. While presenting six characteristics of communication, the author introduces familiar examples like scenes from the show Friends or the movie Mean Girls. The main idea of the characteristics lies in the rules of communication that underline that not everything people say is the same that others understand. The next important information is the myths that create problems while socializing. One disturbing point discussed here is cell phones that disrupt relationships in numerous ways.
Interpersonal communication is another aspect of the background. Communication becomes interpersonal with time when two people build and develop any kind of relationship along with communication, where the latter defines the state of the former. This communication is essential as it promotes health and other benefits in a particular relationship. One issue highlighted at the end of this part is the importance of having friends and talking to them because it improves health and prolongs life.
The last point of the chapter reveals the meaning of building a personal communication competence and characteristics of a competent communicator. The competence involves communicating effectively and appropriately. The interlocutor is competent with such traits as self-awareness, adaptability, empathy, cognitive complexity, and ethics. Readers may find it useful to identify their level of empathy by means of a test.
Chapter 2: Culture and Gender
The structure of the chapter involves presenting the lead-in story revealing all the odds of communication affected by culture and gender. The first question here is “what is culture?” The culture is a set of specific symbols, language, values, and norms. Differences in these aspects define in-groups and out-groups in communication. An alarming issue raised in the context is stereotyping people and racial discrimination on the example of a Muslim student and the shift of attitude toward him after a dramatic event of 9/11. A vivid example of the cultural identity is the Pitt’s family and their adopted children. In spite of the diverse origin, these children will have cultural peculiarities that their parents represent. A particular population may share some values, customs, and norms that become a common ground for communication and building co-culture and inside co-cultures. Moreover, every person is multicultural with respect to age, ethnicity, and preferences, among others.
The second emphasis of the chapter is the impact of culture on communication presented on the principles found by a Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede. He differentiates several divisions of cultural differences that may affect communication. Individualism (the Unites States) versus collectivism (Japan) are two cultures that promote individual expression and achievements opposed to the sense of family, community, or company for which the person works. Furthermore, high- and low-context cultures emphasize their thoughts in a more or less simple way. The United States is the example of a low-context culture where people tend to say what they think, openly express an opinion, and make others see things the way they see. In contrast, Native Americans are representatives of a high-context culture as they speak in an ambiguous manner. Low- and high-power distance is the dimension of cultures where power is concentrated in the hands of more or fewer people. Low power means that more people have access to a decision-making process while high power involves a secluded number of powerful individuals. The next factor is masculine versus feminine cultures where the first cultural representatives share male values while the latter group appreciates the quality of life and serving people. Moreover, monochronic and polychronic cultures relate differently to the sense of time. For example, it will be normal for a monochronic orientation to attend the meeting in time and it will be normal for a polychronic culture to be late. Another aspect of differences is the uncertainty avoidance, meaning that some cultures meet problematic situations and the process of changes with a higher or lower level of difficulty. Finally, the last dimension is cultural communication codes that encounter unique idioms, jargon, and gestures.
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One of the stumbling points of communication is the gender that broadly embraces gender roles, sex, and sexual orientation. Self-reflection in this section is the test that offers to discover personal cultural sensitivity. The roles that can be feminine, masculine, and androgynous are flexible and dynamic. Another test may help the reader define one of these roles. The author exemplifies some US shows that bear specific characteristics: Father Knows Best represents masculinity while The Sex and the City portrays a mix of roles. Regarding biological differences, being a man or a woman is a more complicated issue defined by such factors as psychology, genetics, and anatomy. The last point is a sexual orientation that may affect communication. However, specialists do not have a single answer to a question whether men and women communicate in a different way. The hot point of the topic is heterosexual versus homosexual couples in building stronger relationships.
How exactly gender affects communication is the last section of the chapter. The two constituents are verbal and non-verbal communication. As supplementary information, women are actually not more talkative than men are. Unfortunately, linguistic violence is as common as physical and gender prejudice.
Chapter 3: Communication and the Self
Presenting the story of two teenagers, the author provides the first aspect of the topic, stating that self-concept defines the self. Two American psychologists presented this aspect with the help of their innovative visual named Johari Window. This visual consists of four parts – open, hidden, blind, and unknown areas – that reflect the correlation of how well people are known for themselves and others. Individuals play multifaceted roles and constantly reopen themselves when the circumstances change. Human biology and personality are only the beginning of defining self as people grow and obtain cultural traits and gender roles, interact with others, receive a reflected appraisal, and compare themselves with others. The additional data here is the study of identical twins who reveal similarities in spite of environmental differences.
Self-esteem reflects on what a person is worth. A short test helps define this aspect of a personality. Higher self-esteem allows reaching higher goals and implementing more plans. With this respect, the United States is a country where self-esteem influences happiness. However, the relation of culture, sex, and self-esteem highlights cultural peculiarities. For example, women in ethnic minorities tend to have higher self-esteem than men do. In general, how people reflect on themselves depends on the needs and their fulfillment. The more individuals meet the needs for control over their life and others and the more they engage in social activities, the better people they think they are.
The discussion continues with image management. Individuals collaborate with other people and develop different images depending on the environment and specific relationships. A bright example is DiCaprio’s role in Catch Me If You Can where he manages to wear and change the masks of different roles as a teacher or even a pilot. Although this movie bears an entertaining context, a more tragic experience of interpersonal communication may take place. The hot point that supports the topic is a dramatic experience of HIV-positive people who face or mentally expect a set of changes in personal behavior and attitude toward them. In addition, everybody has such a desired public image, in other words, face needs, like fellowship face, autonomy face, and competence face. On the other hand, people try to avoid face-threatening acts that affect some face needs.
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Overall, people tend to send messages of who they are directly doing the act of self-disclosure. Describing the characteristics of this process, an important theoretical background is social penetration theory that utilizes the image of onion to deliver the idea of a multilayered influence of society on relationship and communication. For those who practice self-disclosure, such communicational openness is beneficial but it also bears some risks. Some food for thoughts as additional information is the argument about men or women to be more self-disclosing.
Chapter 4: Interpersonal Perception
As mentioned in previous chapters, communication is not a unified system of symbols and messages because, in various cultures, they have different extent of perception. In interpersonal perception, people try to apply their understanding of what their interlocutor tries to deliver. The process of perceiving has three stages: selection of stimuli that draw one’s attention, the organization of the information, and personified interpretation of the information. Misinterpretation occurs due to numerous reasons like psychological states and traits, belonging to cultures and co-cultures with differences in the constituents of cultures, and social roles. Regarding the negative aspect of the perception, interpersonal communication with marginalized populations often encounters misperception in the form of prejudice and discrimination.
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Human interpretation of communication messages does not necessarily coincide with the truth as interpersonal perception depends on several factors. Stereotyping is supported by generalizations about people whom one projects to be a representative of a certain culture. The primacy effect creates the first impression with the recency effect that maintains the latest impression. People’s perceptual list filters the information they want and are ready to perceive. Egocentrism restricts the perception of people who are different. The opposite of being egocentric is being altercentric. The test provided in this chapter helps discover the personal perception. Lastly, positivity and negativity biases are the two sides of perception that could either discover only positive in a person or vice versa.
Attributions make sense of everything that surrounds individuals, including explanations of behavior and communication messages. Locus defines the internal or external causes of behavior. Stability defines the stable or changeable causes of behavior. Controllability is the factor that defines whether the behavior is a controllable act or not. All three dimensions are interrelated and compose different combinations. However, misinterpretations may be avoided knowing how to recognize attribution errors. Self-serving bias attributes successes with internal causes and failures with external causes. The fundamental attribution error is viewing someone’s failures as internal causes. Overattribution occurs in the cases where one characteristic defines the whole behavior in spite of different behavioral images. The research example outlines over attribution in couples as the cause of verbal aggression against women. However, the study does not go beyond the marital relationship.
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Perception is a skill that one can develop to enhance the level of interpersonal communication. To become more mindful about interpreting messages and better understanding the others, the best practices are to know oneself better, pay attention to the characteristics of a person, and focus on the context of the message. Particular methods may help check the relevance of perception. The primary focus is on facts rather than on the characteristics attributed to those facts. Once assigned a certain meaning, alternative meanings may discover different dimensions of perception. A good practice would be to double-check the assigned meaning by doubting it. The backup information from an additional section gives the insight into the process of perception, stating that a more detailed analysis with more information alleviates the process of making the right interpretation. All the points are generalized in the form of a clear systematic visual.
Chapter 5: Language
Language helps communicate by means of symbols. However, being a part of a culture, language is not unified but bears specific characteristics that differ from culture to culture. The language uses a set of different symbols to describe an object or idea. Words are arbitrary as almost every word has its separate meaning attributed to a certain concept. Phonological, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic rules govern the language and create the structure that one can understand within the culture. On the other hand, along with a single meaning of the word attributed to objects or ideas, some words have a connotative meaning that differs from a primary meaning. The semantic triangle builds the three-dimensional understanding of the concept presented by the visual interpretation of the word along with its denotative and connotative meanings. Moreover, some words, named loaded language, have a relation to positive or negative concepts by default. Although the denotation of the word is clear, the connotation of the word is attributed cutting off other dimensions of the matter. The most complicated issue, especially for foreign language learners, is an ambiguous language, especially words that bear more than one meaning. Language clarity refers to the concrete or abstract meaning of the word. Samuel Hayakawa offers a “ladder of abstraction” that provides the consistency of the meaning moving from abstract toward concrete meaning. In addition, some words have no equivalents in other languages as they are used in a certain context and culture. Sapir-Whorf put forward the hypothesis that language outlines the way people think and see the world. The idea resides on such principles of the language as linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity. Further, in a short article, the author offers readers to think about the idea that language determines what individuals think.
The words are a powerful tool of identification. By giving the name to someone or something, people define and differentiate things from one another. The practice of giving names to children defines the culture with respect to historical and religious peculiarities. Words are the means of persuading with particular techniques aimed at diverse needs. One of them is anchor-and-contrast where the first step is to say the fact that all people agree with followed by the request actually needed. The norm of reciprocity is another persuasive strategy when the backup persuasive factor is repaying favors. The social validation principle is the persuasive technique that involves building common ground as a norm for everybody involved in the process of communication. Without using special strategies, some words are more persuasive than others are. These words are clichés, dialects, equivocation, weasel words, and allness statements. The words bear the potential of bringing the comfort to people and their interlocutors. A longitudinal study defined that married couples, who spoke more in marriage, tended to save their relationship longer – up to 13 years.
People use language in different ways, sometimes in the forms that one can understand in a good or bad way. Such examples of a misuse are humor, euphemisms, slang, libel and slander, profanity, and hate speech. In a rising scale, these forms of language bear a different extent of having an offensive meaning. As an extension, the author presents the article discovering the peculiarities of the first-person terminology while contacting with impaired personalities.
The use of language could become the point of self-development aimed at becoming a better verbal communicator. Surprisingly, the first step is projecting the result of the speech, which would tailor the lexical content to the chosen goal. In addition, three basic mistakes ruin the impression of a talk: shared knowledge errors, shared opinion errors, and monopolization errors. Useful skill is to emphasize opinion separately from the statements to avoid clichés and respond adequately. The test helps the reader define this skill. The best impact of the speech is when all the participants of the process feel equal. Choosing the appropriate level of communication meets this need. Another successful technique is saying I-statements instead of you-statements.
Chapter 6: Nonverbal Communication
Reaching the topic of nonverbal communication, the reader enters the kingdom of messages beyond the words sent by means of physical expression. The main characteristic of nonverbal speech is ever-present in the communication. Surprisingly, contrasted to verbal messages, nonverbal communication delivers more messages and is believed more than the verbal one. Nonverbal signals reveal one’s emotional state mostly by means of facial expression. Finally, nonverbal communication is meta-communicative as people send messages that support the emotional shade of the message. The extensional article discusses the fact that despite cultural differences in interpreting verbal and nonverbal language, vocal expressions have a similar interpretation throughout the world. Along with already mentioned vocal behaviors and facial displays that send messages to the interlocutor, scientists also define eye behavior, movement and gestures, tough behaviors, the use of smell, the use of space, physical appearance, the use of time, and the use of artifacts.