"Communication Matters"

Chapter 18
Interactions: Concerns of morality, Communication, and Power
Griffin cites Pooles theory of interaction saying, “Group members are 'skilled and knowledgeable actors who reflexively monitor their activities as they navigate a continuous flow of intentionality'” (239). I remember dialogue being defined as, intentional interaction and communication with another person. So group dialogue is an essential way of guaging patterns. We use reciprocity and symmetry in groups just as much as we do in one on one communication interactions. I notice that when I am in a group, I tend to take the leader position, because I am comfortable with that. But if I notice people feeling uncomfortable about that, or someone else wanting to step-up, I usually back down. In other cases, I have seen a need and desire for equilibrium among members. I try to reflect and provide those needs by using turn-taking and non-verbal language cues to show active listening, as well as respect. I like how Griffin also uses the word “navigate” (239) to describe group members interacting. Other people's nonverbal and verbal language help us to steer our communication in a favorable and smooth direction. The more cohesive navigation among members, the better the outcome. Intention has a lot to do with that, because most everyone in a group most likely wants to be there, so their desire for smooth navigation is shared. Predictability is unattainable in group settings unless you hear the dialogue, as Griffin says, “Communication matters” (239).

Pros and Cons

Chapter 17 Page 225-226
Evaluation of positive and Negative Characteristics
It is very easy to get stuck in a rut of negativity in a group setting. This section in chapter 17 is about weighing alternative choices and comparing them point by point. Two terms that the author uses are “positive bias” and “negative bias” (226). Griffin defines positive bias as, “ favorable characteristics of alternative choices [are] more important than identifying negative choices” (226). Negative bias is when, “the unattractive characteristics of candidates carry more weight than do the positive attributes” (226). I know that I can be easily swayed to overlook the reality of situations good or bad, when in a group setting. Sometimes we get carried away, as if we all just blindly jumped on this runaway band wagon. I forget that the positive bias can be just as destructive as the negative, because you miss out on truly weighing out any or all of the cons. These kinds of bias opinions in a group leaves you in a haze, not able to decipher between fact and fiction. Thus the importance of having a group leader or a set of rules (goal setting) to keep things on track.

Tug-of-war

Week #5 Blog # 3 (not yet posted)
Chapter 12: The Tug-Of-War (pg. 155)
This section of chapter 12 had some pretty insightful quotes that really got me thinking. “On the one hand, a centripetal, or centralizing, force pulls us together with other. On the other hand, a centrifugal, or decentralizing, force pushes us apart” (Griffin, 155). According to Baxter and Montgomery, “'From a relational dialectics perspective, bonding occurs in both interdependence with the other and independence from the other'” (as cited in Griffin, 155). I did not realize how important and crucial that tug-of-war can be to deeper relational growth and even allows for more social penetration to occur. Sometimes I want things to be so smooth and perfect all the time, that I begin to fear arguments, debates or “contradiction”(155). It was nice to read this and see that I can look at it as a positive thing. Since it is bound to happen in all close relationships, I might as well reframe it as a positive. Once you overcome contradictions and tensions in a relationship, you are that much closer to the other person than ever before.

Double Blind

Trapped in a System with No Place to Go (page 175).
This section in chapter 13 reminded me a lot of the “strange loop” theory that dealt with the child with aspergers. If the parents treated him like he had the disease, and gave him compassion, love and acceptance, he started acting and feeling better. But once he started acting better, they questioned his disease, and began to hold it against him. Their changed behavior and attitude towards him, in turn made his symptoms worse, which led them right back to where they started. It seems to be a catch 22, evil cycle, much like the once explained as a “double blind” (175). The author described this with sayings like “you ought to love me” or “be spontaneous” (175). How can you demand someone to love you or to be spontaneous? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose? You are damned if you do, and you are damned if you don't. This lack of symmetry in any relationship is unhealthy and can lead to many resentments. I know from experience that expectations are just resentments waiting to happen. If you give freely, and love freely, not asking or expecting anything in return, you will be much happier than not. It is kind of like reframing in a sense, because you are choosing to look at whatever you are giving, as a gift with no strings attached. Therefor if you get something in return you will be pleasantly surprised and delighted. And if you get nothing in return, you will not be let down, nor will you feel asymmetrical in the gains and losses of your relationship. I love how all of these theories and terms link together in some way or another. It gives me a fuller picture of communication theory and how it relates to almost everything in our lives.

Lack of Context Cues

When reading about the theory's of CMC (Computer mediated Communication) in regards to its inherent differences from face-to-face interaction, I was most interested in the lack of social context cues theory. This theory pertains to online communication and how most, if not all context is lost in internet or text based communication. Not being able to pick up on, or see others non-verbal cues leads people to make assumptions or misunderstand the message being sent. The author notes that in this type of communication exchange, people tend to become, "self-absorbed and less inhibited" (Griffin,138). I have noticed that in emails, Instant messages or text messages. I become much more gutsy than I would in person, often saying things I would never normally say, or saying them in a way that is out of character for me. The author defines this as, "flaming- hostile language that zings its target and creates a toxic climate for relational growth" (Griffin, 139). "Lost in Translation," comes to mind when I think of this theory and virtual communication in general. Many things can be lost in translation from email to email, text to text and so on. A few of the things that can be lost in translation through textual or virtual interactions are: sarcasm, silence, pausing, laughter, a sigh, body language and many other cues that help us communicate better with one another. Don't get me wrong, I do not think virtual communication is all bad, but there are certain things that are better to relay in person than others. You just have to be very aware that misunderstandings are more likely than not to occur. In turn, that awareness will help you to be more clear and ask more questions in order to have a better communication interaction.

Berger Interview

The Berger Interview reminded me of survival of the fittest, but socially speaking. In order to adapt to change we have to “track those changes,” in our environment, which is continually changing socially and physically. Using things like experiments and textual analysis communication scholars aim to help us track these changes in our environment, giving us empirical evidence in a social construct. I like how Berger talks about the co-construction of relationships and how we are programmed with software (language and memory), and societal scripts that essentially guide us in our interactions, new and old. Griffin defines axioms as, “self-evident truths.” I think by using axioms the predictability and testability are more evident and these factors strengthen Berger's theory.
This interview is so interesting to me because it shows how we can quantify even the most seemingly unpredictable of human behaviors. When Griffin says, “go test it,” he relays that there are many things out there that we try predicting, so why not test them to see if our hypothesis or something as informal as an inference can hold up to theory. I find myself using uncertainty reduction in interactions all the time, and not even knowing or realizing what it is I am doing. It is easier to seek out common-ground and understanding of the person you are interacting with. I have created my own mental realm where I infer and make assumptions based on knowledge and experience about past interactions and relationships. We have to feel people out before just rashly responding to them, if we want positive feedback or a well-met response.

Reciprocity

Chapter 10
I chose to focus on the “reciprocity” concept in chapter ten, on page 127. Griffin describes that people tend to mirror their partner in terms of vulnerability and willingness to self-disclose (127). I did not realize how important reciprocity is in the beginning stages of relationship building. In order to have a balance of communication, people approach dialogue with caution. It is kind of like the ping-pong effect, where you send a message of vulnerability and your partner sends one (of similarity) back to you. We try to keep things going back and forth when sharing stories and experiences as to not let one person be the, “exclusive holder of potentially embarrassing information” (127). Now that I look back on many conversations with friends, I realize that the friends I felt most comfortable with were the ones that shared with me as much as I did with them; not more and not less. I always knew it was awkward when they shared less, because you feel like you are out on a limb all by yourself. But when others share more than you, that can also leave you feeling uncomfortable. As if you cannot meet them with empathy or reciprocate their feelings. Sometimes this is because you do not have much to relate on, other times maybe they are dominating the conversation. Berger does not typically, “anticipate long monologues at your first get-together”(Griffin, 127). But have you ever been on a first date, and you cannot seem to get a word in edge wise? It is kind of awkward, and at times you question why you are even there. Later on down the line as you get to know someone more intimately, uncertainty is much lower because patterns and familiarity are formed.

Closeness Through Self-Disclosure

Chapter 9
The section “Closeness Through Self-Disclosure,” is something I think we all can relate to in regards to our interpersonal relationships. It can be hard to let your guard down and be truly vulnerable to others. Griffin talks about various ways to open yourself up to another human being in order to form a closer bond with them, but the predominant way is through self-disclosure. (114). He defines this term as, “the voluntary sharing of personal history, preferences, attitudes, feelings, values, secrets, etc., with another person; transparency” (Griffin, 114). I like how the last word sums up the whole definition. To me transparency means to be see-through, almost naked from the inside out. There are certain people in my life that I have opened up to enough that I am like an open book to them now. That can be very scary, but also quite rewarding. Like the onion illustration on page 115, a passage was cut, making it possible to return repeatedly. So once I let my guard down, and let that person in, that line had been crossed, and there was no turning back.
I have a tendency to want to guard my heart with a protective shield. I will intentionally or sometimes subconsciously put up walls, as to not let others in too close. I want to have meaningful, deep intimate relationships with family, friends and even my boyfriend, but in order to do that I have to take a risk. That risk involves fear and hesitation on my part due to being hurt in the past. If I keep things on a surface level it is easier, less risky and I feel more in control. But I am sacrificing a lot in order to protect myself, and am left feeling void and lonely. I used to try keeping everything from my mom because I was always afraid she would turn around and use it against me as “emotional blackmail” (115) or it would come back to bite me. Maybe this worked for a short while, and I did not have to worry about projecting my own fears onto her because I was not even giving her the opportunity to judge or support me. But inevitably our relationship suffered from shutting her out, and as a result I suffered. Once I started letting her back in I realized that the risk I took was most of the time if not always worth it. There was the occasional fifteen percent of the time that it came back to bite me, but the other seventy five percent of the time I gained support, closeness and deeper intimacy with her.

Chapter Five: Reflections in a looking glass

The section about "The Self" in chapter five, is particularly interesting to me. I have, as well as many of my close friends have struggled with insecurities and feeling like we are not "good enough," according to societies standards. It is easy to get swept up into what the "other" deems as beautiful, good and successful. This section sheds light on that becuase it is such an interesting paradox about how we need that self-comparison in order to create a self, but yet that very thing can lead to an unhealthy creation of self. If we do not abuse it or take everything as fact, it is beneficial and obviously necessary for us to create our self-identity. Many times it is abused, especially at a young age when critical thinking is not as strong or prevalent to you.

The author explained it quite eloquently, saying, "I can only experience myself in relation to others, absent interaction with others; I cannot be a self" (63). I like the way the self is described as an object, since we have been taught to take on and assign roles to ourselves and others based on the language we use.

Gossip vs. Dialogue

The Phenomenological Tradition

The kind of wisdom that comes from life experience and communicative interactions is something that cannot be formally taught. The fact that no two people have the same exact journey in this life, is what makes communication so unparalleled and fascinating. In chapter four, the author cites psychologist Carl Rogers, saying, “Neither the Bible nor the prophets-neither Freud nor research-neither the revelations of God nor man- can take precedence over my own direct experience” (as cited in Griffin, 49). This powerful statement resonated with me on several levels. I feel that our own unique experiences on this earth give us so much more wisdom and insight than any study, book or class can. We can never really stand in someone else's shoes. This being said, there are steps we can take to connect with others on a more personal and fulfilling level.
Did you ever notice how people use gossip as a way to bond with others or build intimate relationships? Gossip is so volatile and shallow, it leaves participants feeling void afterwards. It is an unhealthy and easy way to make small talk, or try to connect with others. After reading the section on phenomenological tradition, I was able to see how to strengthen and build a healthy rapport with someone else. It might not be as “easy” as gossiping or talking about the weather, but in order to have a firm foundation for a strong relationship you must put some effort into it. You reap what you sew. The three necessary conditions that Rogers found to aid in relational growth are: “congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathic understanding”(50). His example deals with therapists and counselors making a safe and comfortable environment for their patients to open up. I think this tradition can be applied to all human interactions and relationships.
To try to relate to someone on such an intimate level not only takes intention, but also mutual respect from both participants. I really like the authors definition for dialogue, “an intentional process in which the only agenda both parties have is to understand what it's like to be the other” (50). Any thoughts on this definition? Think about how much you do or do not use gossip as a communicative tool? Just some food for thought. I would love to hear your own opinions and experiences.

Socio-psychological tradition applied to "An Inconveniant Truth"

I found the socio-psychological tradition theory in chapter four, to be very interesting as well as useful in my studies right now. I just watched “An Inconvenient Truth,” in my environmental studies, global climate change class. After watching the documentary we discussed how communication is such a powerful tool that can move and inspire people across borders. According to the author there are three causes of persuasive variation: who, what and whom (Griffin, 42). What is presented, the way it is presented, and who presents it and as well as audience perception, need all be taken into account. All three cause have a direct link between a statement being mere information, or becoming persuasion. Source credibility has a lot to do with persuasion to change among audience members. As a viewer of the documentary by Al Gore, I found him to be a very credible source. The majority of my class agreed that Gore's sincerity and passion were great factors, contributing to our belief in him and his argument. Griffin states that expertness is more crucial than character as far as ability to change audience members opinions (43). By making this documentary, Gore not only got his message out through a mass media public arena, but he was also able to travel city to city to personally present it. Griffin explains that the persuasive effects on source credibility, regarding expertness, only have long term effects, when there is a re-established connection between the source and its message (43). The publicity and mass media response to Gore's documentary and his speech tour became the link between the source (Gore) and the message (global warming). Thus making his credibility that much more effective and significant in “boosting opinion change” (43).

I love being able to apply what I am learning in all of my classes, and this is a prime example. I enjoyed watching the documentary not just as an information consumer, but as an educated and critical thinker.