Chapter 19 Interpersonal Communication Objectives Importance of Interpersonal Communication Two-Person Communication Communication Climates Degree of Formality Interviews Small Group Communication Office Etiquette and Public Relations Summary Review Questions Discussion Questions Problems Readings ?? OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to: 1. Define interpersonal communication. 2. Explain the role communication plays in establishing effective human relations. 3. Describe the life cycle of interpersonal relations. . Describe the characteristics of open and closed communication climates. 5. Describe the characteristics of small groups. 6. Explain the role small group communication plays in business and discuss its characteristics. 7. Describe the group decision process. 8. Discuss office etiquette and the secretarial public relations function. IMPORTANCE OF INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION One of the most important means we have of influencing human relations communication. Interpersonal communication is, in fact, the foundation of all human relationships.
While all communication is “interpersonal” because it takes place between people, the term interpersonal communication usually refers to communication that takes place in face-to-face situations involving two or three people. Listening, speaking, and sending and interpreting nonverbal messages are necessary skills to communicate effectively. In addition to being able to listen, speak and interpret nonverbal messages, effective interpersonal communication depends on our attitudes toward and assumptions about others.
Because human relations and interpersonal communication are so closely related, how we feel about others will partially determine how well we communicate. Interpersonal communication permits the exchange of personal, affective (emotional) information. It is especially important in establishing and maintaining friendships. Interpersonal communication skills, however, are put to more demanding test in office situations, where we must communicate with a wide variety of people to solve personal and organizational problems. TWO-PERSON COMMUNICATION A dyad-two people-is the smallest unit of interpersonal communication.
How well the people know each other, whether they perceive each other as equals, and their reasons for being together are the most important influences on their interpersonal communication. Life Cycle of Interpersonal Relationships Any interpersonal relationship has a life cycle that begins when the two people first meet and ends when the two no longer communicate with each other. While no two relationships will go through the life cycle in quite the same way, the cycle is composed of four general stages: initial, formative, mature, and severance.
The Initial Stage Most authorities believe that the initial stage is very short, lasting approximately 2 to 9 minutes! Certainly it lasts no more than 10 minute. The impressions we form of others-and those they form of us during these first few minutes are extremely important. During that time, people form what will probably be lasting impressions of each other. At this stage, the two people involved usually exchange demographic information, such as where they were born, grew up, and went to school.
From this information, they infer (guess) each other’s attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. They will then try to determine whether they will like each other and whether the relationship is worth pursuing. The Formative Stage The formative stage may last indefinitely. It begins when the initial stage is over and continues until the mature stage is ached. In the formative stage, the two people decide how intimate to be, what behavior is appropriate in any of a number of business or social situations, and who of the two will mostly control the relationship.
Many interpersonal relationships never go beyond the formative stage because the people involved never reach an agreement about the nature and purpose of the relationship. The Mature Stage The mature stage also lasts for an indefinite period. In thus stage, the participants have reached agreement about each other and their relationship. Each person knows now where the other has been and where he or she are going. While the degree of intimacy varies greatly in each mature dyadic relationship, each participant can judge fairly accurately how the other would respond in any situation appropriate for the relationship.
This predictability is the best gauge of whether a relationship is in the mature or formative stage. Because people do not always grow in the same directions or change at the same rate, a mature relationship may regress to the formative stage. The recent push for women’s rights, for example, caused many men and women involved in traditional relationships to reexamine their values, beliefs, and goals. In many cases, this reevaluation led to a stronger, mature relationship. In others, the mature stage was never reestablished.
The Severance Stage Not all relationships last. People move; people change. The degree of difficulty people experience relationships come to an end depends directly on the degree of intimacy they achieved during earlier stages of the relationship. Business Relationships Whether you are forming an interpersonal relationship in a social setting or on the job, these same stages apply. When you begin a new job, you try to make a good first impression and gradually learn what behavior is considered appropriate for you on the job.
After you have worked in that position for a few weeks or months, you have a clear understanding of what the people with whom you work expect of you, and you know what to expect from them. When you re promoted or change jobs, you will perhaps need to sever your relationships in one department or company and form new relationships at your new place of work. COMMUNICATION CLIMATES Most interpersonal relationships are fairly consistent in the amount and kind of communication that takes place. During the formative stage, participants reveal themselves to be either open or closed to communication.
When the members of a dyad are open to communication, mutual trust, respect, and understanding are easy to achieve. In a closed communication climate, on the other hand, each person feels judged, criticized, and threatened by the other. Open and closed communication climates have the characteristics illustrated in Table 19-1. Few communication climates, however, are consistently open or closed. Most climates fluctuate according to the circumstances and mood of the individuals involved. And, as you know from your own experience, it is possible to have an open communication climate in one relationship and a closed climate in another.
In open communication climates, people feel as though they are working together as part of a problem-solving team. In a closed communication climate, people tend to feel threatened and as though they need to defend themselves against attack. DEGREE OF FORMALITY In addition to the communication climate, interpersonal communication also has a fairly consistent degree of formality. Informal relationships are those that permit people to relax and be themselves. Formal relationships are those in which people feel the need to protect themselves by withholding information about their true thoughts and feelings.
Although outward appearance may indicate the degree of formality in a relationship, dress is not an absolute indicator. A supervisor and . secretary attending a company picnic may be dressed in casual clothes but still communicate formally with each other, and another supervisor and secretary in business suits may communicate informally. The main indicator of formality is how comfortable each person feels in communicating his or her true thoughts and feelings about a wide variety of subjects. Informal Relationships Informal relationships fall into two general categories: casual and intimate.
Under certain circumstances, we can be informal with people we don’t know. At sporting events, at the beach, and at some social gatherings, the circumstances will permit us to relax and communicate openly and honestly with people who may be virtual strangers We mainly communicate openly and honestly with those people who are closest to us. Husbands and wives, relatives, and long-standing friends enjoy the informality of intimacy. Informal relationships tend to be either extremely unimportant or extremely important. Either way, we don’t worry about what the other person may think about us.
We are free to communicate openly and honestly because either we feel that the other peas son’s does not matter, or because we know that the other person will accept us as we are. Formal Relationships When the other person’s response s important, but we are afraid that she or he will not accept us as we are, we tend to interact formally. In formal relationships, we guard our responses to help ensure that the other person will receive messages as we intend them to be received. Most interpersonal relationships at work require more formality than social relationships do.
While spontaneity and informality have a place in most offices, those who work in offices need to remember that the office is a place of business. Indeed, the term businesslike suggests the focusing of attention on work rather than on the spontaneous sharing of feelings. Excessive formality, on the other hand, may indicate a closed communication climate. If a supervisor tends to send written messages when he or she should speak to another face to face, the message “keep your distance” is clear. INTERVIEWS Two typical business situations that require well-developed interpersonal communication skills are interviews and small group meetings.
Interviews display all the characteristics of interpersonal communication: They have a life cycle, a communication climate, and a degree of formality established by the two people involved. Interviews differ from other interpersonal communication situations, however, in that they usually have a serious, specific purpose and are deliberately established at a particular time to achieve that purpose. Participants in interview agree to meet for the purpose of giving, receiving, or exchanging information. Interview Purposes The participant who arranges for the interview always has a specific purpose in mind.
The purposes fall into one of the following categories: employment, orientation, performance appraisal, problem solving, counseling/grievance and exit. Employment Nearly everyone goes through an employment interview at me time in his or her life. For this reason, employment is the best-known purpose of interviews . Most jobs require at least one . screening interview, and the more important the job, the more extensive the screening procedures. Employment interviews have three specific functions: 1. The interview determines whether the interviewee is the best person for the job from the company’s perspective. . On the basis of information supplied by the interviewer, the interviewee determines whether she or he wishes to work for the company. 3. The interview helps create goodwill for the company. ? ?Orientation Orientation interviews provide facts, policy information, and/or job-related data. Their most common use is to introduce new employees to the company and the work situation. Orientation interviews for new employees include information about the company, the role the employee’s job plays in helping the company succeed, insurance plans, vacation policy, and other fringe benefits.
Orientation interviews can also be used to introduce employees to new policies, procedures, or situations. Performance Appraisal Most companies conduct performance-appraisal interviews to evaluate job performance and to allow employees to discuss personal and career goals and problems with their supervisors. Performance-appraisal interviews are designed to give both the employee and the employer a clear understanding of the other’s abilities and expectations. Problem Solving Problem-solving interviews are designed to explore and solve specific job-related problems.
An employer, for example, may interview all the secretaries in tire company to obtain a wide variety of opinions about the use of word processing equipment, office furniture, or some other factor that will affect secretaries. Counseling/Grievance When the problem is personal rather than part of the job, a counseling/grievance interview may help solve it. When the problem is the employer is, the employer or supervisor can provide counseling. When the employer is part of or the cause of the problem, the employee should request a grievance interview so that the employer will be aware of a potential morale problem.
Exit Whenever an employee leaves a job, the supervisor (or if the employee is leaving the company, the employer) should interview the employee to discover the reasons she or he is leaving. Departing employees can frequently provide management with information that can improve the company. Exit interviews also serve to express appreciation for the employee’s work, to provide tire employee with useful career advice, and to ensure that the employee leaves with a positive attitude toward the company. Interview Structure Because interviews are arranged to accomplish a specific purpose, successful interviewers plan the interview in advance.
The plan must be flexible enough to permit unscheduled discussion, but every interview should have a clearly defined opening, body, and closing. ? ?•Planning: In planning the interview, the interviewer should consider tire questions she or he will need to ask and what information should be supplied to accomplish the purpose of the interview. The interviewer should also consider how much time will be required to accomplish the purpose. ?•Opening: The opening of the interview should make the purpose of the interview clear. Also, the opening should establish an open communication climate.
Because most people feel at least a little threatened by an interview, the most successful interviewers clarify their objectives in a way that helps the interviewee feel comfortable (see discussion below). ?•Body: The body of the interview provides the participants with an opportunity to exchange important information. The question-and-answer for. mat requires effective listening and careful questions and answers. When the reason for the interview is a difference of opinion, participants should be careful to resist the temptation to argue or lecture. •Closing: The closing of the interview is a review and summary of the key points of the discussion. Points of agreement should be emphasized, and the participants need to agree about who will do what next. After the interview, participants should complete any required action by the date agreed to. In certain interview situations, especially performance-appraisal and counseling/grievance interviews, participants should receive a written summary of the interview. ? ? Interview Questions The success of an interview depends on the questions asked.
Because interviews have a serious purpose and many people find them threatening, participants must be careful to establish an open communication climate. An open communication climate ensures accurate, honest information. Open Climate Questions Open climate questions are those that encourage communication. Closed climate questions discourage communication. Open and closed questions, however, are often determined as much by the way in which they are asked as by the question itself. And to complicate matters further, what is an open question to one person may be a closed question to another.
In general, open questions include leading questions, direct questions, open questions, probes, mirror questions, and hypothetical questions. For example: LEADING QUESTIONS: “Weren’t you placed in our company us part of a work-study program of Harrison High School? ” DIRECT QUESTIONS: “What was your favorite class in school? ” OPEN QUESTIONS: “How did you learn about telecommunications equipment? ” PROBES: “Where in California? ” MIRROR QUESTIONS: “Military experience? [In response to the interviewee s comment on previous experience in the military. ] HYPOTHETICAL “If you could have any job in this company, QUESTIONS: what would you like to do? ” ?•Leading questions: These are used to confirm known information by guiding the interviewee to a specific response. Questions of this variety are most useful early in the interview to help the participants relax and adjust to the interview situation. Examples of leading questions are: “You have three years’ previous experience, don’t you? and “Isn’t it true that you are placed in our company as part of a work-study program at Harrison High School? ” ?•Direct questions: These are questions that can be answered with yes no, owe other limited response. No threatening direct questions, such as, Where did you go to high school? ” or “flow long did you work for Argon Labs? ” are those for which the interviewee can provide a positive answer. Some direct questions, however, might be perceived as threatening and are closed climate questions. Examples of these include: “Where did you go to college? (when the person hasn’t attended college) or “Do you plan to start a master’s program soon? ” (the interviewee can’t tell what answer the interviewer desires). ?•Open questions: These are the interviewer’s main tool for obtaining information. Open questions require more thought and self-disclosure than leading or direct questions. For this reason, open questions can be threatening if they occur too early in the interview. Examples include: “Tell me about yourself:” “What do you expect to be doing 10 years from now? ” and “What do son think caused the problem? Some questions that appear to be leading or direct may actually be open questions. “Do you have any experience with word processing equipment? ” for example, calls for an explanation as well as the initial yes o no answer. ?•Probes: These can be leading, direct, or open. They pursue some aspect of a pre, ions response: “Did you say Ogden, Utah? ” “Why would you prefer the Marketing Department? ” ?•Mirror questions: These are designed to elicit more information about some aspect of a previous response. Mirror questions are not really questions at all but consist of a restatement of three or four words the interviewee has spoken.
For example: INTERVIEWEE: “. . . . and when 1 worked for Rainbow Chemicals, 1 assumed many marketing responsibilities. ” INTERVIEWER: “Marketing responsibilities? ” INTERVIEWEE: “Yes. For example, 1 completed the monthly reports an demographics. . . . ?•Hypothetical questions: These ask “What if. . . ?” They permit the interviewee to explore a possibility in an extended answer. For example: “What changes would you make if you were promoted to Manager of the WPC? ” “What if we could find the money for new equipment. What would you want to buy first? ” ? ?Closed Climate Questions Closed climate questions make the interviewee feel threatened.
They include loaded questions, double-bind questions, forced-choice questions, and why-didn’t-you questions. For example: LOADED QUESTIONS: “Can you think of any way that ridiculous plan could work? ” DOUBLE BIND “Would you prefer being laid off or making QUESTIONS: some wage concessions? ” FORCED-CHOICE “Which would you prefer, having a new word QUESTIONS: processor or an assistant? WHY-DIDN’T-YOU “Why didn’t you tell me that your r-Lion is QUESTIONS: next week? ” ?•Loaded questions: These guide the interviewee to a particular answer. But they also imply that only one answer will be ‘-correct-” or “acceptable. ” For example: -Wasn’t John’s remark the stupidest thing you ever heard? ” Some interviewers may ask loaded questions inadvertently. “Where did you go to college? ” is a loaded question for a person who did not attend college. ?•Double-bind questions: These present a choice between two unacceptable alternatives. Do you still beat your wife? -” is the classic double-bind question. Either way the respondent answers, he admits to wife beating. A modern version is, “Should we install a word processing center and fire all the secretaries or retain our current inefficient system? ” ?•Forced-choice questions: These also present a choice between two alternatives, but unlike double-bind questions, either response may, be “correct” if it is adequately explained. For example: “Which is more important to you, making money or serving humanity? ” •Why-didn’t-you questions: These accuse the interviewee of an omission, a failure to have done something. For example: “Why didn’t you tell me that Eloisa was leaving at the end of the month? — “Why didn’t you complete those letters before leaving last night? ” ? Stress Interviews Occasionally, an interviewer will deliberately conduct what is known as a stress interview. Interviewers use this technique to see how the interviewee handles stress. Some of the common stress techniques are: •Making the interviewee wait an excessively long time before the interview begins. Having the interviewee sit in an uncomfortable chair. •Depriving the interviewee of normal feedback by sitting in silence. •Encouraging the interviewee to smoke and not providing an ashtray. •Interrupting the interviewee continually. Helpful Interview Strategies When you are in an interview situation-or in any other dyad for that matter remember that the interview will be more successful if an open communication climate is established and maintained. Whether you are the interviewer ester or the interviewee, you can influence the communication climate. As an interviewer, remember to ask open climate questions.
As an interviewee, remember that not all interviewers have been trained to ask open climate questions. Also, they may feel threatened by the situation and ask closed climate questions unintentionally. Your answers can help them be less defensive and more effective. Answer closed climate questions to the best of your ability, and try to do so without feeling threatened and defensive yourself. Control of Interviews A trained interviewer maintains control of the interview by asking the right questions at the right time and by providing appropriate feedback to encourage the interviewer to supply the pertinent information.
The interviewer should determine in advance whether the interview will be tightly controlled, interviewer controlled, or open. She or he should also determine approximately hose long the interview should last. ?•Tightly controlled interviews: These are best for obtaining simple and specific factual information. In a tightly controlled interview, the interviewer asks nearly all the questions, which consist primarily of direct questions. Because these interviews afford so little opportunity for the interviewee to participate fully in the exchange of information, they are rarely used in business. •Moderately controlled interviews: These allow for more complete exchange of information. Most business interviews a moderately controlled interviews lasting from 15 to 30 minutes and consisting of both direct and open questions. In a moderately controlled interview, the interviewer is able to explore the thoughts and feelings of the interviewee and still complete the interview in a limited, predetermined amount of time. ?•Open interviews: These consist of many open and hypothetical questions and are useful for exploring attitudes, opinions, and problems in depth. An open interview is nut uncontrolled.
The interviewer still has an objective and a plan for achieving it. But, because the situation is important enough to require thorough exploration, the interviewee is encouraged to develop extended answers that both participants discuss fully. open interviewed primarily for high-level hiring, problem solving, and counseling/grievance interviews. ? ? SMALL GROUP COMMUNICATION Although in some sways two people constitute a small group, the addition of other people to the basic dyad greatly increases the complexity of the communication situation.
For example, imagine that you and a friend who also works in your office are discussing the choices you need to make in redecorating the office. You prefer off-white walls; your friend wants a bright, cheery yellow. Now, add just one more person. The third employee also thinks yellow would be nice. Have the pressures on you changed? Add a few more people, each with different opinions about color and the style of furniture, and the communication situation has become complex and frustrating. The differences of opinion will not be easy to resolve because no one will be able to have his or her way.
Each person will have to compromise with the others. Importance of Small Group Communication Modern business makes extensive use of small groups. Small groups are especially useful for making decisions when the problems to be resolved are complex and require wide variety of expertise for a solution. One individual of course, reach a decision more quickly than even the best functioning mall group. But if managers make the decision independently, they then face two problems: 1. They have to persuade all those affected by the decision to accept it. 2. They must assume total responsibility for the . uccess or failure of the decision. If the problem is what color to paint the office walls, those burdens nay not be too great. On the other hand, if the problem is whether the compact should install a new computer system costing millions of dollars, the manager and the company-will be better off if a group assumes responsibility for the decision. Characteristics of Small Groups A small group consists of any number of people from 2 to about 20 who share a on purpose and who can communicate face to face without the need of parliamentary procedures or other formal rules for controlling communication.
Small groups always share a common purpose. The purposes n, however, vary in nature and importance. A family planning a picnic a mall group: the personnel in most departments would constitute a small group; and a committee meeting of the Certified Professional Secretaries to discuss salary scales would be a small group. If those same secretaries all happened to be grocery shopping in the same store at the same time, they would not constitute a small group. Small groups a usually divided into three general categories: primary, informal, and formal. Primary groups: These consist of family and close friends. Their principal purposes are cultural and individual satisfaction. People learn the basics of group communication from the primary groups to which they belonged as children. In general, primary groups are not found in organizations. •Informal groups: These exist to satisfy the needs of individual members. Coffee-break gatherings, group lunches, company bowling teams, and Friday afternoon happy-hour cliques are typical informal groups in modern organizations. •Formal groups: These have a specific task to accomplish or problem to solve.
An informal group can become a formal group by adopting a task. The bowling team, for example, might decide to sponsor a tournament. In planning the tournament, the members would focus on the task rather than on their individual satisfaction. The most common formal groups include the following: Informational: Departmental meetings, conferences, and orientations are examples of small group meetings in which all group members need to receive the same information at the same time. Education and training: Education and training groups are a special category of informational groups.
In a purely informational group, the communication flows primarily in one direction-from the leader to the other members. In an education and training group, however, a greater effort is made to ensure that the group members have understood the material and have mastered any new skills. A wider variety of group communication is encouraged than in informational groups. Problem-solving: Problem-solving groups range from extremely informal brainstorming sessions to extremely formal discussions of major organizational problems.
Problem-solving groups may have the responsibility for preliminary discussions, for planning, for carrying out the decision, or for all three phases of solving tire problem. Group Roles Group communication is more complex and formal than dyadic communication. In spite of this complexity, people usually enjoy belonging to groups. Group membership requires compromises, but groups also provide rewards, such as a sense of belonging. Human behavior in a group tends to fall into specific patterns or roles.
Typical roles include leader, task specialist, human relations specialist, and self-server. ? * Leader: A person becomes a group leader either by being appointed to leadership by higher authority or by earning leadership through a display of expertise. Appointed leaders are said to have ascribed leadership. Earned leadership is natural result of a person’s ability to facilitate communication or to achieve a particular goal. In a given situation, the nominal leader (the person with the title) may” not be the actual leader.
In a discussion of word processing equipment, for example, an executive may be the ascribed leader, but her or his administrative assistant may earn leadership as result of superior expertise. * Task specialist: People whose m achieving the group’s objective are known as task specialists, Some ma)” offend others in the group by refusing to take the time necessary for people to develop an understanding of each other. But task specialists perform a useful function in that they keep the group’s attention focused on the goal.
Human relations specialist: Because conflicts occur in every group, very group needs at least one member who is skillful at resolving conflicts. * Human relations specialists make an effort to include those who might otherwise be left out, to offer compromises between conflicting ideas, to support the ideas of others, and to test for agreement. * Self-server: just as nearly every group has at least one task specialist who tries to keep the group’s attention focused on the objective, most groups have at least one member whose behavior is self-serving.
Self-serving individuals try to use the group for their own advantage at the expense of the welfare of the group as a whole. Refusing to cooperate, rejecting the ideas of others, withdrawing from the discussion, and attempting to monopolize the discussion are all examples of self-serving behavior. ? These roles are easy to identify and observe in any group situation. Most people, however, do not fit neatly into any one pattern. One person might, for example, exhibit both leadership and self-. serving behaviors.
And the person who begins the group discussion as a human relations specialist might well become a task specialist as the group’s deadline approaches. The important thing to remember is that human behavior in a group tends to fall into these specific patterns. If no one in your group is. sing as a task . specialist, for example, you could help your group n vv toward its objective by assuming that role. Likewise, if your group needs a leader or a human relations specialist, you should be prepared to fill that need. Group Behavior Any group occurs in a context that includes certain assumptions about the behavior of group members.
These assumptions are called norms. Norms may be explicit, that is, they may be written rules (parliamentary procedure) or oral agreements that all members have accepted. Or norms may be implicit, in which case the rules are not verbalized, but everyone “knows” (or should know-) what they are anyway. Because individual members have different perceptions and different needs, group interaction produces competition and conflict. Cohesive groups, in which members conform closely to group norms, tend to have less conflict than groups in which many members deviate from the norms.
Cohesive groups are often more productive than noncohesive groups. A person who is willing to risk a little conflict may, however, make suggestions and raise objections that would otherwise be unexpressed. Whether a group is cohesive or noncohesive, it will move through a particular pattern of behavior that resembles the life cycle of interpersonal relationships. The group life cycle consists of the following stages: initiation, exploration and clarification, conflict, resolution, and dissolution: 1. Initiation takes place when the group forms for a particular purpose.
Group members meet and exchange demographic and preliminary information. 2. Exploration and clarification then occurs. This is a testing stage in which the group explores its purpose defines its problem, establishes norms, selects leadership, and decides what procedure it will use to reach decisions. 3. Conflict occurs when, after a period of exploration and clarification, embers perceive that they have different needs and views. Differences of opinions may occur, for example, between earned and ascribed leaders. 4. Resolution of these conflicts allows the group to be productive.
With most of the conflicts resolved, the group is ready to focus on the task and make a decision. 5. Dissolution occurs when the group no longer serves a purpose. Problem solving groups, for example, dissolve when the problem is solved. ? Group Decision Making Communication in groups brought together for a particular purpose follows a fairly predictable pattern. In the initiation stage, group members are introduced to one another and to the purpose of the group. In the exploration and clarification stage, members explore the problem, establish communication patterns, clarify relationships, and further define the problem.
During this process, conflict may occur because not all people perceive the problem in the same way. Conflict may also occur as members assume different roses. Decision making takes place in the resolution stage of the group life cycle. Decision-Making Patterns A group will inevitably go through five steps in reaching a decision. The group: 1. Defines and analyzes the problem. The process of definition and analysis begins in the initiation stage and continues through the exploration and clarification stage. In the resolution stage, members have reached agreement on the definition and probable causes of problems. . Establishes criteria for a solution. Whether criteria are explicit or implicit, the group needs to reach agreement on what will constitute a solution to the problem. 3. Proposes possible solutions. Once the group agrees on the criteria necessary for a solution, group members may suggest a variety of solutions that meet the criteria. Group norms usually control who submits possible solutions. Ways of submitting suggestions range from brainstorming in which all group members volunteer possible solutions without considering their value until later, to accepting only the ideas of the official leadership. 4.
Evaluates proposed solution Solutions are evaluated by comparing them with the established criteria and with each other. In evaluating solutions, the group may decide to change the criteria and may combine two or more solutions. In addition to weighing the objective evidence (how well the suggested solution meets the criteria), a group may also consider subjective evidence (who made the suggestion). 5. Determines a course of action. After selecting a solution, the group decides how the solution should be put into action. Determining the course of action may constitute a new problem calling for a new round of decision making.
Figure 19-1 illustrates the decision-making process. All groups do not go through the above steps in quite the same way. How well the members communicate and to what extent they agree to share the responsibility for decision making influence the way they will reach a decision. The following ways are possible: ? • Authority: The leader selects a particular plan. •Consensus: Members reach agreement by discussing alternatives and unanimously accepting one possibility. •Default: The group avoids making a decision. •Majority rote: Members vote, and the alternative with more than half the votes is chosen. Plurality: Members vote, and the plan with the most votes is selected. ? Communication Patterns How well group members communicate with each other influences the speed with which the group is able to go through the life cycle and the way in which the group arrives at decisions. The communication pattern in a group may be either centralized or decentralized, depending on the extent to which the leader controls the flow of communication among group members. ? •Centralized communication patterns: These occur when the leader restricts communication flow so that most of the communication taking place must pass through him or her.
Group members are discouraged from communicating directly with each other. Centralized communication patterns include the wheel, the chain, and the Y (see Figure 19-2). These patterns re best for solving simple problems when a quick decision is necessary. A supervisor, for example, might ask all the members of her or his staff for an opinion about a particular subject. Each staff member would have the opportunity to discuss the subject with the supervisor, and the supervisor would take all the opinions into account when making the decision. None of the. taff members, however, would discuss the subject with other staff members until after the decision was made. Such a communication pattern can help a supervisor make a better decision than she or he might make alone, and it allows staff members to contribute without greatly slowing the speed of the decision. •Decentralized communication patterns: These work better for more complex problems. In this pattern, the leader encourages all members to communicate freely. The leader may control the group by keeping it focused on the problem, but the leader does not control who communicates with whom.
The principal decentralized communication pattern is known as the circle (see Figure 19-3). ? Communication Climate Communication climates in groups, like those of dyads, are either open or closed, depending on whether they encourage or discourage communication flow. An open communication climate is one in which people feel comfortable stating their true opinions. A closed communication climate is one in which people either avoid communicating completely or conceal their true opinions while stating what they think someone (usually the leader) wants to hear.
In general, open communication climates produce more frequent and higher quality communication than closed communication climates, as we would expect. ? Group Leadership Groups can only be as effective as their leaders. For this reason, it is important that you understand the leadership role well enough to assume it when necessary and to support others when they are performing that role. Whether leadership is ascribed as a result of title or assignment or earned as a result of expertise, the leader has two important functions to assume: 1.
The leader is responsible for ensuring the completion of the task in the time allowed. 2. The leader should attempt to ensure the satisfaction of the individual group members. Leadership styles vary from authoritarian, in which the leader assumes complete control over group communication and the decision-making process, to permissive, in which the leader permits free exchange of ideas and does not attempt to influence the group’s decision. Different styles have different advantages and disadvantages. ? •Authoritarian leaders: These produce faster decisions but do so at the cost of member satisfaction.
Members of a group run by an authoritarian leader frequently feel as though they have not contributed to the decision and may feel resentful and not cooperate with the decision. •Democratic leaders: These try to include everyone n the decision to making process while ensuring that the task is completed on time. Democratic leaders, who rely on majority vote or plurality, have a better chance of satisfying group members than authoritarian leaders. Members of the group who are in the minority, however, may feel as though their ideas did not receive a fair hearing. •Permissive leaders: These try to reach consensus.
Because it is difficult to have all members agree, groups run by permissive leaders usually require longer to reach a decision than groups run by the other leadership styles The main advantages of permissive leadership are that it allows the free exchange of ideas, which helps ensure that the best decision will be reached, and it helps en ember satisfaction. When all members are happy with the group decision, there is a better chance that the members will work to support any required action. ? Whatever leadership style is required because of the circumstances involved, effective leaders assume the following specific responsibilities: . Notify all group members of the time, place, and purpose of the meeting. 2. Start and stop group meetings on time. 3. Ensure that the group sticks to the problem. 4. Encourage contributions from each group member. 5. Reinforce points of agreement and review progress. 6. Ensure adequate follow-up by a. Providing for a written record. b. Encouraging completion of required action. Responsibilities of Group Members Regardless of the quality or type of leadership, individual group members have a responsibility to help the group achieve its objectives.
Asking questions, reinforcing points of agreement, reviewing important points, and encouraging others to make positive contributions are common responsibilities. Individuals should also be willing to help keep the group focused on the task and to compromise when necessary to reach a decision. OFFICE ETIQUETTE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS One of the most important functions your interpersonal communication skills will perform for you will be to help you establish an image of professionalism. Your behavior in the office and with the public will be important factors in your success in an office career.
Office Etiquette While what is considered proper etiquette will vary from office to office, certain rules of behavior are fairly universal. Many of the well-accepted rules of etiquette are based on effective techniques of interpersonal communication. • Be courteous: Say “please” when you want something and “thank you” when someone has helped. • Be friendly: Assume the best of others. Let them know that you enjoy their company and act in a way that will enable them to enjoy your • Be helpful: Do what you can to help others. Help your supervisor when she or he needs an extra hand, and help your subordinates when they’re having problems.
Everybody appreciates extra help from time to time. • Be gracious: Don’t be too proud to let others help you. Most people enjoy helping when they can. •Be constructive: Avoid senseless complaining. Work in a positive way to correct problems, and don’t waste time complaining about petty annoyances. Every job has some minor problems that aren’t worth worrying about. • Be observant: Be aware of others’ feelings. Try to communicate with them according to their moods. If your supervisor has had a hard day and is feeling defensive, for example, delay asking for a favor until a more opportune time. Be discreet: Some matters can be discussed in public, others cannot. Differences of opinion, for example, may be best discussed by the people involved before the matter is made public. Likewise, criticisms-of supervisors or subordinates-should be handled privately. For example, if your supervisor has criticized you in front of your colleagues, you should save your reply until you and your supervisor can speak privately. ? Office etiquette is one of the ways a business maintains its image of professionalism. This image is helpful not only for increasing office efficiency but also for establishing positive public relations.
Public Relations Positive public relations are built on honest, friendly communications with the public. Everyone to whom you talk about the company-whether on or off the job-constitutes the public with whom you are establishing a relationship on behalf of the company. And each of those people will carry your messages to others. As an employee, it is your responsibility to be an effective representative of your company. Visitors toy our office deserve first-class treatment. Be courteous and helpful. Do what con can for them without letting them violate company rules or your supervisor’s wishes.
Remember, too, that once you have helped them as much as you can, you are not responsible for entertaining them. Learn to say no without giving offense. Your supervisor, for example, may wish to see only those people who have scheduled regular appointments, and you may have a visitor who wants you to make an exception in his or her case. Unless you know for certain that the exception is justified. you’ll have to convince your visitor to make an appointment for later and to return at a time convenient for your supervisor (see Chapter 10, pages 282-283).
Your public relations duties will not end when the work day is over and you are on the way home. When you work for a company, people expect you to know what the company is really like, and they will listen carefully to what you v about it. If you criticize the company or its products, you will influence those with whom you come in contact. Keep your critical remarks within the company. Work to change what needs changing. If you cant be proud of the company you are working for, change jobs. You’ll be better off to the long run. Also remember that some of what you see and hear at work may be confidential.
Military contracts, new products, personnel changes or problems, and new advertising campaigns are just a few things most companies consider confidential. As an office professional, you’ll have access to a wide variety of important information, and it will be a temptation to show others how much ),on know. Unless you know absolutely that something is public knowledge, assume and maintain its confidentiality. Your friends will admire you for your loyalty to the company, and the company will reward you for it. SUMMARY Interpersonal communication is the foundation for all human relationships.
The term interpersonal communication usually refers to communication that takes place in face-to-face situations involving two or three people. In addition to being able to listen, speak, and interpret nonverbal messages, effective interpersonal communication depends on a person’s attitudes toward and assumptions about others. Any interpersonal relationship has a life cycle composed of four general stages: initial, formative, mature, and severance. During the initial stage, those involved try to determine whether they will like each other and whether the relationship is worth pursuing.
The formative stage begins when the initial stage is over and lasts an indefinite period until the mature stage is reached. In the mature stage, the participants have agreed about each other and the nature of their relationship. The severance stage occurs when the two people no longer communicate with each other. When the members of a dyad are open to communication, mutual trust, respect, and understanding are easy to achieve. In a closed communication climate, each person feels judged, criticized, and threatened by the other. In addition to a communication climate, interpersonal co mi canon also involves different degrees of formality.
Informal relationships are those that permit people to relax and be themselves. Formal relationships are these which people feel that they need to protect themselves 6y” withholding information about their true thoughts and feelings. Interviews differ from other interpersonal communication situation in that they usually have a serious, specific purpose and are deliberately established at a particular time to achieve that purpose. The purposes of interviews ere employment, orientation, performance appraisal, problem solving, counseling/grievance, and exit.
The success of an interview depends primarily on the effectiveness of the questions asked. Open climate questions include leading questions, direct questions, open questions, probes, mirror question and hypothetical questions. Closed climate questions include loaded questions, double-bind questions, forced-choice questions, and why-didn’t you question. Modern business makes extensive use of small groups. Small groups are especially useful for making decisions when the problem to be resolved is complex and requires wide variety of expertise for a solution.
A small group consists of any number of people from 2 to about 20 who share a common purpose and who can communicate without the need of parliamentary procedure. There re three general categories of small groups: primary (family and close friends), informal (social groups), and formal (groups with a specific purpose). Group members tend to assume certain roles to help them satisfy psychological needs. Typical roles include leadership, task specialist, human relations specialist, and self-server. The group life cycle consists of initiation, exploration and clarification, conflict, resolution, and dissolution stages.
Groups reach decisions by (1) defining and analyzing the problem, (2) establishing criteria for a solution, (3) proposing possible solutions, (4) evaluating proposed solutions, and (5) determining a course of action. The communication climate in a group may be open or closed. Group communication patterns may be centralized or decentralized, with authoritarian leaders controlling the flow of communication more than democratic and permissive leaders, who try to include everyone in the decision-making process. Many of the well-accepted rules of etiquette are based on effective techniques of interpersonal communication.
These include being courteous, friendly. helpful gracious, constructive, observant, and discreet. Secretaries have public relations duties both on and off the job. They represent the organization to those with whom they are in contact. They should avoid being openly critical about the organization and remember that some information may be confidential. REVIEW QUESTIONS 1. What is interpersonal communication? 2. What is a dyad? 3. List and explain the four general . stages of the life cycle of an interpersonal relationship. 4. Define open and closed communication climates and identify their characteristics. . What are the six purposes of interviews? 6. Distinguish between open climate and closed climate questions. Give examples of each question type. 7. What are the differences between tightly controlled, moderately controlled, and open interviews? 8. What functions do small groups perform in business? 9. List and explain the stages in the group life cycle. 10. What are three common purposes of formal groups in business? 11. List and explain group roles. 12. What is involved in the group decision-making process? 13. List and explain the three basic leadership styles. 14.
What are the specific responsibilities of the group’s leader? 15. List and explain seven guidelines of office etiquette. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Why is interpersonal communication important? 2. What is the difference between interpersonal communication and human relations? 3. Why do dyads and groups have life cycles? 4. How might an interviewer use the different kinds of questions to help control an interview? 5. With another student, role play an employment interview. Discuss the communication climate, the questions asked, and the quality of the information exchanged. 6. Observe a group meeting with another class member.
Afterward, discuss the communication climate, the style of leadership, the communication pattern, and the method used to reach a decision. 7. What are some advantages and disadvantages of the different steles of leadership? Give and discuss examples of situations for which each type of leadership might be most appropriate. 8. In what way does interpersonal communication contribute to—or detract from-an image of professionalism? ? PROBLEMS 1. Select two formal groups (those with a specific purpose) to which ;a have belonged. In a paper 5 to 10 pages long, analyze the group’s ommunication climate, the roles played by various members, the leadership style, the process of reaching a decision, and the way in which the group progressed through the stages of the life cycle. 2. Discuss one of the topics listed below in a group of four to six students. After your discussion, present your conclusions to the rest of the class: •Nonverbal communication •Preparing for employment interviews •Dealing with closed climate questions •Conflict resolution •Interpersonal communication as behavior modification •Planning for organizational change •The importance of small groups •Group communication patterns Dealing with self-serving behavior •Selecting a personal leadership style ? While your group is working on its project, keep notes on interpersonal communication and the group process at work. After your group has presented its information on the selected topic, submit a separate analysis of the roles played by group members, the group life cycle, and its decision making process. READINGS Applbaum, Ronald L. ,et al The Process of Group Communication, 2d ed. Chicago: Science Reward, Associates, 1979. Bowman, Joel P. , and Bernadine P. Branchaw. Successful Communication in Business. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.
Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York: pocket Books, 1964. Huseman, Richard; James Lahiff; and John Hatfield. Business Communication strategies and SUN. Hinsdale, Ill, Dryden, 1981. Reilly, Robert T. Public Relations in Action. Englewood Cliffs, N. L. : Prentice-Hall, 1981. Stano, Michael E. , and N. L. Reinsch, Jr. Communication in Interviews. Englewood Cliffs, N. 7. : Prensee-11a11, 1952. Stewart, John, ed. Bridges Not Wot1s, 3d ed. Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley, 1982. Weaver Richard L. , 1I. Understanding Jnterpersvna1 Communication, 2d ed. Glenview, Ill: Scott, Foresman, 1981.
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