Activity 2Select a country with a name starting with the first letter of your first or last name.Describe the communication practices in that county and demonstrate what you have learned about organizational communication styles for the country you selected.
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Chapter 16
Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Business
Communication
Identity is the essential core of who we are as individuals, the conscious experience of the self inside.
Kauffman
Getting Started
What are you doing? This simple question is at the heart of an application that allows
user to stay hyperconnected. Before we consider the social media and its implications on
business communication, let’s first examine the central question Twitter asks its users to
address in 140 characters or less.
What are you doing right now? Are you reading, learning, or have you already tuned out
this introduction and skipped over to Twitter to see what your friends are up to? We
often define ourselves through action, but the definition doesn’t work very well. When
you are a newborn baby, your actions represented a small percentage of your potential—
now that you’re older, you are more than an eating machine that requires constant care
and feeding—but what are you? A common response may be “human,” but even that can
be challenging to define. If we say humans are the tool-makers and then note that
several nonhuman species from primates to otters make and use tools, where does that
leave us? You could say that a human has two arms, two legs, or two eyes, but not
everyone has these, so the definition fails yet again. You may want to say that you can
communicate, but we don’t all speak the same language, and communication is a
universal process across species. You may be tempted to respond to the question “what
are you?” by saying something along the lines of “I think, therefore I am”—but what is
thinking, and are humans the only species with the ability to think? Again, defining
yourself through your ability to think may not completely work. Finally, you may want
to raise the possibility of your ability to reason and act, recall the past, be conscious of
the present, and imagine the future; or your ability to contemplate the abstract, the
ironic, even the absurd. Now we might be getting somewhere.
What does the word “party” mean to you? Most cultures have rituals where people come
together in a common space for conversation and sharing. Such gatherings often include
food, music, and dancing. In our modern society, we increasingly lack time to connect
with others. It may be too expensive or time-consuming to travel across the country for
Thanksgiving, but we may meet on Skype and talk (audio/video) at relatively little or no
cost. Some of your instructors may have traveled to a designated location for a
professional conference each year, seeing colleagues and networking; but in recent years
time, cost, and competition for attention has shifted priorities for many. We may have
two (or three or four) jobs that consume much of our time, but you’ll notice that in the
breaks and pauses of life people reach for their cell phones to connect. We instant
message (IM), text message, tweet, e-mail, and interact. As humans, we have an innate
need to connect with each other, even when that connection can (and does) sometimes
produce conflict.
When we ask the question, “What are you doing?” the answer invariably involves
communication; communication with self, with others, in verbal (oral and written) and
nonverbal ways. How do we come to this and how does it influence our experience
within the business environment? How do we come to enter a new community through
a rite of initiation, often called a job interview, only to find ourselves lost as everyone
speaks a new language, the language of the workplace? How do we negotiate
relationships, demands for space and time, across meetings, collaborative efforts, and
solo projects? This chapter addresses several of these issues as we attempt to answer the
question, “What are you doing?” with the answer: communicating.
16.1 Intrapersonal Communication
LEARNING OBJECTIVE
1. Discuss intrapersonal communication.
When you answer the question, “What are you doing?” what do you write? Eating at
your favorite restaurant? Working on a slow evening? Reading your favorite book on a
Kindle? Preferring the feel of paper to keyboard? Reading by candlelight? In each case
you are communicating what you are doing, but you may not be communicating why, or
what it means to you. That communication may be internal, but is it only an internal
communication process?
Intrapersonal communication can be defined as communication with one’s self, and that
may include self-talk, acts of imagination and visualization, and even recall and
memory. [1] You read on your cell phone screen that your friends are going to have
dinner at your favorite restaurant. What comes to mind? Sights, sounds, and scents?
Something special that happened the last time you were there? Do you contemplate
joining them? Do you start to work out a plan of getting from your present location to
the restaurant? Do you send your friends a text asking if they want company? Until the
moment when you hit the “send” button, you are communicating with yourself.
Communications expert Leonard Shedletsky examines intrapersonal communication
through the eight basic components of the communication process (i.e., source, receiver,
message, channel, feedback, environment, context, and interference) as transactional,
but all the interaction occurs within the individual. [2] Perhaps, as you consider whether
to leave your present location and join your friends at the restaurant, you are aware of
all the work that sits in front of you. You may hear the voice of your boss, or perhaps of
one of your parents, admonishing you about personal responsibility and duty. On the
other hand, you may imagine the friends at the restaurant saying something to the effect
of “you deserve some time off!”
At the same time as you argue with yourself, Judy Pearson and Paul Nelson would be
quick to add that intrapersonal communication is not only your internal monologue but
also involves your efforts to plan how to get to the restaurant. [3] From planning to
problem solving, internal conflict resolution, and evaluations and judgments of self and
others, we communicate with ourselves through intrapersonal communication.
All this interaction takes place in the mind without externalization, and all of it relies on
previous interaction with the external world. If you had been born in a different country,
to different parents, what language would you speak? What language would you think
in? What would you value, what would be important to you, and what would not? Even
as you argue to yourself whether the prospect of joining your friends at the restaurant
overcomes your need to complete your work, you use language and symbols that were
communicated to you. Your language and culture have given you the means to
rationalize, act, and answer the question, “What are you doing?” but you are still bound
by the expectations of yourself and the others who make up your community.
[1] McLean, S. (2005). The basics of interpersonal communication. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
[2] Shedletsky, L. J. (1989). Meaning and mind: An interpersonal approach to human communication. ERIC
Clearinghouse on reading and communication skills. Bloomington, IN: ERIC.
[3] Pearson, J., & Nelson, P. (1985). Understanding and sharing: An introduction to speech communication (3rd
ed.). Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown.
16.2 Self-Concept and Dimensions of Self
LEARNING OBJECTIVE
1. Define and discuss self-concept.
Again we’ll return to the question “what are you doing?” as one way to approach selfconcept. If we define ourselves through our actions, what might those actions be, and
are we no longer ourselves when we no longer engage in those activities? Psychologist
Steven Pinker defines the conscious present as about three seconds for most people.
Everything else is past or future. [1] Who are you at this moment in time, and will the self
you become an hour from now be different from the self that is reading this sentence
right now?
Just as the communication process is dynamic, not static (i.e., always changing, not
staying the same), you too are a dynamic system. Physiologically your body is in a
constant state of change as you inhale and exhale air, digest food, and cleanse waste
from each cell. Psychologically you are constantly in a state of change as well. Some
aspects of your personality and character will be constant, while others will shift and
adapt to your environment and context. That complex combination contributes to the
self you call you. We may choose to define self as one’s own sense of individuality,
personal characteristics, motivations, and actions, [2] but any definition we create will
fail to capture who you are, and who you will become.
Self-Concept
Our self-concept is “what we perceive ourselves to be,” [3] and involves aspects of image
and esteem. How we see ourselves and how we feel about ourselves influences how we
communicate with others. What you are thinking now and how you communicate
impacts and influences how others treat you. Charles Cooley [4] calls this concept the
looking-glass self. We look at how others treat us, what they say and how they say it, for
clues about how they view us to gain insight into our own identity. Leon Festinger added
that we engage in social comparisons, evaluating ourselves in relation to our peers of
similar status, similar characteristics, or similar qualities. [5]
The ability to think about how, what, and when we think, and why, is critical to
intrapersonal communication. Animals may use language and tools, but can they reflect
on their own thinking? Self-reflection is a trait that allows us to adapt and change to our
context or environment, to accept or reject messages, to examine our concept of
ourselves and choose to improve.
Internal monologue refers to the self-talk of intrapersonal communication. It can be a
running monologue that is rational and reasonable, or disorganized and illogical. It can
interfere with listening to others, impede your ability to focus, and become a barrier to
effective communication. Alfred Korzybski suggested that the first step in becoming
conscious of how we think and communicate with ourselves was to achieve an inner
quietness, in effect “turning off” our internal monologue. [6] Learning to be quiet inside
can be a challenge. We can choose to listen to others when they communicate through
the written or spoken word while refraining from preparing our responses before they
finish their turn is essential. We can take mental note of when we jump to conclusions
from only partially attending to the speaker or writer’s message. We can choose to listen
to others instead of ourselves.
One principle of communication is that interaction is always dynamic and changing.
That interaction can be internal, as in intrapersonal communication, but can also be
external. We may communicate with one other person and engage in interpersonal
communication. If we engage two or more individuals (up to eight normally), group
communication is the result. More than eight normally results in subdivisions within the
group and a reversion to smaller groups of three to four members [7] due to the everincreasing complexity of the communication process. With each new person comes a
multiplier effect on the number of possible interactions, and for many that means the
need to establish limits.
Dimensions of Self
Who are you? You are more than your actions, and more than your communication, and
the result may be greater than the sum of the parts, but how do you know yourself? In
the first of the Note 16.1 “Introductory Exercises”for this chapter, you were asked to
define yourself in five words or less. Was it a challenge? Can five words capture the
essence of what you consider yourself to be? Was your twenty to fifty word description
easier? Or was it equally challenging? Did your description focus on your characteristics,
beliefs, actions, or other factors associated with you? If you compared your results with
classmates or coworkers, what did you observe? For many, these exercises can prove
challenging as we try to reconcile the self-concept we perceive with what we desire
others to perceive about us, as we try to see ourselves through our interactions with
others, and as we come to terms with the idea that we may not be aware or know
everything there is to know about ourselves.
Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram [8], [9] gave considerable thought and attention to these
dimensions of self, which are represented in Figure 16.1 “Luft and Ingram’s Dimensions
of Self”. In the first quadrant of the figure, information is known to you and others, such
as your height or weight. The second quadrant represents things others observe about us
that we are unaware of, like how many times we say “umm” in the space of five minutes.
The third quadrant involves information that you know, but do not reveal to others. It
may involve actively hiding or withholding information, or may involve social tact, such
as thanking your Aunt Martha for the large purple hat she’s given you that you know you
will never wear. Finally, the fourth quadrant involves information that is unknown to
you and your conversational partners. For example, a childhood experience that has
been long forgotten or repressed may still motivate you. As another example, how will
you handle an emergency after you’ve received first aid training? No one knows because
it has not happened.
Figure 16.1 Luft and Ingram’s Dimensions of Self
These dimensions of self serve to remind us that we are not fixed—that freedom to
change combined with the ability to reflect, anticipate, plan, and predict allows us to
improve, learn, and adapt to our surroundings. By recognizing that we are not fixed in
our concept of “self,” we come to terms with the responsibility and freedom inherent in
our potential humanity.
In the context of business communication, the self plays a central role. How do you
describe yourself? Do your career path, job responsibilities, goals, and aspirations align
with what you recognize to be your talents? How you represent “self,” through your
résumé, in your writing, in your articulation and presentation—these all play an
important role as you negotiate the relationships and climate present in any
organization.
[1] Pinker, S. (2009). The stuff of thought: Language as a window to human nature. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
[2] McLean, S. (2005). The basics of interpersonal communication. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
[3] McLean, S. (2005). The basics of interpersonal communication (p. 97). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
[4] Cooley, C. (1922). Human nature and the social order (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Scribners.
[5] Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of soical comparison processes. Human Relationships, 7, 117–140.
[6] Korzybski, A. (1933). Science and sanity. Lancaster, PA: International Non-Aristotelian Library Publish Co.
[7] McLean, S. (2005). The basics of interpersonal communication. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
[8] Luft, J., & Ingham, H. (1955). The Johari Window: A graphic model for interpersonal relations. Los Angeles:
University of California Western Training Lab.
[9] Luft, J. (1970). Group processes: An introduction to group dynamics (2nd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: National Press
Group.
16.3 Interpersonal Needs
LEARNING OBJECTIVE
1. Understand the role of interpersonal needs in the communication process.
You may have had no problem answering the question, “What are you doing?” and
simply pulled a couple of lines from yesterday’s Twitter message or reviewed your
BlackBerry calendar. But if you had to compose an entirely original answer, would it
prove to be a challenge? Perhaps at first this might appear to be a simple task. You have
to work and your job required your participation in a meeting, or you care about
someone and met him or her for lunch.
Both scenarios make sense on the surface, but we have to consider the why with more
depth. Why that meeting, and why that partner? Why not another job, or a lunch date
with someone else? If we consider the question long enough, we’ll come around to the
conclusion that we communicate with others in order to meet basic needs, and our
meetings, interactions, and relationships help us meet those needs. We may also
recognize that not all of our needs are met by any one person, job, experience, or
context; instead, we diversify our communication interactions in order to meet our
needs. At first, you may be skeptical of the idea that we communicate to meet our basic
needs, but let’s consider two theories on the subject and see how well they predict,
describe, and anticipate our tendency to interact.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, represented in Figure 16.2 “Maslow’s Hierarchy
of Needs”, may be familiar to you. [1] Perhaps you saw it in negotiation or international
business classes and came to recognize its universal applicability. We need the resources
listed in level one (i.e., air, food, and water) to survive. If we have met those basic needs,
we move to level two: safety. We want to make sure we are safe and that our access to
air, food, and water is secure. A job may represent this level of safety at its most basic
level. Regardless of how much satisfaction you may receive from a job well done, a
paycheck ultimately represents meeting basic needs for many. Still, for others, sacrifice
is part of the job. Can you think of any professions that require individuals to make
decisions where the safety of others comes first? “First responders” and others who
work in public safety often place themselves at risk for the benefit of those they serve.
If we feel safe and secure, we are more likely to seek the companionship of others.
Humans tend to form groups naturally, and if basic needs are met, love and belonging
occur in level three. Perhaps you’ve been new at work and didn’t understand the first
thing about what was really going on. It’s not that you weren’t well trained and did not
receive a solid education, but rather that the business or organization is made up of
groups and communities that communicate and interact in distinct and divergent ways.
You may have known how to do something, but not how it was done at your new place of
work. Colleagues may have viewed you as a stranger or “newbie” and may have even
declined to help you. Conflict may have been part of your experience, but if you were
lucky, a mentor or coworker took the first step and helped you find your way. As you
came to know what was what and who was who, you learned how to negotiate the
landscape and avoid landmines. Your self-esteem (level four) improved as you perceived
a sense of belonging, but still may have lacked the courage to speak up.
Over time, you may have learned your job tasks and the strategies for succeeding in your
organization. Perhaps you even came to be known as a reliable coworker, one who did
go the extra mile, one who did assist the “newbies” around the office. If one of them
came to you with a problem, you would know how to handle it. You are now looked up to
by others and by yourself within the role, with your ability to make a difference. Maslow
calls this “self-actualization” (level five), and discusses how people come to perceive a
sense of control or empowerment over their context and environment. Where they look
back and see that they once felt at the mercy of others, particularly when they were new,
they can now influence and direct aspects of the work environment that were once
unavailable.
Beyond self-actualization, Maslow recognizes our innate need to know (level six) that
drives us to grow and learn, explore our environment, or engage in new experiences. We
come to appreciate a sense of self that extends beyond our immediate experiences,
beyond the function, and into the community and the representational. We can take in
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